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.
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.