Archives for the month of: February, 2012

She encouraged them both to dig the garden as a competition, under the tree he loved that grew and flowed over the cared for lawn, behind their home before everything changed when he sat down next to him on his small bed. And the years of conkers and bike rides were stripped back with the bark and the tree was left alone, untended unheard. And she cried in the new home by the bottom of the yard where the hydrangea persisted despite its concrete glove. And much further away the branches still hung over the water reflecting a garden that belonged to someone else.

But he could always be found near water like his tree and his gardens shifted over the years from alleyways with student bins to squares of territory tucked round the back, to a courtyard and too tightly pruned roses. Before somewhere to sit and be and study things moving in the sunlight and she was always there overhanging in the background, invisible but present.

And now my hydrangea has gone back to earth, one bloom crunchily faded like a collection of cocoons, if I touch them they will fall away so I pull apart around it, tug of war the bindweed that’s stealthed it’s path over the year. The willow stars we made have settled and found their place while the bindweed ties maypole ribbons around them.

She’d watch him carefully in the morning with her spirited silence and when her last garden became irrelevant she forgot for a while. And the branches grew and wrapped themselves tightly around us all weaving and interlocking over time and distance, through space and memory, beyond and outside of what we could see, unbounded by what we perceive, unharnessed, unrestrained by the transient limitations of our senses.

And the roots go deep, channelling intent into the earth for sustenance and life, to anchor the moment to form the backdrop of a family. And they drink from the soil and convert from the light and the cycle continues, silently forging and moving.

She always loved trees, he knew I did too. She looked out on the garden that she loved and cried for the tree and the tree cried back.

Her loss. His loss.

My loss now

And she sat with me somehow

And I sat tall and stiff, upright like her tree, staring emptily into the middle distance and out there somewhere through the brightly coloured glass to a point in space and time where I didn’t exist and the reality was not what I sensed around me.

And I chose bamboo from the East and from our garden

And I chose willow because.

And now I’ve bought willow for our garden

To forge it’s roots deep and strong while he grows, to bend in the wind when it batters the house, to sway without resistance, to ease out new leaves, to nurture and protect. To give shelter.

Her job. His job.

My job now

I sit by willow

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8.50 a.m – This morning

Back in the womb, deep in the mist where we used to live, when we used to live. I can smell the wood today, damp fresh good. Birds go up a gear and I’m barely holding on and I know why. Familiarity on the breeze, not sure if it’s coming my way.

Why are they so loud don’t they know what day it is?

I could be anywhere looking out, I’m not part of this landscape, it goes on around me. I could be looking out from a thousand different places. Their bubble of laughter breaking out of the distance while my carcass is held up by the picnic table.

What would you bring to this table ?

Ignore the chinking of dog collars.

Some gaily coloured plastic cloth, gingham checks from a world of ginger beer, mucky knees with mothers apron tied behind her at the high white sink. And you played on the scrubbed lino with hard plastic animals that came inside the biscuit packet. And the coal bunker stood its ground at the back of the bungalow where you used to lose the high bounce balls, all too frequently somewhere in the rockery and you love the swirls of colour on the firm formed rubber and your hair was a thick pony tail. And the front lawn went on forever and it was always late summer and we decorated prams with tissue paper for a charity push to nowhere. And we sat in the park with friends and bought Walls Funny Faces from the old ice-cream van man. And picnics were time to stop, to take it outside, to be together, to tear bread and watch.

And now I observe without a tablecloth.

No currant buns or cloudy lemonade, just the cold planed grain supporting my hands, the persistence of time and if I stare hard enough into the mist it takes the downland to the Alps from way back then. The unsteady magpie bouncing the phone wire, a second one on the ground, ungainly old man pecking. The late winter chill that means nothing to me, that has no power.

And they sit somewhere in their childhood, in their freedom behind the settee under the old model of a viking ship.

And they will travel

And they will become

And their journeys took their course

And they merged

And they moved

And they separated on the surface

And I still travel for a while, with his beacon, with his gift from back then.

And I came to this table

And we’re here without a cloth

I sit and watch

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A collie smiles up to me with a dribbled ball in his mouth. I stroke his head and leave.

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Creaking into year two

Even writing the words is surreal. Lying here looking around trying to get a grip on the day. It feels like a new place although the landscape is just the same.

There was no buzzing award ceremony,  no opportunity to wear a glittery dress and feel fluttery till they call my name and air kiss with sincerity. No cheering applause or camera flashes to red eye me. No weakly shunned publicity or clever sound bites. No hurrying to the waited car, all teeth and eyes to be bundled in, smile and wave with my silent sharp suited smooth companion. I didn’t get something angular in plexiglas to polish and gloat over on the mantlepiece or a laminated certificate or even a crumpled faded piece of paper to sign me off.

Nothing rubber stamped and sweaty palmed from someone in a shiny elbowed old cord suit to tell me it was done.  To smile down at me dustily, absently smelling of stale aftershave as he moved along the line.

No brightly coloured badge to wear, sparklingly proclaiming ‘Year Two!’  so everyone  would know I’m ok now and could stop feeling awkward when they pass by.  Because now its alright and I’m getting on with my life again. And I could smile cheesily and nod and point to the badge with a big thumbs up and it’s what they anticipated and they would be knowingly relieved.

No poor quality t-shirt with a rough print you could pick off, shouting

‘Widowhood?? DONE!’  above a big smiley face.

No sink full of glasses,  no bin full of waste, no throbbing fuzzy head of achievement.

No party poppers, no crumbly cake with unused napkins and no paper hat with a tear up the middle.

None of these things arrived, just the sun coming up again over the neighbours roof on another February day, the birds still nipping at my patio, the ambient drone of distant traffic, the fridge needing cleaning, the washing putting on and some homework needing attention and though I’ve chiseled through some horrific mornings in the past twelve months, the air was never heavier, the concreteness never more effective and the breathing never more resistant than when opening my eyes for the first time on the morning after.

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In the other universe I went into reception class and helped out because they were one member of staff down. While he got through the dreaded tribunal and typically did a fantastic job although he unpicked it later and beat himself up about some of the elements.

And in the spring the fear of redundancy came nearer and we lost many hours to the worry and worked through innumerable plans and options. But we ploughed on, created contingencies and battled our way through the stress.

And we continued to be puzzled by the leak in the car and still didn’t get to the bottom of it.

And redundancy was escaped this time round but it was only a matter of time with new clouds never that far away.

And he struggled with the piano music for his birthday. We knew it was beyond him and our son but it had to be bought and they had to try. And the connection with his Mum ran through the scores and surrounded them both when they played.

And the summer was peppered with days out making way for the late holiday in Northumbria. And we cheered loudly at the experience when the voucher was redeemed. And he cheered when our son learned to swim and was so proud as he took to the blues. And in assembly only we knew the significance of the piece he’d chosen.

And he disbelieved with me that Year 6 had arrived. And he grilled the Heads in his special way as we chose the next school for our son. We settled on our first choice anyway and talked about the next phase. And we wondered how it would be when he started secondary and we watched him growing up and away.

And the in-law issues took their familiar course and Christmas was negotiated as usual.

And we teased him over the approaching big birthday and he implied, with no subtlty, that it should be like the 40th and between me and our son we did a great job.

And everything ticked along under a normal sky with all the ephemera and mundane minutia of a life lived in a real lane. And we continued to make plans like you did and we thought of the future and how it would be. And we worried about things that may never happen and normality stretched out in front of us in an endlessly comfortable comforting road, well trodden, signposted and safe.

And tonight I tried to find something to cook, glad it was half term with days off. And we needed to use the days well and had something planned for tomorrow.

And there was ordinary, there was usual, there was life, there was us, there was family, there was growth, there was time.

In this other Eden
there was all of it
nettles you could roll in

his rainless painless sky

Everything, our world

In the other universe
where he didn’t wake me in the middle of the night

x

Regained

The unrelenting sun refracts itself in pinpoints on the hard black shiny beads. Cushioned coal in the toy elephants face. The universe in his mum’s ring pulls me in deeper showing colours we can’t understand. The nap separates into spaces in the uncompromising light, microscopic chasms, losing myself in the fur. I can’t look it in the eye I can only watch the reflection calling me, but as the flashbacks trip and ambush me I drop away from here to there in the photons that hold the connection.

The shadow edges over the back of my hand, the sun warms the side of my face as our son calls up the stairs.

x

Avalanche nature’s force

Surging energy batters

New shoots underneath

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It’s odd, there’s almost an irrelevance about this

Time

Months

Weeks

Days

Hours

Minutes

Seconds

Nano seconds

A year

What does that mean? Has anything changed? Am I further away from that moment at all? It’s just a process, it’s what we do – marking ageing. And whilst crushed under the inescapable re run there’s a part of me outside of it, of understanding I’m intrinsically woven into that moment, it’s as much a part of me now, then, and always, like my consciousness .

There’s no separation between me and then it simply is, it’s there next to me, on my shoulder, just happened and happened in another millennia. We exist in a permanence, an endless luminous being in itself, something that travels with me as I age.

As I untie towards 365 days and the wounds are hacked into, cleaved open, left gaping and gutted, screaming, searing white pain tearing out into the universe and yet underneath it all lies a deeper truth. An unknowable knowledge. No separation from then. It hurts me, it drives me, it is me.

Time is only a human construct

I am then

I am now

Approaching a year

So?

Epilogue

Tuesday

I see the telegraph poles for the first time through the mist. Turned round to go, it’s too muddy for the feelings. Double backed and from this angle it looks like a shear drop, although I know there’s trampled summer down there. It looks appetising, calling. One displaced seagull and a squelching suede grey dog. Going towards the edge as the temperature dips again, not sure what’s over there,

in an aching English mist yearning for the Colorado river.

Pidgeons still there on a lower branch etched into the morning. Still watching me, biding his time. Just a ball of black from this angle, then flaps heavily fluted as they all pass over me. I look for his Mum at the bus stop and she’s there wrapped up in brown, powdered in the scent of setting lotion. And the chug throb takes her away as the snow starts to fall. A distant hammering over feintly shined bricks.

I can’t walk much slower. But I have to meet it.

Wednesday

Ground like cardboard, frozen paw prints, iced gusts slow my progress. I don’t want to be here. Lost seagulls wander skirting the air looking for a reason. Mud dried out dry ski slope, minus something or other. Nose and eyes running. Easier to walk but bitterly I’m not here. Can’t do this.

This coldness, this love, this pain

Time for the descent

Thursday

Bottom of field, fence ripped out replaced with steel bars from nowhere. Alien, out of place, a 6 foot letter N. Things hop by me mirroring my movements. Footsteps echoing on hollow ground, waiting to see who comes by. And here are my favourites waiting for the troops. Heavy blue frayed lines going over the top. The fields fueled with beaten gold, looks like it should be warmer. A jigsawed letter from when we used to use stamps and the sky looks like June somehow.

And there’s one twig left, arms outstretched under their calling caws

Bending in the breeze

cropped to fit my view

It’s the day before tomorrow

x

Today

Raven

Your cloak over food

bird prints smashed under deep tread

Hunger waits for thaw

One legged black bird

carried on avoiding crust

Twenty three reasons

Week 51 waiting for the guilt of a day when I don’t cry. It will come, it’s inevitable but I fear it. I will have to allow it though, when it comes, let it in and let it pass just like all the other elements.

The physical process has caught up with me recently, running on empty for so long. I’m tired of the aching ribs after a bad few days. Tired of thinking and feeling, of constantly churning it around in my mind. It’s always there running in the background like some antivirus software chugging away, slowing down the system.

He would do a ‘clean up’ once a month and fiddle about with programmes that were outside of my area. I wasn’t really bothered so long as I could use email and internet. It was what he did, his designated department like doing the BBQ, poking the fire while I arranged lettuce or being in charge of the TV reception in a holiday cottage – he checked the scarts, I unpacked the clothes. Those little parts of a relationship that build up over the years, that you carve out between you, that you grieve for in the new world, losses within loss, all needing to be looked at.

I was never entirely sure why it took so long to run these scans but it was built into the odd weekend and apparently improved the system. So into the new world it occurred to me there was no ‘cleaning up’ being done mid month or at any other time and I wondered just how long the computer would work without this input. It did slow down a little but nothing that another cup of green tea couldn’t wait for. Of course whenever I switched it on it screamed at me to update, install and upgrade but I tentatively then defiantly and more recently, irritatedly clicked out of them. I could get to my blog, that was enough, it was ok. But at some point when the window reminding me of the number of updates became so huge it needed its own update, I decided to do something about it. And it rattled away through the night and a through a worrying amount of the following morning but nothing exploded or combusted and my email was still there. Solved it, for now at least. Another aspect to bitterly take over, to stumble through and take on. To just about get away with it, (like existing.)

It took me back to an early moment from before we were even married. In the long pre parenthood evenings we became obsessed with a computer game (me, for a while. Him for…a little longer). I faffed about with it, complained at some of the imagery, but occasionally enjoyed blowing something up after an irritating day at work, plus it was great for bouts of PMT. He, naturally, took it more seriously and compared notes and techniques with his friend who’d introduced the blessed thing to us in the first place.

There was competition between us and of course I couldn’t keep up. It was silly and fun and I was many levels behind him. However… one evening while he was engrossed in some programme I decided to have a bit of a catch up. I tried my best but still couldn’t get beyond the train depot, I was stuck, couldn’t jump, couldn’t go back and couldn’t find the trick to get out (like a bad day now.) I saved it, gave up and thought just for a moment I’d have a look at where he ‘was’. I clicked on his last session, had a snoop around, was none the wiser and came out of it. I did save it properly, I’m sure I did. Honestly. But something made me look again and a horrible creeping coldness came over me (a different universe of coldness to the one sledgehammered around you when you’re taken into a private office and the soft gentle click of the door closing behind you is as loud as your heart banging in your ears.)

But back then in that simple free careless griefless lossless world, it was a bad feeling. I looked again at his session and, god help me, I’d overridden it with my own, mine from the ‘early girly baby ‘ levels that he’d gayly skipped over weeks ago. This wasn’t good. Not good at all. I thought about trying again but was well out of my depth so trudged guiltily down stairs to get his attention. I stood before him like a naughty child, my expression saying it all when I thought I had bad news for him (a universe away from when I approached the same settee thirteen years later to sit by our son. Then there was no expression, there was no face, I was nothingness, I was void.)

But back then he looked up as I jokingly offered him back the engagement ring to illustrate the depths to which I had fallen. To be honest, there was some swearing and he had a fantastic range, so creative and so many new words that I’d learnt over the years. Some of them came out then, as he went to survey the damage. We were never really quite sure how I did it but clearly now there was a job to be done so I replaced the ring and let him get on with it. He was still busy getting on with it when I went to bed later and like my recently updated system apparently he also chugged away through the night …just to catch up. And so a mere seven hours later and all was as it should have been. I did finish the game at some point and we emailed his friend to explain my ‘faux pas’. I remember his email back to us, it was very very long and made only one comment repeatedly ‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha’.

Years later I was pretty good on the computer but he was always a step ahead and was in charge of the background stuff, that suited me and it worked for both of us. But now I have to tinker and mess about with things I don’t really understand. I have to make mistakes, and get it wrong, I have to research if I don’t know, I have to google it and if all else fails ‘get a man in’. Like I had to recently about the boiler. But I make sure I know my angles, till I know enough or have some idea of what to say. I gird my loins, know my lines and hide my ring finger in my pocket. I get through it, feel stronger until he rings back later with figures and says ‘do you want to discuss it with your husband first?’

I say I’ll get back to him and drop the phone. The remains of the day are overridden.

But now I can’t go upstairs to catch up, I can’t do anything, I can’t change it, no amount of hours will erase this incomprehensible situation. And the whole grotesque programme is turned up loud, running, screaming at me in the foreground now. And all I can see are all the details in a neon garish close up counting down brightly pixilated all around me, in a continual strange loop, inescapable rushes ticking and ticking, watching me watching it, re living it second by second, frame by frame, atom by atom for the next week

until

Game over.

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Epilogue

Sodden after snow, remaining clumps hang on to coldness. The thick mist pulls itself close into the hill. The air is saturated with bird calls. Ugly mud demanding its way. Fuzzy horizon, battered and damaged ground beaten by snow and little ice pools of mud strawed out the old grass.

Way too many dogs having to walk despite the cold.

Damp quelled people shuffle around me as though I’m not here. Standing oddly in the middle of nowhere typing with a purpose they don’t know.

Not so cold, but the day carries an odd heavy mysteriousness. Time to work this out at home, I think. Treading down the plants I stood by earlier, bashed and held back by frozen tears. None of this feels real today. The bird tapping through the mist, the careful steps, the tingling skin. I don’t think I’m here. I don’t understand this. Time for a slow descent, this isn’t working.

Heady anticipation

On the edge

Clinging

Tested the normal route but it was impassable, clung to branches and changed direction. Tripped, snagged by bramble, ignore and keep going. Needed to pick my way home by the steamed up traffic. Thrown back into the rush hour thoughts. Hurrying relentless. Glanced at woolied toddler safely shielded from this icy pain trundled by in designer wheels. Flipped back to the days of tantrums and tired achievements of getting out just to buy a sticker book. And it hurts too much and I have to stop.

And just by my drain I met the old lady, huddled years weighing her down. Taking care of herself in wool and nylon, smiling up at me with support of stick and terrier. And is that bedraggled matted guide her only company when she closes the door? Has she been through all of this near the end of her life? What agony has she lived with? How has she changed to accommodate the weight of loss? Creased and stripped by the hours but still out there in the cold, in the winter, hunching her way through the days.

I smile back. I want to hug her, I want to hold her tightly, this total stranger wet and wrinkled in navy. I want to take it all away, what ever it is. To comfort, to make better, to carry, to ease her pain and mine. It will be ok, it will be ok, it will stop. I want to cry in her arms as the dog pulls and yaps at our feet. His jingling collar shining through the darkness.

I hold the image. What does she know? What will I know by then?

Did I walk past myself?

Her persistence. Her pain.

One step in front of the other, following the scratch click of eager paws.

Hardened, but grace in her stoic fragility.

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