There’s a question in Steve Thorp’s 21 Soul module two material that simply asks: “What is something three times round?’ It connects with the material there of thinking of the self as an egg, with its three layers (shell, white, yolk) and the layers through which one has to travel, sometimes, to reach one’s inner sense of self, feeling, soul, call it what you will. This was my gut response to the question.
What is something three times round?
The grass outside the room in which we wrote was wet. She was there, stretching. I joined her. We began to stroll around. I remember how we spoke about the things we had come for: writing, work, to ensoul a sense of place. I remember her blue jumper, her bright eyes. She carried her cup of coffee, one each morning, it reminded me of an old housemate with blonde hair, surf water in her ears, forgetful sometimes of the fact she had a boyfriend, relying on her cup of coffee to help her remember (three times round in my head the Chemical Brothers’ song: Sunday morning, just woke up / can’t even focus on my coffee cup). We walked three times round one way, and then, I believe I said, that we needed to balance ourselves by walking the other way three times as well. I walked on the inside, and I remember bowing down a little to hear. I walked on the inside like I hug the steering wheel, like I sit close to walls and get tucked into tents. Like I sleep on the inside when sharing a bed.
When I was a child I moved my bed three times around the room into its different corners. By the window, along the wall next to the hall corridor, along the wall next to my mother’s bedroom. Trying out each new position for a few months, perhaps a year, keeping things feeling as if my dwelling were always moving, as my bones were growing, as my life was spreading out. I never, though, placed the bed in the middle of the room against the chimney breast, under the picture of the Oldsmobile rig splashing through surface water on a dark racing track (a boy’s room poster). Having the bed in the middle of the room would have felt alien; unprotected; a poor use of space. The idea of a bed in the middle of the room, as, I noted last night, it is in Frasier’s bedroom (on the TV series) worries me a little.
Each turning of the bed offered a different perspective, looking out as if from a crow’s nest onto a new glaze of bedroom-sea. No particular vantage was my favourite; they all brought different angles, sometimes peace, a thrum of excitement. I hoped each new position would bring me different dreams. I was not wrong. The one that reappears in my dreams now, the position from which I view my history, is with the bed by the window. It is there I remember having teenage sex with M; slightly older teenage sex with L; where I remember Sylvester biting my toes, coming in to sleep with me one more night before I went off to Australia, when I left home.
I have memories of the bed being in the other locations. Of going to bed with my headphones on listening to ELO on the Sony Walkman, waking up hours later with sore ears where I’d slept pressed into the headphones (the old, metal headband and out of ear, poorly covered earpieces wrapped in thin foam). And sometimes waking up around 4am and listening to Capital FM before school. Did I wake up purposefully to listen to the music, or did I wake at 4am because I didn’t sleep well and needed something to ease me? I cannot really be clear about that now. The feeling is one of enjoying the music and of the dozing and even enjoying the stomach aches from being so hungry because I’d been awake for so long.
Fantasies or memories are from that time when the bed was by the window. I was very young; the memories have all my toys in bed with me. A cosy time, wrapped up against the elements (wind and rain on the window) but also a time of hiding from the outside, the demons that came twenty-five years later and tore me from my sleep; memories, and dreams—the stretch of garden by the side of the house being a dark and frightening plot, not like this open, light, occupied square that I share with her, as we walk three times round each way, and talk.
So I am back with her in the garden. We turn and walk the reverse way. We are wrapping something up here, tying up some present for later; beginning to weave a thin line of thread around a path and an experience, writing a trace in the grass. Three times around speaks to me of traces, of a path being laid down, enough so that it is memorable, just enough, three times is all that is needed. Once is the novelty of newness, the excitement, the freshness. Two times round is a statement: we have done this before, now we begin to establish that we want to do it again, are doing it again, we know the way, although it is not something we are yet familiar with. Three times round says: yes, this is the path I want, this is a way I want to remember.
Three times round is intent and memory. It is divination also—of making manifest an internal wish to have remembered something. It is an incantation—the beginnings of a trace and a trance of habit that is not yet habit. It is at the cusp of embodied knowledge. Three times round a garden, three times round in a bed as a magical vehicle for moving one’s dreams on when they are hurtful.
There is an old Japanese saying: ‘A wise man climbs Mount Fuji once, a fool twice.’ But what about the person who does it three times? She is a soothsayer, who has an articulate wisdom beyond what the ‘wise man’ or ‘wise woman’ understands. Spread out over twenty or thirty years, a lifetime to travel three times round, it becomes a choice and a wisdom. It is going beyond. It is believing in the old sayings (the Japanese revere Mount Fuji as the place where they can get closest to heaven and the Shinto gods; but it is now little more than a tourist trap, littered with paper fans and soft drinks cans).
Three times round speaks of a belief in old ways and old sayings, of a belief in being in step with a deeper and more whirling world. Three times round is being spun by the wind and not being thrown out, not clinging on, riding swirls and tempests. Three times round is strength and determination that is also softness and pliancy, learning to move—yes, this is how we passage—rather than a holding, a struggle.
Three times round says to me: this way, and you did not know this way, could not know this way, until you had experienced it three times out of your own will to do so.
Image of Boy in Bed (c) the wonderful illustrator Hannah Carding