Sunday, 19 July 2015

"I come into the peace of wild things..."

I live, now, in a city, where the buildings nick the sky, and the streets are quick with chatter and with feet. I live among a million shades of grey, the primary colour of every city - grey pavements studded with gum, grey pigeons with petrol-spill skullcaps and pink club-feet, grey cigarette smoke curling and drifting up to grey dishcloth skies, grey tramtracks in their clean steel lines, which make me sad, sometimes, the way only an incurable romantic can be sad - the way they run alongside each other from beginning to end, but never, ever, get to touch.

I love it, mostly. The lights, the noise. The way the sky looks like a mosaic between the officetops, cut into patches and boxes of blue. But sometimes my heart swells for the quiet, and I ache for wildness and green, crave rolling views of cool blue mountains, water braiding itself neatly over stones.

I forget sometimes how close we are to all of that. Just half an hour on the train, and it's like Alice stepping through the looking glass - everything reversed, the same world, but not the same, full of light and colour.

Yesterday, we went out to where the villages sit in tiny clutches in the folds of the hills, velvet folds of green and gold and brown, patched all over with heather, bright purple. We walked where the air was so clean and clear, it made our shocked city-lungs sit up in surprise, and the water was bone-cold, weaving its gold-green way through the fields.

We drank beer that tasted of lemons in a tiny pub with views as far as the eye could see, and I felt a sudden surge of love for it all, for everything. For C, his hand resting on my knee, traces of silver powder from his work beneath the crescent-moon of each fingernail, so that it looked like he'd been handling frost, or making constellations. The air that made every breath feel like a gift. New freckles like stars on my sunkissed shoulders.

I write these posts, sometimes, and I wonder if I've anything left to say. It's not that I don't love writing them, because I do, truly - stringing the words together like pearls, polishing them until they gleam - but I wonder how many of you still find them interesting to read. Is happiness - the calm, quiet kind that you live in day after day - remarkable enough to read about? Once I wrote like a hummingbird, all frantic beating, wild colour, and fervent heart. Now I am more like a Jersey cow - sureness and solidness, quietness and calm.  

I am at home in my life, and happy in it. It is more than I ever hoped for. But my writing style has changed because of it, has lost its edges and sharp corners. Writing fiction, writing poetry - those things are different. They have their own sharpnesses, their own characters, their own clean points and lines. But I feel like my blog posts have softened like butter left out in the sun, melted into one long lovely golden smear, the same words carrying from one to the next like a smudge pulled by a thumb: I am happy; I love him; I am full of hope.

Blue dusks and gold dawns, early-morning mists that wrap bare ankles like cats, or smoke. Beer in the sun so the glass glows with light like a lantern. His hand on my knee. All the words of the world in my throat. I want to do this forever, even if the readers peel away, in time, like birds in Winter, tiring of the same words, looking for different skies.
I want, almost more than anything, to touch people with my writing. I want to leave something beautiful in the world. But maybe that will happen through writing of a different kind. I write here hoping that people will leave with something - a scrap of truth in their teeth, perhaps, or a thought clutched in a fist - but ultimately, I write for myself - for the pure joy of it, but also to keep something beautiful to look back on from my future, like roses pressed between the pages of a book - yes, look at the petals, I remember this; I can still, if I breathe in deep enough, catch the scent.
Maybe it's her I write for most of all, that future self. I know how she will treasure the moments her own ghosts trapped and kept - the words in the library, the bones in the cool museum halls. This is my way of preserving my life - like butterflies in frames, like diamond-hard beetles pressed in amber, pressed in jet.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

"Into the blue, into the blue blue blue..."

Summer this year is the X on a treasure map: a spill of light and gold that we know is out there, but is proving impossible to find. It is buried under weeks of stone-greys and mizzling rains, the occasional glint of a sunny afternoon like a lone coin under a boot-heel. Where is the prize? The cache of gold mornings, the smelted afternoons, the doubloons of a hundred suns, glinting, glinting?

There is a heat that runs beneath the surface of the days, but the sky remains cloudy, and blank as a slate. It feels like living in the space between one thing and the next, the white empty place between parentheses. It feels like being the open eye between two blinks, looking and looking and seeing only the same grey horizon, never any closer, never any further away.

There are moments of loveliness. Golden hours scattered here and there like clues along the trail. Last night we sat in the fields while the sun blazed, watching the trees scatter light across the grass like breadcrumbs, like petals, like flung gleaming seeds. We drank beer and toasted, at last, to Summer. We sat until the evening deepened into dusk, and the birds quieted, and the bats came out to replace them, cleaving the air with their quick slicing flight until it seemed that the whole sky must rain down in a tatter of confetti, a shredded shower of stars, of night.

C asked, What is your favourite thing about the Summer? I knew, immediately. Those hours, early evening, after a long, hot day, when it's just beginning to blue and cool. The gloaming, they call it. A sort of early twilight. When the sky deepens into the most gorgeous, radiant blue, a blue I've never seen anywhere else in life, that I don't believe exists anywhere else - not in a Grecian sea, or on a butterfly wing, not in a pottery glaze, or the painted folds of the Virgin Mary's robes, or the gas-flame blaze of a lit Christmas pudding.

I said, simply, The evenings. When it's blue.  

I saw a fox once, on one of those blue evenings. I was waiting for the train in the richness of that light, the hush of the notquitenightnotyet. She detached herself from the shadows between the tracks like a flame peeling off from a fire. Nose testing the air. Delicate steps, like a ballerina. I stood like stone, the only thing moving my hummingbird heart.

What can I tell you about a moment like that? The world compacts. Two points on a compass. Two creatures under the same sky breathing the same blue dark.

And then the train came, rattling the moon, and shattered that brief and blinkless world apart. I remember looking away for a second, looking back - and the wild thing was gone, dispersed like smoke, back to her nest of earth and birdbones, her cellar of tree-roots, her ceiling of moon and stars.

These are the moments I remember when the grey days smear and blur. The splashes of colour, the glimpses of treasure - red fox, blue dusk, bonewhite moon. The lovely hum of magic in the air.