Archives for posts with tag: birth

My friend’s husband retired last year. She talked about it the last time we met and how she felt it would be strange, how odd to have him there all day, every day, getting under her feet and tripping up the routine that she’d made her own over years. I listened. He was always into trains and, without doubt, would take the time to wander down to the stations, to stand around and watch and note the numbers. He would tinker and mess about and finding himself with the hours, would reflect on his years, would adjust to a new way of life. And my friend would make adjustments too. Arguments would come and go, redrawing boundaries and negotiating space in the way you do when you spend your life with someone. I’ve been thinking about her recently, wondering about her world and how they relate now as their children grow up and they face old age together.

And when my parents retired I remembered a lounge full of boxes, of china birds and paperweights, of cards and the smell of orchids and as I type, a blackbird darts in front of my window, wings stretched wide so that I can see each feather and the sky is so heavy today, solid, thick grey as if it’s holding in so much and there is stillness.

Our son left for school an hour ago, knee deep in revision, challenge all around and I think of your mother pulsing out new life back then, creating lungs that filled with air, that bought me to here, that bought our son to the edge of the man he is now and I wonder.

I wonder about our other world, one where you left this morning, where we teased you about the day. And you’d feel strange, such a mix of emotions. All the years of dealing with their blue sky thinking and politics in their air conditioned rooms. And the names and faces that came and went like Colin with his manicured nails, easing you out to your next job and suave Bob Clarke, grateful for your endless knowledge. We used to drive near the building back then and you pointed it out as we drove past. And the ship builders that came before and the East of the County who came after that.

You had two cars in those days, a company one you didn’t use and then we met. I know where the card is that I sent you, when I still lived at home, your interview on the horizon and how the new job formed our world, the commuting and my trains trips down.  I wore a Santa hat and waved to the directors and their Christmas parties came and went, corporate games in a different town. And the work that came later, near to home and our new son with the hours, the frowning as they tightened budgets, the gravitas, the stress and the respect.  It feels like a favourite book now, a story covered in dust, on your bookshelf, tucked away though I know it’s all still there.

And how strange it would be to wave you off on this day to know the relief to come, the stories and gifts, bottles of wine and then what next? And we’d laugh and make plans like we used to do and after you’d caught up on sleep and reading you would drift in to charity work. I’d be a teaching assistant by now and our son would be marching to school (as he does,) but in a different world, with balloons on the door and alternative potential in our minds.

I wonder how my friend is getting on in her new world, when the routines laid in stone came to a stop. And we would have been similar I imagine, rearranging our priorities to fit our changing needs. I’d look forward to tea and a meal in the oven when I’d come home, the only one at work and you’d have humoured me…for a while.

But I’m not a teaching assistant and our son prepares for GCSEs in a parallel world where we keep on keeping on. And while I type and listen to the silence of the house, I see us all in that other Eden,  flat bottomed clouds, cropped to fit our view, nettles you could roll in, under our rainless painless sky.

There in another universe, with a different road ahead. There in your office, with your colleagues joking, they slapped you on the shoulder, they shook by the hand – in the other land, today, where you retired.

xxx

 

 

 

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February 27th

It feels like November today, any sniff of spring has been blown off course by these squally showers and as I watch the fields through the raindrops on these windows, I think of back then.

My boots still smell of the farm, the hay sodden around my low heels and I trudged. The grain made my eyes water as I followed through the mud to find the sheep. And here and there low murmurings, deep bleating and they huddled and bundled themselves up. The new lambs are still unsteady and they trample around their mother’s teats. Some shy away but most are interested in the presence of the strangers.

And I am such a stranger, I tiptoe through the sopping mud, it laps my boots, it cries out for wellies as I watch. The farmer says they’ve bought the sheep into the barn because the weather had turned bad. He apologised – as though he should have controlled the sun, as though lambs should only come out to the smell of fresh grass with the rays warming up their plastered down fur. They nuzzle, he points out the next one ready for labour and she stretches her neck out, she paces and pads the earth.

She has found her spot. Once they’ve chosen their place they will not move from it, he says and they nestle down. She sniffs at the new borns in the next pen, keen for her own and I watch.

The herd wander around with little plan, like my thoughts, like the mess of images in my head. They jostle for attention, compete for food as I think of my friend on her beach at the start of her journey and me and our son stepping out then, on ours. I remember writing words for the service while she spun in chaos far from home. And there we were, unknown to each other, on that day being birthed  from the safety of our respective worlds into a land we didn’t recognise, blinking on new straw.

There was something so brutal about the farmland today, so essential, the irresistible force to push on and out and I felt it in the bristle of the mother’s tongue, in the grasp of the farmer’s hand as he eased out more new life. There in front of me dazed and bewildered, finding its feet in this pulse of nature, as I think of my friend, as I think of my preparations back then.

Nature charging on regardless, relentless and driven.

 

February 28th

I’ve been watching the clouds again, how they’re pulled into a vortex to my right, the shadow trees were waving at me this morning as I passed by and now the rain is back. It’s dripping cold onto the farm pastures, the animals are inside and I arrange flowers back at home.

I bought alstroemerias, they look like tiny lilies and as I shuffle and tweak them in the vase, the rooks and the crows take flight, they cut up the air in such haphazard patterns. They look like they don’t know what they’re doing, absent minded winging on the winds but they’re guided by instinct, by nature and far away from them, in the warm, in our home  – so am I.

 

March 1st

There was a stillness down on the farm this morning. it wasn’t cold or warm, no biting wind or early rain, no spring sun, just a grey heavy cloud cover and a sense of the land waiting. The crows circled and landed, poked about and waddled in the mud, they’d found a puddle to drink from and gathered like old men at a wake, heads bowed, arms folded behind their backs and they nodded and paid their respects to the earth. They sipped and pecked around for food, then took off in a scattering, zig zaged black in my view and then the seagulls came in. They flew across in a broken badge, in a triangular twist with such purpose and I watched them pass by like my thoughts, like my feelings of back then.

I didn’t see the farmer today but his wife rushed out, their daughter was stuck in the mud, her truck revving up, going nowhere and she waved and laughed. I noticed her pony tail, hair scaped up for the day’s business and her practical clothes as she jumped from the cab, a round reinforced girl, fed from the land, unattached to the animals she raises and then eats. She didn’t mind being stuck, it happens and sooner or later you get out. She clambered back in the truck, plumped down on the the ripped leather seat and reversed out of the ditch.

Sometimes you have to go backwards before you can go forwards again.

xxx

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It’s just over one day to the end of this year and I can’t help wonder which other celebrities will not see in 2017.

Bowie went on my birthday and the year started as it meant to go on, they kept on coming, or should I say going, thick and fast. Reaction seems to fall into a few categories – much younger people, mainly untainted by loss, referred to it as, (in the case of my son’s friend), The Year of the Dead Celebrity, while much older people note yet another death, having a tally chart on their bed ends, having outlived many family and friends. But it feels like it’s my contemporaries, us middle-agers, who are shaking our heads the most.

Some of it is inevitable, many of those familiar faces came from the baby boom era, becoming famous around the same time and hitting late middle age or early old age en masse. For those of us, menopausal women, midlife crisis-ed men of a certain age, it seems to have kicked away a cultural crutch. These were the faces and the voices we grew up with, the musicians that were always there, who put words and sounds onto the feelings we couldn’t express, the Bowies and the Cohens, the poets for our teenage dreams. All of us with our moments and fragments of how these lives intersected with our own.

For me, school uniforms were worn to the comfortable voice of Wogan and delight when he read out my poem, Saturday evenings with sausage and mash watching The Two Ronnies and ‘four candles’ learnt off by heart. Then leaving home, dancing on a table in a Liverpool club, watching Pete Burns spin through the fug of late night neons, before the taxi to my digs back out of town. And much later, the home town chattering with a mate obsessed with Prince, how I helped her to start up her band that came to nothing and their home, which smelt of great dane and cigarettes, in the years before my husband came along. And when he did, when we danced to George at our reception, when I swished and he smiled, when we watched Carrie in the multiplex with our best man, there seemed no sense of time. No thought that all these people, exaggerated in our minds through fame and internet would be so vulnerable, could be so human, as we were.

Of course, we were younger then, not scarred by loss and change, the world was still unpredictable but felt safer somehow and now and again a celebrity died, but not like now, now when it’s a weekly occurrence. Sometimes I read posts from people distraught that their idol has gone and I can say nothing. To them, in their world that’s not mine, it is overwhelming (at least for a while). In my own early grief their reaction would have outraged me but not now. Their reaction is their business, it’s their genuine view of the world, where they walk without my shoes. How shocked they are, that he or she was only 60 and yes, it’s young but then I think, they had 12 years on my husband…and then the older ones, the ones that made it to three score and ten, how it’s alright really as their innings were so good.

When you live with loss, when it’s carved out the person you’ve become, you learn many things but one thing stands out. All loss is felt at 100% whether it’s for an ancient movie legend or a pop star taken ‘too soon.’ It’s the impact of that life, the ripple effect of their talents, their stories, the real people they were to their families. And in addition to the fan’s devotion to their work, an immeasurable fact shines out, that they lived. They achieved, they failed, they fought their demons like we all do and made connections.

Grief is as unique as the relationships that created it, whether the loss is for the first crush of your youth, the poster on your wall, or the actor who’s films you never missed, or your husband – the person you planned to spend the rest of your life with. All life is precious. There’s no half way house with grief, it’s the whole relationship to be looked at, to be mourned along with layers of secondary losses. And these frequent deaths this year throw spotlights on our own pain with a reminding terror of the raw, illuminated in a stark white light by Debbie Reynolds running to catch up with her girl.

It was this time of year, another lifetime ago, that I found out I was pregnant. The joy of knowing new life beat and pulsed inside me was a feeling like no other, bringing another soul into this world, into this time based place where everything is temporary. And now as this turbulent year closes, as more people prepare to mourn, to dress for funerals at the opposite end of life, it seems to underline one thing. Famous or not, infamous or invisible we all have an impact on each other with the skills we bring, with the talents that we share. So share them well, find your bliss and know it, make a difference while you can. We’re not all posters on someone’s wall but we all matter, we’re all fragile in the storm.

I’ve lost count of the number of deaths this year, the tweeted ones and the nameless ones but each life was a universe in itself, each an individual with such impact on others. This cultural hacking away, this chipping out of the pieces of my life reminds me of our vulnerability and our transience in this world.

Time will catch us all in the end.

Be good to each other. Be kind. We have such responsibility, such potential to enrich each other’s lives.

With love.

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February 15th 2014

As we float out again, me and our son, into these familiar waters, I see how we’ve learned to sail. It’s odd, the skills you learn when there is no choice, nothing but to hold onto the rails, to feel the rope burn in your palm, the saltwater bite your skin and your sea legs gaining strength because they have to.

It’s raining, it seems to have rained forever, as though the thought of sun on your face was a chink of memory from someone else’s life. But this grey ocean is known and understood, somehow the whip of wind is no problem, these gales can only hurl us as we steam out of port again. The salt scrubs our face and stings our eyes but we keep going. Our leathered skin maps our journey, shields us in the storm. We tap the compass, watch the needle twitch, looking back over our log book now that we are sailors.

October 9th 2013

I look out from my lump of carbon through the condensation, dripping white worlds upside down and watch the steady smiles peel down the window. Though my feet feel carpet I’m not here, I’m three years ago up high on our deck, I stand by the outlet pipe with our son and we squeal as the blasts push around us. My scarf and hair compete for position till we find seats in the warmth and watch the people and land get smaller. I remember standing down at Weston or was it Woolston in the years before we slowed and we perched on the edge of the jetty waving at the ships leaving home. And later or maybe earlier, leaning up a barrier in the skirt that doesn’t fit me now and my favourite white top, clutching my sunhat in the breeze, smiling into the lens with Enchantment or was it Independance behind us and we raced up by the old sheds, parallel with the water, bombing it in the Orion to catch one last glimpse of the beast.

But I’m back on board now, excited and scared with unknown storms ahead of us. I see us wandering, working things out, testing ourselves in our new glistening place. I’m there in the cold, in the anticipation, in the promise of the waves ahead while I sit behind these steamed up windows in a room where the floor keeps still.

And further underneath it all, I travel to my start, the first day with our son on my own, when all the help had gone. Proud of myself, washed and dressed before the midwife arrived though it rarely happened again and I positioned his kit on the bed armed with all equipment, playing solitaire around his needs. I learned to change a nappy kneeling into the bedside, him kicking springing legs on top because I couldn’t bend to the floor and my days and nights merged into an inching journey, in that room, by those curtains from this day and ever outwards. And I feel his soft new warmth, his smells and dribble, a comfort of heaviness in my hand and an ache I grew to live with.

And I live with different pain now,
moving things around to meet our needs, focussed on the job, the path ahead. I’m layered, waiting for the doorbell of the midwife, as I lean up railings looking out at blue and wherever I am, I am travelling, my luggage changing shape while I heave it alongside with us, muscles straining, strengthening in the weight.

We pull out of port,
the midwife turns up.
I need a drink in the present.
I brush the hair from out of my eyes across these three realities.

Plaited journeys – on my path.
xxx

Thursday October 10th

The light throws out strong contrasts today, the shadows are long and stretched in the low bright sun. I make shapes in the condensation till it liquifies the image out there. The tree ripples and drips, distorted in front of me like the shattering of its temporal signature.

I remain fragmented myself, back in an early visit, Mahler and the Celestine Prophesy on the day I took photos that didn’t come out.
I go outside now, called by a strangeness in the tree, I can’t make it out with the light and my eyes but I find it to be an odd clump of turned leaves, crisped and auburn amongst the green. I investigate its dryness, not quite brittle but almost, as I’m sandwiched between heat on my back and a biting breeze in my face.

Back inside the ancient timelines in a room where the bookcase was stronger, years before its current lean, I wander around watching her while this day is outrageous in bright with leaves twirling into windscreens, crumbling and dancing with no thought.
A shimmer of space time and I’m nearer to now, that grey heavy black morning, Voyager on TV and I’m rushing in a coat too big for me now.

And I drift on the air blown in and out of my places, curled and orange in the passage of time, my shape holding true despite elements as I am carried by the day and the season, leaves of moments, crunched loud colours, from the forests in my head.

The creases in the sycamore spore mirror the waves in my fingerprint. I hold it up in these unforgiving rays. Something cheeps over my shoulder like a creaking door as we leave your shack, packed up and heading out to plough new fields.

And in the distant fields I see from now the whirligigs twiddle and twirl, spinning silent circles at the edge of my view.

xxx

October 12th

I remember this day in Nice after the breakfast fiasco and the stressed rush to Cannes We stood high up on the curved road, looking down on white, bleached walls reflecting us in heat, markets that led to Matisse’s place and a beach, wide stark and alien. And while I tap the sand from my new trainers I feel me sitting by the bed on a Saturday evening in a different world, days and dates doing their thing and I leave them to it while I wash up by hand.
A novelty, like years ago when I stood by the sink, son roped in, in pushchair and me proud and resplendent in marigolds and suds as I’d managed to take my own weight on what remained of my back, for the first time in the strange land of motherhood.
I see the old dishwasher, that belonged to Mrs Mouse, that you started up while I looked after our son, and we got used to its clunks and forgot how to use bowls of water. Though you never really liked washing up bowls, too scanky underneath and I didn’t like a full sink, snorkelling for the plug through the debris of our meals.
And now this bit of back then has broken and I clean round in preparation for men, tomorrow’s job of welcoming something new and shiny into this changing place.
I remember leaving your early cave, at the start when you were at work and my mid morning trips home on Mondays. Tidying round everywhere but the kitchen, leaving jokes in the lounge while the dishes piled high
and tommorow I’ll pile them here in polar white, the old things, the chipped things and our son’s best Star Trek mug.

October 20th

I find the photo of our son in a sombrero, dates shouting out and the last frame I bought which clashed with the colours, in these old rooms with the smell of encyclopaedias, the preserved smell of childhood, the ancient book from his Great Grandad
presented eons ago in a different world before engines had grunt or TV on demand, from a slower, stranger time than my strange world now.
He can almost lift me now, growing solid, sinewed, with strength to come and the trees are heating up now in this late autumn sun, flaring Spanish colours as we pass by and somewhere on a distant sea of pitching waves we sway home, tired, travelled, bagged up washing and memories, sailing into new water, in our way with gifts yet to open, in the dregs of a journey, in the preface of the journey to come.

Xxx

P.S
You know what it’s like when you travel – you always over compensate, take too much, forget something else. Lug heavy cases around full of ‘just incases’ and wherever you go, you find you had enough anyway. We pack with great care. The anchor is heavy but we can lift it, steering out with wind through our hair. We plot a new course and head out.

x

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