Stargazers, flamboyant, delicately confident, pink red and white. With their swirling energy masking vulnerability. The delicate tissue velvet petals that would dance out there for a while then cry in your vase, losing their structure, the stamens bold, heavy drenched with pollen, drooping, giving in later to let go and stain the table.
And Lily was Mum’s sister who I knew for seven years and she was good and she was kind and she was smiley. And I like my cycles and symbolism so I chose lilies because it tied up the threads of my life before. And the florist thought ahead and cut the stamens out because they knew with the bustle of the day that they’d wilt and stain the dress and I didn’t notice at all until it was pointed out as they poured over the photos much later. And on that buzzing, tingling morning with me half dressed in silk, I wafted about waiting for my friend to arrive. My old school friend who I’d known forever making the long drive south with her children safely packed off by the seaside, so she and her husband could help. Him, ushering and placing and her supporting and easing as I assembled myself into the realms of ivory. And she strapped me in carefully, tightly closing velvet before the doorbell rang and he carried in the flowers for me and lay them all boxed on the kitchen floor. And I rustled in, pushed my way through the scent, the home dense with perfume, swollen with potential and the colours were ripe and verdant, plump and ready to sing out as we passed by.
And we passed by and up into the dimmed, musty, hushed waiting air and I held them resting on me as I looked at him. And after when my heartbeat slowed down we turned left and out into the calling light and I held them up high, one handed for the crowd, like a glistening trophy after ninety minutes slogging it out and a weary climb up the back slapping steps. Then in the car with the laughing slapstick of manoeuvring and sitting down and I still held on through the poses and clicking, face aching smiles, high up on the bank with the daffodils out in front of the cathedral. Someone must have collected them when we went inside, whisked them away like I was later, to be kept cool, to retain their beauty, to be looked after and carefully arranged. And we had chosen the design beforehand, weeks earlier on the industrial estate in the back of beyond. And they would freeze my moment and hold it forever and the owners kitten tightroped gingerly across the mantlepiece which seemed out of place in the sparse unit. So we signed and we paid and entrusted and they removed confetti and picked it all apart before the wilting took over, while we found the high air too thin but climbed anyway and looked out over whiteness, away and above it all, in the cold brightness of all that lay ahead.
We collected it on our return and hung it in the bedroom, flattened but saved as it looked on the day. And the light reflective glass would hide the petals from the sun and it would freeze time for a while and look back at me. And it still hangs there now but over the years the photons have beaten the glass and time peeled away the colours although the dress fabric beneath looks the same. The vulnerability of ageing, its irrepressible force of nature, its inability to stand still, to aim for permanence where all is transitory, even the mountains change shape, back there where we stood while petals were glued into place. Long after I’ve gone from this body there will be movement there also, a shifting of matter at a rate we can’t see, motion, of all that we understand in our time based turning world. Everything changing imperceptibly, necessarily with nature.
And even last January not long before the lights went out, when everything was still in place in the old world, I noticed my bouquet had altered. Peering out at me through the wave lengths, the colours softened, the fragile tissued papered skin of an old alpine villager, sun-baked from working the fields her whole life, tending crops because it feeds the children, turning the soil when your back breaks because nature drives you to do it and go hungry when the rains come because that’s just how it is. Living in harmony with a force you dance to, following its path, its rhythms, its music over eons, deeper truths than we can reach but hanging on and moving with it because it’s pure, it’s Good, it’s Tao.
And so my old women behind the glass crinkles a knowing smile back at me.
Time beat us both in the end but through the brittle veins, the stripped out hues, this new subtle palette has a different beauty, it still pulses and dances deep inside on a level we can’t understand. And she’s still there swishing and spinning, twirling through her moment, our moment, this crazy whirling girl of brightly coloured petals, vibrant, showy, knowing, laughing, joyful and free, bunched into a shape to be held for while, for a purpose until the purpose changed and the rhythms changed and the music altered,
but the girl and flowers still dance,
then and now
for our son
This morning: Preparation
I watch him from by the tree as the pidgeon borders him from above. It’s earlier than normal but I need it. I need the pouring rain but it’s not quite hard enough yet. The leaves have pushed themselves out since I was last here, the rain drips down the back of my neck and off their sap rich glossiness and as the wheels brush by with a soft familiarity it all looks subtly different. The fortnights break from routine, the spring warmth and eager rain has lifted my landscape. But just as I turn for the bridge I’m reminded of a much earlier walk and I freeze for a moment, wrapped in layers of grief with acres of loss swirling round my ankles and I step out and towards the other side, back in time as water drops absent mindedly to the road beneath.
I won’t stay long, a mellowed corner of rape has sneaked into the picture, full of promise for the months ahead. I sit on this sodden wood, not quite ready to go, not really wanting to stay. I’m abstracted from it all, the smokey washed layers of cloud, not quite bothering to clear, the rain in the distance over someone else’s life. And Bailey passes by me but the ground holds more interest than my knees today. He’s wrapped up in his red coat, protecting the fur but he should be running free, soaked to the skin, beaming with joy, careless to the pain like I wish to be. But he snuffles and patters off as I sit bunched up in my parka.
Hoping the gentle rain picks up speed. Another wash of grey, heavier now slowing blowing a steady procession over the trees to my left. In my memory the doorbell is due to ring, they’re here to help.
I need to go back now, to be consumed.
I glance at the table on turning,
today even the bird muck is a Tao symbol.