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And so April begins, with a melon and strawberry smoothie, sunshine picking out copper glints on Jakeyís fur, listening to Ali Farka Toure while eating yesterdayís pizza, talking about the merits or not of establishment art and learning about naÔve and outsider art. Watching Jake pounce on a lone pigeon feather fluttering in the grass, and spying two magpies, their long bodies like graceful arrows in flight. One for sadness, two for joy. A warm breeze, blue sky. Lotty on my lap purring. Lotty crying outside another closed door. Things ticking along just so. Grateful for a day like this.
In my dreams, things spiral out of control very quickly. The drama of a situation, the tension, the problem to be solved, comes to the surface immediately in vivid reds and greens and paints itself onto my consciousness. I become involved in this drama completely, my whole body, even more than if I was awake. My mind runs faster and more lucidly, and in this world, it isnít so awful if there is no solution. Sometimes, often, I wake up before there is a solution. A few times, I have the same dream over and over. They usually involve murder.
Iíd forgotten the
disappointment that comes from looking to be inspired by websites providing writing prompts. Or maybe my expectation is just too high. I want words that will open up worlds of beauty and mystery, but more often than not, they remind me of a vocabulary test or send me to the dictionary. Today the word is perennial. This reminds me of gardening. And I donít want to be reminded of gardening. My head and heart are still filled with the images of longing and loss and beauty from the film
which I saw last night.
Today the word is
. Something Iíve never been good at. Stubbornness and resistance are born in me like wood. I need a good reason to bow to an-other. Obedience and good manners donít count. Otherwise it becomes surrender, a last resort before defeat. When I hear yield, when I feel it being thrown at me or even offered in the softness of an upturned palm, my whole body responds with feline suspicion, ears back, fur raised high. Itís earned me many a trip to the tree to pick my own switch. Voluntary defiance. Though Iíd gladly yield for light.
A discarded promise is a
. Even an empty one is like weaving a tapestry with brittle grass. It will fall and shatter into a thousand dusty fragments. But worst of all is, ďRemember, I never promised you anything.Ē Laying the blame on the heart that dared to embrace hope, or was it just self-delusion. Yet, something can still be built with broken threads, rag rugs are made from unwanted scraps. Threads can be tied with others to be put to use. If you know how, nothing need be wasted. If you know how, bitterness need not be nourished.
The things that remain
are like negative space in a drawing. They form the picture as much as the objects themselves. There are always things unspoken, just as there is always negative space, the shapes of our emptiness, the shapes of the howlings we cannot share, the gifts we cannot make, the words we cannot give birth to. So they remain forever embryonic, never maturing into what might have been. What we need are compassionate, magical midwives, those who know what the process of birth entails, guiding us to fruition, encouraging us to breathe and then to let go.
is a state of mind. The spirit behind it is similar to that of bowing. It is an act of deference, submission, acceptance of oneís own humble place in the presence of a greater other. To kneel or bow only with the body and not with the mind or the heart is an empty gesture. Kneeling happens most in churches, temples, mosques. On my visits to Thailand, they also happened in front of elders. Christmases at my Catholic Grandmotherís house involves kneeling and bowing to give and receive gifts. It makes us all feel more loved, wanted, appreciated.
The word for today is
. These are the associations it brings up: old leather, the texture and thinness of dried tongue, worn down by years of habitual perambulation. Old spice? Leather & Spice? Was that ever a brand name? Bird tough as leather. The sting of leather on skin, bringing up welts: the day I was forced to go to school in shorts and tried to hide my legs. No one noticed anyway. Stewed leather. So poor they boiled the leather off fancy shoes no one wore anymore. His skin had seen so much sun it was like leather.
The prompt for today is
at first blush
. Are they kidding? How much more cutesy can you get? Is it deliberate, do they want cutesy poems, or is it supposed to spurn us on to rebellion? Why are people so afraid of dark? If you canít explore dark in poetry or art, whatís the point? Anyone can be safe, inoffensive, write cutesy poems about first crushes and spring and ripening fruit and feel all titillated because oh my goodness, it might be a suggestion for something else! Donít try so hard to please; no one will thank you for it.
The word today is
. I donít want more associations to my motherís anger, but it reminds me of the hollowness of her thin good intentions, because the scream of her wish that weíd never been born was much louder, fuller and more weighty to us than offers to buy us whatever we wanted, or to seize our hands in airports or places where she felt out of her depth. I donít like that her fear sounds to me like a dull thud against an empty tree, something neither she nor we could escape, but thereís no escaping the past.
When I see the word
, I feel Iím being offered acceptable, inoffensive, soft-focus non-sex to mask troubling, unfulfilled desire. These daily prompts are like that, a mask for the things we really want but canít have in life, isnít that at least one reason why poetry is written? But of course, Iím probably projecting. If I were setting the prompts, Iíd be darker, more raw, less titillating, less safe. My initial annoyance at almost every one of these prompts surprises me. What does it mean? Is it just my usual rebellious streak or is there something more to it?
You could say that our life together had been held together by
. The flickering images from various TV shows that wouldnít and didnít distinguish us from any other ďnormalĒ couple formed the walls of our safe house, walls within which we didnít have to face our differences, but which allowed us to perpetuate, however briefly, the illusion that we really were bound together, that we really did have something in common. He liked to say that this was our quality time, this was when we really talked and bonded. And for a while, it was easier to simply agree.
Saul and I had a fight last night. He didnít mean for it to be a fight but I did. Iíve been angry for days, maybe weeks. Itís no excuse but maybe we needed it. Sometimes, things need shaking up. Sometimes, things get too routine and settled, safe. Part of me has given up believing that anything good is going to happen anymore, that this is as good as it gets Ė the mind-numbing routine, the predictability of life, being drowned by superficial, daily detritus. Give us this day our daily waste. Life is wasted on almost every one of us.
When I took the
and learned to swim, I was 12 years old. The other kids were younger than me. Iíd just started growing breasts and hair under my arms. My mom noticed and after my first lesson, handed me her razor and told me to shave under my arms and nowhere else. She was very firm about the nowhere else. I had no idea what she meant. It confused me. My male teacherís admiration of my swimming talent embarrassed me. Although he said he could train me for the Olympics, part of me felt he meant something else.
Iíve never been one for jewellery. The most I ever wore were earrings as a teenager. I donít wear any jewellery today. Despite this, my parents have given me clunky gold bracelets and expensive gold chains, all of which are in a safety deposit box. My first boyfriend gave me a fake
bracelet, which I stopped wearing after I found out heíd given his last girlfriend the exact same one. The best pearl I ever laid eyes on was the story
by John Steinbeck. Give me a book or a handmade gift any day of the week.
As I sit here at work what I really
to do is write. My mood has shifted perceptibly, like the dislodging of a great chunk of ice. Iím spurred on by the weather, the light, the feeling of expansiveness that comes with the beginning of things, the beginning of spring, or summer. This morning, walking to the tube, I spied cherry blossom petals winging through the air, rustled by a breeze, showering the road and pavement with delicate pink kisses. I feel as if Iíve been released from something, from being held back, into a realm of real possibilities.
When I was 15, I broke Momís Pyrex dish. I was past the age of the belt. I knew how much her kitchen meant to her. I felt bad, even worse because she wasnít screaming.
lay at our feet, scattered everywhere. I knew I should offer to replace it; sure she was waiting for me to offer, setting me another test. I rehearsed doing so in my mind. But when the shards were gathered, I was angry. This meek Mother seemed more treacherous than the one who lashed out; suddenly there were more ways in which I could fail.
When I was 23, I went to a palm reader in San Diego. She took one look at me and said, ďYou have got to slow down.Ē It was the only thing she got right and I was amazed that someone Iíd never met could know this about me. Iíve always been maddeningly impatient, lived life as if everything had to be done yesterday. Iíd spent too many years being what my parents wanted and now it was my turn, before it was too late. I like that I live with a sense of urgency. But sometimes, it gets exhausting.
As a writer, I canít help
around in my past, but it does perplex me why the same memories, the same stories, emerge again and again, while others, just as significant and poignant, remain forgotten. Is it because those memories have solidified into an ďofficial storyĒ, the things used to tell others about me? There is some truth in that, but it makes me wonder whatís been left out and how much itís used to mask other things that I donít want to reveal, that I donít want to admit even to myself. Just how truthful is memory anyway?
Todayís word is another exclusively North American one Ė
. Iíve never been to a fishing hole in my life. What would be great is if there was a mystical, sacred place somewhere hidden and beautiful where you could fish for wisdom, like an oracle fishing hole, you know, fortune cookies from the beyond but without the cheap paper or feeling of disappointment at knowing it's mass produced and means nothing. I do wonder though, human nature being what it is, whether we would listen to such wisdom anyway. Donít we just want to hear what we want to hear?
If I had to leave the house suddenly, pack for an emergency, and could take only
ten items or less
, not counting the usual things youíd need for travel like passport, money, basic clothes and toiletries, and not counting living beings like my cats, Iíd take: my phone which is also a camera and mp3 player, a chunky sketchbook, my Rotring art pen, watercolour box, memory stick containing my photos, writing and music, a laptop, my copy of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, my copy of Writing Down The Bones, a notebook. Of course Iíd have to buy a laptop first.
There are too many days lately when I feel I have
large sections of my brain. I find myself opening a document on the computer and wonder why I was doing it. I go to say something to someone and lose the thread before the thought forms itself into words. I have an idea which fills me with excitement and a second later, I canít recall what it is. I even forgot my sister in lawís name for an embarrassingly long ten minutes. If Iím like this now, at 35, what will I be like at 60 or 70?
After three months of writing 100 words daily, and 22 days of writing a poem a day to a prompt, I am tired. Iím having writing fatigue. This month, I keep going over the same old memories and stories, writing on the same subjects. Writing without a prompt was more freeing, I could write about the present or possibilities. But for some reason, prompts take me back to memories, to the past. I donít want to write about the same old things. But sometimes, itís hard to tell the difference between boredom and resistance. Perhaps I just need a break.
Weíre going to Wales this weekend and I canít wait to break away Ė from routine, from London, from work. I am starting to feel confined, probably because I am doing too much again and canít imagine how Iíd change it all or put even half of it aside if I got pregnant and my life changed drastically forever. Sometimes I think I like our life as it is, so why change it. But then again, the thought of growing old together and not having had children is just too sad. I just donít know how Iím going to prepare myself.
The week is unfolding slowly, furling at the rate of a snailís progress across a wide lawn. But then, Friday will come, and it will go too quickly. And returning to work will be a shock, like it always is, because I leave it behind so completely as soon as Iím out of there. I will leave it behind even more this weekend as weíre off to Wales. And I probably wonít have internet access to post my daily entries. I want to relax. Paul wants to walk. Walking relaxes him, but it tires me. We shall have to compromise.
a light at the end of the tunnel. Last night I danced my socks off to Indigo Mossís
, and was enchanted by Edie Brickell. We also had a lovely night in, doing nothing, just watching TV and sitting on the sofa with the cats. Plus Iíve been inspired by Johannes Ittenís
The Elements of Colour
which Iím reading for my painting course. I never knew there was so much to colour, literally more than meets the eye! Iíve slept well, Iíve been in a good mood, giddy and silly! Now I just need some sushi.
Last night Lotty decided she wanted to play, so she grabbed hold of my ankle as I was standing around being busy with something else. She grabbed it with both paws then bit into my big toe. Luckily I was wearing socks. She did this several times. She has a feet fetish I guess. Now sheís lying across my lap, purring, front paws on my left arm. She also gave me a little kiss on the chin. She and Jakey have no idea that weíre leaving them for three days. Vic will be here, but it wonít be the same.
Today we travelled through the Conwy Valley in North Wales by train to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where we caught a steam train to Tan-y-Blwch. We walked through Snowdonia National Park, rested by a stream trickling water from the mountains into a pool lined with clusters of bamboo. The weather was divine. The reflection from the lake breathtaking. The day, simple and beautiful, a gift. When we got back to Llandudno, there was still warmth in the sun and we treated ourselves to a full, sumptuous dinner at the Bengal Dynasty. Then we watched
The Constant Gardener
at our B & B.
Today was a trip down memory lane for Paul. The emotion and the pictures started when he saw the crumbling faÁade of The Marlborough Hotel where they used to stay. And then the donkeys on the beach, and then, one by one, the landmarks of his summer holidays as a boy. Arcade games and amusements, derelict faces of buildings named The Pleasure Palace and the like, and then Sunny Vale ďrefugee campĒ. We even did the walk to Towyn where we waited, scared by what we found there and grateful for what we have, for a bus back to Llandudno.
Itís unsettling to think that this morning we were climbing The Great Orme in Llandudno in glorious sunshine, sighting the Kashmiri Goats that roam there, both the males and the females with their kids, scrambling over wind-blown grass, stunned by the beauty of the scenery, trying to find the Lighthouse referred to on the map, battling the winds at the summit, and mere hours later, weíre back in London, back in our home, with the cats and all the details of our life waiting for us. It feels like weíve been away for a long time, not just three days.
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