After a truly epic storm, thunder and lightning and pounding, incessant rain, enough to alarm the dogs out of their slumber, it is peaceful and dry this morning. The sun isn't out, but everything, all the detritus, has been washed away, so that the roads are full of fallen branches, sticks and stones. Marvellously, the wheat fields are pale yellow, and as I drove my lovely man to the station, there was a petit-mort of crows. "Oh look at the ravens!" I said, with a modicum of drama. "Crows," he said, matter of factly, "Ravens are much rarer." It's a familiar drive, one I've taken many times, over two humped back bridges, one of the Grand Union Canal and one over the railway line. My father used to speed up over them, so the car alighted into the air, and our tummies would leap into our throats. I'm not sure how we didn't get killed.
I'm slowly putting places together so that villages and towns I know, are beginning to connect. I discovered, for example, that there is an antique shop in our old market town, across the street from the pub where I used to have ballet lessons, that sells old books from the area. It's a town with a castle and lots of book shops, coffee shops, a cinema which plays proper films. There are men in very white panama hats who look as if they should be at a cricket match, or listening intently to Radio 3, and grey-haired women with the same hair cuts and sensible shoes for walking. The taste is unusual after Los Angeles. Some of things are very beautiful and well thought-out, but style is haphazard at best. Rather satisfyingly, there is no through-line, no one predominant aesthetic, unlike LA, where certain looks become faddish, but when you're experiencing them everywhere, it doesn't seem that way. There is a lot of silver and semi precious stone, Ikat pillows and Turkish rugs, old distressed wooden dressers and 1950s sideboards, beautifully bundled silver spoons and forks, tied with brown string or ribbon, and terrible fake flowers (I do not see the point, aside from having to dress a shoot for Beyonce's twins.)
Still the notion of distance and longing haunts me. How hard it is to know that most of my girlfriends are so far away. One of them celebrated a birthday yesterday. "We really missed you tonight," she texted, and I felt a little tug. How it is possible to remove oneself from a world and go missed or un-missed, you don't really know how or why. How there is room for both. How taking oneself away can solve certain things and not others. I drive by the wheatfields and try not to think too hard about my children -- who I will be seeing in August, thankfully -- or what they're doing or how I can't just pop by. I think about our silent dances, the language we share, the things we do together to put a supper together, which no-one else knows or can imagine. How we three (and previously we four) are an unspoken, brave, strong-willed team, a family of superheroes who can Get Things Done, for that is what we are. There is never a moment when we don't know how to handle a situation. We just do. We ask each other, or don't need to ask, and it is done. We have the Can Do spirit, as my friend Marta calls it.
And still I'm at sea, neither here nor there. Here in my own world, which the dogs share, and the mare, amongst the wood pigeons and the wet beech leaves and the golden wheat fields, and the tortoise shell butterflies, connected to it in my heart. But here also aloof and apart and not quite understanding the way things are or how they work. A lot has changed in thirty years. There are words to learn, customs, a new etiquette, a manner of speaking in order to be understood or liked, not being too direct or too pushy, talking around things instead of directly to the point, respecting silence and the vacuum of things not being said, but hanging in the air, unsaid. This is not Los Angeles, where communication is direct, and clean. Every conversation here has a Sonata-Allegro form, an introit, a method of getting to the point without mentioning the point, which, to be honest, one has to learn. I am not unhappily at sea. My boat is sturdy and I see the land and the waves are not punitive.
And I wonder if it were always this way. Always being one step back from everything else. Like the dance where you put one foot in, and one foot out. If, in fact, if is a safety net, that one foot always outside?