….It all just falls apart

But when I look into your eyes, it pieces up my heart.

My answers are almost lost in the haze of the rain, of what this year has said and spent. It’s been –
“Learning curve” doesn’t quite cover it.

We only learn enough from the light, to know ourselves blind. Stand in the darkness, liebe, and cry, and feel it all as a bullet hole in the chest. Memories fill it up again, and we walk on.

Time doesn’t so much heal, as stitch the pieces back together, or fill in the gaps and the splits with seams of gold. But you’re never quite the same, again.

I took a blind man by the hand, and led him away from the sunken well, where he’d been trying to draw water from a dry and empty laugh. The thick smell of damp and lichen made us cough, and we staggered a-ways, with his gnarled hand on my shoulder. I let him loop it about, because I was no longer afraid of the Touch of others.

He became my eyes, in the dark. My senses were blunted from years, decades, millennia, of wandering with my mind fixed on the ground.

I thought we’d leave this for ourselves a hundred times before
But I guess we’re always leaving, even when we look the same
And it eases me somehow to know that even this will change.

Here we are, in our Now, with the pain of what came before and the wary knowledge of what is to come. Hit the ground, and run.

Except I won’t. Not this time. I’ve spent too long running, without stopping to wait for others; for feelings, for thoughts that might anchor me or hold me down … or hold me still, long enough to hear the whispered words on silvered breath.

Fierce and light, and young.

So we kicked up the yellow leaves and the dulled moss, the forlorn stones and the wires of flowers long-dead. The sky was a stretched skein of grey, a heavy head; the sun, a lowered eye. His shoulders slumped with the weight of it all, and I urged him to lean a little more.

I laughed so hard inside myself, it all began to hurt.

No one sees the salt that slides between the cracks on the clown-dolls’ face. That smile is a painted bridge between what is, and what must be. A coda of pain and hope. A web wavering in the winds that bring storms and rain.
A well uncared for, runs dry.

Have a care, world. We’re not all hungover. We’re not all lost, those who wander. But we are all here, and awake, and aware, and laughing with barbed wire.
Nothing worth knowing, is ever what it seems.

If you’ve still got some light in you, then go before it’s gone
Burn your fire for no witness,
It’s the only way it’s done.

When the light changed and the world moved on, we looked back. I showed him the path we’d made through the leaves, with my hand, brushing the silt and the sky from his forehead. One pass should do it; he won’t see, I’m not a miracle-worker. But he’ll feel it.
He’ll feel it.

Dreaming of Mercy Street

I knew where I was going, once. Had some sort of a plan, a topic, a novel, a vision – and a hell of a lot of rum.

Now, I have two children who are not mine, who I adore but would like to press Mute on for two hours in the evening … and shifts that are sapping the life out of my mind. Blah fucking blah. Same old story.

I want to get out of here. See Germany, see France, Belgium, Austria, mountains chained into diamond teeth, a hard blue sky and fierce-scented forests. I want to break out of this block that holds my head like a vice, out of – what – weariness? Spite at myself? Fear of failure?

It’s the same song on repeat. My past never left, and hunts me still. At least I sleep through the night, for now. The last bout of insomnia was a bitch.

Sorry, this is a protracted whinge. I can’t seem to find the words elsewhere. I use pictures to detail how I feel, and am more reliant on these than ever. It’s 8pm, and I have only just sat down.
Where is this all going?

To sleep, with any luck.

Let down at work. Nothing I can go into, but suffice to say, I’m screaming into thin air. And getting through a lot of chewing gum.

These words at least, come easily enough. Nowhere else to lay them out, to put them down. Glance over and be gone, it’s all one to me. The other blog post will have to wait until … some kind of coherency returns.

I can’t change my style, anymore than I can change my blood type (A-)
I still walk bare foot in the rain on sunburnt tarmac, and look for the last hidden corners of the library, out of the sight of teens and away from the burring computers that riddle up my bones with current. The view from that wide-eye window is magnificent; one of the last I shall remember. The lady cathedral in dexteree, and a sprawling canvas of blue-green towards the silver ocean of sky – planes from the nearby airport, swimming with the dreaminess of carp from one cloud to another.

And to sinisteree, the flat rooftops where cats lollop and play, sprawl and wail, and chase with curved backs, over the baked bricks. I had a dream of following them, once, as a child. There was always time to hide in the hedges, jumping out to scare my older sister; and teaching my younger brother how to wait, silent and still, in the green-black shade of the tallest marigolds you ever saw. Three feet, those damn stems grew to. Only my mother could manage to tame so fierce a jungle in our back garden.

Seven trees, lined up like soldiers – one beech, three larches, two willows, and a stately grandfather oak. It was on the latter that I taught my kittens how to climb – Chloe took to it readily enough, having less fur than her sister, Jess, to weigh down small pinion-paws. Poor Jessie would take a running leap, make it halfway up the trunk (digging into the crusty bark), before flailing back down, arse first, in that inconsistent way of cats. I wished for her to have Norsk Skaukatt in her blood, if only for the long “nose-guard” profile reminiscent of the Viking helm, and that singular way of descending a tree, head-first, in a spiral, as in the way of the Nuthatch bird.

Certain breeds have their own peculiar traits. The Skoggy, with its spiral-descent; the Siberian, with its triple-layer fur, allowing it to become a snow-plough; the Ragdoll with its “flop”; the Siamese its shoulder-riding (although my Kai, a Birman, was also a fan of this); and my personal favourite, the Turkish Van – one of the very few felines who will readily approach water for a swim.

Ja, if there’s one thing I can go off on one about, it’s cats. As a kid, I collected relevant books, ornaments, toys, jewellery, fiction, poetry – wrote some of the latter myself, where did that all go? caught between the pages of some ink-stained notebook, buried in a suitcase – and pretty much lived my life in trees, down in the long grass (running from spiders), in the hope that one day I would wake, and no longer be human.

Still waiting.

This staccato voice, and aversion to loud faces, and arrogant-innocent nature, are all born out of that child’s dream. There are some mornings when I wake and watch the sky, and feel so much myself again that it seems the world had never moved on, and I had never grown and seen the patterns of my mind shift, the days blur into years. I am walking the highways again, lost in a silver-blue mist that began around my ankles and stirred up to the height of the hawthorns, and there are no thoughts of home. Of paedophiles and murderers. Of watchful, waiting eyes. Of anything beyond recall.

Just the night, and my feet at their softest, and ice-rimed leaves crackling still – because no human could ever learn to walk like a cat.

Not even the Alchemist managed that.

I should reread the Wild Road, really, and find myself again.

the wild road

Well. That’ll do for now.

Shadow, thorn, and one blue rose

I find myself frequently bemused by this face.

Looking into the mirror as a child, I would stare hard until my eyes bled out tears; until the small, fine lines swam into adulthood – until an image of who I might one day become, was an image grasped in the hand of argent moonlight, riming the effortless sheen.

“I disappeared the lines – as memories came flooding in, the tears blew out my eyes.”

I am not so much who I thought I would become, as an evolved form of what once was. Older and quieter, arrogant still; believing herself to be above the world, even while walking at its feet. This is what sets me apart from those who are documenting what conflicts rip open the threads of humanity, bringing the truth of the world to unresolved eyes, to hearts that have learned the riddle-speak of care and continuity.

I still have far to go. Inhibitions are invisible manacles about my feet, and the years are heavy yet. But they will break. They must break, because I will have no one but myself to blame if they don’t. We are the successors to our own tenure, coming as going – or the flatline of Existence over Life.

I am thirty years old next April. This only bothers me in the context of what I have not achieved, may never achieve, if I don’t find the willpower to focus my voice; to know what it is I wish to talk about, and with whom. Right now, I dither from one place to one more commission, to one more job. There is freedom in these scrappy lines; I am able to up sticks and leave whenever I choose. But as Dido once said – and I do believe in this song, if no other – “But if my life is for rent / And I don’t learn to buy / Well, I deserve nothing more than I get / ‘Cause nothing I have is truly mine.”

I am still afraid of plans. Of setting down roots, of putting trust in anything longer than it takes to change my mind. Why?
Because I have felt the breath on my neck, of one who does not wait. Even as I try to slow down to enjoy things – food, company, a book, a life – I am aware of those thin spinning fingers, and the whispering echo, and the way it all came so close.

But what is a life, of a thread pulled taut?

Grandfather Time, within your tower
– Darkened brick and filled with icy
Breath of ages, standing still –
You hear my voice
You know my name
You watched a lifetime dialling down
To needle clicks and spinning threads.
Now pointing west, the arrowhead
Is finding love that cannot lie
That will not sleep;
You know my choice
A shadow, thorn, and one blue rose.

He bids me rove. There is still much to learn; to be accounted for.

King and Lionheart.

I had locked him away in a pillar of ice, hoping to set his heart free, so that he might return to his duties – for are we not all bound in such ways? Certainly, no royal can remain asleep forever, even while touched by the tint of a blue rose – and this heart does not lie easy, for knowing its shadow falls on a picture painted elsewhere, in another realm. I had hoped that by stifling his voice, so full of thorns, I might return to my own barren ways, this wild wood, this writing in black-gold … but it’s never so easy, is it?

Summer sun and winter moon
I have forgotten who is who
And still we chase, across the sky
The one to live, the one to die.

His blue-black shadows of doubt, for this lionheart. His dark water for my fire. I stride forwards, even while falling back; there is no letting go, though the words meet my eyes as thorns in the palm. I cannot deny what has not been done. Just as I cannot let go of what has not yet set beyond the horizon.

The sky is filled with both moon and sun so rarely; it is these times I cherish, with the world held between, a little black kitten with ocean eyes. We are the balance, do you understand?
I am tired, inside and out. Even this heart grows weary of pain, though she cuts open her own lip so frequently, on a wire-grin.

I live for pain. To feel alive, to know that I still exist. That I am not merely asleep. This once took the form of self-harming, hot needles on the skin (irony lives in fear of contamination, even while drawing blood.) I once danced my legs down to the knees, and trained beyond the gravel-pain of heartbeats in the throat.

Now, I set the moderation bar, and try to remember that to live is to know peace, too. Quiet. Sifting dust. Just because I am awake and aware, does not mean that I must push to the very last breath –

– before fading out.

These are but thoughts, as ever. I have been called many things recently – “wise”, “adorable”, “arrogant bitch.” I would say, put in a blender, they might summarize someone I would like to be. Who I thought I would know, when “all grown up.”

Instead, I am merely blinking away tears in front of the mirror, trying to resolve a firm image of the person staring back, with water-dark hair and freckles that have seemingly appeared from nowhere. I never had them as a child. But they are a good find.

I like tracing patterns. Stars, algorithms, the flecks of a magpie’s wings against a gunmetal sky, in accordance with the turning pages of a book, clasped in the hands of a hurtling-home commuter.

I can pretend to be cute, for all of an hour, before growing bored and wanting the serious façade back. Then this will be dropped too, in time for a giggle over a colleague’s terrible mug of coffee.

We are only a collective of emotions, rick-rolling from one situation to the next. I used to believe that I had to be same person for each, a static entity, so that no one would doubt my credibility. But this is boring as whale shit, and not sustainable. Mutability lives in the fire, stirred up by the rising air; water flows to enjambment –
And earth clings to the shovel, digging your grave.

I am a nonsense of words tonight. Just flexing these fingers, after all – a warm up, before chasing the sun back across the sky, as Celena, as Gaia, as the pseudonym made up at age fifteen, with no clue (then) of what significance it would come to hold.

Here, fire lights upon the ice
The shadows thaw beneath the smile
Of summer’s name, now caught between
A sea of stars, to call you home.

Trust in this, if nothing else.
Tattoo

Personal Preference

It seems a simple enough concept, doesn’t it? We avoid what we don’t like, and lean towards what we enjoy; what brings a positive aspect to our lives. Meeting up with friends; choosing food for a meal; picking up a book from the library, to read on the train to work.

OK, with regards to that last one – the job we have may not be the ideal choice, but that’s also a natural part of life. As adults, with responsibilities and an adherence to laws that state we can’t have everything we want, we know that there are times when the boring / painful / difficult choice, is the right one. Sometimes, there is a convoluted path towards the things we enjoy. But overall, especially with regards to the simple things in life, many of us can and do find ways of expressing our freedom of choice. I won’t go into the intricacies of different cultures and religions, here. That’s too much of a grey area for me to handle with any kind of aptness, and besides, it’s not what this blog post is about. I’d only make a hash of it, and inadvertently upset someone. This is a lot of the reason why my blogging, my writing in general, has fallen by the wayside lately; I’m just too afraid to open my mouth, to get the words down, with the freedom of previous years. For all that I sometimes wish to have a good mouth-off about something or another, the fact is I’d probably fudge the facts, having not researched enough. So.

I just get on with what I do know, for now.

Anyway. 8.30pm on Saturday last, saw me standing in the aisles at my local Tesco, desperately trying to strike a balance between cost effectiveness (e.g. How cheap can I go without eating flavoured water?) / a chronic eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) / my mother’s lamentations that I don’t vary my diet enough (I do tend to stick with the same things day in, day out, for the dual purpose of saving cash and staying “safe”, calorie-wise.) So basically, I’m resorting to canned goods over fresh, and anything on the value-side of products … with the added bonus of sticking to healthier options, while trying to introduce variation to a stick-in-the-mud diet, to stay topped up on the vitamins and minerals, and the energy for this blue-arsed fly routine that is life.

I know I’m not the only one forced to make these choices between eating healthily and eating at all – but when you throw an ED into the mix, it all becomes that much more shady. In the end, I threw in the towel, with no small amount of self-disgust, and wrote out a rant on Facebook; a status update which, in retrospect, was highly irresponsible of me, considering I have friends who have been through similar experiences with eating disorders on this platform, and would no doubt dislike having the reminder of it rubbed in their faces on a scroll through their timeline. It went something along the lines of wishing for food pills rather than having to make constant choices about food. I know I’d have been triggered / upset, reading something like this elsewhere. But that’s just me, I can’t speak for everyone.

Walking away from the store, I could only concentrate on how difficult all the decision-making was, and how angry / futile this made me feel. By the next morning, I viewed it with more of a cold dismay – there was more of the illness speaking through me, than has been apparent for quite some time. Or maybe I just choose to notice it now. Whatever the case, the fact remains that there ARE a damn sight more ways I can improve my situation … if I’ve got the guts to go about making actual changes.

I don’t stop to think about things like this too often. Those were the bad old days; now, I prefer to obsess over things like politics, kittens and writing. I’ve narrowed down the types of exercise I actually like to engage in, as opposed to what burns off the most calories. I drink what alcohol is appealing to my taste – a rare concession, but this is Captain Morgan Original Spiced rum we’re talking about, here.

(Mixed with diet coke, it’s the praline green triangles found in Quality Street packs.)

And maybe this has been the problem. My new therapist certainly seems to think so. It is her belief that, in burying my head in other activities over the years, I’ve managed to shutter-down in a comfortable / complacent state of slow progression towards recovery, while not actually addressing the underlying problems. Her point now, is to find out what makes me tick; to help me push against boundaries again, so this Thing will be kicked into touch for good.

One of her aims is something that my landlady happens to advocate, too – “living in the moment.” Well, I always thought I was fairly good at this, since it seems I almost *hear* Time passing these days, and am frantic to get as much done as possible –
Oh.

See?

So, we’re going over my life with a fine-toothed comb, defining what I Want to Do v.s. What I think I Should do. Like stripping woodbine from around an oak tree, we’re gradually pulling away the ingrained tendencies that I thought were personal characteristics – parts of me that I don’t particularly like, with beliefs and ideals that now ring hollow. This is a very destabilizing thing, like the end of a relationship – gazing around, you wonder which items belong to who? Flicking through your iPod, you try to find a song that is not relevant to the partner who has been as much a part of your life as breathing. You wonder if any books on the shelf, will not hold a reminder of them.
You wonder where the parts of yourself that are unequivocally You, have gone off to.

A similar project took place as part of group therapy place on one of the eating disorders wards. We were tasked with rediscovering our true selves – what did we like to do, which might compromise the illness and challenge its place in our lives? What were the activities we engaged in which, on reflection, were not so enjoyable after all, but felt mandatory to existence?
More to the point – who were the people we looked up to, respected, admired? What had our childhood lives focused on, which made us feel secure and happy?

At first, as ever, cloud-shadows made more sound while passing along the carpet, than the people huddled on the circle of chairs. After some prodding, there were the usual expressions of admiration for top athletes, an inclination for high-impact / energetic sports. One staff member – I remember her face and name so well, we nicknamed her The Sergeant – cocked a very deliberate eye at us all.
Nope. You’ve got to try harder than that.

Eventually, we did get some more credible answers from everyone, myself included. The trouble was getting past the guilt that snarls up the throat, when expressing a preference for something that is unconnected to the rigid routines that were at once unique to us when played out as symptoms, and wholly universal in terms of the disordered mindset of self-worth. Speaking to others who have recovered from, or are in recovery from anorexia, I’ve learned that the fear of “punishment” from the voice in the mind, is all too real. It got to the point where, at my lowest state of health, I did not dare write or speak a single bad word against the illness, or complain about how tired / ill I felt, in case It – whatever It was – sought revenge. Exercise and starvation were not a “punishment” for my body and mind – they were there to keep me safe from distracting emotions and thoughts.

Such is the way of the starved mind. Perspective is hard to come by, when wrapped up in tightening wires.

For my part, I defined exercise as fulfilling only in terms of how it made me feel worthy of being alive, with a valid reason to eat. When we broke past that, I finally admitted to an admiration of, and a desire to keep the grace that is synonymous with ballet, rather than how it might rid me of food.

When the question was put to me, Could you engage in a less vigorous activity, which holds the same amount of poise? – I fell silent.

Those who were at the stage of awareness which I live in now, were more open and original with their answers. Artists such as Van Gogh and Bernini were cited as important influences; pastimes that could be classified as being more “sedentary” than “active”, were given as methods of entertainment and relaxation. Listening to them, I found myself at once inspired and repulsed. It took me back to the old journals I have been keeping since age 11; filling each page nestled between the pretty tooled covers with the flux-flow of adolescence. Letters exchanged with classmates are stuck inside, kept safe in their envelopes, along with tablet-sized pictures from an afternoon spent wandering around the old Clay Pits of my home town, under a pewter sky and among dry-rattle grass, with the gang of peers who were my best friends and confidantes. Pressed flowers and leaves; swatches of fur, plucked from barbed wire fences, with identifying scrawls beside. It’s all there – the map of my childhood and teen years, done up in sensory pockets of memory. Needless to say, once I was out of therapy, I asked my mother to bring those journals up on her next visit. Poring over them brought back such a sense of Self – the person I once was – that when I cried, it felt like the release that had been waiting behind my eyes for some time.

But it is not healthy or beneficial, to stay stuck in the past. Had I tried to reclaim that youth without progressing forward, I wouldn’t be at this stage of life now – suddenly aware of new possibilities, new interests which, while influenced by the old, are sure to take me off on a myriad different paths.

There is a balance that must be found between body and mind – I’ve spent too long trying to separate one from the other, believing that I can push through shock, fear, illness and the like, to continue a workout even while dying inside. Such was the case in 2005, when a relative of mine was killed in a road traffic collision; when my mother sent the text, I was standing in the gym changing rooms with trainers laced on my feet, and a painful heart. I lasted all of two minutes on the treadmill, before breaking off in a cold sweat of mingling fear, self-disgust and the inexpressible sorrow of losing a loved one. That I could not finish the workout because of the latter, didn’t occur to me then. I just felt like a failure.
Perspective, huh.

*

I have suddenly woken to the realization that we are, undeniably, halfway through the year. Summer is here. Each time I lift my head from studying an article on my phone, or unplug my ears from whatever’s winding out of the iPod, it is to be hit with something akin to the wide-eyed amazement of a child on its first trip outdoors. Every sense has been triggered anew by what is growing and living outside; things appear refreshed and fulfilled, as though lifting themselves from the pages of a pop-up book. The golden bars of sunlight falling between sepia shadows of woodland, are almost solid; smells which long lay dormant throughout chill winter and muddy spring, now make a harlequin of the air.

I am all the more keenly aware of the kinetic world, for my absence from it for some time. As ever, this obsessive personality has had its way in taking me a bit too far down the road. In researching the wide world – its politics, its economics, its cultures and religions and all the lives that fit in between – I had somehow lost myself along the way. Looking around, I find the myriad tiny changes that have happened without my noticing them – the twins are a bit taller, the days are longer (while slipping quietly back downhill), the woodlands are full of tree shadows and glittering glades. I have missed those routes through the wilder places of the world – such is the way of an independent life spent as a perma-pedestrian, that I tend to walk everywhere to save money, and so spend a lot of time on the cobbled pavements and heavy-tang tarmac. This gets the dull chores and the shopping done … but it is a bit of a snorefest, and my phone holds a ream of worlds, waiting in literature and friendships formed through social media and a meeting of minds.

But in detaching myself all too often from where my body is, I’ve found stagnation when it comes to writing. I don’t know about you, but I can no more set out a scene that is lacking sensory angles, than I could live off a diet of paper and stick-lines. There is only so much we can glean from literature, from the language of others, before there is a need to experience such things for ourselves – to head out under a murderous sky, to know the rise of hair along our arms and the rise-fall of fear and anticipation in the chest, with the low chuckle of thunder. When the faces around us are little more than absent moons, who are we to draw characters from?

Then there is a need to to go outside of our comfort zones, to strike a match of creativity. Forcing the hand to march out line after line of words to fit some count or another, is a futile exercise when there is little emotional context to fall back on. The writing process itself becomes arduous.

In point of fact, this entry began in the stop-start manner that has come to define my writing process over the past few months. Where once the words were as oil over ice or a skein of geese thrumming home, they are now husky, rattling cough of an old man, the tottering steps of a newborn. I think I’ve become too aware of myself in writing, in the way an actress may be struck with stage-fright with the glare of lights in her eyes. In trying to remember her lines, to avoid fucking up, she forgets those lucid moments of presence that were found in front of the mirror and in rehearsals, alone and with others, awake and asleep, when the purest joy was knowing the merest trace of an expression would carry to the farthest members of the audience.

Is it possible to feel claustrophobic inside your own mind, while at the same time locked out of your own soul?

A child is singularly powerful in knowing its own wants and needs, its likes and dislikes. I like to observe this in my landlady’s twins. They are two of the most charming, intelligent and inquisitive children I have ever known, and I have great respect for their mother in raising them towards this yin/yang balance of personalities. While they are very close, they are not obsessed with one another; they can be apart, though prefer to keep within each other’s zones of awareness. But it is a wonderful thing to watch their very different preferences at work.

Winter moon can chase summer sun across the sky forever, and never truly know her face; summer sun may ask for the coolness of that crescent blue, and never really learn to bask in its shade. But still, they are in keeping with one another, and between them they share the world. While one will exert authority in a golden rise of temper and laughter, the other – with a curve of a smile and the quietest wit – will unpick the sibling’s fine points, until they are at odds with each other and in so subtle a manner that you would think a spider makes more noise upon its web.

Night and day, I like to call them. Into everything, and bringing a fresh perspective to each others’ lives through their different observations … and to mine. I had no real interest in children before meeting these two, but they are just small adults in waiting. Sometimes, one will say something to the other – or to the open air, the wide-eye sky – and it will make me stop and stand still, listening to the thrum of my heart and the wavering heat of the day, the lake-heart silt of evening.

I think they are old souls. I intend to learn from them – to become part of the “moment” that their mother speaks of, and my therapist is urging me to engage with by occasionally shutting off from the world, to be quiet and still, to come back from whatever country my mind has travelled to in reading a story or article. To live inside myself, without the distractions of radio and music, literature and technology. Language becomes the sifting of dust motes, the trail of reacting to a shift in the light and the air of a room. The heaviness of buddleia sprays, their thick liquorice smells and buzzing acquaintance of bees, are as chapters to read against a pastel sky.

It is no one else’s fault but mine, that what may begin as a pleasurable experience should turn into an inability to switch off. But switch off I must, from time to time, and disappear to regain that sense of Self; to know the various shades of Time, outside of a quick-scrolling platform of social media and reading material. There’s a need for us all to escape our own heads once in a while, or to be alone inside them. If nothing else, it will save me from any more bruises – a throwback to childhood, when walking home from school with my head in a book, saw me collide with as many lamp posts as brick walls. I’m fairly sure that anyone in possession of a mobile device, has been through this rather embarrassing / painful experience themselves.

So. As it is now a golden Sunday evening, and I have finally completed this overlong entry, I am going to bugger off outside for a walk, sans mobile and iPod. When all is said and done, we have enough responsibilities and expectations on our time, without putting pressure on ourselves to always Be Somewhere, Saying Something. In switching off, we come back refreshed, and with far more to say to the world and the page. We gain experience to fill out the words, and – in taking a step back – can assess the larger picture. All the small efforts of others, their words and actions which are done for our benefit, suddenly make a lot more sense.

Guten abend.

Ocean Floor

I walk along it, feet sifting through the quietness of thoughts, the dreams of the fish, the silver-green of a life once known. They are but memories, a time and tide spent alone, with thoughts which would see me wake in the night – drowning in the salt of fears, long gone in another existence.

I was as then. I am as now. I am that is.

This is the woman, who has grown out of herself and into the light, dredging up from the darkest places we go to die alone, like animals, like the ones weary of the world and all its tawdry cuttings and fashions. I was bewildered as a child, flustered and fumbling to bring together the two integral halves of myself; the campaigner, the Green activist, the girl-child who would marry Swampy (if anyone) and live in a tree. My father despaired of my blackened feet; my mother fought with my hoarding of teaspoons and mugs on the windowsill, where I sat for hours to gape at the stars, singing quietly to the cats and the night, because that blue-black garden was all I could really understand. The bitterness of acorns, flushed out on the grass; the snails, making their sticky-wind ways over the trellis and the cracked paving, where my two black ‘n white moggies and two Birmans came and went, came and went, like pale ghosts of tomorrow and aeons past – as only cats will.

Such a hard thump in the chest; such an ache in the throat, to watch the sun go down on my own tomorrows. There seemed no way of bringing this wilder side of myself into a harmony with the woman I also wanted to be – the one who would follow men with her eyes (when not running blind from their own), because she did not trust the boys of her own age to give a straight answer, or to have more than a handful of nonsensical words strung together, usually with a cigarette latched on the lip between. Shaven skull, swipe-card eyebrow. Those were the 90’s, dear friend, and no lover of mine.

Barring one. He was a boy who stood out and apart, for a cynical – stark? – aged-beyond? – view of the world. He who had already read Lord of the Rings cover-to-cover, he who knew the meaning of Silence in a Sound, and could play guitar like a woman who weeps at beautiful art on the wall. All the usual hipster nonsense, you would find yourself thinking, but for the other integral parts thrown in – none of which I will reveal here, for his name is my secret to keep forever, like so much else in my life

(shadows on the wall)

and a scepticism far pre-dating our shared age and Year group. It was for this in particular that I loved him, the first love of three, outside male family members, which is of course the difference between Experience and Instinct. Well, for me anyway.

(I love my father dearly. But we are not, and have not always been friends.)

This scepticism, which would see him ground me in truth – all my mad-dash words and high-flying ideals, making a prey of my mind when I should have been working on something important, like coursework, or growing up, or indeed – eating enough to stay alive. When I told him that I thought it would be good for my body if I trained that bit harder, since exercise can only be a good thing – right? – he didn’t say a word.
Just looked me up and down, as a male friend with bird-bones reflected in his eyes, and raised a brow.

I listened to him, where I ignored others. When his breath fell on my cheek that night by the bonfire, it was knowledge of what could never be, but would last beyond words.

I don’t forget the ones I have loved, and they have numbered few. Three. My favourite number. Each one finding himself at some point in my life, strung like turquoise on this lifeline which has seen me evolve, beyond girl-activist to anorexic-shadow, to …well, me.

I have never looked for love. It always finds me first, usually when I am engaged in hiding from something or another
(reality.)

I am still trying to find the strands which will mesh those integral parts of me. The girl who walked with bare feet and climbed trees, is still inside. Still a focus, though she has lost her way and walked upon thorns recently, into a city of concrete and numbers. The world of men … I’m not sure it is for me.

Liebe –
I told you before, and should have paid heed to my own words. These dreams we have, they die in the dawn, for our time is the secret of shadows; only to be resurrected in the stars we make and fashion as our own.
Perhaps I have tried too hard to be you. When all I have ever worked towards is to be your equal, if such a thing were possible; to walk by your side, to know what to say, when in fact I should remember who I am –
What you might have found –
Whatever. I don’t know. It is hard to walk in concrete shoes. I am more at home in the twilight woods, after all. I have neglected my friends, sad to say, though they have rallied around me this week, in a time of whiteout and despair, when I thought I had lost you and myself forever.

When I thought the past would take me, after all.

But 3am horrors are just that. They are a cut in the fabric, to be stitched back together. I have a referral from my GP, to begin seeing a therapist again. The first in almost a decade. There is no other way forward, though I swore I’d never go back down that twisting path again; they have promised me regular sessions.

I only want to be who I am. If not happy – I could never be wholly that, it wouldn’t suit my Mercy Street to be flooded in constant sunlight – then unique. And if not your equal, for I doubt I could ever achieve that, then at least an outlet –
A waiting silence –
A word where needed –
A love and lover, without need for vehement claim. You are the last, and beyond this is nothing I have need of. I can go without love if it is not returned; without emotions, without that which would hold me back from writing and wandering and walking the lamplight haven.

Those who happen to fall in beside me, are welcome enough. But I ask only for you. As I once asked of the other two, one of whom went with me a-ways and as my friend only; it was all he had to give, and for those years of adolescence, we were close as afternoon shadows in the clay-pit hawthorn.

Of the next, I still have regret; such bitterness at the failings of my own heart. I am a chameleon of sorts, prone to latching onto people whom I admire / respect, taking that which seems appropriate for me to have – sucking them dry, perhaps, before discarding them.
Yes, that is how I view myself. An emotional virus. An amoeba. A girl who would become a woman, learning and filching experiences and hobbies and interests along the way. Because I have had so much growing up and catching up to do, and those five years together, they were lessons learned in the green-gold of a watery forest, full of red kites and walks; the drift of snow, with the lace-up pain of my numb fingers

(his own warm ones, wrapped about mine to protect the tips)

and at last, the open bowl of the pewter sky, spun out from the Downs in a seemingly endless day of tomorrows. We didn’t plan for the future, for what was then, that is not Now?

Now You. Now there is Stars, and sometimes-silence; companionable, desperately-seeking, or waiting for the storm to break. There is a little black kitten, with oceans for eyes. There is a strand of toxic beauty on the ground, the petrol rainbow that most would not look twice at, but which details my version of love, all around the block.

There is Watching my Step. There is Stepping this way, You the other; the feral dance of cats, the Whose turn is it Next?

I grin even as I write it.

There is nothing for me, beyond a blue rose held in the palm, carried wherever I go. Whatever you might think, whatever you may doubt in the world, don’t let it be me.

I owe everyone a huge Thank You for this week.
(Danke Schon.)
I have perhaps tried to be in too many places at once, with interests strung up on a crossbar, pulled apart with the pressure of being so many versions of Me at once. It isn’t healthy. I should know this by now, after long experience. This is the problem with gaining weight, and becoming well. My mind is a hive. It never lets up; there is always something new to read, someone’s life to learn.

How best to meld the pieces of myself? How best to write about the contemporary world which engages my interest, and the natural / supernatural worlds which engage my soul?

Truth is, I still don’t know. Which might explain why I took a leap at the European elections, and voted the Green Party for a change. Though I knew little about them, I am always willing to learn, and it seems that their policies are at least something I can believe in, head and heart both.

Which I guess summarizes what I am really after. Some kind of unity. When I failed before – faced with the onslaught of the adult world, while backed by the twilight of childhood

(the wilderness of wandering, the bittersweet tang of the hawthorn’s breath)

I turned away, and took up the pale life of anorexia instead. It was easier not to think. Just to dial my mind down on calories and exercise, to block out what would send me into silent-screaming pain. It also meant I did not have to face the world, and growth. I could protest innocence, could deny all knowledge, could claim to be immune from it all – because I was too unwell to focus. People leave you alone when you are skeletal. They are too afraid of breaking you, even with a hug.
Or so I had hoped. It didn’t quite work out that way, which is a long walk in itself.

(Life by Extremes.)

Well. I’ll figure it all out one day. In the meantime, have a song.

This time of year has become synonymous with loss, for me. Last year, around June, my ex and I were booted out of our little flat, which had been my first “home”, and a haven of freedom. We had ploughed our money and time into building up that sanctuary, piece by artistic piece. But all things must move towards their end, it seems.

So. It is raindrops strung like beads in the trees; it is lush wet grass, and glistening leaves. It is a thick heaviness of air, as though the world holds its breath. I remember waking up on the last morning, clutching the sheet to my chin and staring at the lemon walls – blank by then, all the posters taken down, to reveal pock marks in the too-thin plaster, the hollow walls – with the finality of tears sliding down my face. Too many to count, last year.

But that was then. This is Now. And though the future is as tilted and uncertain as ever, it is at least mine to take. No shitty landlords (quite the contrary; my landlady is a tall and elegant diamond of a woman), and a slight easing of the pain which filled up my boots with each step, leaving little puddles behind wherever I walked.
He will always be my best friend, so long as he would have me there.

And Liebe – you?
That is your word to make, and your own Mercy Street to walk. The water lies quiet and still, yet.

I hope I haven’t missed anything out. This post has been building up for some time. All I will add is this – if you have not yet checked out the #YesAllWomen hashtag, you must. I have been stung by flashbacks this week, reading through other women’s experiences of assault and abuse, but it was essential reading. I needed to know the names of other sufferers; I needed to know I am not alone, and for all my talk of “recovery”, that I have some way to go yet.

Therapy. Morrissey help me. This will be fun 😉

Fantasia, my theme

I often have need to go back and read what has already been written, to know myself again. Life, in all its humdrum ways – the livelihood vs. the career, the grind vs. the mind – too often makes for a harlequin tapestry of discomfort, wherein I am lost at frayed corners and stretched too thin across time. I’m sure plenty of you know what I am talking about. Bilbo Baggins said it far better than I could, anyway.

Listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis/Vaughan Williams (Eugene Ormandy & Philadelphia Orchestra), this synaesthetic mind is at once jarred with the striations of strings, and soothed by the feather-touch of woodwind. It is a favourite piece of mine. At once achingly bitter and fiercely sweet, it is the knowledge of Pain in accidentally biting the inside of your cheek; finding a rawness of blood so rich in sensation, never to be forgotten or wanted again…
Yet you can’t help sticking your tongue back inside the wound, to know that ecstasy. To live, to feel.

This is my Everyday. Experiencing such highs and lows of mood, it’s almost unbearable to be awake. But I would take it all – this sudden loneliness (this harsh aversion to company) this slalom-run of I Want and Can’t Have vs. (Would I cause such Grief)? – over the flatline that was my existence before. Those planed, silken-grey years … all colours muted, all ruffles smoothed away, with excuse after excuse. Such pleading of reluctance, such Oh, I am ill, so can’t go through with such-and-such. It’s too much, for little me.

No. Not there again. Nowadays, I clamp down on the bit and pull hard, for this is life as I choose it to be – my burdens, my joys, and ultimately, my choices. Back then, I would always fall back on someone else’s opinion. In hospital, I would look for approval from the staff before taking a bite of what was put in front of me; at home, I would consult my mother before daring to defy the anorexia-bitch, in plonking myself down for a (momentary) rest. My own opinions and choices didn’t count, since they could only ever be delusional, and wrong.
(I was a lazy fucker, right? So why should I deserve respite?)

It was this way, long before anorexia. At once defiantly craving individuality, and desperately afraid of not fitting in, I somehow conveyed myself along a middle-ground for years. It was easier in childhood, when only the approval of my family mattered – they were the stable foundation, after all. Until it all split down the middle with my parents’ divorce, and some sentiments were made known which threw me into such confusion, I couldn’t open my mouth to ask – Why?

When you think you have known someone as Fact, the universe is inverted when it turns out that they were a Fiction of your ideal.

It is easier not to probe certain wounds; I prefer to divert attention from worries of my own, onto somebody else’s. Whatever is troubling me will even itself out on its own (most of the time.) It’s like the cat-walking-on-a-fence thing; if I don’t concentrate too hard, I won’t fall off. So I don’t weigh myself now, and try not to count calories; most of the old routines have fallen away, quite without my knowledge. There are simply too many other things to think about, which is faintly funny – my mother always said it would be so.
Distraction has always been key, whether through education, writing, origami, or the often-futile pursuit of one doomed infatuation/love after another.

Until something strikes you behind the eyes – makes your mind pale with the fear of loss – you don’t realize what it could mean to your soul. What it might mean for your future, such as it is. I don’t plan things anymore. Nothing beyond a week. To have lived, to have survived this long, is precious enough in the newfound folds of life, where I find so many interesting things, once hidden away across the world. Infatuation begins with a glance, turns to a darkened eye, to a mind dialled down on details –

To wondering what comes next. When the moment has passed, and you realize that actually, it was never only infatuation in the first place.

And the very real terror of this, of knowing that you can never be the same again; that the story has changed, the narrative rewritten to accommodate a fresh twist. When you’re left staring into the water that runs a hell of a lot deeper than first supposed, when you’d dipped in a toe and felt the most gorgeous shiver through the mind.
But it wouldn’t end there. And with it comes the responsibility of knowing what will happen when you throw yourself in –

Because I don’t do anything by halves. Anorexia was not the only conduit for a monochrome soul, for a love of extremes – of pushing myself to the last count of breathlessness, when it seems that the pain will be too much –

So it goes. The moods are my way of saying, Hey. I’m alive – as you are, in me.

I have had a tumultuous relationship with the weather from day one. Being an outdoors-person, I won’t be found hiding indoors when the sky dials down – indeed, there is a thrill to be had in facing off with those nimbus, with a savage mood of my own; to crouch and wait, to hold my breath and my silence, until the break –

But these moods never last long, for all that the weather is as playful a beast as I am. When the world is tearing itself apart – as it seems to be ever more so these days – it will watch with me as the Way of Things goes drifting into the drain, with the petrol rainbows.

We are all of us racing to earth with the world and the sky in our arms, at times of love and loss. It is only when “normality” returns that we shake the droplets from our hair and our lashes, look around and give a rueful little laugh, embarrassed and relieved at once. It is always funny to watch people try to rationalize what they have seen, what has been and gone, in the flare of a lightning strike –
A jolt to the senses –
A crash of the mind –
A head, lowered to the pillow of grass, eyes flickering out and soul wandering away, as though it had dropped something from its pocket and would spend the rest of Eternity trying to find that glint again.

The weather draws me out when I would only hide away, as the world runs on, indifferent as and to the stars, which are shaped and reformed and called Our Own. It is the green-black clouds, the swirling of silt; heart-heavy in the eye of the storm, where we find our silence.

And, walking the lamplight haven with boots that are falling apart, a head glossy and dark as a beetle’s back, I am almost-alone and wary, caught up in the language of the wind that rattles the teeth of the trees overhead. The hazy orange glow stitched about each lamp’s face, is a halo of men and a world of tomorrows.

But those stars, they have other plans.

The cathedral draws me out too, in dust and tears. My head will come undone, spooling out across the floor with all I hold dear; pockets that are often overstuffed are finally turned inside-out, to be picked through and sorted to some semblance of sanity.

Staring into the gypsy-scarf swirl of oil and birdshit on the black-gold water, I am ancient and newborn, in a park full of walls and babies.

I will sit with my back to the wall, up in this eyrie heart, to watch the dark freckles of rain and that strange light seeping in through the glass. An iron-tang smile will find my lips.

And the Little Black Kitten? Oh, he knows the weather all too well, that one; curled about my feet, with a raised brow and a loving gaze.

Blog: “Open Your Eyes (Little Black Kitten)”

For as long as I can remember, I have had dreams in monochrome. Subtle shades of silver and grey, which linger between the stark realities of black and white (which for so many years ruled the waking moments of anorexia.) To sleep is to find another world, away from the harlequin quilt of everyday life, and somewhat similar to the muted shades of the feline eye. It is like wandering through a moonlit garden, wreathed in silver mist and soft with deep shadows, crosshatched over with the raking fingers of a tree flung out over a black-diamond sky.

As a child, I would linger at the end of every sunlit Mercy Street washed over in dust and silence, garbage and sunlight-gold. Aching eyes of heartbreak envy, for being born into a human body; I would watch the tails of the neighbourhood cats, as they disappeared around corners too narrow for me to follow.

Though on occasion, I would try. Squeezing through the green and gold light of trees, through their sticky sap and whispering cobwebs; under scratchy wooden fence posts and over crumbling brown bricks of some forbidden garden
(barbed wire to the cheek) –

To find a place not quite of my world, one I could never hope to know, much less possess with the paws of the inevitable hunter. Instinct wins out over even the most domesticated feline, in the wild-barred haven of some secret glade, in a dim alleyway formed of tired walls and black- gold bracketing sunlight and shadows. Flickering flies, like the embers of a pagan fire.
A mind full of sudden silence.

Back then, it was easy enough to follow the cats through the clock and back to childhood, to a time more innocent – in the sense of being unaware of the dark places of the world, and within.

She pictures the broken glass
She pictures the steam
She pictures a soul
With no leak at the seam
– Peter Gabriel, “Mercy Street”

The world of Felis silvestris catus.

I have often wondered how an adult cat might explain the ways of the crepuscular life to its kitten-child. Would it sing as a nursery rhyme, the lines of Yeats’ “The Cat and the Moon?”

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.

The thought returned again, while stuck in the sterility of last week’s waiting room. Time was making his usual slow shuffle about the clock face, muttering to himself with hands deep in his pockets. I flipped through a stack of books left out on the long table, ostensibly for the benefit of their infant target audience, but most likely well-thumbed through by the adults who, with fidgety fingers and frayed nerves, sought the same distractions.

Little Black Kitten
Courtesy of @CuteAnimal_Pics

Almost unbearably cute. I found this image on Twitter, though sadly have no photographer to credit. There’s the all-important hint of pathos around the eyes, the tilt of the head – typical of those small things in the world, who know damn fine that they will have you wrapped around their paw / little finger, soon enough. The image was simply called, “Little Black Kitten.”
This is his story.

Since children are more likely to respond to stories which feature protagonists who are of a similar age / stage of development, I wondered if the same might be said of a kitten.

There are the physical size / spatial awareness aspects to consider. A kitten is small in relation to the world around it. Everything from the vibrations of human feet, to the soft bumbling forms of litter-mates, will be processed by still-developing senses. The world is large, and full of odd shapes and smells. A kitten audience will find themselves reacting on a sensory level to the observations of a protagonist around their own age, based upon similar experiences – this in turn develops an engagement with the narrative, and an understanding of the plot.

“I can see the big yellow sun smiling in the window,” said Little Black Kitten. “The sky is blue around him.”
He lifted his pink nose and took a long sniff.
“I can smell the red flowers,” said Little Black Kitten.

There is the feeling of bewilderment and fear, which can cause a kitten to cry out in the plaintive mew for its mother, who responds with a reassuring burr/chirrup, distinctive from her normal purr. A typical situation might be caused by seeing the sun and the moon for the first time, and feeling afraid of their size and omnipresence:

Little Black Kitten put his paws over his green eyes. He hid his pink nose under his long fluffy tail.
“I do not want to open my eyes. The sun is big and yellow in the window,” said Little Black Kitten. “I am scared of the sun.”

The response of the parent is important, both in text and reality. There is a need, not to overload the kitten with information, but to make it aware of the basic facts / positive and negative aspects of its surroundings, in order for it to appreciate the benefits and the dangers:

“But the moon stays up in the sky, Little Black Kitten,” said Daddy Cat. “Her white light shines in the dark. She will make your green eyes glow, so that you can see. All of your friends who have been asleep in the day, will come out to play.

But you must never go outside into the garden on your own, Little Black Kitten,” said Daddy Cat. “You might become lost…I will be with you.”

The title, “Little Black Kitten,” was taken from the original tweet on which the image was posted. It has a lovely mnemonic rhythm to it when spoken aloud, due to the presence of consonance and assonance in the /t/ /l/ and /i/ phonemes, respectively. The repetition of these sounds can create a “handle” on which the audience can fix when reading aloud, as a way of “staying in touch” with the protagonist. They are also beneficial for teaching an awareness of eye-rhymes found in prose as well as verse; rather like developing an “ear for music”, this can help the audience to understand how some words sound better together than others, creating a natural “flow” of words, when writing for themselves.

Alliteration, assonance and consonance can form mnemonic patterns when used in stories aimed at a young kitten audience. They can help with learning and remembering names, keywords and high frequency words, which a kitten may use in everyday life when speaking or reading alone / aloud.

In Helen Stratton-Would’s book, “Who Stole the Moon?”, alliteration and consonance are used to create both a memorable and rhythmic “flow” in the protagonist’s name and the syntax:

Bertie Brown is a very lucky boy. He has a skylight in his bedroom, which means he can see the sky when he lies in his bed. He can see birds, the clouds and aeroplanes, but most of all he likes to lie and look at the moon.” – pg 1, “Who Stole the Moon?”, Helen Stratton-Would.

While the presence of complex sentences in the narrative can appeal to more advanced readers – thus broadening the target audience – it is best at this early stage of literacy, to make the story accessible to as many young readers as possible. This means relying more on simple and compound sentence structures, to allow kittens to develop their reading at a steady pace and learn to trust their own initiative, while making progressive gains from one book to another:

“When I say pull, said Dad, “I want you to pull!”
Mum pulled and pulled, but the stump didn’t come up.
– pg 9, “The Old Tree Stump,”, Roderick Hunt / Alex Brychta

“Are you sure?” asked Bertie, unsure that something as big as the moon could be hidden by clouds. “Yes,” said the wise owl. “If you lie in your bed tomorrow night and gaze out of your skylight, I am sure you will see the moon.” – pg 31, “Who Stole the Moon?”, Helen Stratton-Would.

Repetition of words that are key to the plot, can help to imprint the essence of a story on the mind of the audience. For example, the verbs “pull/pulled” and “push/pushed” are used frequently in “The Old Tree Stump”, to highlight the actions taken by the characters in removing the old stump, via oppositional force:

Dad called Mum to help.
“I’ll push it. You pull it,” said Dad.
“When I say pull,” said Dad, “I want you to pull!”
Mum pulled and pulled, but the stump didn’t come up.
– pgs 7-9, “The Old Tree Stump”, Roderick Hunt / Alex Brychta

These verbs, when used in conjunction with one another, would give the kitten-audience a basic understanding of how the words and their relevant actions can have an antonymous relationship (e.g. in weight training, with the lifting and lowering of a weight = the flexion and extension of an arm joint.)

Colours and objects are key words in the narrative. With their repetition, the audience can learn to associate one with the other, in their natural state and habitat (e.g. green grass in the garden, yellow sun in the blue sky, etc.) This helps the audience to connect what they are reading about with their own surroundings, as well as increasing awareness of which colour fits its relevant noun (of particular use here would be coloured fonts in the text, to pick out grapheme-phoneme connections.) Such objects can perhaps be used in word-games such as point-and-name.

While turning this story over in my mind, in that waiting room of Old Man time, there was one feature of the narrative which I kept returning to: the reassuring tone. Planting the idea in the mind of the audience, that to face up to fears does not automatically mean going it alone – though it might seem the more difficult path to take, especially when the easier option is to sleep on, unaware. To keep your eyes closed.

I tried this tactic for a long time. It didn’t work. The world doesn’t go away, nor does it stand still; it moves on, regardless of whether we are looking or not, in the natural progression of things. Change must happen for any progress to be made.
Which was how I found myself that day, waiting to pick up the results of a second biopsy. They were clear, by the way. A cyst, and nothing more appalling than perhaps another needle.

Still, had I not gone for (yet another) checkup, I would have lived with that shadow-burden for a while longer, and – had the results been less agreeable – perhaps a worse outcome.

Time resumed his forward march. I can find the lancing gold sunlight again, walking my Mercy Street, where for a while only shadows had lurked.
Now with one Little Black Kitten, for company.