Archives for posts with tag: the hill

 

 

June 18th 2017

I prepared his lunchbox for the last of the school days, the penultimate exam, the final full day and I secured the sandwich in the tired out plastic box. And as I did, I recounted the changing faces of the vessels over the years. The turquoise Thomas box bought at a day out with a friend when the steam made our eyes run and we chuffed down the rails and after the Reception class came Spider-Man in primary coloured nylon as he learned how to write. Year 2 was Lazy Town, a soft cover which caught the crumbs before a Year 3 army camo box with a matching water bottle. Year 4 saw us chugging up the hill with Toy Story, with Buzz at his side, falling with style and it was this lunch bag which I stuffed with cold fish fingers when we rushed back to the relatives room, to sit and wait, to watch the walls close in around us in Year 5. And afterwards his Sponge-Bob garish lemon shape turned up, it grinned at us for the rest of the year when our muscles forgot how to smile and into the final Primary walks with a tin box ordered from Amazon, flown over from the USA with Star Trek on its side.

Then Secondary came without the merchandised logos, without the beaming smiles and we settled on the lime green nylon that supported him through the days, right up until this final year when the blue-black lunch bag was the way. I’ve just turned it inside out now, given it a symbolic good clean, old crumbs and straws tumble into our sink, the residue of things past and as it dries out I make one last sandwich and recall.

I remember dropping him in the Reception class and leaving him kneeling on the floor with things to piece together, a new track, a new map to construct and I walked away. I looked back, his hair was lighter then, his head bent down busy, engrossed as I left and I walked as the trees blurred in my path.
And now I iron the penultimate shirt, aware of the years and minutes. Feeling the hours that bought us to here.

June 19th 2017

Next door’s scaffolding should come down soon. It watches over me, grey struts at odds with the soft spikes of my bamboo, with spears that have grown over time. A bluebottle dithers, disoriented but stays outside and the garden is poised in the sunlight. It will be warm today, the soil where the roots and weeds used to be, heats up, beaks poke, legs crawl and I can see my garden to come, when the work has been finished. How like a meadow it will look with lupins with salvia and an area to walk, with places to sit and watch but for now it is waiting. We are in the lull. The old has been ripped away, bagged up and hauled onto their van but when they return, when the fence becomes solid, when the trellising goes up, then the grass seed will come, then the mulch and flower food. How dark the compost will be, rich with nutrients, particles to bind to roots, to wrap around them and hold as they grow.
And the shoots will come, sap bright, saturated with a need to pull to the sun and they will flower. There in our garden when the pond is complete, when the water flows without restriction and the stones bring balance, bring clarity.There in our garden colours will grow, earth will sustain and rain drench us all.

A magpie clattered down the roof of the summerhouse and perched on the edge. How strong the contrast in his feathers, how they pushed out, bold in black, in white, through my green and away. He paused before flight regaining himself, judging his next move. Like the old man I see on our lanes most days, with his cap and zimmer frame, out every day despite the weather, to make his journey to the shops and back again and he keeps going, keeps pulsing despite his obstacles.
And the old man on my summerhouse surveyed his land then flew, beat wings into the day with grace and power.

And I am waiting, it’s not long now. Our son head down again today.

June 21st 2017

The shadows stroke the trees, like a hand across a head, like a soothing touch against the day and pupils wander through the gates – the young ones with rucksacks almost too big for their small shoulders, the older ones, term weary weighted down by tests and work and then our son’s year – the veterans with end of school hair in their eyes, with rag-taggled uniforms  hanging on to the last. And they have the air of resignation after the build up, after the heft of expectation, they are almost there, almost done and now it’s a process to complete, a final hoop to jump through. And there goes our boy through the gates we used to know, for one more time, one last moment to follow their rules, in their system before the giddiness of the open door.

And as he sits at the desk, pen poised, waiting for the words ‘it’s 9:09, you may begin,’ I sit at my pc and pause. Outside in the park behind our house I hear the workmen’s radio and the distant throb of machines. The play-ground is being renovated and as the cement whirrs in the growing heat, they dig and prepare. There used to be bouncy tarmac out there, to soften the fall and in the places where I brushed stones from his knee, where I kissed hot skin better when I could, is a pile of silt now and the space where the climbing frame stood.

And in our home and garden as the curtain billows at the open door, I see flickers of our boy, of his countless faces, turning and changing, of his voice peeling out, giggling higher than it is now and he fills the space around me, he saturates our garden with all the children he used to be. There, as the light moves across my new bird feeder I see him running towards us shouting ‘charge!’ I see his pristine primary sweatshirt and, right now I see his broader shoulders as he marches off with all his mates.

its quiet, apart from the tweep of fledglings, apart from the flutter of wings and under the hum of machinery, I anticipate his end of school face at the door.

For our son – beyond proud.

xxx


In the quiet morning, when the day had not yet decided if it would be warm or if it would rain, I watched his legs. From the window I could see them as they walked the path to school, as they were coated in spring leaves, dappled on his black trousers and then the branches came and covered him and took him into the tree.

A moment later, higher up and further along the path, a flash of black in the gaps and then he turned right, to our subway, to the one I painted years ago when brush strokes, not words were my way. And it will echo to his feet now and then he turns left. I feel his journey though I cannot see it, the hill he has to climb and now the brush of traffic. The cars full of aftershave, the makeup tweaked in rear view mirrors and everyone has motion, needs, relentless nature turning and by the railings with his mates, with friends, he’ll start on the cut through road.

I know these roads but never walk them with him, only sometimes on the way to a fayre, but these are his streets, the dips in the pavement and the old school we used to know. And as he passes it now, we are there years back, younger, smaller with sparklers in our hands and friends who don’t live near now, whose hands have turned round clock faces like ours, who’s changes have carried them away in time and we all hang in the air, like a scent of jasmine or lavender, like the not quite forgotten lyrics of a song.

And at the junction near the main road the cars pick up steam, they knit and weave between each other, giving way or scowling and in the far off greens behind him, the rolling downs fade up through lilac and grey, under flat bottomed clouds, cropped just for him today and a sky we used to know.

And at the lights again in the push and shove of morning ready, for the almost starting day, he will be there, bag getting lighter as last lessons come and go, his lunchbox lid has spilt across the middle, a diagonal tear in red plastic and it hangs on. Each day the split grows more but it will make it, the lid he’s held for years is almost at its end, like his own phase. And it’s tucked away in his lunch bag, next to his exam pencil case which he will need today.

And through the gates now, I imagine, with the heartbeat slightly raised, there, passed the drama rooms he use to visit on Saturday mornings when we sat in the coffee shop downstairs.

The blossom is coming out on the tree outside my window, like every year, like years ago on the early walks to primary with hot hands and book bags and the spelling hill to the roundabout – and now.

Now even his blazer is getting small and I watch the leaves on the tree outside my window, so still today, so quiet as though it’s holding its breath, as though it’s wishing him well and in every leaf at a cellular level it buzzes, particles whirr like his neurones and in every atom I see the image of him growing and forging out through time.

Our son, preparing, and today every leaf and every insect wing, every photon of light knows his name.

xxx

 

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I used to walk a lot in the early days, I’d drop my son at school and then head back across the field near the top of my town. I started writing there, sat on an old bench, avoiding the mashed bubble-gum and smashed late night bottles. The parish council took my bench away after a few months, replaced it with a picnic table, where I leaned and wrote and watched the pigeons on the wire.

And the tribe of dog walkers came, I didn’t know the owners but grew to know the dogs by name as they called out for them, as they ran. My favourite was called Bailey, a daft springer spaniel, who would come up to me and say hello, fuss around me with his damp fur and snuffling nose and I’d think of you. In those days your blog was still quite new, a big part of my week, like it became for so many of us and I learned whatever I was feeling, was similar to others, that we were bound by an invisible thread that your writing underlined.

And I’d sit in the cold, in the rain, in the sun, seasons moving around me as I wrote, and when the landscape had done its job, when I’d aired the feelings that were too big for the house, I’d wander home. I’d hug a warm mug while I edited, and you were there at the click of a mouse, behind the scenes in my inbox, with a solidarity that comes from pain. Your messages helped me carve out the life that I have now and I want to tell you about it. I want to tell you that I’m waiting, any day now, for the result of my degree, I want to chat with you about the new projects I’m working on, but I can’t, not in the way I used to.  I want to hear your news, open up your replies, to read your words and stories.

And today I can feel others preparing, its moving around us, the memories, the triggers from back then, timelines plaited as they travel, to be together because of you.

I think about my walks in the field while you wandered on the Heath but I never owned a dog. I’m too allergic to their fur, but I love them. I love their wild abandon, their joy and verve and loyalty. I think of Bailey back then, charging towards me, desperate for the connection, the need to nuzzle and say hello and just for that moment, I’d take his wet head in my hands and ruffle him up, then he’d spin chaotic circles around me because he knew. He knew I needed to sense his spirit, his energy urging me to live again, to run with him, to stop and sniff some detritus that’s he’d spied and to be free.

And when I sat in my field, nodding to dog walkers, I used to think of you and Boris, his russet coat shining in the rays and you striding out, churning thoughts of blog posts in your mind, and we’d inch forwards together. Stumble backwards, stand still then creep back out again, all of us, with or without a dog to guide us and now we’re here.

Here, in this morning and in the stillness of the house I think of friends, some I know well, some I’ve chatted with and some I’ll never really know and they head out, bound together in our stories and the linking up of hands.

It’s cold today, bright and clear, the tail end of autumn, calling winter. I want to be back in the field, hanging on the internet and blog posts to lead the way. But I’m inside. I’m still in my parka, hat and scarf, I lean up the radiator and imagine myself on my bench. I look out towards the Cathedral as the mist clears and you march out towards me, smiling, lead stretched out in front of you with Boris scampering, his paws kicking up the dried leaves, the sunlight caught in the flecks of dust around you as you walk.

 

With love to your tribe, travelling,

With love to you for the difference you made.

Thank you, Helen, so much.

Jxx

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I wake. My life pours in and I remember, as sleep dribbles then pools out, forming a puddle around me. I lie in it as the morning soaks my skin, I’m still not quite awake as it seeps around me, slow and steady. Nothing rushes these days. It forms great lakes of reality (that word I’m supposed to use) though it’s never felt more irrelevant and the water of my memory gathers like the leak on my kitchen floor.

A few days ago my seemingly ageless machine found the process of time too strong and it whirred and rattled, steadfastly washing our final selection, gently braking at the edges, quietly easing out its contents, glossing over the old chipped floor.

And of course, obviously, it took it’s chance to release itself on the anniversary of the world bursting, the day of my morning horror.
My tumbled chaos of elements then and now and I mopped and squeezed and moved products around, jumbled up boxes of brightly coloured bits, varieties of soap, things that freshen, things that spray, squeaky little aerosols, honeyed unused dusters, super charged nuclear cleaners, random pretty dolly-mixtured pegs, left at the back with the spider carcass, from the days when I used to hang out. And a big box of half soaked cocaine, solid, sodden, clumped up memory of spring fresh families, clinging, smiling at the lush green meadow of their life.

So I busy myself looking productive, as helpful hands heave and strain and poke and tip, as the years of fluff and muck, gush and rumble through the snaking plastic over the threshold and out, a grey stream on our path.

And all the time I try not to let it show, that I’m running through that day in my head, that the immediacy of a wet floor can’t wash out the stains from then, the permanent patterns tattooed into my cortex, playing games around my puddles, coming at me through the dripping towels, the wrinkling fingertips, saturated with the images.

And I know it’s time to look at new machines and how can it matter at all? It’s only white goods, it’s only a noisy hulk in the corner, it’s only the wedding present bought for us by Mum and Dad, bought early when still engaged. When your bargain make do machine ceased to make do and the replacement fought with the water softener in a running battle that seemed to go on for months, (but probably didn’t), and the Hotpoint troop stood his ground, in his overalls, in our kitchen, against the frowns and disbelief of the Solent Water Treatment man. And it was all quite comical, badged tops, product loyalty, clashing points of view when all I wanted was clean knickers, at whatever the cost. And they agreed to differ, by-passes were by-passed and the problem solved with the smooth sleek purchase. And it was shiny and new, options and lights, buttons and panels and it gleamed at us with intelligent care and it worked and it washed and it hummed.

And it sat silently when we honeymooned, saving it’s power for the baby years, the dribbles and sick, the seven shades of stains, heaved and squelched in, in the night, in the dark, between your toes, when you tried to find clean bedding through heavy sleep filled eyes. And toddler fun behind the gate, the wobbly stairgate, caging off the temptation of buttons and sitting on the threadbare carpet next to him, warm full pull-ups, rattling at the bars, laughing ‘woo woo woo’ as it spun, as he learned, as we played, as neurones jumped gaps and he formed and he grew as it whirred.

And I leaned into it, taking my weight, supporting myself as I washed up for the first time, when I could finally get off the bed, when my back and legs tried to work, with my achievement of getting downstairs, loading up the pushchair with our wriggling mass of needs. And you came home to find me by the sink, semi distracted son beside me, aching but proud of wet hands and I was like a ‘proper person’ – almost.

And filling it with school uniform when dinosaur tops were too small, and crawling on the floor passed by it with the trains, in the daily building, the clipped construction of our world, when we’d explored the carriages while he slept before wrapping up the years ahead.

And it chuffed on and we chuffed on through changes and moves and momentum, under the soundtrack, the churning vibration of a place marking time, illustrating entropy. The evidence of life in the mess we create, the stains and creases, the smell of crumpled clothes, the chucked in t-shirts, emblazoned phrased and citied, the souvenir of places, the proof that we were here.

And it turns and heaves and cleans washes away the by products, the old emerged properties and we give it no thought, fill it up and switch it on and it thunders and it circles and it turns the wheel within it, while we dance and creak, twirling passed in life, in our clothes, invisible.

And that phrase has clung to me, through the years, from the first reading, to the last. When I tried it out in seminars before I really understood, to knowing it well now. And I hear it in everything, in my cycles that continue despite me and I hear it as I walk passed our machine, to turn the wheel, make complete revolutions and its wisdom is hard but true.

And I see you steamed up in wet shirts, the tradition pile, the occasional onslaught, while you watched something on the Mayans and I crept into the dark bedroom and tried to quietly but unsuccessfully free the hordes of hangers and bought them to you, jangling like a Victorian gaoler. A heavy torture of keys, clanking and spearing me as I walk and I unleash them to the settee in the familiar sauna of the lounge, in that world, in those places, in that turn of the wheel.

And I’ve been looking at shiny new things, comparing revs and ratings, gleaming factory fresh flashing lights and whistles, as they line up before me, an identity parade of features, all smiling and winking, promising their tricks, shouting their virtues in the confusion of online emporiums.
Can’t decide, can’t think. I’ll come back to it later. I have enough clean clothes for now, but the pile is reducing, steadily marking time. Tick tick tick…

And now, sometime later, more details clicked on, needs considered and decisions made, choices and options all dealt with. Added to basket, all done.
Now all I need to do is arrange to unplug the old one and wait for the new arrival. Our son will enjoy playing in the box and I’ll adapt to new buttons and lights, flashing and glinting at me from the corner, in that space, where that world used to be.

How hard can it be – anticipating a familiar process – after all, it’s just a washing machine…

x

P.s
Playback

I had to go back to the hill yesterday, retraced our steps up to school for a favour.
Wandered through it, swept back in time, through the bashed out undergrowth, matted soil and giants steps. Up to the old castle through my portal on the hill.

Hair blowing in front of me like it used to do. Battered by icy blasts, a strangeness, weird, like someone else’s life. And I feel like a wound down toy, something old, something losing it’s thread, like walking above, detached, through someone else’s body, with her hands that are icy red from blasts, in that bitter gloveless world.

The late day sun shafts across our old houses, Lego creations where someone else used to live but I’m way too early so I wait around the corner. Loitering with no intent, by the fence, looking out above the traffic, blustering in the scene. I prepare myself for whats to come, reducing my time in an old place, amongst new faces and old ones that pretend they don’t know me.

And a few minutes later an old familiar hand insisted we wait for his brother, by the class, not by the gate. And I retraced all the old places, the old rooms, the memories streaming out of the doors, hot and sweaty, whipped up with tales of the day. And past the door from that February, to park by the door from before and back out with a pretend face, swinging bags and chatting while our son was elsewhere, coming home his new way.

And I was lost in a re run, a fractured replay through the anomaly of my life.
And one smiled face, one at the bottom of the hill. The one I remembered, who took the time in the transition, who walked up to me with genuine care, while they all swept by, fascinated by something in the opposite direction. And she said she was sorry and stroked my cheek. And we crossed paths again and I remembered and I suspect she did too.

And I couldn’t get home quick enough, dump off stuff by the door and and it was all there, a loud blaring revision of the way it used to be. But I can’t dwell, can only feel and note and move.

Have to go back out tonight, in my new place, in my new way with the ghosts of who we were filling our home and my head, loud and insistent, a strange overwhelming of sepia rawness.

x

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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

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

Stargazers, flamboyant, delicately confident, pink red and white. With their swirling energy masking vulnerability. The delicate tissue velvet petals that would dance out there for a while then cry in your vase, losing their structure, the stamens bold, heavy drenched with pollen, drooping, giving in later to let go and stain the table.

And Lily was Mum’s sister who I knew for seven years and she was good and she was kind and she was smiley. And I like my cycles and symbolism so I chose lilies because it tied up the threads of my life before. And the florist thought ahead and cut the stamens out because they knew with the bustle of the day that they’d wilt and stain the dress and I didn’t notice at all until it was pointed out as they poured over the photos much later. And on that buzzing, tingling morning with me half dressed in silk, I wafted about waiting for my friend to arrive. My old school friend who I’d known forever making the long drive south with her children safely packed off by the seaside, so she and her husband could help. Him, ushering and placing and her supporting and easing as I assembled myself into the realms of ivory. And she strapped me in carefully, tightly closing velvet before the doorbell rang and he carried in the flowers for me and lay them all boxed on the kitchen floor. And I rustled in, pushed my way through the scent, the home dense with perfume, swollen with potential and the colours were ripe and verdant, plump and ready to sing out as we passed by.

And we passed by and up into the dimmed, musty, hushed waiting air and I held them resting on me as I looked at him. And after when my heartbeat slowed down we turned left and out into the calling light and I held them up high, one handed for the crowd, like a glistening trophy after ninety minutes slogging it out and a weary climb up the back slapping steps. Then in the car with the laughing slapstick of manoeuvring and sitting down and I still held on through the poses and clicking, face aching smiles, high up on the bank with the daffodils out in front of the cathedral. Someone must have collected them when we went inside, whisked them away like I was later, to be kept cool, to retain their beauty, to be looked after and carefully arranged. And we had chosen the design beforehand, weeks earlier on the industrial estate in the back of beyond. And they would freeze my moment and hold it forever and the owners kitten tightroped gingerly across the mantlepiece which seemed out of place in the sparse unit. So we signed and we paid and entrusted and they removed confetti and picked it all apart before the wilting took over, while we found the high air too thin but climbed anyway and looked out over whiteness, away and above it all, in the cold brightness of all that lay ahead.

We collected it on our return and hung it in the bedroom, flattened but saved as it looked on the day. And the light reflective glass would hide the petals from the sun and it would freeze time for a while and look back at me. And it still hangs there now but over the years the photons have beaten the glass and time peeled away the colours although the dress fabric beneath looks the same. The vulnerability of ageing, its irrepressible force of nature, its inability to stand still, to aim for permanence where all is transitory, even the mountains change shape, back there where we stood while petals were glued into place. Long after I’ve gone from this body there will be movement there also, a shifting of matter at a rate we can’t see, motion, of all that we understand in our time based turning world. Everything changing imperceptibly, necessarily with nature.

And even last January not long before the lights went out, when everything was still in place in the old world, I noticed my bouquet had altered. Peering out at me through the wave lengths, the colours softened, the fragile tissued papered skin of an old alpine villager, sun-baked from working the fields her whole life, tending crops because it feeds the children, turning the soil when your back breaks because nature drives you to do it and go hungry when the rains come because that’s just how it is. Living in harmony with a force you dance to, following its path, its rhythms, its music over eons, deeper truths than we can reach but hanging on and moving with it because it’s pure, it’s Good, it’s Tao.

And so my old women behind the glass crinkles a knowing smile back at me.

Time beat us both in the end but through the brittle veins, the stripped out hues, this new subtle palette has a different beauty, it still pulses and dances deep inside on a level we can’t understand. And she’s still there swishing and spinning, twirling through her moment, our moment, this crazy whirling girl of brightly coloured petals, vibrant, showy, knowing, laughing, joyful and free, bunched into a shape to be held for while, for a purpose until the purpose changed and the rhythms changed and the music altered,

but the girl and flowers still dance,

then and now

for him

for our son

for herself

For always

x

This morning: Preparation

I watch him from by the tree as the pidgeon borders him from above. It’s earlier than normal but I need it. I need the pouring rain but it’s not quite hard enough yet. The leaves have pushed themselves out since I was last here, the rain drips down the back of my neck and off their sap rich glossiness and as the wheels brush by with a soft familiarity it all looks subtly different. The fortnights break from routine, the spring warmth and eager rain has lifted my landscape. But just as I turn for the bridge I’m reminded of a much earlier walk and I freeze for a moment, wrapped in layers of grief with acres of loss swirling round my ankles and I step out and towards the other side, back in time as water drops absent mindedly to the road beneath.

I won’t stay long, a mellowed corner of rape has sneaked into the picture, full of promise for the months ahead. I sit on this sodden wood, not quite ready to go, not really wanting to stay. I’m abstracted from it all, the smokey washed layers of cloud, not quite bothering to clear, the rain in the distance over someone else’s life. And Bailey passes by me but the ground holds more interest than my knees today. He’s wrapped up in his red coat, protecting the fur but he should be running free, soaked to the skin, beaming with joy, careless to the pain like I wish to be. But he snuffles and patters off as I sit bunched up in my parka.

Hoping the gentle rain picks up speed. Another wash of grey, heavier now slowing blowing a steady procession over the trees to my left. In my memory the doorbell is due to ring, they’re here to help.

I need to go back now, to be consumed.

I glance at the table on turning,

today even the bird muck is a Tao symbol.

x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day continues on its way.

I have to find mine.

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

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

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

The front door can’t come quick enough.

X

Thursday March 1st

This is perfect

Heavy fog, mist drip tapping onto me.

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

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

Heavy, consumed and lost

I look back

everything has disappeared

I look forward and see only solid white

Stand

Wait

Friday March 2nd. 

Last time before the weekend

Cold, calm earlier, want to hold onto it

But there is no holding just being

It may shift again

Still misty

But not the denseness from yesterday

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

Sun trying to force itself up

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

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

Unfeeling, feeling too visible and vulnerable

Leave them to their briskness, leads in hand

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

Going home

Later

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

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

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

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

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

The movement is irresistible,the process is becoming.

Saturday March 3rd

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

Tomorrow we work on the garden together.

Sunday March 4th

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

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

Everything is in motion

Including me

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

moving through stillness.

Wrapping myself up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I turn the tap tightly

Tomorrow is coming.

 x

Yesterday March 5th

I will be here tomorrow morning too

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

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

It’s time to go

x

At home

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

I wait

I can’t do anymore

I need to be

I wait for the doorbell

x

Today March 6th

After

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

The bench is too wet

The ground slippy muddy icy

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

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

I am frozen I am pain I am here

Still

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

Time to negotiate the steps in front of me.

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

Time to return

x

She encouraged them both to dig the garden as a competition, under the tree he loved that grew and flowed over the cared for lawn, behind their home before everything changed when he sat down next to him on his small bed. And the years of conkers and bike rides were stripped back with the bark and the tree was left alone, untended unheard. And she cried in the new home by the bottom of the yard where the hydrangea persisted despite its concrete glove. And much further away the branches still hung over the water reflecting a garden that belonged to someone else.

But he could always be found near water like his tree and his gardens shifted over the years from alleyways with student bins to squares of territory tucked round the back, to a courtyard and too tightly pruned roses. Before somewhere to sit and be and study things moving in the sunlight and she was always there overhanging in the background, invisible but present.

And now my hydrangea has gone back to earth, one bloom crunchily faded like a collection of cocoons, if I touch them they will fall away so I pull apart around it, tug of war the bindweed that’s stealthed it’s path over the year. The willow stars we made have settled and found their place while the bindweed ties maypole ribbons around them.

She’d watch him carefully in the morning with her spirited silence and when her last garden became irrelevant she forgot for a while. And the branches grew and wrapped themselves tightly around us all weaving and interlocking over time and distance, through space and memory, beyond and outside of what we could see, unbounded by what we perceive, unharnessed, unrestrained by the transient limitations of our senses.

And the roots go deep, channelling intent into the earth for sustenance and life, to anchor the moment to form the backdrop of a family. And they drink from the soil and convert from the light and the cycle continues, silently forging and moving.

She always loved trees, he knew I did too. She looked out on the garden that she loved and cried for the tree and the tree cried back.

Her loss. His loss.

My loss now

And she sat with me somehow

And I sat tall and stiff, upright like her tree, staring emptily into the middle distance and out there somewhere through the brightly coloured glass to a point in space and time where I didn’t exist and the reality was not what I sensed around me.

And I chose bamboo from the East and from our garden

And I chose willow because.

And now I’ve bought willow for our garden

To forge it’s roots deep and strong while he grows, to bend in the wind when it batters the house, to sway without resistance, to ease out new leaves, to nurture and protect. To give shelter.

Her job. His job.

My job now

I sit by willow

x

8.50 a.m – This morning

Back in the womb, deep in the mist where we used to live, when we used to live. I can smell the wood today, damp fresh good. Birds go up a gear and I’m barely holding on and I know why. Familiarity on the breeze, not sure if it’s coming my way.

Why are they so loud don’t they know what day it is?

I could be anywhere looking out, I’m not part of this landscape, it goes on around me. I could be looking out from a thousand different places. Their bubble of laughter breaking out of the distance while my carcass is held up by the picnic table.

What would you bring to this table ?

Ignore the chinking of dog collars.

Some gaily coloured plastic cloth, gingham checks from a world of ginger beer, mucky knees with mothers apron tied behind her at the high white sink. And you played on the scrubbed lino with hard plastic animals that came inside the biscuit packet. And the coal bunker stood its ground at the back of the bungalow where you used to lose the high bounce balls, all too frequently somewhere in the rockery and you love the swirls of colour on the firm formed rubber and your hair was a thick pony tail. And the front lawn went on forever and it was always late summer and we decorated prams with tissue paper for a charity push to nowhere. And we sat in the park with friends and bought Walls Funny Faces from the old ice-cream van man. And picnics were time to stop, to take it outside, to be together, to tear bread and watch.

And now I observe without a tablecloth.

No currant buns or cloudy lemonade, just the cold planed grain supporting my hands, the persistence of time and if I stare hard enough into the mist it takes the downland to the Alps from way back then. The unsteady magpie bouncing the phone wire, a second one on the ground, ungainly old man pecking. The late winter chill that means nothing to me, that has no power.

And they sit somewhere in their childhood, in their freedom behind the settee under the old model of a viking ship.

And they will travel

And they will become

And their journeys took their course

And they merged

And they moved

And they separated on the surface

And I still travel for a while, with his beacon, with his gift from back then.

And I came to this table

And we’re here without a cloth

I sit and watch

x

A collie smiles up to me with a dribbled ball in his mouth. I stroke his head and leave.

x

It’s odd, there’s almost an irrelevance about this

Time

Months

Weeks

Days

Hours

Minutes

Seconds

Nano seconds

A year

What does that mean? Has anything changed? Am I further away from that moment at all? It’s just a process, it’s what we do – marking ageing. And whilst crushed under the inescapable re run there’s a part of me outside of it, of understanding I’m intrinsically woven into that moment, it’s as much a part of me now, then, and always, like my consciousness .

There’s no separation between me and then it simply is, it’s there next to me, on my shoulder, just happened and happened in another millennia. We exist in a permanence, an endless luminous being in itself, something that travels with me as I age.

As I untie towards 365 days and the wounds are hacked into, cleaved open, left gaping and gutted, screaming, searing white pain tearing out into the universe and yet underneath it all lies a deeper truth. An unknowable knowledge. No separation from then. It hurts me, it drives me, it is me.

Time is only a human construct

I am then

I am now

Approaching a year

So?

Epilogue

Tuesday

I see the telegraph poles for the first time through the mist. Turned round to go, it’s too muddy for the feelings. Double backed and from this angle it looks like a shear drop, although I know there’s trampled summer down there. It looks appetising, calling. One displaced seagull and a squelching suede grey dog. Going towards the edge as the temperature dips again, not sure what’s over there,

in an aching English mist yearning for the Colorado river.

Pidgeons still there on a lower branch etched into the morning. Still watching me, biding his time. Just a ball of black from this angle, then flaps heavily fluted as they all pass over me. I look for his Mum at the bus stop and she’s there wrapped up in brown, powdered in the scent of setting lotion. And the chug throb takes her away as the snow starts to fall. A distant hammering over feintly shined bricks.

I can’t walk much slower. But I have to meet it.

Wednesday

Ground like cardboard, frozen paw prints, iced gusts slow my progress. I don’t want to be here. Lost seagulls wander skirting the air looking for a reason. Mud dried out dry ski slope, minus something or other. Nose and eyes running. Easier to walk but bitterly I’m not here. Can’t do this.

This coldness, this love, this pain

Time for the descent

Thursday

Bottom of field, fence ripped out replaced with steel bars from nowhere. Alien, out of place, a 6 foot letter N. Things hop by me mirroring my movements. Footsteps echoing on hollow ground, waiting to see who comes by. And here are my favourites waiting for the troops. Heavy blue frayed lines going over the top. The fields fueled with beaten gold, looks like it should be warmer. A jigsawed letter from when we used to use stamps and the sky looks like June somehow.

And there’s one twig left, arms outstretched under their calling caws

Bending in the breeze

cropped to fit my view

It’s the day before tomorrow

x

Today

Raven

Your cloak over food

bird prints smashed under deep tread

Hunger waits for thaw

One legged black bird

carried on avoiding crust

Twenty three reasons