Archives for the month of: March, 2012

Back in the coal-grey grim fathoms of November my kitchen light started to play up, flickering, being temperamental and then just not bothering to come on at all. At first I thought it was “a sign”. Like many of us in this new world I’m always on the look out for something symbolic, some other worldliness cutting through. Like the collection of feathers that have built up on my windowsill over the months. I now have nearly enough for my very own pidgeon. Or the bizarre tickling on my upper arm that wouldn’t go away. It distracted me from my typing, puzzled, annoyed and finally irritated me so much that I had to investigate. But when I freed my arm from the sleeve, something  dropped. I located it on the floor and it turned out to be, not a sign at all, but some creature that would make an entomologists day, way too green and more appendages than I had time to count.  For a sluggish and  disappointed widow I still managed to move like stink.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the light that wouldn’t light became symbolic of my new world. I would think about getting it fixed but it wasn’t high up enough on my list. A helpful friend sent me a new starter motor to save me scuttling around hardware shops not really knowing what I was doing and another friend hauled himself away from toddlers tea time, arriving with his best sullen electrician face to reach up and mend the problem.

But it made no difference, the motor wasn’t the problem, so I ventured out to buy a new tube. I somehow bought it on the same day as we were making the Christmas lanterns (as in the earlier post Lighting the Way) and slapsticked ourselves onto the bus; one tired child, two delicate willow constructions, one delicate overbrimming grief and a 6 foot fluorescent bulb. Earlier friend returned with similar jokes to find the new shoe didn’t fit and I was not going to the ball under any circumstances.

I gave up for a while, it was too difficult. I had to find an electrician who could A. do the job, B. be prepared to do the job, C. not rip me off and D. not make any reference to my husband. The first three proved tricky enough and I knew even if I got that far that D was a given and would be my undoing.

It was all too hard as I unravelled towards Christmas so I continued to give up. It was a solution in itself. It was too complicated to think about so I simply didn’t think about it. Ten months into widowhood I’d grown accustomed to darkness and part of me felt very at home struggling around in the lack of light. It became a game with myself. Just how long could I last before I was provoked into finally fixing it? I factored in health and safety issues, of course, and anything that needed to be peeled, sliced or diced was done in the late afternoon daylight. Not that there’s been much food preparation going on. A good day then was finding a well stocked freezer, or at least one that wasn’t so iced up that I couldn’t get to the ubiquitous fish fingers. So none of my own fingers were cut or hacked off in the making of this blog but the days ticked into weeks and I was still slothing around as the festive circus descended around me.

Our friend helpfully pointed out that until a kitchen floor has its own eco system you really have nothing to worry about hygiene-wise.  Crumbs never hurts anyone, the odd insect can amuse a bored child but it’s not until the insect becomes the prey that you are really pushed into finding the dustpan and brush and summoning up help from Mr Muscle.

And through the dingy evenings I continued to count the tiles over the cooker. There are twenty. I learned this during the experience of marking days and then weeks as I warmed myself against the appliance, staring at the wall, mentally ticking off time, out of some misplaced survivalist instinct. The tiles became my prison wall, invisibly etched crossings as the hours moved past me and now in the shadows the squares become months and I’m over half way up them. So I peer at the tiles and remember when they were lit but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. So I count and I cross and I cook in darkness.

And so it continued, every day late afternoon dropped on us and my light was stripped away just like the ripping out last February. I stubbornly carried on cooking by the vagueness of the hall light and by Christmas had the added gaiety of my son’s fairy lights around the serving hatch. Little balls of white reflected in my black bottles of red. I challenged myself to secure the services of some suitable tradesman before the New Year announced itself. It felt fitting and a symbolic start to what would be, for others in the old world, a brand new place.

But the days weighted me down and squashed me into the floor along with my party-sized snack rolls. Movement was imperceptible.  Gradually even I was getting bored with the gloom but my inner gloom continued to have the more dominant voice. And so the grimness was part of my evening routine until the approaching First Year Anniversary gave me a final shove towards motivation.

So, with teeth gritted at the start of Year Two, I entrusted the process to the chirpy chatty twosome I’d found in the local paper.

They arrived late. My anxiety swirling and creeping higher as the minutes cluncked by until they rolled up.

I kept well out of the way as they took the old light down and avoided looking at it while I paid. I switched it on privately after they’d left and looked up.  The shiny halogen beaming out highlighted the dark corners of everything and underneath the brushed steel newness remained the ripped out shape of where the old light had been. An empty chasm  in the shape of what was once there, marking its space, its well deserved territory, showing up the edges of the paint, the time coloured ceiling and the naked wood beneath.

I appreciated the contrast. The simple plain long strip under the showy shiny chrome prima dona. The separate movable bulbs, variable, flexible, changing the direction they light. Being what they are, turned necessarily outwards, doing the same but job in a different way,  an antithesis to the sturdy trusty simple fluorescent.

I cry in the brightness, I miss the fluorescence and the life it illuminated but I’m under a new light now, in a new world. The old fixture is by the door heading for the garage but the space it filled is still there. And one day the ceiling may be repainted but the memory of the fitting will stay, as will the family it lit and although the shape has changed, having vitally evolved into a new way, it still transmits its force. The electricity that served the old bulb still powers the new ones and though on the surface it looks very different, at heart it is still Light over me and our son, in our kitchen, in our home, surging through the wires, pulsing through the foundation, up through the fittings and out to shine over our life.

There is change, there is constancy,

there is energy, there is force around us.

I raise a glass to my new light.

For the first time in months I can see what I’m doing.

Shine On

x

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Ignore it all, the coatless freedom, the beating light, the shiny drops reflected back up at me. The speeding shadows, the chirping sun.

It’s all out of place, out of time. My slow shuffled observation becomes a hurried avoidance. This day says nothing to me. The rustling around leaves me disturbed and I seek last spring’s darkness. This really isn’t working, I have to go the back way and hurry.

Look down as I walk, I only see the mud today. Last time I came this way was in the mist and now I can see what’s in front of me, it was hidden before but now I see the field painted soft in the distance.  I don’t want to know about it, I can’t look at it, it’s not my place today.

I wish I knew what the bird calls are, they struggle to lighten me but it’s hard work. At least down the back road there’s still frost. The sapling’s are plastic coated with a layer of moisture, extra warmth needed for their young sprouts of potential. Happy dogs are thick on the ground. It’s going to be a difficult walk back. I turn tail as it approaches the hour. The sun swaps sides and I might just make it. One gentle nuzzling and some warmth on the left. “You’ve found a friend” she tells me. Bailey is pleased to see me even if I’m not.

It’s just a dream today. Their words bounce off me, the distant lightness of lifted spring people, coming from their darkness to chatter on the breeze. Their laughter irritates me but I can’t blame them. I would, if I was them. Have to get past “their friends on the estate, yes we were all still at home”.

And Bella’s toffee paws break the spell. And though I’m rooted in this thawing empty sunshine it doesn’t matter how long I stand here, no one can see me anyway, I’m not really here.  But then I want to run, to escape, to leave, to evaporate, to be beamed up and away from this place. 

My tapping competes with birdsong, the warmth getting through but the scampering and panting and rustled nylon pushes me to make a shift. My shadow cloaks an early bee, sneaking out, prompted by sun but confused by the coldness that lingers. In my resistance of the day my friend’s text tone startles me and makes me smile. His squeaky loud car horn is at odds with my world, as am I. Then more texts demanding I participate in this morning and I need to scurry back to somewhere dark, where the sun can’t reach me although it feels good right about now.

I move under birdsong, through the rays and over the frost, around the faceless dog snuffles.

I have a food delivery coming, I need to go.

The day continues on its way.

I have to find mine.

And I am caught by the last person I wanted to see and her falseness grates on me. She oozes alongside and oils out her question. I say “I’m fine” though it’s an effort to form the words and she needs to take a different path at the crossroads and I’m relieved. I feel unclean from the moment. 

And now they’re coming at me, shoppers and walkers and the heaviness pushes down successfully without restraint.  A beautiful muzzled beast of a dog smiles at me through his fur, I’m drawn to its heaving energy and power, a potential savage  just beneath tumbled acres of fluff.  The proud small man on the lead enjoys their questions and presents informatively to a passer by.

I’ve had it with this day and it’s only 9.15 in the a.m. I go back the short cut, watching my shadow bounce perkily, denying how I feel.

The front door can’t come quick enough.

X

March 15th 1962

She wanted her children before she was 30, managed it with a week to spare

Without that day

She wouldn’t have said “you ‘av ‘eavy ‘ead”

He’d have had no one to pin down

She wouldn’t have said get stuck in on Sunday lunches

The cowboy suit would not have been bought

The long hospital trips not needed

No Butlitz compare laughing at your line

He’d have biked the forest alone

And she’d have to lie to someone else

And they wouldn’t have been amazed at how you caught up

And she wouldn’t have bought daily chicken legs

And he wouldn’t have driven up and down till he found you

And he wouldn’t have caught up with you after all those years

And she wouldn’t have been challenged to know it wasn’t right

And he wouldn’t have been held when he came home from ships

And she’d have played games with someone else

And they wouldn’t have had the back up they needed

And they wouldn’t have had the steely decisions

And their choices would not have been clear

And she’d not have put the world to rights

And she wouldn’t have remembered and smiled

And his issues would have been different

And she wouldn’t have got the egg

And she wouldn’t have sat up talking all night

And she’d wouldn’t have had the momentum

And she wouldn’t have dealt with debate

And she wouldn’t have made the journey

And she wouldn’t have stood at the top, though the snow hurt her eyes

And she wouldn’t have found the Bronx choir

And she wouldn’t have felt the fluttering in the Millenium Dome

And there were no more breaks

And he wouldn’t have been held in the first half hour

And they wouldn’t have made a nest on their lounge floor

And he wouldn’t have your steely eyes

And he wouldn’t have the knowledge

And he wouldn’t have the genes

And he wouldn’t have the thread that connects

And he wouldn’t be

And I wouldn’t have made the changes

And I wouldn’t have grown in this way

And I wouldn’t have took on the challenge

And I wouldn’t have clung onto the spark

And I wouldn’t have learned what was there

And I wouldn’t have uncovered cycles

And I wouldn’t have carved out a strength

And I wouldn’t have shown who I am

And I couldn’t have taken her ring

And I couldn’t have taken his ring

And he wouldn’t have been dreaming little lad dreams beside me

And I wouldn’t have this day ahead of me

I wouldn’t have had us

I wouldn’t have had him

I wouldn’t have had me

I wouldn’t have this motherhood

He wouldn’t be who he is

I wouldn’t be who I am

We wouldn’t have this voyage

We wouldn’t be

We wouldn’t have this life

We have this life

March 15th 2012

Adrift

Not real, not here, writing from nowhere.

Can’t make sense of it, don’t want to see anyone, the dogs give me no lift today. Need to leave the path I think, go behind, back to the dark and scary woods that we negotiated with our toddler.

It’s too open out there, too revealing.

Free and empty but not for me today, have to find me in the brambles. Wings sneak out, cut through cloud. I need my mast to climb high, can’t see if there’s land ahead. Should I spear the bird, feed them all or keep heading out?

Let’s see what happens, it’s too early out here. I feel ill today, heavy, puffy, weighted down. I ignore the struggling saplings, they have little point this morning.

I find a cut through under barbed wire.

And beyond it white grey void, it’s appealing but I’m not brave enough.

Not ready to come out into the open, keep drifting to find somewhere new.

Out there the day is trying to find itself, telegraph poles creep towards me, adrift galleons to steer around.

The crew has gone, my compass is rusty, the glass scratched, eaten away by the salt. Tap it and hope for the best.

It’s too quiet but not quiet enough.

There’s a temptation to stroke my hand firmly across the barbs as I wander past, like a ten year old stick-banging against railings, but I resist the need for a different pain and keep it deep in pocket.

And now I’m out, don’t know where?

It’s all changed from when we used to walk with our son to the trains.

I really don’t know which way to go.

Where is this? Lined up in a drip of old trees, ancient and clawed into the earth. Creatures smirking and hiding behind them. I take the fragile tissue paper from the twig, study its veins of direction. They all think they’re invisible but I know they’re there,

hiding, like me, not doing a good job.

They’re my sea creatures, waiting to tip the boat, the roots unsteady me. I find a harbour by the fenced off field. The sky hangs upside down in the weight of the water droplet, gravity taking them down from the berry, the new fruit shining over wrinkled age. Moss creeping, coating bark while I stop to study the burned out shack, some structure remaining, though its purpose changed.

It’s struts are in place, the wood underneath, the angles sharp and clear. But the surface gone, stripped, devowered. With care and attention it could do it’s job differently, new and renewed. Changed but still having a point.

I’m not ready for the mist to lift,

but turn for the shore before daybreak.

I scuff my hand on the slimy limed creatures, they’re not as fierce as they look. I can tame them if I choose and head back to familiar waters.

And now I don’t mind the openness, the nobodys coming out of the mist.

I can’t tell how far down I am.

I tap the screen, wait for the arrow to settle, to find north.

The day hangs around my neck

fluorescence near the shoreline

I stumble from the wreck to wander with my story.

Thursday March 1st

This is perfect

Heavy fog, mist drip tapping onto me.

Hanging on branches, can’t see very far ahead. Before the bridge can’t see the other side. Everything shiny and seeping. I turned right don’t know why. Halfway up a different path stop and listen. Sharp branches in foreground with washed out trees beyond. The traffic is calling, I must check this route another day. The distant shapes are inviting but I need the hill, I wonder where this goes? I want to escape. Turn back for the bridge. Catch the raindrop from the rusty grid of fencing, holding back nature. I burst its surface tension, its invisible wetness on my finger. The bright yellow arrow points north west insisting to me its a footpath. I take its hard plastic advice. And all the metal struts are hung with glass beads and thread pushed out and woven with instinct to catch food. And I resist the temptation to brush them away on my hand, forcing them to rebuild without resentment, without anger, just doing it because you have to feed – relentless parenting. And the wings flush by me, and the white is so heavy I want to keep walking into it, to be swallowed whole by the mist but if I do when I get there it will still look the same. Pidgeon reminding me it’s time to go. All I can see are faded outlines of what used to be there. I know it’s underneath somehow but I can’t see it, have to feel it instead. Can hear the pidgeon nearby but can’t see him. The cold’s building, the greyness hangs. This is a close fit today – Submerged in thick scared desolation. Beyond weighted down. Anticipation, knowing it will lift at some point but right here, right now,

it’s solid dense saturating clawing imploring calling me into it.

Heavy, consumed and lost

I look back

everything has disappeared

I look forward and see only solid white

Stand

Wait

Friday March 2nd. 

Last time before the weekend

Cold, calm earlier, want to hold onto it

But there is no holding just being

It may shift again

Still misty

But not the denseness from yesterday

Owner calls for busy terrier and behind me a selection of dogs have joined the day

Sun trying to force itself up

Real interruptions now blocking me with phone calls and her focussed dachshund 

‘That must set you back a bit – did a mental calculation’

Unfeeling, feeling too visible and vulnerable

Leave them to their briskness, leads in hand

I’m off the leash myself, out of bounds.

Going home

Later

Our friend turned up in his familiar way and wandered round the back, off to hunt boar. He came to help with the garden and my husband used to envy his life wrestling with nature and words and now he’s here balancing a spade because the job would make my back ache.

I take myself away as the sounds start and staring through the pain I listen absently to the deep thump pause of preparation.

I study our willow star, it’s raffia ties crinkled dry by the months. And lose my place until the throaty throb of his petrol motor torques its way up and over the lawn.

The sparrows compete for special offer worms eager, plump and fresh. Revealing.

The sun doesn’t quite break through but the waiting creeps forward,

The movement is irresistible,the process is becoming.

Saturday March 3rd

Steeling myself and feeling inescapable movement through the day. An inevitability approaching like the first weekend in-between the first and second conversations.

Tomorrow we work on the garden together.

Sunday March 4th

Early morning, listening to our son’s breathing and through the curtains that belonged to a different land I lie under the washed out grey. The gentle pittering becomes more insistent, It sounds Good, cleansing and pure. It feeds my earth. It’s natural process, turning, moving, being.

The patio is dark and shiny, the leaves heavy. Under the soil everything ticks and buzzes with potential. A universe I can’t see but sense, but feel.

Everything is in motion

Including me

The rain has a softer punch but keeps coming. Everything is saturated with this anticipation,

moving through stillness.

Wrapping myself up.

The rain is cold despite moments of spring. My feet tingle from the soaked concrete, last years leaves have changed but they’re still glossy and proud. I can see my breath. The bare trees cut black angles across the thin grey wash in front of me.

I flip away, she’s in her red fleece, I take her arm, he never likes the trip but loves the connection. And she can’t decide what to eat so he chooses for her and we knew she had stopped worrying.

And as it turns to autumn on my March day I catch sight of my reflection in the double glazing with my necklaces from then and now. A double set repeated, normally not visible, but in this light, at this angle through the raindrops and the dust I can see the things beyond.

Later he wrote into the patio dirt with the bright noisy power washer. He laughed at the mud we generated, he soaked me and washed the windows and in gloves way too big for him he scooped while I patted. The rich fresh earth smelt good, the roots breathing, untangling, finding a new place, stretching tentatively in their new found direction.

As I wait for the water to stop I glance around the garage, our old big fridge that used to be full of made up milk feeds by his bachelor cupboards, worn grubby with age and histories, stiff drawers packed with essential nonsense, a younger writing from when it lay ahead of him, And our son’s blue bike that we hurried behind easing him into finding his balance, just like his dad before him. And he wobbled then and we wobble now and we still need stabilisers as I stand amongst our dusty cobwebs, our crumpled mess of memories. Outgrown obsolescence. Out of the house but still attached.

And it’s cold and wet and evening is pushing us inside.

I turn the tap tightly

Tomorrow is coming.

 x

Yesterday March 5th

I will be here tomorrow morning too

Stood in the glare of the sun, brambles catch me as I go by. It’s bitter but the rays strip the clouds across and above, the traffic moves freely, the wind cuts into my neck, time for my table. Crossing the bridge. I will come back this way. I pull some gauzed seeds from the enticing thicket, it resists me and I pull till its free. It’s smooth black tips torn from their potential. I stand for a while on the bridge staring into the oncoming traffic, shielding my eyes from the dazzle. I loosen my grip and the seeds are carried from behind through the railings and disappear into the morning. And now I stand higher up I can see more from over here. Can see beyond the cathedral to a place I’d  barely spotted before. Despite spring sunshine the bitterness from yesterday’s short cruel snow remains and I understand winter isn’t over yet. I pick my route with care and get to the table. The icy wind competes and almost wins over the sun on my back. My hands are buzzing, it feels so different today, the wood will take ages to warm up.

And in the light of my March morning all things fade to a being with my soul, a four count rhythm and the memories of their words.

It’s time to go

x

At home

Surrounded by every second and memory of our life crashing swirling dancing, cradling hurling sneaking, bashing and forcing themselves around me.

I wait

I can’t do anymore

I need to be

I wait for the doorbell

x

Today March 6th

After

I don’t know where to be today, how to be

The bench is too wet

The ground slippy muddy icy

The wood pidgeon still trying to direct me, it’s shadow circles round, Icy air blows through me, I feel yesterday’s immense pain hovering and want to find a place to be. My shadow is still long, the mist has gone, the whirring feathers beat air past me.

I want to write here until I feel nothing. Until I can’t hear the bird call, the squealing children, the buzzing roads, the humming underground, the tweeting on top, their impatience piercing, the hurried children, the abstract banging, the hollowed cry, the heavy sound of a world still churning and a child screaming on the wind. And I only have white heat at the end of my arms and I want to write until it stops, until I can’t move anymore, until there’s nothing left and the engine throttle disappears taking me with it and I’m in bright open physical pain mirroring the endless emotion while the birds delight in their existence.

I am frozen I am pain I am here

Still

The pidgeons are on lookout behind me. My ears are ringing under the wafting bird flight, lorry reversing, plane throbbing, winter bareness persisting.

Time to negotiate the steps in front of me.

And under the bridge I walk past the shuffling old man that he didn’t become and nod to the cloud of perfume from the old world and round the back now appreciating warmth and feeling the pull of our garden. And I stand beneath the tree we could see from our window, the sun warms my frozen face, the shadows are still stretched out under the sirens and brushing wheels. The leaves and litter are carried regardless.

Time to return

x