Sunday. And still in my pajamas. The skies are clear and the air is cold, and at some point I will get up from this desk, get dressed and go to the beach. It is one of those days that – in recollection tomorrow – will be smudged across my mind: leaving just a fraction…
towards the west coast of England. We’re running castle to castle again come February. But still a long way to go before that. The dog is staring at me. We’ve both grown soft on this side of summer and I believe he feels a similar ambivalence facing the prospect of leaving this warm little library…
Maybe I’m lucky, in that I wouldn’t have back my experience of “youth” for the world. Even if that means I have pain in my big toe, in my knees; bifocals and a tendency to say, “Huh?”.
I’m lucky that because of my youth, I know that the rain that beats on the roof will eventually stop. And that all this political turmoil will pass, one way or another. And one way or another we move on. Regroup. Grow.
Forgive. I guess.
This lover, that lover. I read that women retain the DNA fragments of every man she has been with. Chimeras. Would be nice to think our bodies might be redemptive of those who have done us wrong. Might renew what is good. A kind of homeopathic remedy for the species.
It’s kind of like a second date. We took the same route as last weekend. And this time the veil of fog was gone. A steady, small gale blew over the stretches of open landscape. Catching us from side, front or pushing us as we made the circle of the trail. The sun had half-set:…
Isn’t there a culture that conceptualizes the future as something that comes at us from behind to overtake us? Maybe they are the only ones to have it right. All this planning, all the mirages we see ahead of us. The clump of earth that should be frozen, but that rushes suddenly from behind to slip into the present, under your foot, in the form of soft and giving mud. And there you have it: the irretraceable moment that is a wet sock.
I dragged myself out of bed this morning and ran 6K on a sore ankle. The marathon is in 11 weeks. At this point, I really need my mind and body to make friends. Although right now, in the bibliotekette, with the space heater blowing on my ankle, the rosemary oil burning, and the red curtains pulled, I am peaceful. Optimistic, even. The sun will be up soon, and the skies are clear. There is a sparrow calling outside the window now, actually. Which reminds me that I need to check the feeder on the porch. The magpies eat from it. Greedy bullies.
The problem is, I’m thinking I need to purge again -to get control over all the “stuff” and clutter that is a disturbing white noise.
I imagine selling the house and moving into to a simple cottage, with a garden and a stream that flows just a stone’s throw from a sunny porch. I’ll get rid of all my costume jewelry and buy leather bracelets. Ditch the tailored clothes for paisley caftans.
I imagine a whole list of things I could acquire to successfully simplify my life. I could get up and leave.
My favourite photo from the wedding is one that doesn’t include me. Or E. or the boys, actually. It’s the one that shows several of the people in my life meeting across social groups, so to speak. Colleagues, and friends and relatives – some who’d never met before – in a moment of joy. I feel privileged that those are the people I know and love, the people who love me (and E., of course). You captured something wonderful. It’s the photo I’m most grateful for.
There would be images of me (taken by God-knows-who) alone on the porch, wrapped in a hand-made blanket, a mug of boiled coffee in hand: the poet looking wistfully over the landscape. There would also be images of candlelight dinners with glinting wine glasses, my lover and all my laughing friends: all on Instagram.
… I know that isn’t the real world.
There is no one left to ask who it was that read to me. But someone did. Someone must have held me close, and helped me make all those neural connections between books and comfort.
Books are the one, safe place to confront your fears. A book is a therapist office. A confessional. And the stories sprawled over the pages offer absolution for being human.
The question I had put to myself all those years is what do you want to be? Rather than what are you going to do?
In some ways, I am grateful for that. For what spontaneity has added to my life. The unexpected is always an adventure. I think it has made me braver than I might otherwise have been. I learned lessons, some very hard (some very hard on the people in my life).
But regrets are a waste of time. Even in hindsight, one can never really know what the results would have been from having made a different choice, at any juncture.
Wisdom is knowing that,
with knowing that,
it’s my own fault when I topple onto my ass.
Pay attention to the breath, he says.
And I do. The breath, and the slowness that comes. The balance of wills: my will and that of the clay. Give and take. Inhale and exhale. My mind through my body, connected to the earth.
The question is where to focus. Angst or answers. And yet, if I am looking for answers, will I need to articulate questions? Or isn’t that exactly what poetry is? Unarticulated questions.
I may not learn to identify all of the plants along my running route by name, but I can begin with the goal of knowing more than ten. I can begin to be honest with myself about what I am making important in my life.
Poetry is a “made thing”. But it’s not just a pleasant rhyme, not a pretty little story with tidy conflicts and a reassuring resolution. Poetry demands a representation that somehow conveys living consciousness. It’s transcendent of its own artificialness. And it is necessarily awesome, in the sense that it is also tinged with fear; if something conveys a true sense of life, it must also convey a sense of mortality. Poetry, as an art form, is not escapism. It is a confrontation with our truths.
A few years ago I noticed a couple of themes in my photography. One was laundry lines. In Genova, Jerusalem, Dakar, Bishkek, Kyoto, Grand Canaria… At first I thought it a bit odd that I was traveling to all these wonderful places, and coming home with photos of people’s laundry hanging out to dry. But then…
What I have to keep in mind is that I may not have yet written the chapter that the person I am here for needs to read. Might be my boys. Might be a student. Might be a stranger. But it is arrogant to censor myself out of feelings of inadequacy. (Still not sure I’ve completely convinced myself of this one.)