Brushes


Seaside. Broadside, wide-angled lens. There is a straight line against the skyline. A tankard gives it a shipping lane on the white of the sky. A perfect line until you get there. Slightly elevated, it would be a curve, the shape of the planet. Gorgeous pale blues and the dots of birds provide some movement. Like the life guards training in their high viz oranges. If I were in Paris, you would see me there in the tree-lined boulevard of artists – next to the Seine – with other water colours, a canvas and a brush of words, while the poodles and their walkers stroll gently by.

© Rick Frame


Conversations


With the light, the bird song. The dawn brings life. You remind me to step outside to listen. When we were wildlife we too would have stirred on our earthen beds and looked out at the silhouette of the thorn tree, the morning shadow. The hearth, the only smouldering. The baby crying and snuggling closer to her mother’s warmth. These are the early years of flight or fight, our Stone Age brains, keeping us safe. Now our ancient memories, which the body remembers, are caged in modernity. Today we live without the sabre-toothed tigers, but it is scarier still – existential almost – in deep thought with our children – how they manage, navigate their lives and the tightrope walk. I know if my son were born black, I would be having another kind of conversation altogether.


Something before dawn

Strange how the body knows it is three in the morning. Like it wants to express something before dawn. It reminds of the title of a book – something about how the body remembers. As I sit here, my only companion silence – with no light yet from the east – it is on its way – the rage, on many fronts, smouldering. It is the hollow men again. Their vacuous words inflame. What sort of people do they think we are – was that Churchill? – to simply accept their lies. Mendacity on a national scale. They often take their bet on knowing most people go on with their human lives, deaf and blind or, perhaps for them, it is too much to bear. I hasten to say – sincere in trying to make their way. The obsessives, the fewer in a fever – maybe there are more – working with their outrage, some corralling it into words. Others in an anxious sweat, wondering out loud what the future holds. The bird song, the soundtrack, will land on our ears, the first aid for tired souls; and the coming rain – we have been parched for too long – greening the fields and valleys through which we will walk today.

South Coast, England, 6th June 2020

This Second of May

The first morning shadows touch the newly mown green, and tree outlines dancing, they scribble the wall. It’s almost like an early morning safari drive – without the big five and the open sightseeing truck, of course – with the dawn chorus of birds, using the wind like a bird gym. The chime of the six o’clock brings the other time to life. You’d be forgiven if you thought that this second of May was just like every other one, but even in the blue sky that wraps us up this morning, the big drop of blue over there, the menace does a different kind of drop in, like a thrown stone, splintering the window of the morning, shards everywhere. And the shadow of light moves on, like it has somewhere to go.

Only one place

The distance crossed brings me to only one place. I think love saves us. It draws us out and pulls us near. It speaks to us across time and space. It is there in our need. The wise consideration, aware of our suffering – like when the poet says we do not have to walk on our knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. It is in the place of giving that we receive. It calls us down from high rise ledges; it talks us out of roads we want to take. It walks us home when our serotonin is hung out to dry. It is in place at the window, where a butterfly visits. Love warms us up, sunning us, as we tube on rivers. It’s the laughter in the love. It saves us from ourselves, quickly bloated on thinking we are always right. It’s the smile in the love in the growing morning light. The familiar voice on the phone is the homecoming.


Unexpected

A butterfly came visiting today. My first thought was of Steve, braving the bleak northern midwinter. The garden was awash in sun, the dappled colours of the unexpected visitor even more glorious than on a summer’s day. The reds and blacks startled in the green and the calling at the window got me thinking of other visits from afar, always unexpected.


The skin of the dark

The light in the November morning mingles 
closely with the night. It struggles to shed the 
skin of the dark. It stills me these days,
the dread of it gone, 
this underworld, this shadow, this journey
inward to some kind of light.
And the understanding is different in this place,
without the glare of summer's publicity.
Here I can be quiet.
No flashlights, no paparazzi of false revelation
but a turning inwards,
a beginning of a level of depth of insight, with the night
touched by a pencil of light on a softer skin.

The unexpected

The light in October never seems to warm up.
The darkness gets to you. This light that is squashed.
Except the other day. We had sun washing us everywhere.
The unexpected visit of the blue of the sky and the joy of the Emperor.
Deep red, appearing at our window.
Just when I had said on the phone that we had seen 
the last of the butterflies.
Was this the last hurrah before the coming winter?

Naming it

It came to me in the car, travelling to work. This was no Zen moment really, just listening to a poet. They often hang round and surface stuff that you hadn’t really thought about in a while.

What he said, sizzled the skin. That time of darkness had taken me to a hard, tight and unyielding place. My mind had been buried alive.

It’s a long story, with pain so deep, but somehow I had come to a threshold and crossed over and saw in the dark, the light, the beauty and glory of my messiness.

That the wildness was now set free. That just naming it, helped.


Getting over

He said,
As a guide to getting over yourself,
you settle into yourself, rather than shooing away 
the troublesome things.
If it falls away, it does so by itself.
You cannot make it directly happen.

***
Settle. Stop for a moment.
The risk of surprise and staying present often unsticks us.
We do not, he said, have to be at the mercy of our neuroses.

***
And when you settle into yourself, remember:
How you talk to yourself is as important as how you speak to others.

Inspired by ‘Advice Not Given’ by Mark Epstein.