Summer. It’s at an end, and I’m hoping for rare blasts of autumnal warmth. I have felt tired, very tired at times. And I’m not surprised. My daughter’s needs. My clients’ needs. My ginger tom’s needs. And all the time, whether I am aware or not, my worry for the future circulates at the back of my mind. Like the stand-by light that never goes out. A steady, inescapable drain.
And I seem to have fallen out with my yoga mat. There is always something else at hand, anything to dissuade me from an upper dog. The grass needs cutting. The radiators need airing. I have to put a wash on. I know what it is – I’m filling every moment with distractions (a new kitten seemed like a good idea), anything to barricade quiet time with myself. Maybe it isn’t the yoga mat I have fallen out with, maybe it’s simply myself. I am such a chore.
The heavy downpours have caused the gladioli to arch into a backward bend. The remaining dahlias stand in tree pose. My garden is mocking me. I have left it untended and unloved, the border fed up and choked. But soon comes the turn. The vine leaves will fall and I will uproot the straggling remains of the Chinese forget-me-nots, shaking out their seeds. Now is the time for verbena and lavender cuttings, and bulbs, to hide away the young echinacea I have grown.
Me and her had our adventures. Down to the south coast to stay in a welcoming home on the sea. Bexhill was quiet and clean; families and oldies; ice creams and parks; art deco facades, and a hair dressers every ten small steps. The welcoming home opened onto the promenade and pebbled beach, a morning view of horizon and tide, an evening counting waves with fingers in newspaper and chips, salt and vinegar so invigorating in fresh sea air. In Hastings I downed chai latte and walked among the obelisk shapes of the net shops, their black wooden panelling, built for goblins in dark fairy tales, or the surreal dwellings of a character conjured by Quentin Blake…
…Then up north, and t’was a bit blowy ‘owt. Visits to Grandma and Gramps. A dolls house exhibit, the largest in the whole wide world, apparently. The tiniest knives and forks and gas lamps and cakes. And she is growing up, ‘Mummy, you’re embarrassing me,’ ‘Mummy, stop fussing.’ ‘Mummy, I’m okay, alright?’ She wanted to be with the older kids, at a greater distance from me. But on our own it was a request for cuddles and, ‘Mummy, I’m afraid of the dark.’
I gave myself a gift this summer. A writing retreat in the Shropshire hills. The only sounds the sheep, and the fall of rain through the trees. In this room a desk, blue tac marks on the walls, and a certain magic – my imagination; an energy returned, a dog bounding back with a stick. Who had written in this room the week before me? The week before that? The pins on the cork board spelled, HI. The cutting and pasting, the new ideas, the culling of characters and words held in high esteem. I became giddy with reshaping and retelling, by my greedy greed for words. The liberation, the first time in over a year. I took walks. I fell in love with a fir tree, its ostrich feathers breathing and billowing in the wind. Above, clouds the shape of limescale squares that floated in my tea. It was a binge, a kind of manic episode, and I had to pinch myself to eat. Bread. Rye, white and brown, and chunks of cheese. And there were three others: a street poet; a journalist; a comedienne, and me… the eager friend. But I wrote, and I am back, and I will do this again.
Today I mowed the lawn twice. The shortest cut before the even bigger rains come and the squirrels dig their holes. Tomorrow a rare blast of autumnal warmth, 21 degrees its predicted to be. I will sit in my garden chair for the last time this season, with a book and a cup of tea, and I will contemplate the weeks to come, the shorter days, the shedding of life. I like the idea of reminding myself that one day I will die. I find it shakes away the overused, the day before’s dust, makes me turn off my phone. There is comfort in dissolving, in being swallowed by night – I like the act of falling away, of being held in this moment. I like that death is the only certainty I have…