I’m just floating at the moment, feel I’m drifting lightly with the current, simply, purposelessly being carried. I see me bumping over ripples of water, a small stick with no direction.
It’s been like this for a while, for this first termless week. Ambling through moments and I feel uneasy like there’s something waiting, something approaching, an inevitable trap and none of this is quite real.
My finger taps faster as the thoughts and feelings are unlocked. I remember last summer and the constant nothingness of the settee. The late night sneaking to Sainsburys when the crowds and faces had gone. The steely preparation, the loin girding, the pretence coated determination to take our son away…
And then doing it. The saturating fear, the deep yet hollow pride, the choosing, the knowledge, the fight, the resolve, the drip feed strength that came from a natural instinct, to survive, to protect, to build, to heave against inertia.
We did it – we travelled at 6 months.
And in a couple of days we’ll do it again.
The feelings are back, similar shapes to before but now a fairytaled patchworked eiderdown, rich with ancient thread, silky weavings of half recognised pictures, appliquéd layers of days of grief, aged, loved edges fretted smooth by anxiety, quilted memories dense with pain. I see me from above, shrink wrapped in images, swaddled in this time last year.
This time last year the blanket was new, raw and rough to the touch, insistent, persistent, factory fresh colours bleeding all over my small white body. I clutched it, wore it, had no choice, hid inside, subdued submerged. Scared and shaking.
I’m still covered now. The dye has stained my skin, the feelings imprinted on me, tattooed into my being. My stark cold cell with prison wire-wool bedding has morphed into a wood cutters cottage. The clanking steel bed, spine achingly stabbing into my tired muscles has grown into Grandma’s bed, narlded, chewed hardwood, hard work to climb into, deep and crisp and even the pillows patterns entangle themselves into my hair. It smells of ginger biscuits and warm wisdom and the bed fills the whole room, the whole house and the story itself.
I look down on my tiny curled up words, tightly balled under the thick eiderdown. I feel the fabric. Squares bartered for from distant bazaars, scraps found fusty in the backs of cupboards and specially chosen pieces, picked out for their own precious qualities. I see the image of the feelings, the timeless pain sewn in with love. Stitched in tears, embedded in the weft. Calloused fingertips from the dig of the needles, watching the deep hued yarn slip in, out and up, slowly encroaching over the fabric to form my coloured narrative.
I flip outside my cottaged world, neighbours voices push through the open window, an out of place anonymous whistling of a disturbingly happy worker and a grey soft stillness of a summer town after rain.
Back in my cottage I burrow down further, pulling the familiar close around me. I see the colours, feel the silk, know the pictures woven through grief.
Last year, this year.
Same experience, different shade. Same loss, different shapes.
Same story, different cover.
Different moment, same love.
I pull back up and out of the image. See the roof from above, the heat of colours inside diffuse out through the windows, casting a hazy warm light into the air. The red tiles fade to ochre, the chimmney chuggs out the pain until it smokes pencil swirls into the overhanging trees.
The knotted tangles of growth tighten their grip around my shack, the green turns to grey. I float higher till all I see is a wood. Dense, complex, matted with change, hiding me underneath, my place, my rooms and my bed. One heavy embroidered shield cloaking me, small with strength. I sleep under it all.
As I let go, up and away, the landscape falls back, slowly widening my view from the dark forest to the trickled silver river in the distance, the soft flowing water and its relentless rhythm. My focus shifts back to the stick, sodden, peeling, carried by the current. Drifting along with the force.
Our son stomps up the stairs engrossed in his own story
‘Powering engines – Now!’
I need to finish the packing.