Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tales from a Sloping Bed

There are three dogs in our house tonight, all of them thrust hunkamunka into the little bedroom with the wonky floors. Only after spending the night on London and sleeping like a lamb all night long do I fully understand quite how disruptive it is to slip diagonally from top right to bottom during the sleep cycle. I insist on sleeping the windows cracked open, and the curtains drawn, to hear the birds and witness the sunrise, but this too may have just been a romantic affect. The dogs are still wary of each other. Two on my side, the other, a small and cautious little rescue terrier who is recovering from a large operation, on his. Mine follow me down to the loo in the middle of the night and wait by my side as I fill a glass of water; she barks gently as we come up the rickety stairs. I suspect it will take them a couple of days to get used to each other. I hope she will come to enjoy her sojourn in the country. I hate to say this, but on nights like this I miss Shoreditch with its hermetically sealed windows, its heavy winter weight duvet, the solid, tall bed. 

We have just said goodbye to my daughter who has been here for five days, with her lovely young man on his first visit to the UK. London became a tourist destination and with sturdy shoes and maps and bottles of water we cross-crossed the city, from the Tate Modern to St Paul's to Borough Market, from Spittlefields to Buckingham Palace to Richmond Hill. London is the place you fall in love with in the morning when it is still cold but the sun is new and people are scurrying to work filled with hope. I rather enjoyed seeing the same young man in his suit, with his coffee, in Hoxton Square each morning before work, listening to music and smiling at my dogs. I admire people who have the patience and the forethought to wait for a few minutes; it's a way of capturing time, holding it in a little glass bottle, actually experiencing the world going by instead of rushing with it. How elusive is time, how much do I wish I could slow it? My daughter is twenty two years old and she sat on my knee on the underground and it was if she were four again. What do we do with our days? What do we have to show for all the hours we have been here? How do we elicit meaning from each precious moment? Or don't we? Is that the point? That all of it feels meaningful only in retrospect?

Tomorrow night I intend to sleep on the flat earth under the stars. And dream. 



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Milvus milvus

Witness everything. Say yes to everything. Live fully. 

I just took a bad picture of the pink moon just because it was shining in fiercely through the office window and it's nearly 5 and the birds haven't started yet. Nightingales too now, I am reliably informed by the village email chain. When I say office, it's the tiny bedroom next to my bedroom with the higgledy piggledy floors and the cupboard suitable for a hobbit. There are bookshelves full of my favorite cookery books, poetry books and a shelf of postcards collected from museums. In the day time I can see the fields and the translucent green of young beech leaves. 

He sleeps with his earbuds in and listens either to the cricket or the world service. It soothes him. I listen to the dogs snoring and wait for the birds. 

My brother who is so unvain that he doesn't alter the screen of the phone to catch his best angle on FaceTime calls, and who is in Scotland where it is lighter later and I can see the blue of dusk through his window as he speaks to me, says you should say yes to everything, that it will provide the best adventures. I agree. Although I am vain. And know my best angle. 

We marveled at the red kites (milvus milvus) yesterday, always circling overhead. Their wingspan stretches out impossibly far (70 inches) and like a cartoon their fingertips tip upwards, as if dancing a tarantella. Between 1989 and 1993 about 90 birds from Sweden and Wales were released in the Chilterns and now we see them everywhere. But they do not feel commonplace. 

The other very common sighting is the young cock pheasant. Not the most intelligent of birds. As far as I can see they hang out on the verge on the side of the roads and dash out into the middle of it like scared raptors the minute they see a car. 

England did its best imitation of California yesterday. We wondered around the pine forest in Wendover at the highest point of the Chilterns between families picnicking with small children in bicycles. (Thistle was *very* interested in other people's picnics.)



Sunday, April 09, 2017

Wood pigeons

5.23am and birds are singing, led of course by the blackbird. Why is it so important to witness beginnings and endings? My whole body clock is attuned to this. Up at 5 with the birds, lying in my bed, a cool breeze coming in from the window and the whole of the dawn in its glory. Last night at dusk we walked, sky shot pink and melon, the full moon behind us, a light wind in the beech trees, the rustling of the new green leaves, in awe. Just in awe. All of it washing over me, the full extent of its beauty, its intricate, complicated, magical simplicity. After thirty years away, thirty years of dawns and dusks, I have come to realize that I don't want to miss a thing. Childhood and longing and feeling safe and being part of the enormous, complex machine, love and a sense of being an infinitesimally tiny thread in a glorious golden fabric, woven with such care and precision. Everything is what is meant to be. Everything right now is as it should be. Never before have I felt so incredibly humbled by the natural world. It is what is important. Everything else is just distraction. It is a giant, soft bed where we may lay our heads when we are weary, a salve, a cure, but it fits us perfectly. We fit right in if we choose it. 

Of course I can't help but speak of my marveling. The English are circumspect. "The weather won't last" they say in unison. "Just you wait."  Californians wouldn't say this. It's all a bit more "be here now" over there. They are in the moment, loving the sun, not thinking about tomorrow. The English don't like too much of a good thing. It makes them itchy. Keeps them from being disappointed. 

Wood pigeons - if I may - add another layer to the chorus. A reminder perhaps of childhood when we all knew the song. 


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Serious moonlight

Stumbled over dampened grass to the cricket pitch on the green at about 10.30pm to walk the dogs before bed. Half moon, some clouds, and stars, always stars. I understood the appeal of white gardens (Sissinghurst) and white dogs (Bean) because they illuminate. I still stop and look for the Big Dipper. I still marvel with gratitude. Not a soul out. Two cars ambled by. The cottage was lit up by the lamp on my side of the bed. My darling was waiting for me. 


Thursday, March 30, 2017


Our canoe idles in the idling current
Of the tree and vine and rush enclosed
Backwater of a torpid midwestern stream;
Revolves slowly, and lodges in the glutted
Waterlilies. We are tired of paddling.
All afternoon we have climbed the weak current,
Up dim meanders, through woods and pastures,
Past muddy fords where the strong smell of cattle
Lay thick across the water; singing the songs
Of perfect, habitual motion; ski songs,

Nightherding songs, songs of the capstan walk,
The levee, and the roll of the voyageurs.
Tired of motion, of the rhythms of motion,
Tired of the sweet play of our interwoven strength,
We lie in each other's arms and let the palps
Of waterlily leaf and petal hold back
All motion in the heat thickened, drowsing air.
Sing to me softly, Westron Wynde, Ah the Syghes,
Mon coeur se recommend à vous, Phoebi Claro;
Sing the wandering erotic melodies
Of men and women gone seven hundred years,
Softly, your mouth close to my cheek.
Let our thighs lie entangled on the cushions,
Let your breasts in their thin cover
Hang pendant against my naked arms and throat;
Let your odorous hair fall across our eyes;
Kiss me with those subtle, melodic lips.
As I undress you, your pupils are black, wet,
Immense, and your skin ivory and humid.
Move softly, move hardly at all, part your thighs,
Take me slowly while our gnawing lips
Fumble against the humming blood in our throats.
Move softly, do not move at all, but hold me,
Deep, still, deep within you, while time slides away,
As the river slides beyond this lily bed,
And the thieving moments fuse and disappear
In our mortal, timeless flesh.

-- Kenneth Rexroth


Friday, March 17, 2017

There Will Come Soft Rains

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,   And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;    And frogs in the pools singing at night,  And wild plum trees in tremulous white,    Robins will wear their feathery fire  Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;    And not one will know of the war, not one  Will care at last when it is done.    Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree  If mankind perished utterly;    And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,  Would scarcely know that we were gone. 
-- Sara Teasdale


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Light & warmth, always

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, with the door wide open, and the birds singing at me. Glimpses of blue sky and fluffy clouds, an occasional pheasant. Not bad for March in England. Beautiful flowers in front of me, from my sweet man, who appears with them from the train.

The dogs are slowly getting used to the lazy foot traffic that goes by the garden gate; women with pushchairs, a man and his dog, an occasional Amazon deliver, horses trotting by. They burr and grumble but aren't sure if they should leap into action.

I love this little house. I love waking up in the morning to the birds and the light, the sound of wood pigeons and imminent arrival of spring.

And I love that my mother's rather eccentric lamp fits in so well (note the chamber pot for visitors, because the loo is so far away).

There are thousands of pictures of my children strewn around the house. As I unpacked my boxes, I was rather amused to discover that I'd brought more pictures of the children than anything else. It's one of those hard things; think about it too much and you will be sad. But the youngest arrives for Easter and hopefully her brother isn't too far behind. Every day, things get better, the days become longer, the sky lighter in the evening, more birds wake up, a smaller degree of cortisol panic throttles its way around my body, fewer voices tell me that I'm mad to make such a great leap.

And more and more you realize, you love those that you love and those that don't love you should be left alone. There will always be haters, and that's okay. And more and more you realize that people rise to the occasion, especially those that you think you are protecting. They can handle. They want to help. People are coming out of the woodwork to help me, to make things happen, to make life easier. It's really quite amazing. Especially my mamma, who, when I dropped in on her yesterday and when we'd had our fill of RightMove real estate porn (as we do, every time) said to me "don't forget that book you should be writing..."

My friend Kay brought me bread, wine, a candle, salt. And the card said:
Bread: this house will never know hunger. Salt: Life will always have flavour. Wine: joy & prosperity. A candle: Light & warmth always.
It's wonderful, isn't it?