Island Blog – The sharper the knife

Two days to go. Then it will be a whole year since himself breathed his last. It is hard to believe and yet easy. I cast back to the days between then and now and cannot remember a lot of it. Many days were just a slog, a pointless slog and many other days were full of skips and puddle jumping. I notice more now that Time is my ‘bidey-in.’ I notice puddles, their shape and size and the way they grow, claiming more ground as that primary element argues with another one. I notice the way Spring comes shyly, nervous of pushing out too soon, just like me. I notice petals, watch them fall and wonder how they choose that very moment to do so. I see the turning of the beech leaves and just have to stand beneath them. I hear sounds more clearly, some sharp-slash ear offences, some soft and landing like, well, petals. I am aware of what I touch and how it feels to my fingertips. I notice a founder in those same fingers when I attempt to unpackaged packaging, or lift a heavy pot to the hob. I hear the sound of water coming to the boil in a pasta pan even from the next room. The tic, tic, tic of a clock is Time telling me she is here, as if I didn’t already know that. I can taste the snap-smell of his plaid shirts, the only things I haven’t yet moved on. They no longer smell of him and how could they? Everything was washed and double washed many months ago. I think I might make a patchwork soft mat from cuts of these shirts. They were so his ‘fashion’, a hanging on to the days of being a lumberjack in Canada so many years ago.

Years ago. His life by many stories was a long one. A wonderful one, he said, and often. Funny how we are never satisfied, never able to agree with ‘enough’ when it involves waving a final farewell. I know he didn’t want to live on. Who does in the late throws of dementia? I wouldn’t, for sure. He went happy and peaceful. That’s it. End of. Well, maybe it was for him. But now I feel like a pioneer facing a wilderness. The land endless before me goes right up to where my eyes meet the skyline and I have no map. I am not afraid, not lost, not in despair, no way. But this is so new to me that I confess to a bit of circling and a lot of hiding behind rocks. I go out, I keep a clean and tidy house, I feed myself well, I love music, I write, sew, dance (occasionally), walk every day and, as far as I can tell, house a lively brain. I have humour, mischief, a sense of fun and many good friends.

All this does not minimise the wilderness, that vast maw of sand, rocks, emptiness and maplessness. A load of ‘esses’ for sure. The way it alters, changes my language, my thoughts, my beliefs, my faith. I have faith, I have belief in something for me even if I don’t know what the hellikins that means and I have fun learning a new language. This, in itself, is perusable. Although I am, I confess, a lover of good strong language, words can escape me. I am thankful for Roget, a bible for writers. My battered copy is always beside me so that when I cannot find the right word, the one that accurately describes what I want to say instead of just ‘trending on twitter’ jumps out at me like a sudden-ness and that is okay. I am allowed, I tell myself, to lose the words I once found so easy to lift into the light because most of what I found so easy to lift into the light has been cut away, just like that, in a single not-breath.

I was reminded by my lovely daughter-in-law just yesterday of the final breath moment. She loved her father-in-law and he loved her. Her eyes lit up and her face lifted as she told me something I had forgotten. Remember, she said, as you all sat beside him watching his faltering breaths? Go on, I tell her, trying to find my way back to that moment. Well, she says, he took a big gasp breath and then everything went still. You looked at each other and began to move. This is it. The big man is gone. Suddenly, he breathed again, a big draw of earthly air and you all laughed, turning back to him. The next breath was his last, but that moment, he, the one who always had to be the centre of attention, claimed his right to it one more time.

‘The sharper the knife, the less you cry.’ So they say.

Island Blog – Time Travel

We used to say, far too often, that we don’t have time; time for play, for children, for looking long and for listening to the sounds around us. We would bat them all away, either as wistful longings, or as irritating bluebottles around our sandwich filled with jam. Now, Time is abundant. We have days, weeks, months of it and this might feel like a stripping of self, for some. Even the ones who longed for what they saw as personal freedom of choice are now looking about in perplexy (my word). What on this goodly earth am I going to do with myself, and, never mind myself, all my children and that partner of mine, now that all props have fallen away to reveal a vast wilderness that stretches right out to where the sky calls a halt to it?

Good question. For some of us this time is a balm on the cuts and bruises of our life. If everything and everyone from out there is not allowed entry and if we are not allowed exit then we are going to have to do all those inner workings, both physical and metaphysical. Sounds dodgy to me. I hate cleaning out cupboards for starters and does this mean I need to poke about in that tangle of resistance, regret, guilt, fear and apathy, those undelightful aspects of the completed me that I have buried in the cellar for decades, cutting off their source of light and only considering them when they instigate some snappy remark to leap out of my mouth, or an unwise action to move my hands as if I was a robot and some dark lord worked the joystick?

However, I am discovering some goodly things as I poke about in the grubby cellar of my mind, not least that there are fewer undelightful aspects than I had heretofore thought. Not only that but these aspects are afraid of me. As I shine light on them, acknowledge their presence, they cower back into the shadows. I feel rather chuffed about this and wonder why it has taken me so long to come down here. There’s enough room for a dance floor, with seating, and I could get someone to rig up a sensitive lighting system with a glitter ball au centre. I would need to clean first of course. As I walk around on the long-abandoned ground I am reminded of events in my past, just flashes, but clear as if they just happened. Looking at them again, after all this time, I see how my memory has distorted the truth of them. Those wrongs done to me were, in part, my doing too and the ogres and witches I remember are currently snivelling at my feet.

‘Come on’, I tell them. ‘Let’s go back up into the light and spend some time sorting each other out. I don’t need to hide from you anymore even if you do smell a bit funny. All that darkness hasn’t done you (or me) any favours. I wish I had admitted you existed years ago, now I come to look at how weak you really are. Although I do remember how you came to be, in a vague sort of way, like when I was mocked, ridiculed, rejected, wounded, ignored or abandoned, I don’t need to hold on to you anymore. Now that I have time to live, I want this life to be transparent, especially to myself. If I acknowledge the aspects of myself I don’t like much (like you lot) and bring you into the light – now that I have all this time – I can understand the way you came into being, and then I can release you.’

Perhaps, as our lives have hit the buffers we can all reflect on our cellar selves. Perhaps, as the ozone layer repairs itself, we can consider a different way to live. Perhaps we can repair too.

Now that we have all this time.

And, ps, cellar rhymes with stellar.