Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Round about now I hit my iceberg and all the thoughts and plans and dreams tumble and slide across the deck. I realise everything was as it should have been and this is all wrong, so very wrong. And I remember their screams as we sat in the front row and we weren’t married and we made comparisons and you had something in your eye,  remember? And we watched as the tar black night pulled in closer and felt the icy memories stroking away what we had. And I’ve been avoiding the posters and the news footage because it takes me back. Not just to them, in all their finery and the countless families living this life, but to us at the beginning. Organising ephemera in our new home and we just popped out for the evening, like you did when everything was new and you weren’t crawling through anxiety, breathing through the minutes that would get you away from the day and to bed.

It became part of our relationship folklore, that film, that moment, that life back then and occasionally we would remember it.

Last week I ventured out in to the real world and packed up my grief to take our son to London, and the trees were out in blossom in the walkway but they were only saplings when we visited before and our toddler played on the steps as we waited for my friend. And it was a birthday surprise for me, but the wheel wasn’t working so we did something else and nothing really mattered. But last week I bustled and shoved my way past the same spot, wondering if our son’s memories would crash into his day as they scraped alongside mine and I thought I’d negotiated my way through their waters, despite the waves picking up a swell when we moored home later.

But

I woke into whiteness, cold endless whiteness on the date I remembered the long distance wedding guests had started to book in and hang clothes. But they’re not here now and I wake to the screaming confusion, the disorientation as my gaily coloured life slides across the table in front of me, just like the glasses on that pure cotton table cloth on our extra special holiday, back then when I was worried about the captain’s message. But the seasoned travellers reassured us, like you tried to reassure me and our son over night as the heavy metal banging smashed and creaked at us and we held onto the sides of the bed as we touched the edge of the storm. And you wrote in your book on the page with the Ancient Mariner’s quote and wondered what horrors awaited you at work on our return.  But there was no albatross for you, he was waiting, biding his time, before flying straight at me and I remember the frivolous sailing, the freedom of people away from real life, when just for an hour, or a smile or a week, they could forget, and pretend that this was their world, that the top ups were always free and the limitless buffet was as their life should be, all laid out on a platter, beautifully presently and sizzling at them, eager and plentiful. And they played and they laughed and they drank and there was no pain or anguish, no reality to scrape deep inside them and carve out a wound that changes them irrevocably.

And we waved and smiled and laughed as our hair was blown backwards and we put life on hold as we swayed out of port. And now it’s too late.  My ears burn numb from screaming voices, my terror is stuck in my throat, the night has smashed into me. My tables are broken against walls. crashing, sliding into oblivion. They are all around me, every passenger a memory of a life bobbing along, steering through storms, learning to get my sea legs and becoming a competent sailor. But now it’s too late, the ice has torn into my stern, we jump with no hope, breathless from the icy impact. Black coldness grabbing at my legs, broken wailing, layers of consciousness pulling me down, clawing for wreckage, kicking, panicked through blackness, searching, reaching, finding slimy wood. Waiting to wake but I can’t. Splashing, thrashing, flailing at the reality, trying to hit out, smash down on the oozing denseness around me. This has not happened, this is not real. I want to scream until my jaw locks, until there’s no voice left, until I gag on all that’s around me and when I wake I’ll be on board, glinting into the sunlight. But I can’t stop the memories grasping at me, calling me further in and downward, swirling me round and around. The horror, the wood, the noise,  make it stop, I want it back, I want this over, I want it all back. I can’t breathe. I can’t swim. They’re all around me, panicking into beyond.

Why do I bother to pull myself onto the wood, to lie crushed, drenched, empty, only breathing, just looking back at my life? 

Day light brings no end to the misery, just fewer voices as I look around at the carnage, the bits of my world floating by, popping up covered in algae, unrecognisable for a moment. I pull the weed from them and study their form, I remember them when they were shiny and new, when they weren’t memories –  just moments. I look back at her silhouetted, broken against the skyline, like some huge, snared, injured animal, too heavy and awkward to right itself. And I’m too exhausted to cry. I just lie and wait and think and feel for me and my world and their worlds back then. Ripped apart, sucked under like mine, surrounded by debris, to be picked through, to make sense of, to piece together. And I think of people I never knew from a life I can’t conceive of and I feel for them across the years and I ache with the pain that connects us, with an understanding that can only be experienced not taught.

And I see us walking out of the cinema on a cold February night, thousands of years before the month gained it’s meaning. And I sit here on my driftwood, floating in the dim mornings salvage. Alone but connected beyond all I know, clinging on despite splinters I can’t feel and shards buried deep in sinew that cause me no distraction.

I look out at the water – black, icy, laping its whispers towards me.

I sit

I breathe

I float

I wait

x

P.S – Monday, first thing

This is more like it. It’s cold rain and I’m not quite dressed for it. Can’t work out whether to hurry through and untangle this at home or let it take its course and drip back through it carefully. I never quite click into this world. I’m still on top, resting, with butterfly weight on its soft branches, just outside of it all, drifting through moments of clarity.  My ripped, furred wings still stuck together with the gloop of the cocoon clumped onto my back. Fragile, perched, hanging on for the sun.  

No familiar faces yet, no movement over my bridge, no one to check in with. Better go – hill calling.

And I glance at our road south where we turned so many revolutions before we knew it’s significance. And they’re coming late today. They arrive with their perfect quotes as the rain gets heavier and for a moments soaking I laugh through it all and I hear us together from a time before the clocks stopped.  So I stay for a while at my wet table, the Tao bird muck’s washed away. It all looks varnished by the rain, glossed over like the things we choose to avoid. And I sit in it, through the remembering, the weekends memories and where they are about to take me. And I can’t really see through the mizzle but know I have to go home soon, to get everything out and look at it, to understand and revisit, because it’s calling me like you did back then, late at night while the house was silent and I got up to take the call.

I can hardly see the screen for raindrops, the tiny rainbowed spheres persisting, showing wavelengths of joy beyond the present tense.

Back home

And sometimes when it comes back it’s so welcome. I slip into it like battered worn out slippers that hug the contours of your feet, that know every inch of your soul as I flail around in familiar pain. And I curl into the cushion – and I’m waiting for the throb in my temples and it hurts and the pain is Good. And I scrabble around for images and moments, flashes of a life gone by and they dance around and tease me until one drops into place heavily, deep  inside. And as it lands my shields fall willingly and the horror comes back, just for a moment, for a second or two and the panic pulls at my arm, spinning me out of control and I shout helpless protesting at reality. And if I shout loud enough the universe can’t take it and it shatters and gives up the game and everything crumbles around me until the dust settles and I find I’m back in my old life, in the old world, displaced and disoriented by the shift in consciousness.

But despite the force of my voice, the echoing depths from which I drag it, the surging energy of a lifetime with which I hurl it outwards, I still can’t break the illusion.

I crawl back out of the cushion, bewildered and spent,

And approach the day.

Another moment to experience in this illusion we call reality.

x

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The church yard was in full bloom and I chose lilies because I always liked them.

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 him

for our son

for herself

For always

x

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.

x

Trapped inside this endless maze of rooms and with each turning every corner is a familiar place. The walls push in against me, the ground will not give way, there’s little air in here and what I can breathe in makes me cough. I keep going. Round the next corner, must find the centre of the labyrinth to climb the steps and ring the bell, to turn around and see the clearly painted sign to the exit and gift shop – but it’s not there. Just another dusty corner. Everything is grey today, not black. Not the black that’s intense and heavy, that swells and consumes all around, then shifts and lifts, but this all pervading, saturating, relentless greyness. Grey thick sides, dense walls, stumbled terrain, slimy seeping dripping sticky to the touch, oozing at me, clawing me in, pulling me closer, one foot in front of the other. Hands on walls either side, pushing along. This looks new, turn here, narrower steeper, am I going uphill, the air thinner, turn again to darkness. Feel the distance behind me, the distance ahead, the madness sending me round again. My dress is heavy, old grained linen, deep grey, long and ripped, faded embroidery round the unpicked hem, my filthy bare feet bleed into the ground but keep moving. I don’t really feel, I can’t really see or hear, I’m not in this place anymore.

Somewhere outside I hear chaotic fairground music, I imagine the horses, their chipped lacquer, snarling grimaced, bouncing around to nowhere, pointlessly going up and down round and round waiting for the music to stop, to rest, to breath, till it starts up again. And I want to get up to the fairground, to the trip over cables, with the flashing brightness, the sickly rich stench of toffeed candied burgers, the noise I can’t join in with, the distortion, everything big, loud, gruesomely cheery, shouting at me Everyone a Winner. But the sights on the guns are out of line and the tin ducks laugh at you as you miss and the crowd are a melt of faces as they slam and rattle by.

But I still crave it somehow, I hear it somewhere out there while I inch round my mazed cell like a scientist’s mouse, bloated and squinting on drugs that won’t help me. I keep going, scratchy nails scamper the dust away, waiting for a corner that lifts or lightens.

Holding myself up through this repetition. Narrowed walls crunch in closer, the stone eating up the ground as it approaches. Turn, turn walk, wait stop. Turn, keep going breathe, turn, turn back, stop, wait rest. Turn walk, wait. Turn, turn this way, no this way, turn, no that way, no, stop stop here. Here, no next one, no here, turn, stumble wait, stop breathe. Breathe breathe breathe.

Round the next corner I find it, the centre, then I see her ahead of me, all around me. Me in mirrors, repeating me into infinity, shabby stained, strained, stripped, ripped raw, roared out, outside of myself in the shiny glinting reflections of all the paths around me. And as I spin from one to another lunging at each for an answer, up above me the hurdy gurdy whirls on in the muck and the filth, the brightly painted stalls thrust out their wares, neon burning over the throaty chug of diesel, the leather smoked complexions full of empty promises and fat knarled hands still grasping at your money, Roll up Roll up, a prize every time!

Tonight

Under the old unused candles I found them, shoved in drawers slightly bent, and the words and weight of the pens we used charged at me full throttle. And the images underneath them from when he tried out his new camera and experimented with light conditions and we sat under the heavy green painting that our son used to like to point towards. The one we bought at the beginning, from the fusty trip hazard antiques shop, up the packed stacked stairs to strain our necks to reach it. And it hung over our life above the settee that his friends made for us and unpacked from their battered red van that early Sunday morning before we’d taken root. And the painting hung quietly while we went out on our hen and stag nights to lose ourselves in others plans and we didn’t glance at its image when we giggle wobbled lurched home later.

And now it lies under the bed with the album that followed, and the dust and the camera that he sometimes used in spite of progress.

And I saw that old painting today, cropped to fit our view as we started out. But tonight I sit and type, I cook for our son and help him with literacy. Tonight there’s no plastic horseshoe round my neck.

x