Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Crunching over iced spaghetti to a familiar place. Little lego houses touched by sun amongst the frozen air. Fingers throbbing through a peaceful still winters morning. The town beneath me easing into the day, the constant hum, the disembodied voices bringing their usual interruption. Rustle of anoraks and scamper of hardened paws. Watching them become the mist, free and eager, oblivious to this pain. I’m jealous for a moment, I want to run with them, fast, irresponsible and untroubled. But the feeling fades with the image and I slot back into my inert emptiness.

All the old words frozen into the ground, under the sturdy table, the moments, the minutes, the transience of feeling. Out now to the heavy dense horizon. White souled, our smoked cathedral, hiding behind it all. It’s all still here, the permanence under the changes. The truth carved out in the land, the things that cannot go, that lie waiting for release, the inescapable under everything. Coated in the cold ephemera of change, of trying and persisting on top of it all, of movement and life. It’s all here, waving at me in the statued twigs bending in the wind. In the bird call squeaky door that pierces the landscape – everything is white and quiet in the noise. Shy blushed walls thawing in the warmth that doesn’t reach its neighbour and a pale gold inching steadily, lying across the ground.

A plane engine drills and spins to somewhere

I turn to ice

Waiting

The landscape cuts into me

I am here

Tomorrow its February

x

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I woke at the bottom of a deep well. It’s cold, damp and dark. I can’t be bothered to look up though I believe there’s daylight up there somewhere.

The ground is hard with sharp broken edges that stick into me, burrowing deep beneath the skin. They puncture and tear. I feel around in the grey swamped air walking my fingers through mud, comfortably soft in my nails. I squeeze my grip in, down further till the mud sneaks and pushes through my hands. I’m making a fist for no reason while my nails hurt my palms. Nothing crawls down here, not that I can see. Maybe they’re here but waiting. I don’t fear them, they can’t do me any harm, not now. I wait for sounds, soft underbelly dragging through slime but even that’s gone.

I shuffle backwards to the wall and hug my ankles. My ears are aching, I rest the side of my head on my knee and listen to the sound of my grief. Moss dripping, oozing green, taps my forehead, lost any sense of time. I’ve been down here forever, this is where I exist, where I was born. There is no passage of time although things drip onto me, appearing to shift, yet I don’t. I am static, part of this place. If I breathe long enough it may stop. Something will change. My feet are cold, my sluggishness persists. The only movement I allow is the rise and fall of my chest. Why is the air so heavy? I don’t want to move my hands through it. It’s too much effort to lift my head. With each breath I try to take up a smaller and smaller space. If I reduce my size maybe it will turn down the feelings? Willing, trying to shrink myself into the soil. I try to push myself into the bricks behind me, leaving an imprint on my back but they resist me, they won’t let me fade. I wonder how tall the structure is but still can’t look up. I imagine a pinpoint of light somewhere. It might be nearer than I know, might be bigger, but that’s irrelevant with slimy steeped walls. They’re back now, things that crawl and wrap themselves around me. Let them come to bite and slither, I won’t feel it. How many breaths will it take before the air thins, before I loosen my grip? I listen to the dankness, the steady trickle drip seep wait of space you can cut. Maybe further down is an option, what if I dig, can I tunnel underneath and out, are my hands strong enough ?

I scratch gouge into the soil. A place to nurture and sustain, but down here it waits redundant, waits for me? I force deeper, hand caked in mud. I sit up and crawl round, kneeling leaning forward, I scrabble around in the dirt. I can get my hands down further and pull up chunks of earth. It smells fusty, fresher than where I’d curled, freed worms wriggle at me. I ignore them and keep digging. It comes easier now, softer, less resistant, crumbles to my touch. It opens up, caving in to my pressure. It concedes a gap, just big enough. I’m so small now I can squeeze myself through.

And down.

Its tight and dangerous but I don’t care. The soil pushes around me, I taste it, spit out and protest, but keep going. The air smells bitter, rancid, earth and air weigh me down, hold me back, but I keep crawling. There is only blackness, mouldering at me, calling me in further. My knees hurt, my back goes into spasm but there’s no room to stretch. I feel it tighten, just one more constriction. I breathe through the pain till it passes. Feeling my way, exhausted.

Why am I even bothering, why don’t I stop to rest, let the soft earth blanket me? Teasing oblivion, playing with it. Somehow compelled to keep moving. I’ve come this far. I hate the blackness, the pressure, the panic. It moves over and through me, I can’t move backwards, I can’t stop, I can’t go on, I can’t ache anymore, I can’t wait anymore, I can’t be anymore, I can’t hurt anymore, I can’t fight anymore, I can’t give, I can’t dig, I can’t move, I can’t move, I must move, I must go, I must keep going, must get out, get out, need to dig out, can’t give up, won’t give up, don’t let me stop, don’t stop, won’t stop, push claw and fumble, then the soil is in my eyes, in my ears, I want to scream but my mouth fills with earth. I force outwards. Panic. I burst my terror out into the ground. The earth fills my mouth and nose as my limbs lurch forward. My hand grapples for air, feels air, it’s cold. Its different. I heave against it, smash stumble grasp. I breathe in the air and poke the soil from my mouth. Gagging, coughing out the traces. Before the energy leaves me I bash through the last barricade of soil and clamber and drag, withered, out and up. I pull myself free, up onto the soft ledge. And lie there for a while till my breathing settles. I ache everywhere. I’m battered and broken – but out. I blink the last of the dirt from my eyes and open them.

It’s dark

I look up

I’m in a dank deep well.

x

Studying the worn out, creaky old thing in the corner of our room, time aged and unstable. No, not myself through the looking glass but his old bookcase, held together with masking tape and love. I spent many moments grieving through his books, looking at his favourite, the heavy old one, battered dust cover with pages he poured over and consumed. His need to understand to make sense of everything, to put it in boxes then make connections, to have his own world view. There in the pages, the ideas learned, projected, assimilated, the evolved musings and the notions we discussed. Thank god he got that book read. He’d been saving it for years – a real treat, like a great bottle of wine.

At least those words were drunk, swirled around and savoured. They made him dizzy and happy for a while.

But what about all the others? The new ones neatly ordered, ready to be worked through over the next twenty years. Pillars of novels now academia was out of the way. Mind you it would never have really been out if the way, always the odd new concept to creep in, something else that needed to be looked at. Couldn’t resist it. At least he worked through the books he bought, whereas I just bought books and added them to the pile. However,the past eleven months have made me read – greedily, desperately, searching for what others did. How ? what? why? stepping stones, outreached hands, nets and sky hooks, real hooks and hope. I have to get through all my new books before I can look back at any of the others.

And now his books sit and look back at me, questioningly. The pages, the chapters, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words, the letters, the punctuation, the hours. Will I read them for him? Maybe some of them, will our son? Maybe some. They sit collecting dust, like me. I picked one off the shelf in the early days, one from the top of the pile. ‘Descent into Hell’, another bit of light reading… Oh the irony, turned out to be my journey, not his. All of them of the old world, the old order, when there were plans.

What if it had been me who didn’t get to see out her plans?

What would he have made of this? How would this have fitted into his Weltanschauung? or veltanshnitzel, as I preferred to call it. How would he have coped? To be a single parent, to carry the weight of responsibility, the full-time job of grief. How to make sense of all this? The tumbleweed existence, this relentless nowhereland? How would he have moved concrete steps through the quicksand seconds?

Everything was about understanding.

And now I do the same, but its all about feelings not thoughts. Am I creating this grief because I experience myself as being alive? Is that even a valid question?

I get close sometimes then it slips away. It’s almost as though I ‘get it’ but it’s just off to the side in my peripheral vision and if I turn to look at it, to bring it into focus, into consciousness then it disappears. It’s there, I feel it, I sense it, but it can’t be looked at head on. Bit like existential angst but the flip side, he’d know what I mean. x

Battling with it all this morning.

Back in our early days on the phone, wrestling with four-dimensional space time (as you do). Then into the mothering it became less of a focus, for me. I was too busy or tired to think about Schopenhauer’s struggle with feminism while my own view on an ’emergent property’ had more to do with both ends of our child than a theoretical feature of the universe.

He nicked a friends classic line and often tried it out on me. ‘But how do you know you exist?’ Best delivered for maximum effect and impact while he was sitting comfortably looking out of the window and I was plate spinning toddlers, trying to find an illusive shoe or fighting fabric with my head up a duvet cover… Oh how we laughed.

Now I struggle with my own mind-body problem which is centred on the realisation that its morning and wondering whether or not I can be bothered to haul my carcass out of bed?

So now it’s me who sits and stares out of the window in this empty museum of wonders. Stale ideas leaving coffee rings around my heart. A delight of knowledge that served it’s purpose, a cycle, a journey, a mind. He didn’t like intermittent faults, liked to get to the bottom of things, to solve and to fix. No, he certainly wouldn’t have liked this. The irrational, the unpredictable, the ambiguous nature of grieving. This abstract and empirical process. To grieve, to occur in the grief itself, or of the grief itself? He certainly liked to challenge himself, but this is a book he’d have left on the shelf. Good job its my story, that its me bent double, tying myself in knots, feeling the ends of the universe as I unravel and implode in my own singularity.

Now I can finally answer his question.

Yes I exist, I know because I’m in pain.

P.S

First thing

As I crunch freeze into the last month burning gloveless, isolated tweets and hurrying calls. Too cold even for grief. Should have worn the scarf. Icing sugared sparkled bridge, wanted to stay but I daren’t. At least it’s frozen the recent mud. Too hard to be slippy today. Icicles instead of tears. Must go, steadily tiptoe down the rushy glen, tentatively over decorated steps. It’s hiding in the undergrowth today, a little bit timid and shy, it rustles at me as I hurry from the cold. It’ll be back, can’t do much with it if it won’t be looked at. Round the corner past the end house where we had the BBQ in a frayed lost summer. She talked without censorship and he assessed the potential, while our son entertained himself on the pointless slope. The wall blew over in the recent gales. I helped the owner throw bricks on the garden, clearing a path through the tired rubble, the bricks make my hands sore and scuff my fingers as I hurl them. They bash down hard on hopeful plants that were waiting at the edge.

Managing destruction… yeah, ain’t we all?

Nearly home, take the path by the drain cover, somewhere low and dark, it’s carried regardless, I hear it muttering, un-stemed, busily plotting and churning beneath us.

I glance at the crumpled cider can, finishing off their fussy border, their marked out territory, christened with Strongbow. I leave before the sun gets round to me.

x

I was almost exactly 3 years younger than him.  He could never quite remember how old I was and settled on 29, the age when I met him. I was quite happy with that especially while I crept into my thirties.

In more recent years he accepted I wasn’t 29 anymore and we teased each other about being middle aged. Though he was technically born middle aged, and secretly liked it, I was finally starting to join him.

He was almost exactly 30 years younger than his mum.  She went and he began advancing on her. He noted it. He contemplated catching her up and marked time with projected milestones for our son. But he didn’t have that long to wait and now his grief and anguished words rattle round the empty house.

Somewhere back in my early void I remember a half thought that we would stop being three years apart. Today I inched towards him.

I like finding new grey hairs, though I insist they are silver and imagine if I keep living that I’ll eventually become some long silver haired storyteller, sitting by a camp fire,  weaving  tales of loss and love into the starry night. Casting out my net of words to bring them close through the darkness, to teach and pass down the wisdom of the ages.  Smiling warmly and sparkling at them with the compassion and knowledge glow of a wounded healer.  However, I’ve got this far without ever sitting round a camp fire due to a deep aversion to canvas. It’s not on my radar, unless it’s to be primed and painted upon. So if I intend to evolve into a wild woman of nature I will need to take baby steps with that too, the first being to even allow myself to venture into Millets. Another long road.  

In the meantime I think Grey is Good, (to mis-quote, er… Wail Street). I think I’m getting old. I don’t think I’m 47 now, I think I’ll soon be 50, I’m not that young anymore, it won’t be that long. But then that’s not a helpful thought with a son to raise. I have no intention of colouring my hair, though I had many such ideas in the early aftermath including cutting and hacking it all off aggressively with the kitchen scissors. I wanted to wear a stark change like a badge of pain or a sorrow sandwich board, like the Red Indian widows who shave their heads. People would shun me and whisper in aisles (they still do, of course) and it would remind them of my agony. But I neither cut nor coloured and monitor the passage of time, for now, through its length and added silver.

So I’m catching up with him, for the first time not three years between us. I still move while he waits.

And what will happen when I get to 48? Will I just stop too?  Or will I get to feel what its like to be 50? Will I experience it for him? and will I be older than him? Will I try on the old age he frequently worried about? I’m gaining on him. I’m not the 29 year old with all the plans and dreams. I’m certainly not the 46 year old he knew last February. These 330 days, these 7,920 hours, these 475,200 minutes have eradicated all but an echo of who I was. This older woman who lives with a pain he never knew, who ages because there’s no choice and who sits mesmerized  by the flashing cursor on the screen, counting down the seconds of her life.

The distance between us, hour upon hour

becoming less

until

at last, to nothing 

 

P.S

This morning

Sat one bench down waiting for some light. Slipped cautiously, carefully through the winters mud, incongruously tethered to my birthday gift bag. Shining out, pale egg shell, pure and crisp, banging against the side of my battered parka. Grass trying to find a way up through the trampled persistence of sludge. I sit and watch and listen. After my moments I lift the underside of the bag from the dewy cold bench. It remains un tainted by the grubbiness. A splash squash of moisture leaving an imprint on its matt smoothness and a pattern on the bench to show that it was here.

The sun doesn’t quite know what to do today but the air insists on coldness.

Under the buzz of the council drilling in new street lights I focus on the chorus, still just winning over urban necessity.  There was some peace in my morning, I look out of myself at the painted image of the cathedral, neatly drawn out in the haze. But now behind me someone’s blasting with a chain saw, bright hard hat and goggles, some purposeful destruction.  I think it’s time to go and thaw out my hands, switch the computer on and wait…..

2012, apparently. New term and the unravelling towards our first year.

Having traversed the last two weeks of someone elses life, scarred with moments of petrified reality, I slipped into this mornings darkness with a distorted relief.

Our son wanted to leave early so we blew past the exasperation of  wet cars as they queued to get anywhere, him – huddled and hooded, me  – panniered with p.e kits. The howling started as soon as I left him but this time it was the environment, not me.

Perfectly screaming trees, a deliberately slow walk back through the grey. Sprinkled orange around familiar buildings,  shiny rooves. Calling, baying branches, soaked hair  and startled birds.  The enfolding gloom, squeaky car tyres search for grip as I creep towards the bridge. Dancing ivy responding to tortured gales, brushing tyres on tarmac sweeping surface water, headlights with a purpose. Smashing up puddles as they make some progress. Little circles of colour on my screen as I type. But can I cross the bridge?

Another day

Torment

Changing gear, bus rattles underneath to its function. Steaming people going somewhere. Sardined strangers.

Am I going across?

I study the options. Slimy path back to school, had to leave him there sheltering in the morning storm. Or the uneven path to the horses where he bounced and skimmed off his bike in the winter terrain and I hurried  to him with my rucksack full of concern. Last January before the clocks stopped.  

I need to go. Can’t watch the traffic any longer. Time to go, stepping out. Keep moving, empty road as I cross. I see down to the junction with an approaching lorry furtively sneaking out of grey. A torn discarded piece of poster on the floor  ‘8 – 12.30 -12th Jan’ ? Wonder what plans have been made, for who? stuck up for all to see, then battered away by the weather. Will anyone turn up?

Blackbirds protesting, instinctive, animal, pure, driven. Waiting for this moment. Another normal day.  I make it to the other side, so soggy and trampled underfoot. So familiar now, so comforting.  I stand for a moment to survey,

it’s all still here, the landscape, the rhythms, the grief.

Squelching and slippy, need wellies really. Which is the best way? To pick a path through it carefully, steadily.  Hair in eyes.  Huddled walkers hurry away, it’s not a day for standing. But I’m oblivious to it all again. The sky hangs lower and darker than the hour, in some odd pre dawn. A light goes out somewhere, must be morning I guess. It’s all still here, shiny wet picnic bench but I don’t need to stay.

Crows laughing at me, what do they know? Wet skin, mist lifting, footsteps somewhere behind me. Fluorescent walker with an anoraked terrier, blazoned lime, russet and muddy white. I observe and appreciate their flash of bright intention.

They drag me back, showered hair in the gusting downpour, going round in circles. Time to navigate the steps I suppose.  All as expected,  round we go again.

Where next?

Can’t see the screen for raindrops.

Gales whipping up,

telling me to go.

Familiar, cocooned in isolation.

x

Out of the gloom came walking greyness who turned into a wet hug at the right time.  She was always there at the right time, from day one. She brushed the hair away and talked of windswept children and morning chaos  helping anchor me to my current life and wondered if I’d braved the hill. When the rain started to sting I dripped back home. It turned to stabs of hail for a moment and then inside  to muffled doubled glazed battering at the glass.

 I sit in my damp coat and wait for last week to catch up with me.

He’d left the fairy lights on.  Loud ticking quiet clock, marking seconds that don’t exist.

x