It’s the last day of August of quite the most dreadful year. There have been strings of them but this one takes the cake, getting all the Noddy badges. Today though, it has pulled out all the stops. Sun dive, blue line of sky, ship shapes, towards France and a warming sun. Promenading like there is no tomorrow. A dog barks in the distance. Yap. Yap. A speed boat splashes up in a great show off. The tide is high as am I, bottling this moment in a seawater page. I am at odds, light everywhere framed by darkness, momentarily positioning, as we get ready for the long haul flight to a nowhere bent out of hue.
It’s good morning, blue sky. A beautiful day on the Sunshine Coast. Strange how my heart is lifted by the silver bird heading south, way in the far distance, a vapour trail. That’s where we should have been next weekend. The great big south, all night across Africa, away from northern’s autumn. Mozart in my ear, a distraction from the cattle class, squashed, herded together, scrunched up knees. I would dream of Africa in the night, yellow Sahara, silent below. Then the rain forests and the great rivers, wild and wide and, at arrivals, the morning laughter and hustle, emerging into another blue sky with the promise of summer’s warmth holidaying in the sun, catching up, sounding local, all familiar, but now strangely foreign.
The lingering lightness of the memory of Aprils in Africa; it comes back to me in a half-dream of exquisite hope. I sit and scan the oceans. Thoughts came across the seas with the white horses. I yearn for the smell of Africa after the rain. I am intoxicated by the thought. The sun suddenly goes out and a cold wind catches the breath. The yearning for a place lost whispers me into my older life. Strangely I feel at peace and delight that I have had these experiences in a far-off land. The thought wraps itself around me in the rising mist of the English coast and I am reminded of the beauty of the world in the fading light.
Originally written in 2014. Slightly adapted.
It is hard to stop a falling tree. Like the moon, it can’t be stopped – it pulls the tide high up against the shore in a coalition with the wind. The river finds its own way seaward, you don’t need to push it. It’s like stuff we deal with. Trees fall everyday. Sometimes, if you listen carefully, you can hear the crack of the break, the warning shout. But not always – and you come across the surprise on the dead man’s face. Perhaps a sideways glance, a step, through sheer luck, a near miss. Maybe even grace. The inevitability – that nature has its way with you. You can rage against the storm and the wind but, for all the noise – and dare I say bluster – , they are shockingly deaf to your mood. Best just sit and wait it out. As they say, often annoyingly, lean in and the tree dances to the moon, eyeing only the sky.
Today, a dawning. Not in a-morning-has-broken kind of way, but a new awareness. Freedom to be – at last. A summer of riversides. Dropping out, luxuriously. The end of the collar and tie, constraining. The end of perpetual motion. The end of pressure lines. The beginning, the becoming, the big-eyed, the open-wide to new cycles of light. Each day can be made to feel like a Sunday – or any day of the week. The relish of Friday night food on a Monday. The end of being driven, emailed out. The end of being king of the classroom – after all this time, a small matter, it is time. A beginner’s mind the great enabler. A change, a chance, at last. Like rescuing the sunset before dark.
I can’t remember when last the wind howled like this. It simply will not let up. Yesterday, a walk on the seafront promenade was simply unbearable, I could not even hear my fellow walker and thought I would not want to go on fighting into it. Waking up now in the middle of the night – as you do – the normal silence, the peace of the house has gone. All I can hear is the rage, rage of the wind, – like the rage of the world – a foretaste of what is to come. Joy has gone. Virus troubles everywhere. Political tricksters pile in, blowing hot air of grief. The coming dawn, a reality of things to come. The sound of the kettle boiling, soothing, ready for an old brew.
An October day in August, 2020
Not returning is odd. Every working day for sixty two terms – and a bit in June, I have travelled the commute. Sunny days and flooded days, forded the river road in winter, witnessed the bluebells at the wooded edge. The road has narrowed with age, like the eyesight at night, particularly with the change of November clocks. The headlamps, the blinders then. That road with Terry Wogan in the morning, for years. That road, with playlists from the classics. That road, with panic attacks on bleak days. A road of memories. The road, I remember, caked in snow, gingerly navigating, wishing for a sleigh. Another time, a car heading straight for me, a realisation, a correction thankfully, metal on metal, scraping the nerves. Written poetry in my head, come to epiphanies, re-thinking a lesson – all on the road well-travelled. The best part, browning trees, emerging into green leaf and spring rising, rolling into an English summer, Diana Jones singing Better times will come.
Do you ever have a night of dreams, where you wake up tired from being so busy. The first waking from a dream was in the early hours. It was a relief to wake up, to know that the awful experience I had just been through was not real. It was one of my theme dreams – too dreadful to recount. Same theme but different place. This one, last night, was the worst. I woke up wondering what Jung would have made of it. Just now, I have woken again from a series of dreams. A box set. The best part was where I could jump quite high. I was leaving the building – not that I am Elvis, mind you. Strangely, I left with a broken phone. The entire screen had become shards. Once outside, the glass had become like toy puzzles in primary colours. All different shapes and sizes. The whole phone was in pieces. A bit like me until I woke up with another kind of jump.
In the scheme of things, in a cosmic way – Oh, I love to be dramatic – my life is as brief as lightning in the sky. We come to this blue planet for just a moment, squash all sorts of things into the length of a lifetime, fret and worry, feel hurt and pain, perhaps laugh a bit, feel love and warmth, and then we are gone. So, as we are mere flashes, go big. Set out, however long – there is incredible beauty in this breath, a wild life at heart, domesticated. I want to think I am more than a rag bag of stuff trying to make my life count, have meaning, having some kind of impact. Then I am nothing either. Just visiting, leaving my calling card of words for someone, some day, to say that this man was no poet although he thought he went as one.
“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside.”
Sky-break, blue-white, stand up paddlers drawn out against the wide-angled view. Sea-life in flight, v-shaped, really a trick of the eye. Wild-life squawk, almost scrapping, near the fishing boats. Silently, far towards France, the flat-bottom boats carrying cargo mark the line where the sky meets blue. The quality of the skylight impressive, the warmth pitch-perfect. Sea bracing, breath-catching, blue on blue, the delight on the child’s face, splashes everywhere. The odd wave, mellow really, hardly even bothering to lift itself on the picture-perfect light-drenched morning beach.