It is a still morning. I’ve seen a pair of female blackbirds meet on the top of the telephone pole, and fly off together into the still moonlit, blue morning. A neighbour is up – I can hear the runoff water from their shower. The last of the Monoprix decaf is brewing in the cafetiere. I’ve slept fitfully after a few too many glasses of wine (Montepulciano and then Sauvignon, both vegan). My friend Chris is up early too, and we’re playing chess online. The window has been open all night and the air is clear and fresh and welcome, after the thunder-pressure. Misha, my cat, is sitting in the front room on the window sill, peacefully looking out through the smallest, cat’s-eye slit in the curtain, the neighbourhood snoopy that she is. I brush her. She pushes back at me. I leave her to get the coffee and open my laptop, only five hours after going to bed and committing myself to ten days without turning it on. But this is not work, today, and I have no fear of obligations. There is still doubt about if I am doing the right thing or not. But there is more love, and love wins out.
My mouth feels itchy and blotchy on the teeth, as I didn’t brush last night—the electric toothbrush K gave me is still in the wicker drawer in the bathroom. All night I have been thinking, sometimes dreaming, of the things that I cried about last night. My father, missing, and what I am still missing, that person to encourage, care for, teach me about life and growing up. And what he is missing: a son to help him continue to find a way to live into old age, a son to be proud of. And the other thing I was weeping about: the pigs in the trucks on their way to the meat-packers, boiling over in the 45 degree heatwave because pigs have no way to sweat to cool them down, so they are dying in agony in the heat; and the love and grace of the people from Toronto Pig Save and the other city Pig Saves who meet them at the traffic lights on the way to feed them water and watermelon to relieve them in their agony.
As it says on the Free from Harm website, the first and last act of mercy and kindness they will ever receive. The mercy and kindness I’ve been unable to show my father. The image of that cow in Farm Sanctuary’s video, newly born, literally seconds born, being dragged by the leg by a farmer away from its mother, the mother cow who ran after it, her young, her newborn, but who could not stop the farmer taking that cow and putting her into servitude, chained into a narrow milking cell for the rest of its life. The image of my father, homeless, bring dragged out of the shop doorway, a gutter. Continue reading
I feel anger in the face. It feels like a setting stone, very hard, very unmovable. It’s just below the skin, but it’s visible, like a face through a net curtain at the window. Below that, there’s frustration, and below that, fear. Fear, but not in being afraid of being hurt. When hurt happens, it never feels quite as bad as you expect (except if what hurts, you never expected). Rather, fear of being unable to change, fulfil potential, learn. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear that I don’t have the strength, that the life I want (‘want’—the certainty I want to be attached to, I suppose) is always just out of reach.
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, I felt bereft.
Sunday had been a great day—running, socialising, drinking, not really caring. As Pema Chodron might have noted, if she had seen me, I was blunting the edge of the difficulties I was feeling with easiness, alcohol, escape.
Then Monday was hung-over, a day of little achievement, except a good hour or so at the allotment and a bit of editing on the novel (so, some achievement) and then in the evening leaving drinks for a good friend, at a performance of her boyfriend’s short play. Another friend was there. I felt out of place because of her—hardened, uncomfortable—even if I was able to chat, be friendly, ‘normal’. An explanation follows. That night, they carried on for drinks, I went home. It’s easy.
Then the next (Tuesday) morning I felt stiff (from the running, and the alcohol) but also hardened by an anger directed towards this person and the feelings she stirs up in me. I was doing my usual morning writing, putting down on paper why I felt so tired, figuring it out, admitting that it was not the day of drinking or the PhD or anything else that was leaving me weary. It was the incredibly draining anger I was feeling—targeted at her, I first thought—leaving me weary, and all of the concomitant acts that such anger/fear leads to, such as overworking, not listening to the body, drinking too much—although this is very rare these days—ruminating endlessly on bitter tastes. I was writing about this and trying to find a better way to live a life with less of this draining energy, of what to do about this person, of committing to a writerly life, when this popped out of me: Continue reading
Last Friday I went for a job interview. It was for Lecturer in Creative Writing and English Literature at a northern city university, the closest thing we have to a liberal arts college in the UK. It’s a beautiful campus, city centre, opposite an ancient Roman wall (that T and I once walked along in 2008 on a day trip). I was an hour late for the interview after getting stuck in traffic, one part of which was due to an old caravan (the type you’d get at the bottom of a farmer’s field in a low-budget English tragicomic film) tearing in two down the middle, top to bottom, and scattering the owners’ belongings across the A19. And it went okay, it certainly wasn’t a car crash itself, but it comes at a very uncertain time, with lots of people I know in my current home city leaving or possibly leaving (the uncertainty itself is uncertain).
On 14th December 2007, on the train home from the interview at my current workplace, after being offered the job at the interview, I made a list of Pros and Cons to help me make up my mind of whether or not I would take the job. I sat down to do the same last night for this new job (not that I have been offered the role, but best to prepare!), after a weekend of not working but relaxing (Warkworth, beach walks, a bit of booze and chocolate and then dozing in bed with a book all Bank Holiday Monday morning), and couldn’t get my head around it, so made a new image-poem from cut outs from the newsprint magazine on Translation I picked up in the foyer while waiting for the interview to begin. (I’ll post it later once I get it to the scanner; left it at home this morning). The poem itself circles back around these issues of craft, self, personality and construction—what actions do we take that constructs a self, what decisions do we make?—but more than the output, it is the process of crafting, that clears the mind to then be able to move on and progress. Crafting as a spiritual practice, as is this writing, as is running, and as is time spent with friends. A couple of interesting questions from friends over the last few days: Continue reading