Sunday, 29 March 2015

"And in that moment, I swear we were infinite..."


When the weather is grey and wet, this city is a mirror. Rooftops slick with rain throw back the sky, and the sky returns the world a thousandfold in its drops. You can see the stars in the street: I love that. I walk through puddles just to shatter constellations, stand and watch them shiver, break apart. They recover, eventually. Everything does. The ripples stop sending themselves out, and the water settles, and there is the whole universe again, burning steadily underfoot, at once infinite and the size of a fireside rug.

Sometimes I am so struck by wonder that it feels like a bruise. Water, and light. Stars, and darkness. Moons, and poetry, and love.

These sweet weekend mornings, when I get to wake up with C, and he absently threads my hair through his fingers while we talk in that soft slow intimate way that you have when you've just swum up from sleep, and snatches of dream are still tugging at your ankles like underwater-weeds.

The long blonde slices of light the sun sends through the blinds to stripe the wooden floors like sleeping tigers.

Those rare days when the sun is snuffed out like a candle-flame between finger and thumb. I stood in the dimness of last week's eclipse, struck dumb by the oddness and the beauty of it all. The light was tea-coloured, and everything was strange, and it felt like the end of the world. I thought,  maybe I've died already, hundreds of years ago, and somewhere in the future, my daughter's daughter's daughter is holding a sepia photo, fingertips finding her shadows in my face, and the bit of me that lives in her, the cells in her blood, the strings of code in her bones, is calling back across the centuries like an echo: hello, hello, hello.....

It seems that magic is everywhere. It is hard to explain. Its not that I'm in love, which is its own wonderful thing and has its own sort of magic, but also has its own particular trail of fears foaming in its wake (what if I lose him, what if my heart breaks, what if I hurt him, what if he doesn't stay). Its not that I'm happy, because happiness, I know, comes and goes like the light does, like the rain.

It's more that I feel whole, somehow. And not from being half or part of something else. I am whole in myself. I'm not sweeping scraps of myself under rugs, or chasing thoughts, like spiders, into corners. There is light in every nook and there is light in every crevice, and if it shows up the dust sometimes as well as the good, at least it's honest.

There are nights when I wake and worry, still, and the second between each clock-tick lasts for days. There are times when the mirror isn't kind, and the old ghosts clank and rattle their chains. But mostly, I am good. Mostly I am grateful.

For the breaths, and the words, and the breakfast eggs. The kisses. The glasses of wine. The church bells that come through the trees on Thursday nights when the ringers have their weekly practice. The scented candles, the sweet plum tomatoes clustered on the vine. The daydreams. The poems I read that go off in my mind like tiny fireworks, glittering, gold.

Today is cold, and the sky is wide and white like a sheet. The rain is flying, a hundred thousand scattered beads, and my wellington boots are on. I have my keys, my woolly hat, my purse.

Contemplate the wonder of your own life. I'm off to shatter the Universe.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

"There will be time to wonder, 'Do I dare?', and 'Do I dare?'"

I'm meant to be creating today, but the words won't come. Instead, I lie under blankets on C's bed while he works in the corner under one of those desk-lamps with the flexible neck. I link from blog to blog, looking for new words to love. I like the beautiful ones best, the ones that string sentences together like pearls.  I want to wear them on the shelves of my collarbones, the two moons of my breasts.

I have books, plural, in progress. Pages and pages of words I have coaxed and clipped and pruned into blooming. Like orchids, they are difficult to grow, even harder to keep alive. But I try. I try. Meanwhile the years keep passing and there are no spines on the bookshelf lettered with my name.

I dream of a neat little cottage in the future. A well-kept garden with radishes and beets. In it, a room full of pretty things - cushions, flowers, sun-filled lace - where I sit to write (and write, and write). All the words I've collected over the years, all the words I've dreamed, free to spill on to page after page, unkilled by hours in strip-lit offices and steamy canteens, unkilled by mindless hours in front of flickering TV screens.

I think I've found a way to pick that future's lock. A way to open the door to that room where I can sit and write the things that make my heart fill and swell. I must write, I decided, something fast, and furious. Not the book I want to write, not yet; not the poetry, not the sentences that sweeten into something golden and fine. I must write something quick and cheap, something that will sell, so I can leave the creativity-killing nine-to-five behind. Goodbye buses, and vending machines; goodbye logins that change every thirty days, and mechanical window-blinds; goodbye, air conditioning that is always too high or too low, so we roast like chickens on a spit in Winter, and shiver till our teeth rattle in the Summer.

It sounded easy, and it is, for the most part, it is. The words come freely when I'm not being selective, when I'm not choosing based on how beautiful something sounds, or if it holds truth. This is a different kind of writing than I have ever done, all cliffhangers and wordcounts, and the battle is being won. Even if the book feels a little shabby, a little thin. It's a bit like dressing in grubby, secondhand tweeds after years in the fanciest and riches of  silks.

To write fluff now so I can write gold later...does that make sense? I think it does, but I can't help feeling oily of hand, sometimes, shifty of eye. I go back and forth: It is necessary; a stepping stone for the future. / No, it is a waste, and mercenary.

I know what I want to write. I want to write about things that live beneath the sea, mermaids with silver tails like apostrophes, selkies that peel out of themselves, heel to skull in pale curls, under full, complicit moons. I want to write about love, and death, and every hidden fathom of the human heart. I want to write about light: the way it moves on water, like a scattering of sequins, and the way it falls through lace curtains to trace florals on skin. I want to write about a girl saying yes for the first time, about the boy she lets touch her with trembling hands.

I want to write and write of all these things... but instead I am writing sloppy mass-market fiction with haste. This is the risk: if it works, if it sells, it will all have been worth it. I will sit in my lovely rooms, and drink lemon tea, and write all of the things that live in my heart for the rest of my days. If it doesn't, then it will all have been a waste. But what will I have wasted, really? Only, I suppose, a handful of weeks. Not even a full turn around the sun.

I've never tried writing like this before. Forging words from speed and fire, lines from time and heat. There's that, at the very least, to gain. The chance I've never taken. The dice I've yet to cup in a hand and cast. The newness of the experience for its own sweet sake. Maybe it's worth persisting for that alone. That, and the hope it can't help but light in me, bright as a newly-minted coin of moon.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself..."

Another February gone, with its frosts and mists. Gunmetal ground, and stars like cold fire. The white shoots of snowdrops. The Valentines flutes full of bubbles, full of hope. Another striped candle on the sweet, sweet cake. A wish expelled in breath and smoke.

I sit and type, and rain flies at the window like handfuls of sequins flung at a bride. The wet slate roof throws back the sky. This is my life. My beautiful life. In all its wonder and all its normalcy.

It seems just a moment since I wrote I am thirty three. Wrote of journeys, wrote of plans, and dreams, and the slats disappearing beneath the path of a train. And now I am thirty-four, another oak-tree-ring circling the shafts of my bones.

Twelve months. A handful of posts. Words scattered like breadcrumbs across the screen. I find the ghosts of my selves in the spaces: remember that girl; the one whose heart was crushed like a flower in a fist? And that girl, too, a flat balloon,  filling, very slowly, with warm air, new faith? I remember that perfect moment, and the moon. The gardens in Summer - squirrels, pinecones, wine on my breath. I remember the notes I took. The fingers that read the Braille of my spine like the dimpled print in a special  book. The seasons that spun in their slow carousel: light, and air, colour, heat;  new buds, old bones, sunlight, snow.

I have learned to let go, this year.  I have learned to breathe before letting out the rush of words. I have learned to be truer to myself, more clear about the things I want and don't. I have learned that I don't always know, and that that's ok. I have learned to say I'm sorry; I love you; I'm afraid.
What else?
Oh yes: that there are more chances than stars in the sky. That you can love without losing yourself to the process of loving. That you're never failing as long as you try.
I have learned to treat my life like a garden: to protect and to prune. To water what is good, and full of life, what helps me grow. To cut off the rest at the root.
I have learned that change doesn't happen overnight, but that I can chip away at the cliff face. I have learned that, ,through everything, goodness runs like seams of gold through old rock. That sometimes it glitters, right there for the taking, so beautiful, so free... and that sometimes we must sweat and hack and chisel for it.
I no longer look at my age and frown. I look at the numbers and marvel. I wear them like a prize. I still can't French-braid my own hair, or draw on eyeliner in perfect leonine sweeps. I still haven't finished the books I'm writing, or grown my own tomatoes. I still haven't tasted lobster, paid off that loan. But this is the thing I have come to understand: all those things, they're the patchwork pieces. The bits of your life - the experiences, the lovelinesses -  that come together gradually, over time, to make the whole quilt. The things we piece together, the experiences that give the thing - the life - its patterns, its colour, its heft, its shape. And my whole life is about finding those pieces and putting them together.

But so far, my thirties - though not without the most gorgeous of patches - has been about something just as important, and thus far lacking. The stitches and seams. The things that hold the quilt together, give it cohesion, shape and beauty. A sense of self, which I've found after years of working and searching, and which I'm grasping as tightly as a kite-tail in high wind. An independence, like sediment, at the seat of everything. A sweet sort of surety; a certain calm.

Life is a process, not a destination.  I forget who said that, although I've quoted it before, but never has this been clearer to me than now. Another year struck from the calendar. Another beautiful square sewn into the quilt. I can see, already, the edges of the next one. Gold like sunshine, like honey, like hope.