Archives for posts with tag: seasons

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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March 15th

Twenty years ago I sent you a card and you thanked me for the ‘home-made’ one. At the time I was almost offended, from my old bedroom masquerading as a studio, where I painted with care, in soft subtle shades, where I’d sat, considered and produced the piece. Home-made? It was a one off, obviously, Designed by Hand watercolour, finished off with my finest 000 sable brush, of course. You never quite ‘got’ my work in those days. I showed you the cats at some point and we talked about what I was doing and why but we both knew they were too garish for your sensibilities.

You commissioned me once at Christmas, and somewhere in a drawer I still have the small sign I made for your front door, the door I got used to, at the side in your small cave by the candlesticks and curtain rings and the wooden stairs over your corner.

Sometimes I used to try to prove that I could draw ‘properly’ with sketches of our baby and all sorts. I was going to copy that favourite photo of your Mum, the one where the negatives were reversed and she came out back to front like this parallel world now. Like many things when life was linear, I didn’t get around to it, like finishing sticking in the photos in her big brown book. I remember you delegating the onerous task to me when it slipped into being a task too difficult, not long before I had tasks of my own.

The only drawings I do now are silly ones with our son, his People City concoctions. And I don’t paint now, hardly ever, I don’t need to anymore
– I write.

February 27th

I got into the back of things today, underneath and out of reach and found the bits that we’d forgotten, the bits we’d shoved away and the hard fast memories of the lives we used to know.
The collection of pots that are going to Mum and the toy remnants that I can recycle, the skipping rope from the last days at primary, the mug tree from the old place when your Dad used to send us presents. It was all there, the things I’d hung onto just incase and under the fluff and muck and time I find our son’s first changing bag, battered with love with tissues in the front and I remember how it felt to push it over the handle of the pushchair, the tight fit and early shopping when we lumbered round panniered and loaded like the amateurs that we were. And it travelled with us to Grandma’s home, up the hill singing that song and she used it when she took over, when she cleaned and cooed when we lay in, in the Devon days when we were all young.

And behind it I found your old briefcase, the lock pinged up despite rust and it had lived in this cave since you placed it there, when the job encouraged less formality and you tucked it away with the things that I found. I peered inside like Pandora, half mesmerised, half petrified and found letters and slips of notes and documents that document things that have long since passed. I found a letter to William from your on going discussioned debate and you leapt from the old paper in an unformatted type with all the strength of your convictions and enquiry. I was grateful for this print, the hand written stuff was always a challenge to read, but this was neat and thought out and sent to him who struggled so much. Strange how the most religious of your friends couldn’t cope with the event, couldn’t deal with me or the service and for all his faith and intellect he crumbled and disappeared like the arguments he’d trounce you with, when you listened and learned until you found your own way. I found your dissertation too, unseen throughout our marriage but I found it today and skimmed through, the type of a world before me on a typewriter before we had Word and it was kept locked safely away, a part of you that time can’t touch.

And I started a new road today, long and complex but it rises up behind me gives me momentum, gives me torque. I can feel it pulling me to sort, to discard and to keep and I’m here on the carpet by our life, in the dust and moments holding on and letting go, respecting the transient and being with permanent. I move while I’m here, in time.
It’s only time.

February 28th

It’s cold outside although it looks warm. I get layered up and find my gloves. I’m continuing with the work I started yesterday but now I’ve gravitated to the garden and its jobs.

We were never gardeners. We got ‘men’ in even when our terraced courtyard became overgrown. I fiddled and failed with hanging baskets, tweaked on the surface but ran away from the bugs. You did the lawn and watched nature do its thing, studying the leaves from where I sit now in the sun. We weren’t really designed for outdoors, we liked the idea of it, appreciated seasons and force but hacking and pruning weren’t in our books so we paid out and sat down and looked on.

Our friend The Gardener took root, helped out in the days before I let the garden grow. We were keen to employ him and talked about it before that world stopped and I took over the jokes about the ‘staff’ and you’d have found it funny too if we’d have continued on that path.
I’m brushing up now, annoying beetles and soft brown worlds that I can’t see. These leaves seem to have etched themselves into the fabric of concrete itself and take all my weight and a coarse broom to shift them. There’s something quite respectful about clearing up from storms, renewing and breathable and I feel it as I struggle and fight with my gloves. The cold burrs my nose, my eyes runs and my hair gets in the way as I pick through sodden memories of where we used to be. The table we built the last snow shapes on had long since given up, its cheap coating sagging with the weight of mud and slick. We were out there me and our son, too early, the snow too powdery to do anything so we just made his school logo and photographed it before the thaw. His old wheelbarrow’s there that we picked up from ‘you know who’ at the car boot when you bought their book on Italy because we were heading out that way.
The bamboo is still in charge, forced back where I cut it last year. It’s relentless isn’t it? Nothing is still despite leaving it, it piles and seeps and mulches down, feeding the earth turning round. But while we’re here, we interact, we have effect if we choose, we work with nature not against it.
I like the sound of bristle on wet concrete, something determined, something focussed about it. I gather leaves. I notice their colours and shades, a glossed out collection of polished wood, deep and aged, crumpled in my hand.
I may clean the windows later…maybe. The patio is cold, chilled through from the saturation of winter. I’m cold but it’s ok.
I feed the earth, I’m turning.
Everything moves, including us.

11am – Today
Sun’s up, first time in ages after months of rain. Pools of white shining off our life, lighting up the places I need to look at. It’s warm, our son wakes – I’m waiting for a delivery.

xxx

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