Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Down the rabbit hole...

After months and months of grey gloom like a pencil mark smudging endlessly across a page, the weather this weekend was beautiful. I sat in the garden watching the cats chase butterflies, bits of leaf, and dandelion down. I drank fresh pressed juice and read for hours, while the washing flapped smartly on the line sending out tides of scent: fresh air, jasmine, tiger-lily, rose.

My mother and sister are in Greece this week, so I have the house to myself. And although I’ve missed them, I have settled into the peace and space left by their absence with a quiet contentment. Sometimes it’s pleasant to simply be in your own company. I find myself humming while doing the laundry because I’m not mindful of someone’s presence in the next room. I sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea just gazing out of the window, silent, dreaming, undisturbed.

The plan when I initially moved back home was to stay for just six months. I would get well, save some money, and move out again. As it happens, I’ve been at home now for a good while longer than that, and while there was safety in it at first, a necessary sort of net, my taste of total independence this week has been intoxicating. 

There are spaces that contain and protect, and that is a vital thing, sometimes, crucial for health and growth – the chick in the cool room of its shell, for example, or the tadpole quivering like a comma in its gel. But always, always there will come a time when we grow beyond the confines of that space. The grown chick beaks its way through the shell, the tadpole matures and transforms. And so must we eventually step out of our cramped quiet to stretch our legs, breathe different air, move in a wider world.

When I was a little girl, I was given a gloriously illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland one Christmas. I read it over and over again, until it literally fell apart in my hands, its spine broken and the pages fluttering out like dropped petals. When that happened, I took the drawings and pinned them to my walls, a themed frieze of fantastical images: a fat caterpillar smoking a pipe; the Cheshire cat’s smile like a slice of moon in the trees; the playing-card soldiers furiously painting the white roses red; the anxious-looking rabbit wearing a silk vest and a gold pocket-watch.

My favourite was actually one of the plainer images. I couldn’t have said why I identified with it at the time, but in hindsight it seems to reflect how I felt right the way through my childhood, and long into adulthood. It was the drawing of Alice in the White Rabbit’s house. She has eaten a piece of mushroom which makes her grow to gigantic proportions, so that suddenly she no longer fits in the room. I remember that she had one arm out of the window and another up the chimney, while her knees bumped at the ceiling and her head bent to her shoulder like a swan’s.
It both terrified and fascinated me, that image. A girl who was too big for the space she found herself in. A girl whose place of refuge had changed around her, become a place too small for her to inhabit.

This is a little how I find myself feeling this week. Not trapped, or panicked, but cramped, certainly. Yearning for freedom and change. I’ve let myself get complacent about moving out, about pushing my boundaries, because I’ve felt happy, and centred, and safe. And it’s not a bad thing to have just enjoyed that for a while, but for continued growth, it really is time now to start thinking about moving into a place of my own.

I’m actually giving serious thought to relocating completely. I’ve gotten closer recently to a couple of good friends who live in London, and have spent quite a bit of time down there in the last few weeks, which has rekindled my love of the place. The red buses that steam down bustling streets, the open-air fruit markets, the church bells, the architecture of the cathedrals, as fine as spun sugar. I love the sparkle of saris and gold-threaded robes, the yellow lights shivering at night in the Thames. I love the green beep of the turnstiles on the Tube, and the names of the stops on the underground maps - Elephant & Castle, Goldhawk Road, Marble Arch, Blackfriars, Bayswater, Mudchute – that sound somehow British and exotic all at once, both Dickensian and completely foreign.

The village where I live now is sleepy and sweet, ringed by woods that tremble with bluebells, or else creaks under the weight of rain and snow. There is a tiny train station with only two tracks running side by side like zippers, a preserved Roman road and a centuries’ old church that still has the original village stocks outside, soft with age and rot. These are the things I will miss if I leave. Simple things, and small. But as Anais Nin says in the quote I so love, ‘The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom'.

Time to take the risk.  Time to blossom.