Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Right Kind Of Wrong



The shop's proprietor is amused and bemused. He has to confirm the request out loud.
'An inappropriate card for a funeral?'
'Yes. Not too inappropriate. Just not gloomy. Preferably a bit rude.'
The Grim Reaper is passed over, in spite of being a cartoon.
'This one.' This one has a pastel pink background, minor profanity, a wryness and pathos to it.
Mr is looking at cards for a new baby, cards for a wedding. It doesn't seem real, to buy a card for a death. I don't want something that's an expected formality. I want some thing to celebrate the odd bond between oddly glorious people.
Ian 'Special' Rice escaped from the restrictions of disease, but he never escaped from life. Life he met head on, wailing in like a rookie fighter, like some kind of crazy clown. He learnt from each bout though, more than he let on. We always spoke to each other without restriction. I'm still learning from him.
I'm pleased with the card, I write it out in a hurry. I am often late and forgetful with cards. This one I am determined to get done. In my mind it becomes overwhelmingly important. Card, ink, envelope, stamp: but I have lost the new address. I have missed the post collection. I send this idiotic scenario to my beautiful newly bereaved friend. She answers 'I'm impressed.' It's not sarcasm. She knows of my inabilities, values how much further than usual this is.
The envelope is sealed, the new address is in place. It will arrive after the event, looking so out of place amongst the calm beach scenes and soft gatherings of flowers I am imagining, stood all in rows along the mantel of the fireplace and the windowsill. 


















Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hearts And Sleeves



A practical turn to my wedding outfit: I must find a cover up for the bruise on my arm.

Off shopping then. Quickly. Time is of the essence, as they say. 

On the slip road to the A30 a hearse is pulled up, hazard lights flashing. The coffin is draped in a cloth, bright clear red, under a circled wreath.


How this contusion arrived, I don't recall, no matter how I frown. I drive: give up. There is a bruise: that is all that can be dredged.


A white crop cardigan suffices, matches the white flip-flops, the pearly Alice band, the damaged beaded bag that I bargained for.


It's a good bruise. Puzzles me, how I missed the cause of it.

It's the shape of a heart.
So, here I am, pulling odd faces in concentration, trying to take a picture of my heart-bruise. Either mystery or symbology makes it a perfect subject. 



Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lure



This weather does not echo mood. It draws it out.
Cloud clusters bring indecision: clouds in the mind.
Unexpected sun coincides with proximity to beach: Dog and her shadow and her reflection hurtle over wet flats of sand: I am caught in trousers that don't roll up, so my hems are drenched. Contentment reigns, curves in the blue like Dog's old tennis ball.
Later, the rain is so heavy it could flatten my car. The weight of it squeezes out tears. At home, comforting: the sound of the same rain on the lean-to roof. 



Monday, 27 May 2013

Laugh, Cry



Little Granddaughter crawls under our covers.
'I love Nam-ma,' she says.
Her christening dress lies on the floor, a sweet froth of lace.
At the font she scooped up water and washed her mother. At the party she danced past her bedtime. (She also licked and returned several sausage rolls, but I've little sympathy, if you must eat all that pastry and processed meat.) At Granma's house she slept for twelve hours.
After she is returned to her mother, and settled on a sofa looking at cards and presents: 'Oh, s'nice,' she waves goodbye without looking.
Good Granmas understand: they are stoic by nature, and loving.
'Thank you Mum,' Girl says. She will make a fine Granma one day.
There is this, and our next Grandbaby due in 8 days, and our next wedding in 5 days, and I need to get shoes, and something to make my hair so pretty. And then there is my beautiful friend, and my fatherless godson, that bereavement, how can that not be on my mind? But what we must focus on, always, is life.
This afternoon it rained so we went to the beach and our clothes were soaked.
When the rain fell on my skin, it felt so raw. It felt so raw I could have been skinless, open to the sting and the wonder; each drop in the ocean falls with such aching precision.
Then I drove us home with no trousers on.
Real life is all about such moments.



Sunday, 26 May 2013

Balm

Two days of almost quiet :-) 


Lean at the window, this morning, eyes following the swallow's loop. At times it seems to halt mid-flight: an ink outline painted on sky.

On the walk back from the river, midday, hedges are scoured. Wild strawberries, tight and green, reveal signs of ripening. 

This afternoon, on the broad stretch of comforting sofa, settle with a mug of hot tea. The doors are open and everyone wanders by: busy with a barbeque, an impending wedding, calls of children, playful dogs.


The men have tried on their suits. It is time to cook some meat.


The women say: 'Men. Fire and beer and meat!'


There are laughing children on the roof of the playhouse, a flick of flame in the fire pit. There is wine in my glass.


On the drive home, one round of moon looms. Think of: silver paint on velvet card, mother of pearl, carried to term, third trimester.


Lazy morning sun stretches out, having so much room in the sky. Birds, busy and bossy as toddlers, march up and down guttering, pilot warm air.


Who is more surprised, the house martins or I, as I bring my coffee to the open door, find them busy plucking insects from spider webs? Clumsy wood pigeon watches their aerodynamics from the overgrown pine.


I drink coffee, sat at the pallet table, observing beauty in the bleached grey wood. 




Friday, 24 May 2013

Gold Ice Cream



Why is the wind So Cold? Summer's first month is Days Away.
That's it! I say, at the Brink of Letting Misery Prevail.
I am going to Imagine myself a Holiday!
Everything I know of palm trees and warm sand is being packed into it. My suitcase is the one leaking ultraviolet, trailing leopard printed straps. The food is amazing: all spice and lime zing, the drinks bubble fresh. The sun is blurred in the heat hazy sky. I think it might have melted. It has melted. It is made of gold ice cream, it's what the Gods eat. In the evening, as the flavour of the sky turns to watermelon red, we dance, coffee brews on a beach fire, misery is nothing but a snickering twig. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Memento Mori





Wild solace grows in these hedgerows. I follow the stream as a whimsical path. The drainage is manmade, a plastic tunnel channeled from the field. Dug over in the shale are old bones, old teeth, turned from the earth when the tunnel was dropped in. In the stream too, a bright skeletal relic: shiny clean in shallow water.
I can't imagine these trees as saplings but they must have grown, out of the earth where the bones all lie. 




Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Old Notes



Darkness defamiliarises, my notebook advises, in neat ink, circa 1993. It is a form of chaos, of exhilaration: everyone has a need to be uncontrolled if they seek to know themselves. We learn our capabilities in the dark. Or we give up control, shirk the responsibility, roll helpless at the whim of the moon.
Thumb a few pages further: find a transcription. 'Conversations with the sea.'
Think of a beach under a night sky; where I hear my thoughts most clearly.
The neat ink reads:
The spray was tall, lashing overhead.
I'm back to see you, I said.
I know, said the sea, which seemed to be laughing. There's no lesson for you today though. Just rest.
How should I rest? Do you have nothing to teach me today?
If a lesson happens, then so it does. Don't be impatient, you're on the right path.
Does it have a name, this path?
No, of course not. It hasn't been charted yet.
I write some of this down now. You're in my book.
I know.
Is that all right?
I am the sea. I will tell you things. But if you step into a wave I might dash you on the rocks. You may drown in me. I must stay true to my sea nature. You are you.
The sea laughed and laughed.
You are so tiny, it said: don't worry. Remember maya.
You say we're an illusion? The world is an illusion?
Maybe. Keep watching the waves.



Monday, 20 May 2013

For My Godson, As He Grows Up



I remember you before you were born, dear chap, when you were that stupendous swell in your mother's belly.
I remember a while before that, when the doctors frowned and told your mother that she would be unlikely to have children. I remember how she said it was okay, she didn't want any children.
Brave liar, she was. You were longed for, not expected.
You took your time, too, coming out into the world: and then there you were, a tiny face peeping out of a blanket, wrapped up, safe, making all the fretting bearable.
We watched you grow in pictures, heard you burble on the phone before you had mastered a word. There were visits, which you won't remember, being so young.
Maybe you will remember our walk through the woods, where you thought you couldn't get over the spiky fat trunks of the fallen trees. So many obstacles in life, dear chap…
After we had conquered the trees, we went to the river, threw sticks in the water, cheered every splash. You were proud of yourself.
Your father was too ill to be with you in the woods that day, but he was thinking of you, he was all the while wishing you the strength to climb over those eerie dark branches.
The grief of losing your father, that hardly compares to climbing over some fallen pines: only in nature all patterns seem to repeat on many scales: one day maybe you will look out of a plane window and see a mountain range, it will look like the rocks on the beach at low tide: same patterns, different scale. Your father will not be with you: but his love is part of you, and we are here, and your mother is so brave: you will grow up strong. 




Saturday, 18 May 2013

Shadow Wings



The song goes: 'That's life, that's what the people say, riding high in April, shot down in May.' These lines are singing in my mind.
Behind me, the sun has heat.
There was mist, this morning, the sort that travels in upright tufts. Ghost mist. There was a between worlds feel to the morning.
Little birds pelt and blast and sway on fragile branches. They sing with their beaks full. It is tropically noisy.
Dew gems shine and evaporate.
Fat clouds drift.
Shadows of roof-nesting birds fly up and down the stone wall of the house. 



Friday, 17 May 2013

Portents



Sat on the doorstep, tucked out of the morning breeze, sun on my toes. Toast with butter melting is more like pudding than breakfast, and who wouldn't want pudding for breakfast? I did not want to leave my deeply sleepy bed, this is like a reward.

Sat, legs lolling, in the lounger with sun on my face; cold coffee to hand, and a book. Washing moves on the rotary line. The lines sag with wet weight. Rain speckles on the page.


Sat on the sofa, barefoot, with a layer of warm jumper, with the book. Each sentence gets re-read: the thunder is distracting. I have hot coffee and marshmallows in an earthenware pot. All so sweet, and bitter, with these words on Bronze age wonders and watching to see if the sky will split.


Heart catches in throat: exactly how it feels: a gag of emotion from which inarticulate sound squeezes. At the roundabout, driving home, one glimpse of shocking red sunset.


One carmine glass of wine waits on my writing desk. 




Thursday, 16 May 2013

Follow Your Heart



Hail strike on the driveway sends me back indoors to retrieve waterproofs. I mean to walk around the lanes but find myself at the gate to the woods. A few times the steep mud path slides me faster than expected; there is barbed wire suddenly underfoot, a rotten trunk thumps the ground after I reach to hold it. Overhead that bright green canopy sways, lets melt water pelt down my neck. Bluebells stand surprised by the invasion of ice chips. Churned up river runs mud-brown, is feverishly swollen. Sun warmth brings everything from its shivering. A woodpecker echoes. From the crumble of wall, I observe the detail of reflection in the quarry pool. The illusion is so perfect: I could jump in, climb those trees.
In the heat of walking home I also stop, take off my jumper, stand for a moment, amazed. 



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Viva La Vita



At a loss for concentration: run through a series of small chores. Some washing is done, the pros and cons of different sizes of paper guillotines are considered. I'm surprised to find I have made the bed, and part cleaned the cooker.
What I don't do is either forgotten or not a surprise.
I am cross with Dog for ignoring me, when she pounces across the crop field in pursuit of swooping birds: she should not run through the crop, nor pick and choose loyalty. She walks back to the house at heel, on a lead, head down, tail at slow wag.
I am cross with her, she knows.
Yet that utter glee of pursuit, ears and tongue flailing, is the image that comes to me over and over, bounce by bounce.



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Little Burn



All day, it rains.
Dog and I take the old path through the woods, past the troll tunnels and under the trees with spindly, moss heavy branches. They remind me of tarantula legs.
Attempts at waterproof don't work. I am drenched before half way. It is good to be here though, where the leaves of spring are lately unfurling, where the light reaches even under the thick pine. On the way back we visit the river. Dog swims after sticks. Bird acrobats flip over the water's surface.
At home, the kettle bubbles. Everything seems so ordinary. I get changed into dry work clothes and off I go and act as though everything is ordinary, everything is fine.
Rain falls heavier. I drive home slowly, over a slick of precipitation and bumps of tree shrapnel.

'After 24 hours,' my friend tells me, later this evening; weary from her hospital vigils, her voice echoed by poor reception: 'that's when they can register his death.' 

We sigh. 'If you feel relieved, don't feel guilty.'
'Remember when I met him?'
We smile. Trying to be so cool, she accidentally burnt his arm.
He fell in love. 




Monday, 13 May 2013

Interim Day



What to do with yourself, while you are waiting for an outcome that is inevitable, but hasn't yet happened?
I walk, in the last month of this coldest spring, down the lanes: even in chill here come the fork tailed birds of summer; fat bees, the first fruit on the wild strawberry. Such calm, such soothing words. I have my phone which I type on so slowly. There is no one for miles. There is a voice memo function. I speak the words about the fork tail birds, fat bees, first fruits. My voice quavers, a little. The phone hears this:

On this last month o underslung last man to disco disc brake hey come this tailored fit summer is that bees fresh fruit wild strawberry

Poetic comedy, exactly what is needed.
I say, Universe, I need a miracle.
Later, my car is stamped safe for road use for another year. I should have chosen my thoughts with greater precision.

Inevitable, but not yet happened. The white bells shine in hedgerow groups, gathered, congregational, sepulchral.  



Sunday, 12 May 2013

Bittersweet Weekend



So much happening I can't focus on one thing: confetti thrown into a storm.

I take Dog to the woods, sit for a while on a fallen tree. Here there is birdsong and green filtered light; shadow play, river burble, moss and wild garlic scent.


On Friday evening, students gather in the old school hall. They are nervous, regardless of grade. I get my Second Dan certificates.


On Saturday morning, similar: both the red belts get high passes: Mr gets his Fifth Dan certificates. There are two new First Dans, three new Second Dans. We all have photographs taken.

Saturday afternoon I jump in the river, feel the fast water pull, balance myself holding twists of tree root. Enthusiastic dog-splash at my heels.

Saturday evening there is an engagement party. Little Granddaughter hits me in the face with a balloon: laughs, laughs, laughs, feeds me a crisp. I see faces I have not seen for twenty years and still know. So much can change, and not change at all.

Sunday morning is a sports hall, more nervous students, a flask of strong coffee. Book sales. Chance conversations lead to further sale opportunities and the donation of a 9 bar (delicious, good for you.)
I am in the bathroom, my phone rings.

Remember:

'What's that noise?'
'That's what sheep sound like, when they're being molested.'
'Molested? Really?' Such wide eyes.
'We're making fun of you, city boy.'
'Oh.' He laughs.

Remember when that city boy looked at my beautiful friend and said to me:

'If this isn't love, Lily, then I give up.'

He said, 'I trust you, because you don't mince your words.'

I told him I would kill him, if he hurt my friend, because she is strong, but strong people need looking after too.
We cracked a beer.

On the phone, my beautiful friend, in the emergency room.

The inevitable lingers.
So much bitter, so much sweet: but honey, if he had never seen the perfect slant of your eyes, he would never have known love.
If all the scan shows is that faint pulse, that is stubborn love, honey, that is such stubborn love. 



Friday, 10 May 2013

Impatient Alchemy



We can sing of mountains, paint the sweep of river valleys, write poetry of beach sand. Song, picture, words; they may arrive slowly, but never so slowly as the mountains itself has been pressed up from the earth's mantle, as water has grooved rock, as the waves have ground stones. Geography teaches celestial patience. I haven't quite mastered it yet. I google 'geographical explosions' just to see if I can get ground to shift faster. There's Yellowstone Calderas and the progression of events at Krakatoa: powerful stuff: terminally powerful. When the earth isn't going your way, look to space.
Here I find what I need. Stars that throw light and silver into my night.



Tumbleglory




Rain flicks over the windowpanes, like the cloud shook the drops off. I am busy tidying things, shaking out the old: there are flicks of ousted cloth and paper across the office floor, spilling over into the bedroom.
Active mode oversteps in the woods, when I slide down the steep bank faster than expected, arriving in a ball of mud and hawthorn. All the splinters come out easily. Wade through wet bluebells, run along the trunk of a fallen tree. Call to the river as it tumbles over rocks: 'I can do this!' Rain falls, ticklish, on the river surface. All of the water has a light sound: it seems glorious to fall, to tumble. 



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Billow



 After days of sun, last night brings rain: brings the scent of damp earth, the tap and splash of satisfying drops against glass and dusty windowsills. Cool floor tiles under foot, sun warmth lingering. Washes of rain deepen colours even in the dark: wet surfaces reflect: soft midnight blue. Wind sings in the wire: sings, this is your world, your beautiful world.
This morning blows between sun and showers. Eyes open reluctantly. Everything feels reluctant. Tired weight drags.
This evening, as the car rolls down through a series of traffic lights, just another car in another row of cars, and we have drunk the last of the espresso from the lid of the old pink flask, I look up. I think I see a lost balloon, at first, a round of helium filled foil: or it could be a bin bag, billowing, swept above the slow traffic bustle.



Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Morphing



Yesterday: 
Me and Dog and an orange tip butterfly meander the lanes. Dog's colours, called liver and white, make a blend and contrast pattern against blossoming hedges. Butterfly's colours, bright white, irradiated orange, dark brown body: like a concentrated version of Dog. Butterfly has traveled here from last summer, from being a globulous egg under a leaf somewhere, from being a caterpillar, from the magic soup of the chrysalis: this species, I recall, overwinters in pupae form. A whole winter, suspended, between states of being.

Today:
Orange tip butterfly hovers in my mind. I am sat in the garden, sun at my back, hair shadows flicking. The breeze is warmish, is fresh. Thoughts flux, not unusual. The way I think: a fixed thing is a finished thing: I do not want to be finished. But then I think: a whole life spent in a chrysalis state is not a whole life. 




Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Long And The Short



Little Granddaughter stands on the bars of the gate.
Thirteen bullish and uncertain bovines skuffle in front of us.
'Hello cows,' she says, and blows from her nose as they do. One licks her shoe and is reprimanded. It looks at the floor: poor socially awkward bullock.
Today this child's confidence in life has caused a collision with the garden table. She remembers to run around it after this, but she runs, undaunted. We sprint round the currant bushes until dizziness knocks her over. Up she gets, panting, covered in grass.
'Again!'
Until Grandad picks her up to show her the bullocks in the field opposite. Then it's 'Oh wow. See cows? Come on Grandad. Nam-ma! Where's a doggle? Oh, come on: see cows.'
Not all of the words in her barrage are legible: it doesn't matter, because it's enough to get us to the field gate.

All the time I have been frowning over spreadsheets and scribbling marketing notes and biting my fingernails: oh, Nam-ma! All you needed to do was run into a table. Point at the cows. Don't fret if the short run doesn't get you right where you want to be. It’s the start of the right path.


'Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.'

Victor Frankl



Saturday, 4 May 2013

Barefoot Driver



We wake up when our dog shouts at us. Half past nine. Sun is shining. Mr makes toast in a frying pan: the grill pan is busy spitting sausage fat. Coffee is iconic dark. There's a line of medicinal wine stain on my lower lip. It smiles at me through mirror dust.
It doesn't matter to anyone if I clean the kitchen or not, so I do it. A pot sits on the Rayburn top, sweating vegetables. The washing machine rumbles. Windows stretch open, let the sky spill in.
No one looks at a clock until their belly prompts it.
If it feels like time to walk on the beach, it has nothing to do with clocks.
Some useful stuff is put in the car: like coats and house keys.
Flip flops are kicked off. Feet in sand don't mind if the sun drops or the waves wash cold.
'What a nice life we're having,' Mr says.
Bared feet feel the warmth of the car pedals.
We could drive anywhere. 


Horses

What I wrote last night: only couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to post here! Woke up much fresher, with minimal wine staining...


Wearing this tiredness as blinkers. Which is amusing, since the invention was to keep the focus of the coach horse on the road ahead. The immediate future is the thing I shy at. Except the fat glass of wine that gets skinnier each time I glance at it. Mysterious.
I have an opposable thumb. Therefore I can lift the wine glass, therefore I can unbuckle the blinkers. I am more certain of the first, presently. After sleep, the second may be unnecessary. Either way, I am not a coach horse, however tired I may feel.
(However: much more likely to wake up with wine stain on face than any horse I ever met.)



Thursday, 2 May 2013

Grub On The Beach



Full blossom on the cherry tree by the sports hall door.
I notice it today.
The sun is bold. I open the door and sit in shade.
Students walking in: white suits bouncing blinding night.

While I am sitting, I am thinking what sort of times are these?

I am thinking of a dragonfly grub, sensing change, sliding feet, ascending a stem, feeling like bird food.

After class the sky is light: pale blue, soft golden orange.

I notice it today.
The sun sinks slow over the beach while I walk and think and hear the waves telling me wise calm words. Rock pools so warm, like a Mediterranean beach. Where my trousers have caught the surf, a cold damp settles.

Coffee in a flask, the car heater works.