Archives for posts with tag: friends

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I’m sat at my screen and I type like I did back then, when all I could do was to sit at my screen and type and words tumbled out in no particular order but they came out and they come out now. Now I sit at my screen and I’m aware of the fragments in my head, of the way my mind is trying to process the news but like back then, the images and thoughts are coated in a thick gloop, they pull apart from each other, they struggle to make sense but they don’t. In my head, like in the early times, there’s just a fug, a twisting, churning mess and I just follow it. All I can do is let the thoughts and feelings bubble up and jostle for position. There is a sense of being propelled from a familiar place again into somewhere strange, into a different land and so I type.

My devices are all active, they hum and bleep with updates as a spectrum of people post and grapple with the news, all affected by the connection to you. I remember sitting, staring at the flashing curser, in my week three, the TV bleating out downstairs, my son watching cartoons in his own fog and I took calls. I rambled and sobbed to the friends who reached out and then I posted. I typed and wrote the words and you responded, from out there, lost in your own hell at day nine, still counting on your fingers as you reached me.

And now I keep turning over the words and the messages, the encouragement and support. And while I type, I can feel the buzz of updates I haven’t read yet, of people calling each other and reaching out. A web of connections from your life, I can hear it now, a background radiation of complex links and all of us with our own stories, our narratives of how we knew you and for each of us somehow, in the places where we collided, there is a tearing now.

I used to post so much in the early days when every journey to the shops was an event, when the smallest interaction provoked a stream of emotions needing to be expressed and you encouraged me to start a blog. I remember being in another country with my son, away for the first time in our new world and as I took the hairpin bends in a coach, miles above sea level, riddled with anxiety, surrounded by strangers, I planned out my first post. There up a mountain in my chaos, I was anchored with the knowledge that I would write it out. I held the thoughts, I made mental notes and I coped because when I got home, when we’d survived what others saw as a holiday, I knew I had a vehicle for the pain and so I typed. And when I was finished, I sent it to you because you wanted to link it to your blog and give me the springboard into a world I relish now.

Now I process everything, up and out from the dust filled corners and the dark places that hide around the back, to the joy and the lightness that come from a full world and when the feelings make no sense – like now, now in this concentrated tapping on the keyboard, when the desire to check updates makes me type faster than I can, I turn to words. You were two initials on a forum, you were the stretched out fingers that reached mine and we travelled together. And now all your fellow travellers struggle to make sense of this place, we reach out to others like you did and we hold on.

Through my open patio doors, the sound of another Saturday seeps in, people mowing lawns, toddlers shrieking and my washing machine churns like my head, like my stomach when I heard the news. I must check my newsfeed; I need to keep close to the others touched by this. We stumble, our virtual family but we reach out, like you did on our journey. Our paths entwined, a patchworked tribe and I’m one of the many threads,  grateful for the entanglement, so thankful for the hand of a friend.

My washing has finished but my stomach still churns. I must check my newsfeed.

We are all connected.

❤️

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Through the dark and scary woods, a long long time ago we visited Brei in Oxford. I believe it was the winter after we’d lost your Mum and we pulled up and parked by their tiny stone cottage and waited for the sound of the dog. I can’t remember which breed it was now but I wasn’t comfortable around it and with a certainty, protected our son. I remember when we visited their workshops in the woods that the dog would be locked in the toilet. A rescue dog, the potential to be so lovely but they were always too busy to train him so he forged his own path with no boundaries, galloping around the rooms and leaping up at customers.

That was the last time we visited. We talked on the final stretch of the journey home. She hadn’t seemed that interested in the things you needed to say and you felt it wouldn’t be worth the effort to divert our route south again. But she still promised to re-upholster our settees. We confirmed phone numbers and emails, she vowed she’d get back to us but of course she never did.

I remember when they bought them down, right at the start in the autumn. Both she and Colin negotiating our new threshold and squeezed the sofas through on their sides. We paid for one each didn’t we, (though I’d agreed the fabric) mine was the terracotta one, a slight nap to the fabric, almost suede and yours was old gold, although she insisted the shade had another name. I’d bought fabric too for curtains and took forever to make them up. Always more confidence than competence when it came to sewing and I was there in full bloomed pregnancy, over two years later, crawling on the floor with pins in mouth trying and just succeeding to get the others finished for ‘the baby’s’ room. I believe my plan was to alter the lounge curtains to make them fit the play-room, years later when we moved in. But as with many things in that world, it didn’t quite happen and I didn’t get around to it and now the sun comes in with ease through those windows at the back with nothing to block the light that falls in, charging photons on the things I need to sort.

It’s the end of the year as I tap here, another swathe of time moved through and at the bottom of the stairs I have some swatches. Our son has chosen the new fabric and new colour. Soon as the days dance into weeks they’ll come to squeeze them out of these new doors, just after my birthday will be the way to go and I’ll watch the shapes of memory as they pile into their van.

Jan 1st 2015

And now I’ve crossed that bridge again into another year. My birthday tears up at me, somehow welcome, somehow unknown. I drop back to our hotel and the waiting faces that you planned for me. Ten years back then, with the friends who cannot be there for me now and the ones who remain by my side. And our settee that I sat on, on the eve of our eve that was piled high with cushions months later when my back had had enough and I sat through the hours like the Princess and the Pea until I could sit once more like a proper person again.

There’s something right about the timing now. Easing the old for the new and I’ll look to the door and our son as he tries it out for the first time. Making indents in new fabric. The fabric that sits on the top, the structure solid underneath. The foundations firm under a wave of change. The places where we sat, the life and times around us. Us in the moments, in the threads that bind and us now testing out of new material. Making our way, with new places to rest and to be.

Jan 10th

Fifty years ago my Mother went into labour and last week on a rare trip to town, I stood behind a fresh young couple. They bristled with new life, chirping over the pinkness that was snuggled deep in their pristine pram. I overheard their conversation with the cashier. How the baby was born at the start of the year, they were in the papers, and the Father yawned about how tired he was. I didn’t see the Mother’s face, but I could sense it, her exhausted euphoria, her aching pride and her primal commitment to the work to come.

They were on their way to the Registrars, they were excited to sign proof of her birth. I remember the building, where you went fourteen years ago while I lay upstairs on the bed, immobile with our own wrap of pinkness by my side.
I walked past the building many times in the old world, buses to catch, places to work. I see it now, from my wrapped up place on the journey home, I pass the small window by the railings, where from my inside view back then, I saw people’s feet walking by, and Jenny sat beside me and I couldn’t hold the pen. Couldn’t form the letters, couldn’t focus and all I remember was the enduring sense of Jenny on my left, their Pc screen and rub of tissues.

Same room, different forms and the circle completes again. My wanderings around town is framed in the look in their eyes, their joy carved out in the moments that lie ahead of them. And me, framed by the seat I sat on at the beginning of this journey. A document signed to force a new me to begin. And it’s that new me now who, with our son, has chosen the fabric to coat our life for the years ahead.

They’ll be taking the sofas away soon, peeling them back to their basic form and building them up again, into something new, something more padded, something able to withstand the moments to come. And we will sit and settle and welcome the newness.

Sofas and softness, stainings and scars and a life turning to renewal.
The re-upholstering of the girl I used to be.

I think of my Mother in labour,
I remember myself in labour.
Your face, his face
and our sofas at the door.

xxx

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The final Sunday of the tournament always signified the end of school or end of college, it was something to look forward to on all levels.
I’d buy strawberries and sit on the floor and whoop at the sliced shots and groan at the chalk flying high.

My match started in the seventies, Virginia Wade, me on an early green settee and Dad explaining the rules. And I came to understand and follow, grew up to cheer for Agassi, knew too much, remembered too many score lines and summertime hung on the start of July.

But you didn’t do sport, really not your thing. You were designed to sit and watch, apart from the odd thrash at badmington with Al, and the Pitch and Put that put your hip out in the park where we found the pedaloes, when we listed over in the fibre glass swan, as the water came in quicker than you could row.

But tennis was ok, you used to watch it with your Mum in the lounge, with the dog-haired carpet that I grew to love, despite the fluff. So we watched and took sides and bets and negotiated the game around our baby’s bottom, changing nappies when they changed ends. We tried to engage our toddler, knowing the finer points of the game would be lost on a four year old as I learned to follow in fragments, in-between the priorities of our life.

And the final set, with Al, the year before, 8 months before your last shot. When he was round for a Sunday, like normal. And I fiddled with food and half baked and he would stay till the match was over but it was one of those games that pinged back and forth and I can’t even remember who the game was between. It carried on and on and we found more and more food and made more jokes. And they equalised and bedtime came, bath time for our school boy and in the heat of a late Sunday, Al decided to head for home and made it back with a set to spare.

And somebody won and we laughed on the phone while our son went to bed in an endless summer Sunday. An afternoon of daz white, barley waters and fluorescent fluff flying
across in HD. Chantilly cream and Taste the Difference ripe redness bursting round our mouths.

I don’t remember the first summer after, it fuzzed by me in a land belonging to someone else. July was just a word and last year I may have peeped at proceedings but I didn’t stay too long.
And now I’m here and know the day, know who you’d want to win and though I’m busy with our boy, struggling with a playing up PowerPoint, I stop and search my phone. I find iplayer and I drop into our old place. I watch a set and wonder where we are. I’m sucked into the hush of the crowd, the scorch of centre court, the hopes and heat of faces focused until I pull away, leave them to get on with it.

Someone will win, someone will lose, newspapers will extol or attack and everything goes around again.
Patterns in my life. repetition and change, tradition, transition and flux in the whip of aluminium, in the sweat of muscle, in the striving to be the best they can. Knowing when to lob, when to slice, when to dart into the net or hurl everything you have into a green smudged white, a thud-thump streak across the ground as you reach with everything inside you, to make the connection, to fight to win.
Your point, your game, your life.

I sit here, listening out for us in the back of my mind, while we watch them somewhere else, when the only game that mattered was on the screen and we were unaware of the tournament ahead.

My muscles ache from the match.
My skirt is torn and grubby, I need a drink, need to sit and re-group, sweat under a towel for a while and then come back. I need to come out head up, secure in the strength of my muscles, ready to take the next shot, seeing myself doing it, watched over by our younger selves on some distant settee.

I throw the ball up, sunlight sparking off the edge of aluminium, skin shining in the hot photons.

This is the point.
x

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April 14th

I’m back in Paris on the first trip, the fear on the rattle trap plane, the closeness of the engines and I remember waiting in the dark in the alien lit streets by too many suitcases, while you looked. And we were lost and tired and couldn’t find the Rue. And we’d misread an ‘h’ for an ‘l’ and stumbled upon it later in our aching feet and disappointment. And the room was a box and the bathroom had no door and somehow on Easter Sunday we took our induction crisis on the metro and found a brand new place. The small round owner rolled out to the breakfast room, the polished stone stairs, the arched brickwork, our cellar under the city with warm incessant croissants and I see it now, in my morning under our son’s steady breath.

And the bateaus were confusing and we learned how to negotiate the traffic swarm, in those hours by la Gare when everything began with a le and we wandered around the boulevard trying to reach the other side. And it’s cropped up now for the first time, though it’s the third time around this date and it’s sneaked out at me, these ancient images and the biting chill and fusting heat. And I sit on the hard stone in Our Lady and wonder about the women who came to help and I couldn’t see her face although you did but I remember her deep patterned dress and her blessing to us as the taxi arrived.

And the hours ticked days until our venture up the tower and I can see the top with my parka inside out, the one I’d bought for Cornwall and we were worried but did it anyway. And somewhere there’s the photo, me-hair everywhere, lying backwards into the wind, its force taking my weight as I squeal in the gust, a flying squirrel, battered, smiling, in our beginnings, above our new selves looking out.

April 15th

Bit adrift today, anchor up, no wind in sails and no sense of land, not that I can see.
Just float for a while, the weather will change soon.
Earl grey in my chipped ceramic warms my leg, sun’s trying to come up, I’m trying to get up. A sense of heading out into something but I’m not quite packed and the condensation on my compass makes it difficult to read.
I feel my breath against my hand as I breathe out. Waiting. Drifting.

The post forces itself into my hallway.
I’d better move.
26 months.

April 16th

Been looking back at old notes, the walks from school in the rain, the hill and Bailey’s wet paws and the cast iron bridge, my path from there to now. The necessary walks that sustained me, the easing out of a world, the osmosis into this one and I have photos that call for a canvas. I promised myself I’d do that, my triptych of scenes from a time, from the shifting and I know each leaf and each stem and when they hang on my wall I’ll see them all, all of me in those moments, wrapped around each soaked blade of grass but others will just see a hill.

My morning walks faded with the growth of our son, an unfolding seeping of change and I see myself on the bench, through these old curtains, oblivious to weather putting one foot in front of the other. Other people use the bench but they don’t know it’s mine.
And the bridge over that road always sensed a change, a move away from the brush of traffic, a dropping into trees and paths and hiding in the undergrowth that grows wild despite my absence.

And I’m in, not out, encased by old walls today and I acknowledge the pull but stay where I am. It’s like the trick photo I took of our son, different shots in one, copied and pasted into a panorama of ten children and I leave this place and float above the house, over the wet roads to the open spaces filled with me and we walk over every blade in haphazard directions, looking out to a strange horizon, looking down tapping on here and our matter buzzes within its form and we wander and wait and exist.

And I see her curled under your rainless sky, your clouds cropped for no one, not today. And I fly back to the first house and the testing out of cameras, light conditions and bikers jackets up the little pathways, through nettles to the top. And from way up there we’d spot our roof, nestled in three just below, just in view if you walked just far enough.

And I’m there now, over us and in that tiny place I see your Mum, curlers and dressing gown, down for the event. One night on the sofa bed before tomorrow. And I was one silk flower short for the place cards and whizzed around the shop in the town, by the hotel that encased us, in the hours after the moments, the moments spent when we went from that house, the house I revisit from here on the hill, as I lie on our bed, displaced, on this bridge between the worlds.

16th – later
Wet pebbles

The pond is greening up, layers of life taking hold. From this angle the stir of water is chaotic, patterns fight and dance for position. The force creates a reaction, underneath swirled grey green reams of silk, a submerged altered beauty waves and ripples under the thin molecules of water. Gushing folded clouds of form carried by their current. The waterfall, highlighted white faded glass, cycling down into the waiting storm. A veil of power over the spewed up spheres that cluster, hurry, smash and pop. The small stone bridge is mottled with age, worn down steps either side, their difference barely showing.

It was placed here years before me and will erode long after I’ve stopped thinking about water. Flecks of warmth from our son’s new fish sparkle up at me. There’s a golden light to the greens, it looks cooling, a welcome seduction on a summers day – but I know it’s cold. The algae builds, holds its prey, an old autumn leaf, its crunch soaked out, gives in and sticks in the gloop. The weak sun dots the surface, nearly enough to shield my eyes and I watch the effects of water under this micro world village as it spools and billows, loud and gentle, a freedom of form, an inverted taffeta dress of molecules.

This bride over pebbles, churning through cycles, a certainty under the laws.

I feed the fish, they break the surface, shaking circles out in unison, stretching the puddle of sun.
They forage beneath me, eager and woken, responding with instinct to their world.

The sun’s going in, I’m cold.
I’m following its lead.
The wind messes my hair backwards as I hang on to the bridge for support.

April 17th

And now its back…
The empty house full of anticipation,
waiting for Diane to arrive.
Sat by the stairwell with women doing jobs around me. Diane battling with victorian laces, hot hair and the smell of lilies.
Tea going cold on the shelf at my side while nails turn shimmered pink.
Peter back from his walk getting changed in the tiny packed room, bringing in flowers while I prepared myself upstairs.
Stepping into reams, Diane at the back strapping in.
Everyone waiting downstairs, while the photographer moving table.
The old mirrored sliding doors and trying to turn at the top of the landing.
The tug of the weight of the fabric, the slow descent.
The smell of the lipstick.
The clamber shove of climbing in the car, the high packed seat of clouds,
rustled swaying on the journey up the road.
The swishing to the door, the heavy wood, the iron lock out of sight.
The chain around my neck.
The hush brush of turning right, the short steps to there.
And the stopping.
And the waiting.
And the look.
And later out into the glare of light
and the trees were full and the ‘Dean Martin’ photo is loud inside my mind.

And each moment flutters around me, delicate pastels, sticking in my hair.
And we’re herded around for the smiling with the duck pond still to come. And the memories line up like our guests, in a row, each waiting to have their time with me and they stretch down the hotel hall, biding their moment, their chance.
The silk of the cravats, the lines and jokes, Negotiating veil as I stood to speak. Beating your Dad at his own game and all the faces blurring around me in snatches of time.

Re-runs in April loops of strangeness, all of us with younger hair, playing our parts on this day.
And I let it play out, like the guests, the ones you seek out, the ones you hang onto and ones you try to avoid.
They’re all here in their finery while I look at the milky sky through my empty glass.
Through this sense of perception, from the brim to the dregs, still pouring long and clear, out from under our bridge and beyond.

xxx

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Been Looking back over words written months ago when our son made a trip to Southampton and later when we passed through again, together, in a time machine and the images fragment and crackle with who we used to be and it’s all here, in these words from that town. The town that started my journey to here…

Last summer

I’m in our old places, in a new way and head down, tapping, full on avoidance. Can’t see the trees, hide from the ponies and moments. And I hear our son’s voice still with his young idiosyncracies that take me back to our Sundays before school. And the car park’s familiar but I have to do it, glance up quick, then head down from the roaming animals and I ignore the swerve of the roads, trying hard not to and think where we are, I can’t be in any of it at all.
I stay quietly tapping, hurting in silence, aiming but losing the moment, while I’m back at our first ever Sunday. Ice creams from the tiny shop, dressed in red, trying to find the bin, teeming river and the current cattle grid shakes my presence and I’m tired of memory. Sun crashes through, the suspension rattles me and I’m lost in the trees somewhere.

I feel blown by the day, sleepy and crushed. Can’t find the image for the thought but it’s close to a broken cobweb, holed and stretched, at the mercy of the weather, stale prey, cocooned limp hanging. And while I’m spinning in sticky thread, a flash of rain crackles the light and we crawl through under the bridge of colours, bringing hope by the dismal tower block.

Same morning – earlier

Back at the bench it’s cold and I feel strange. Just left him kitted out, off to Southampton for time in the world that he’ll grow into and I feel odd but ok. He’s as prepared as me and I can’t see much beyond the rooves, the sky hangs thick and low as I go back eighteen years to my own careful packing for the first trip south and our conversations move around me in the wind. The horizon blurs purple, the spring flowers pushing higher as I drift forwards and back to the forest, the first glimpse of ponies and the laughter of a townie running out of bounds.
I’m knitting it together, his presence of challenges unmet and a world we’re stepping into, with my tentative steps back then. This all belongs to someone else, someone I used to know. I need to unravel this carefully, think I’m too much in the present to look at the past but it will come, as the hall fills with suitcases and they wait for the coach.

I took the train south, was it really that long ago? And you showed me your town and the places I’d come to know.
Familiar haunts on Saturday mornings, crossing over the water for baguettes,
carefully filled bread, in the cafe that never had enough seats and we’d sit in the front, watching people, opposite the shop we bought the rocking chair from, a couple of years later, before the stool got stained by family and life.

And Waterstones after, ending up at the camera shop and evenings on the edge, at the Frog and Frigate and stories and tales of the land before. Before I crossed over into permanence and your friend came back from sea. And we felt the force around us and I can feel his excitement as the coach pulls up now, as I boarded the train back then and he’s going to test out the waters, near our country park. And as it starts for him I see us racing back up the long smooth road, cutting angles off the roundabouts as we hurried to make my connection on time.

And I did and I came back again, became a local girl, a platform regular, until the habit became away of life. And he’s bundled up with all he needs for now, all shiny and new with extra chocolatey bits on top but sepia stained for me, dog eared and torn with love.
And as he burbles from the coach, I go back to all our moments, visits and integration, the things to tolerate, the things I came to own and we’re freezing on Western shore, standing guard in the playground, in the dark, waiting for the ship to come in, peeled back layers of a time before it was our turn and they stood and waved at us.

And forest teas with the Midwich cuckoos, when he wasn’t allowed to touch toys, to buying essential nonsense from the tinkling hippy shop, magpie-ing my way around ephemera, through the incensed air, in the chromed up glossy mall, the one we revisited that last Christmas, when the Apple store hummed helpfully as your watch repair went wrong.
And I flip back and round like the waltzer our son hated, memories blurring as the colours of our years bleed into each other and I’m sick with the intensity and my head spins till I heave it out.

And it keeps coming at me, Portsmouth road on the bus, passed the Cod Plaice, while you worked, around the complex island, enjoying my freedom of feeling new and the eagerness of the short lived perfumed job and I can smell their shallowness and see me by the busy road, flat shoes, achy feet with discarded heels banging in a plastic bag. And I was so young, so improbably young, and I hear our quotes at Dad’s party, the day we mapped out the future.

And I remember Buffalo Bills, with our friend and his friends, meals with Nelson and his funny little ways, shining talk and us, full of stories from New York and the walls were plastered with film memorabilia and the toilet was a jungle. And I wore my favourite t-shirt, rushing past the Mayflower on the right, when I wore the black shoes with jeans and we parked round the back somewhere. And I was driven passed it recently, think it’s a coffee bar now or was it the place next door, boarded up, out of time?

And it continues, all the places from when we drove around, you showing us where you used to live, when you first moved down and how you’d gone to find digs, walking for miles, coping with a broken arm to accidental biking by the QE2.

And on and up to the Cowherds, stuffed with roasts, by the park up the avenue, where we watched the balloon festival, chasing the Desiderata song.

And sometime later driving by containers and freight, just like we did back then. That first trip, when the car was full of us and the gardener’s children and he told us the trip was ‘pregnant with possibilities’ to wind us up, like he always did.
And I see the shiny buildings, chromed up high to the air, where I got a job that I didn’t take because we moved and chuffed up the motorway.

And some time after, I saw our journey north, into the sun, leaving there for the new home. And as we skirted it’s edge I looked carefully right, past the cut through that you showed me, by the car park where I crunched gears and the bus stop that released me on the road to Hamble.

It was all there, like a film set, soft focussed and it happened and it didn’t. And I stared through it all, at the sun beating off the leaves, in a courtyard garden, near to where we used to live, in a world away, in times gone by, in a distance place, in another land before.
Beyond the now and up the hill, like your pick ups from St Marys with the red and white eyes lighting up out of the greyness and it’s all still there just around,
just beneath,
just existing, in it’s own plane, safe and untroubled from this reality.

And I need to leave this for a while and come back to the present and see how it jigsaws together, me then, him now, knotting the images, tying them tightly, harnessed securely in past and present. Someone I used to know, someone I used to be and her ways and their words, feeding into who I am.

Now.

Right now,
in this moment,
in this world, with these challenges, with this love, with these layers, with this knowledge, with this truth.

In this reality.

Now.

xxx

Ps

Sun setting over my merlot, ruby light pierced raspberry. Blood rich shards dance out, splintering pink into my room. I’ve travelled today, through years and space, pain and growth and memory. I’m disengaged now, displaced, confused. Carrying heavy, vivid luggage with me, till I can place it down again somewhere, somewhere safe and protected. For now I’m in it, wrapped up totally and lost, feeling who I used to be with love from who I’ve become.

x

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Feb 6th

I’m trying to feel along this route, the cool silk of my screen, a comfort to fingertips, the swimming in my head the churning thoughts, the impossibility of now, the rise of my chest.

The bay window behind your head, on the right where the carpark peeped out, looking across with our son on his D.S in the days before this phone. And we talked about that trip and the quotes came from nowhere, like our first meal back then and it was what we did, us, in our little game.

and

the wood pidgeon sits, soft and golden high beyond me, napped feathers pushed backwards in the wind, late winter sun warming my side of the bark, a strange ancient light, a green gold sharpening the contrasts, the charcoal etched downstrokes, pushing hard into the landscape.
A sycamore spore shakes against my window, caught in an unseen thread, the sticky insistent parenting of a hidden spider weaving. Pushing out fine gloop to harness food, to feed her belly, fat and swollen, fierce nature driven need to survive, to suck on flies for nutrients till the babies take over her role. And in the web of now the sycamore flutters an absent dance, buffered by the eddies, pinned against the glass, trembling, going with it, with no resistance.

Beyond it, puffs of thinly stretched white, slow moving fluff over a summer blue sky and the wood pidgeon calls out, familiar rhythms breaking through my thoughts, sun’s gone in. I sense how cold it is really, in this dip, this hollow where my home sits, in the winter brittleness.
Down here amongst the leaves, the brown blown detritus of another year. Standing here, spun tight in memories, incapable of movement, caught in the stickiness of now, a cocoon of moments, an essential thread woven around me, tracing me back to then and now. Here and there, in one breath. Looking out, feeling, being, in this moment with awareness.

Feb 8th

I’m varying. Teetering between still nothingness and wide gashed freshness.
I want to walk, go back to my bench, but I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want the faces, the familiarity of that earlier part of the journey, but it’s pulling me.

I can’t get my head away from then, that walk, that morning, that etched in normalness, just a walk up to school with our son and I dropped him at the agreed spot and watched the sun come up over his left shoulder, gently framing his shiny black nylon coat. And I can see myself watching him as he faded down the path and I turn and crawl away, a slow walk back and I remember our years and our world and I feel the changes, the movement of time the undeniable shifting of life. And I hold it and note it down at home, while you worked and I had a day off and I wrote in the small decorated book I’d bought, a final birthday present on the day we went out for that meal and ate at ‘the geography teacher’s place’, you know the one.
And it’s mine, the image, the moment, but it belongs to someone else, to her, who I used to be, in the remaining days before and from this perspective I see it all, their roads, their steps, their momentum that brings us to now.

And school starts somewhere else today, the sun is behind him, his bag is heavier but he’s growing stronger to carry it. While I sit here watching the pidgeon watching me, watching and knowing and seeing it all inch towards us.

Now as then
This pain
This love
xxx

Feb 9th

Confused, feel I’m tiptoeing through my life, through the old world, creaked and stained with age. I see her, who I used to be, hurrying to school, parka and jobs, stuff going on and she seems so much younger somehow, younger than the physical product of time, an earlier age, lighter in essence, in knowing. And she rushes and picks up our son, and somehow she belongs to somewhere else, to a faded past place, to a time before the place I inhabit now and I recognise her, I know her well, her ways, her faults, her gifts. But she’s not me, not me now. There are similarities, reminiscent looks but we split in the fragments back then. I try to think what I’d say to her, how to shape my words. I feel like her older sister, a wisdom heavy with life and I look down to her through the years in our home, through the stillness of now, through the dust particles that move unseen like me. And I can’t reach her, not fully, can only brush fingertips past her, move close and around but I can’t get eye contact, can’t sit with her and tell her what’s ahead and if I could she wouldn’t feel it, couldn’t know until she had to know and she wouldn’t understand me, not really, in her younger loss less days.

It’s a strange place, home inside a home, a Russian doll of memories, watching us let it play out, our scenes and retakes, our mistakes and triumphs and all the players knowing the parts so well, incapable of any other role. And my home is stuffed with us all, waiting for our son to return, from his new friend’s house, a new friend in our new world, who knows our story, who’s family see us as we are now, who only know this me, the one I have become, leaning up the oven, tapping on my phone, listening to the heating, waiting.

Waiting.

As the old me gets on with her evening, normal routine, normal life as the clocks ticks down and away and she is unaware, unaware of herself as the younger women, the women I used to be, who I look at now through older eyes.

Feb 10th

I’m in a tiny space, microscopic, quantum sized, dense packed matter with the force of a black hole and in my quark which I inhabit, the space fills the universe, expands beyond knowledge and physical dimensions.

I am crushed in the vastness. A speck of dust with infinite proportions and this is where I sit, in my head, in this moment, a riot of image, a paradox of being, a singularity of feelings and I breathe and I exist and I am.

Feb 14th

The warm shape of sunlight creeps up the saucepan handle, it’s edge a deeper hue, washed out ochre on the long side. Tap drips. Speck of white on the rim of my glass. Reading the whiteness, my brain making sense of the light bouncing in on my retina. A distant constant buzz somewhere, heating? head? can’t tell, it’s high pitched and draws me in to focus on its note. A definite aeroplane elsewhere, it’s quiet, sun drops behind a cloud, boiler kicks into action, sun out again.

The light through the blinds has moved or is it just the world spinning, the handle is static, my elbow, cool on the working surface, the water, still, a full bowl, surface tension pushing at the edge. Reflected plant, dark green ovals coloured by the loud blue of the bowl. The plant that was bought for me in that week back then, that’s survived through my lack of watering, that’s rallied to the occasional turn, that converted light to this bent growth. It’s leggy now, needs care, needs re potting, needs nutrient rich soil, black and musty, oozing with goodness. For now it leans up the blind for support, it’s tiny pot illustrating the evidence of time. Tap drips. The stainless steel defies it’s name, patches and splots of entropy, showing up the dullness in this unforgiving light.
And by the windowsill, the broken glass waits for me to move it, the glass with the drink name on it, bought that last Christmas. I study it’s seared edge, rough to a point but not dangerous, the shiny thinness a mirrored line, glinting, hard and glossy, catching the sun where it broke. I see us unwrapping in our old familiar ways, running through our lines like we did when we didn’t know this place.

Tap drips. I replace the fragment, it scratches down the side of it’s remaining piece, the sun glares at me, burning hydrogen at a distance I can’t comprehend.
I shove my hair behind my ear,
It’s the day before tomorrow (again).

x

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Friday July 20th

Feeling restless, going up to school in an hour, allowed to meet him today because it’s the last time. Will position myself away from the masses and take photos for him and then, en mass, we’re going to the park where I’ll watch from a distance and note how he’s changed and enjoy the excitement in his end of school face. I’ll feel his whipped up, giddyness at leaving and the bubbling buzzing chaotic energy of their rites of passage.

This morning I approached assembly in a trance. He’d left ahead of me so for the first time in ages I made the walk and heard my footsteps, a quick and gentle fall on familiar gravel and saw how the leaves had changed since I’d last been that way. I heard us through the years, the mornings of another world, the hot sticky hand that I hold in my mind and the slow slipping into who we are now.
And it looks like every other walk but it’s never been more different. I think I’m early and plan to sneak in but everyone else had the same thought and there’s just one seat left at the front. I’m sandwiched between two people I can cope with, that’s the best I can say. And I feel an unexpected sadness for the laughter and connections that I had with these few people and how they usually keep a safe distance now. But an ingrained pattern remains, even now and I can’t help joke with a face from the past and it’s a bubbling, potent mix of fear, love, disbelief, pain and pride.
And the seat is perfectly placed, puts me in a straight line with our son and the keyboard behind him just under a display shouting ‘Courage‘ made of tinfoil. And I stare at the letters hearing the message and tap away as the chatter hums and builds. And it hurts when I laugh with this person and remember how you’d worked with her by chance just at the end of the old world and we smile at the current situation like we used to years ago, while I feel oddly calm and brittle at the same time.
And the other face ventures a question about how our son is feeling and she says Jack will miss his friends, while I note what that word means to us.

In this anticipating hub bub I’m invisibly present feeling every single second in the deepest way.
A tiny sibling finds his feet and wobbles towards me, drops his bottle and I watch it spin-dribble on the floor, swirling me back to toddlerdom and feeling the thread that connects.

So I sit there aware of all our previous hall moments. The Christmas productions, his kangaroo with my sneezy fur sack hanging from his tummy and he started to look pale, coming down with something and was ill on the last day so you took the presents in for us. And the following year, the set of antlers, sparkly and copper, that I constructed with him for the whole group and blustered them up to school in an enormous bag on the windiest, wettest day possible.
And we always sat at the front and you videod it on the big clunky thing that Al sold you just before it became obsolete. And in Key Stage 2, too grown up for animals, he became a shepherd and then a king. In year 5 he wore the bright gospel outfit that I spliced together the night before from cheap t-shirts and you couldn’t come because you had a meeting and I sat there alone trying to work the brute of a camera while all around me tapped and clicked and made tiny whizzy beepings on their small black things, while I cranked and creaked the silver machine in an aim to capture the footage.
And we somehow arrived at last year and I crawled through both performances of Year 6 speaking parts and him in huge glasses playing the Boffin, which you would have loved. I got through the show flanked by huge pillars of friends sandwiching me with support until the second showing where I sat by an empty chair and couples doubled around me like they do now and it looked like the space belonged to me and no-one asked to sit there. So I breathed through the final Christmas show, encased in an obvious space, like I sit here now while some of the dads have been let out with time off for this last key event.

And all our school moments pass before me like a parade of who we were and the tension builds while my pretence is stretched at the seams. I sit here thinking of all we’ve done in this new world and how I’ve eased us limping to this point.

So I breathe steadily through it all in a quiet, tortured pride. I edge through the moments, manage my way round the songs, surprise myself at my composure until he plays the keyboard. And I see him practicing with you and listen to his careful notes, watching the progression of his commitment through the pain. And I’m held and surrounded by immeasurable things while the pretence cracks just enough when they give him something silver that neither of us saw coming and I can’t work the camera in the mess of joy and pain.

I huddle around the outskirts afterwards as t-shirts are signed and the clutter of emotions continue. After the presents had been dispatched we took his cup and photographed him in the reception class, back in the place where we left him playing with trains on his first day seven years ago, when I felt the tug of the bond and thought I understood separation.

And now I need to get ready, time to leave the settee and the soft ticking clock that has marked my time in this world and that one. The fingers that crept round through every pick up time that announced we’d be back home soon. The dial that hands brushed over when one world became the other, when our son sat here with his grandparents and I was somewhere else, about to faint, when time stopped completely despite appearances.
Same tick, same measurements of time, entirely different world now and it will still tick in the background later when we finally come home, when I bring our son back from Primary, a final fading of that background colour of his life that gave us some much needed structure when we shifted worlds.

Endings
Beginnings
Circles of loss

Time to say goodbye – again…
Xxx

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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

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

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