Sunday, 27 January 2013

Notes on a thawing-out morning

The days are getting longer. The evenings are briefer, and lighter. Just a month or so ago, I was met by a shocking moon each night when I left the office, a soot-soft sky and a million stars as bright as fire. Now when I leave, as if it happened overnight, the sky is a lovely royal blue, and the moon and the stars as faint as echoes.

I keep writing about Winter. It's an attempt to keep her, I think. I miss her already, and she hasn't even left yet. I can feel her gathering up her things - her frozen-over ponds and her frosts and her stark, glittering trees; she stands in the open doorway, ready to go, and I catch at her coat-tails, pull at her sleeve.

 Listen, I tell myself. You love the Spring. The bluebells shy as girls at a dance. The lambs on trembling legs in the fields. And there is truth in this. But all year long, Winter will take up a place in my heart, curled, quiet and sleeping, like a fox with is brush  on its paws.
I don't usually post my own poems on here. Most journals will ask that any poems sent for consideration are previously unpublished, including on blogs and personal websites. But this one seemed appropriate today.
The fox stops dead on the dark ice. 
Equally frozen. Both ears pricked. Her
eyes blaze on like lights, go dim again as she snaps
her narrow head to cast a black look
at some imagined noise. The duck 
carcass gleams in her sights, a lucky
prize she'll sneak back, the warm vise
of her mother-mouth clamped on our oily scraps -
six cubs mewling for a skinflint meal will feast
tonight! Off she takes at a level trot. 
Quicker now, light as snow on her quick feet. 
The sealed pond is printless, complicit. 
Tomorrow, only a hint of grease will last. 
And a faint animal scent the dogs will browse,
thrilled, flared-nostrilled, quivering in the grass.  

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Moments of Gratitude #5

Today I am grateful for random opportunities :)

My best friend, Steven, emailed me at work today asking if I'd like to go to a cocktail-making class tonight - it was a work-organised thing, but someone had dropped out so there was a spare place.

My initial instinct was to refuse - people I don't know? A potentially late evening when I'm already so tired? - but I haven't seen my friend properly for a few weeks as he's been so busy with work and his new boyfriend. And so I said yes. Grateful for the invite, but mentally preparing myself for an evening of small talk with strangers, an evening where I would doubtlessly feel like the proverbial goldfish out of the bowl, flopping about, breathless, obvious, awkward. 

Fast forward a few hours...and here I am tucked up in bed with a smile on my face after a wonderful, easy evening. I drank champagne with edible gold leaf, laughed until it hurt, mixed amaretto sours, ate good food and made new, lovely friends.

Sometimes the no is easier; the familiar is easier.

But oh for the yes, and the new.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Winter Wonderland

I read somewhere once that whatever season you're born into, that is the season you belong to all your life. It claims you, and you it; it settles in your bones - seasonal sediment. This is certainly true for me: I was born in a bitter February, and I am a child of Winter through and through.

It finally snowed last night, although - yet again! - barely anything remained this morning, just a thin layer of white, motheaten by sleet into a holey sort of lace. But when I left for the eight o’clock train, it was beginning to fall again, cautiously, delicately; by the time I reached work it was flying thick and fast, the ground crunching underfoot and the pines around the office shelved with it, so they looked like Christmas trees waiting for presents, white-ribboned, white-wrapped.

I don’t know what it is about snow. It isn’t the novelty of it, although perhaps that’s a very small part of why I love it so much. It’s the way it gentles everything. Gone, the gum-studded pavements; gone, the bleak bricks; gone, the usual boring views. Left in their place like a changeling: an expanse of white, glittering and clean, a casual sort of miracle, a holy sort of hush.

I love the way it creaks underfoot; I love the way that bootprints leave trackable paths, like the words on a page, or the clues on a treasure hunt: follow me, let me take you on a journey…

Snow is Narnia, and lanterns, and sleigh bells, snow is Christmas even in the Spring; snow is an icy fire in the cheeks and every finger throbbing with its own heartbeat.

It seems to have stopped now for the most part, although the forecasts are saying that more is on the way, and the sky is suitably wide and white, so I’m hopeful, I’m hopeful.

And let this be my moment of gratitude for today, also. The loveliness of snow. The poetry of nature.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Moments of Gratitude #4

Today I am grateful for the stand of pines at the bottom of my garden.

In the evenings, the stars show through their dark branches. In the morning, grey squirrels skitter up and down the trunk, their tails furled and their eyes as black as peppercorns.

When it's cold, they scatter needles that turn silver and glitter. When it's warm, they send out a glorious smell, of sap, and green, and living.

The tallest pine is over a hundred years old. I like to imagine the things it could tell me. The birds it has known. The moons it has seen. The girls who have read beneath the spread of its welcoming branches...

Monday, 14 January 2013

Let it snow

The weather forecast promised snow last night, but there was only sleet. It was gone this morning; a mostly-melted scattering. The faintest hint of white left behind, as though someone had breathed with cold breath on the grass.

It is a miserable kind of cold today, not the killing kind, which is my favourite, with its brittle webs strung in the hedges like Christmas ornaments, and its treacherous silver streets. Today has been simply damp, the sort of cold that makes everything seem heavy and grey, and the sky look like sodden laundry.

Everyone talking about diets in the office today, and food. How many calories are in this or that, what range of numbers constitutes a healthy BMI. I sit quietly, knowing the answers to each and every question almost before it’s asked, marvelling at my hard-won knowledge, my dietary omniscience. I am the guru of loss and lack, of metabolic rates and mysterious acronyms: BMI, BMR, RDA...

I miss therapy today. From nowhere this morning, when I was looking out of the window at the wide, wet sky, I thought suddenly of Jane, and Thursday afternoons with a sudden longing. I miss Jane’s smile and her kindness. I miss the colourless hospital corridors and the waiting room with its moulded chairs and pink floral art-print. I miss that feeling of leaving somewhere lighter, unburdened. Mostly, I miss the way our words would fill the room and, touched by light, make a sudden, certain sense.

At least I have my writing. (How do other people do this? Stay connected without words?). I write diary entries, I write blogs. I work on the fiction project, and the memoir; I write down scraps of thought that might be or become poems at some point. And I’m getting better, all the time. I’d write anyway, simply for love of the act itself; that it is also healing and balancing and a source of calm and pride is a phenomenal extra.

I still feel a little out of sorts – cranky,and anxious – but on the whole, I’m much more engaged and so much calmer than I was before Christmas. Sometimes a bump in the road doesn’t mean that a crash must follow, but only that you need to correct your steering. My hands are at ten and two again for the first time in weeks, and I am consciously filling my days with moments and objects of beauty the way I was towards the end of therapy when I was focused, and committed to my health and wellbeing. I bought pink tulips at the weekend, lit a million tealights and watched Les Miserables (which was breathtaking; I wept and wept). I put on a new crisp white bed cover. I aired the mattress, burned scented candles and cleaned the carpet with a cool blue freshener so that by the time I’d finished, the room looked beautiful and smelt pretty and flowery and clean.

Keep doing this. Keep refocusing. Keep the people and things around me that are conducive to my happiness, that mean, for me, a measure of joy or contentment. Keep working on my goals, on creating, on making things beautiful, on communicating. Keep working full-stop, because there is pride and self-worth in it.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Moments of Gratitude #3

Today, I am grateful for tulips, especially the colourful ones - how completely and utterly they alter a room!  

I bought a bunch of slender-stemmed pink ones yesterday and they are sitting very prettily on my writing desk.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Moments of Gratitude #2

Today I am grateful for bubblebaths that look like a Van Gogh sky :)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Moments of Gratitude #1

I've seen several blog posts recently where people have talked about little glass jars to fill with notes throughout the year - compliments they've received, things they are grateful for, good things that have happened to them etc. The aim is to open the jar at the beginning of the next New Year and remind yourself of all the goodnesses that the previous year brought you.

I loved this idea (and will be doing it myself). It's so easy to write off a period of time with a single adjective - 'Oh, last year was terrible, it was when my dog died', or 'Last year was rotten. Nothing good happened. I lost my boyfriend/girlfriend / lost my job / lost my self-worth'. But as I've noted in previous posts, nothing is black and white. Even the worst of years has its moments of light, like how on a bleak, grey, rainy day, you still get the occasional burst of sun, even if it's only for a minute, even if it barely breaks through the cloud.

This got me thinking about gratitude in general. I'm grateful for a lot of things in my life, but I hardly ever take the time to reflect on exactly what I'm grateful for. By that, I mean the little things as well as the big ones. Most people, myself included, could rattle off a list of things they treasure - friends, family, a nice home etc - but all too often we forget about the small daily things that make us feel good, that add a general sort of niceness to our lives. Coffee in the morning. New pyjamas. The sound of rain on the window when you're in bed at night.

I'm going to start taking stock of the things I'm grateful for this year, making a consistent effort to acknowledge and be thankful for each of them. So that at the end of 2013, I can look back and truly appreciate what a lucky girl I am, and how much loveliness I really do have in my life.

Today, I am simply grateful for this idea. And I'm looking forward to finding lots of things to be grateful for in the coming year.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy Belated New Year...

I’m a little late with the New Year’s post I promised myself I’d write, but that’s ok; I’m not going to beat myself up about that, because that is my one resolution this year. To stop beating myself up about things.

I remember past New Years when I would write a nice neat list of resolutions and head into the New Year clutching it, all shiny faced and hopeful about becoming a newer, nicer, more successful version of myself. And then invariably, usually within a week, I’d be crumpling up the list, scrapping it completely, promising myself that I really would do better next year.

Often, I find that I live in a monochromatic world. Either something is black, or it is white. I love it or I loathe it. I am totally passionate and invested, or I am limply disinterested.

Part of that monochromatic lifestyle is thinking that if you fail at something, you’ve failed completely, once and for all, and forever. Which is why I think a resolution is like a grenade in the wrong hands, just waiting to blow you into a billion flaming pieces. Once I’ve broken a resolution – or any kind of rule, really – I feel that there’s no starting over. It seems to me that it would be like making allowances I didn’t deserve – which really defies the whole purpose of setting the rules in the first place. The point is to abide by them, yes? The point is to succeed.

I’m happy to say that I seem to have come out of the last year a little older and a little wiser. (Well, maybe I’m not so happy about the ‘older’ part…). I still don’t find it easy to live outside my grid of extremes – things I absolutely can do and things I absolutely mustn’t do – and I still feel dreadful if I feel that I’ve failed at something or taken the easy way out. The difference is that I’m beginning to be able to accept that ‘success’ isn’t about setting a rule and sticking to it. Partly, yes, success is about achieving our goals. But it’s also – perhaps more importantly – about learning to take the knocks, acknowledge the stumbles, and move on from them. And learn from them. Not just stop trying, throw our hands up in the air and say, Oh well, there’s always next year. Every day is a clean slate. Every morning. Every minute.

This year I’m going to keep getting back up no matter how many times I fall, no matter how skinned my knees get or how bruised my outflung hands.

And that is my wish for all of you.

Here’s to a wonderful 2013