Her sensible shoes make their own way
up the sun-soaked Jersey coastal paths.
Pausing, curiously, to look at cold, grey stone
where so recently the enemy had crouched,
waiting with empty bellies. Empty shells,
occupied now by silence and by thrift,
the pink reflected in her hand-sewn dress,
her flushed and eager cheeks.
Choosing rest over respectability she sinks
down to watch the fulmars dive, lost in thought,
until a man-shaped shadow blocks the sun.
Looking up, a widow’s peak looks down and nods
politely, with a click of heels that is distinctly
continental. Sparks a sudden flash of fear,
of ghosts returned, or worse,
until he smiles and speaks.
Her mother’s cries of what becomes of girls alone
in foreign parts, are lost on coastal winds. And she,
three hundred miles away, all hope of weddings fading
with the years, wonders why she strangely feels
the urge to laugh and cry, as unbeknownst,
one tired refugee of older years, divorced no less,
and his future bride, her wilful, wandering, eldest child,
in one perfect moment meet.
This poem tells the story of the moment that my beloved old Grandma met my Grandpa. It is based partly on the recollections told to my mother by my Grandma, now 88 and struggling with a form of dementia, and family legend, and partly on my own imaginings trying to step into her sensible shoes and the location of their first meeting to imagine how it must have felt. I know it occurred on a cliff-top on the isle of Jersey in the late 40′s when she was approaching 30. I know that she had travelled there on holiday, alone, much to the disapproval of her mother, and that she returned proclaiming that she had met the man she was going to marry, much to my great-grandma’s horror. What I hadn’t realised, but found out through some research, was that it must have happened almost immediately after the end of the occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War.
I loved the process of entering into that world, trying to capture a sense of the woman I know and have heard stories about. Imagining the things that she would have seen that day, playing with language and images of war, and exploring how she must have felt, approached by a strange older man with a Polish accent. She remembers vividly his shadow falling over as she sat in the sunshine and, although she’s never said, I am sure that for a split second she must have thought the Germans were back. Surrounded by such recent memorabilia of war, she must have done.
And yet I know they talked, and found enough of a connection to spark a romance that lasted 50 years, until he died of cancer in 1990, when I was 8.
I find such a mind-blowing, amazing concept, this moment. That from this chance meeting came my mother, and then of course me, and Kai too.
It makes me realise what a miracle, what a gazillion to one chance it is just to be alive.
I feel like I am being given new lessons in joy lately.
I am learning with toddlerhood that emotions never run very deep below the surface. Yes, on the one hand that means times when frustration and anger bubble over like pressure cooker of noise and steam and energy, and yet, in others, many, many more, it means the pleasure of witnessing the raw joy that lights up Kai’s face as something catches his interest and delight.
For Kai, my often serious boy, this does not always manifest in the same way. There are the sudden flashes of laughter, bright eyes, bright smiles, but there are equally the times when joy pulls at him in a different way. As something he loves grabs his attention, it pulls him under, consuming his focus and every ounce of his concentration. His nose wrinkles, his forehead furrows – anyone would think he was showing worry or anxiety in that little face. But I have leant that this is Kai’s joy too – his simple pleasure of being completely in the moment and open to every sense and sound that comes with it. He has to concentrate, he doesn’t want to miss a second.
I live for these moments right now.
I am someone, like Kai, for whom emotions are transient things, never held on to for long, often rushing past me with a force that means I don’t always get time to process them.
Kai is teaching me that that is ok.
You embrace the moment. When tears come you give into them with your whole being. When anger shakes you, you rage and stamp. And when a sudden rush of joy takes hold, you hold it there. Even if it is just for one, pure, golden moment before the day-to-day humdrum takes over.
You just be.
And in that moment, you are whole, and perfect, and life is good.
This post was written for week 7 of Tara Cain’s fabulous Gallery.
Welcome back to your Writing Workshop prompts for the week. Have you missed it? Thanks for the week off last week – did me the world of good.
Unfortunately, as those that read my last post will know, all that time off to frolic and relax meant I let some responsibilities slide and I’m now looking down the barrel of a long week of frantic study as I try to get an assignment in. AND I seem to be struggling with a powerful dose of paralysing procrastination and general confidence deficit when it comes to said assignment
I have a plan.
We’re going to do the workshop slightly differently this week. The prompts aren’t going to come from you blog posts as normal, they’re going to be inspired by what I’m working on this week. A few people suggested this as something to try. Maybe if I think of what I need to do as a workshop post, rather than a big, horrible, asteroid sized assignment I’ll be more likely to do it. And, you know, misery loves company and all that. If I have to do the bloody thing, so do you. Ha!
For any newbies to our weekly workshop (and it’s never to late to join in), here’s how it works: I’m going to give you 5 writing/blogging prompts. Pick one, pick two, or do them all if you’re really keen – it’s up to you. How you respond is your choice. You could share a real-life story, or make one up. You could write a poem or just free-write without thinking too hard and see what happens. It can be funny; it can be serious; it can be emotional. It can be whatever you want it to be. The only rule is to enjoy writing your post and get something out of the process.
Prompts each week (usually!) take their inspiration from blogs, current affairs, daily life, or just whatever everyone happened to be talking about that week. If you’d like to suggest a prompt for a future workshop then send me an email or catch me on Twitter – I would love to hear your ideas.
So here they are:
1. Tell me about a time you decided to move house. What prompted it? Did you want to move? What did you leave behind, and what did you find when you got there?
2. Write about a time when you felt, or you felt someone you loved, was in real danger.
3. What new skill would you love to learn, or have you learnt something new recently that you can share with us?
4. Clear out a cupboard you’ve not visited in years. This could be a metaphorical cupboard, perhaps memories or issues you’ve not thought about for a while, or a real-life one. What skeletons are lurking there? What memories and memorabilia of you life need dusting off and looking at again?
5. Recount the story of a meeting or a parting, a saying hello for the first time, or a saying good bye.
Now here’s what you have to do. Write your post and publish it on your blog between now and THURSDAY. On Thursday come back and use the widget that will be up to paste in the URL of your post to share. Then take some time to read some of the other entries and leave some comment love! We’re not here to critique – just to have fun and support each other in our writing experiments. So be kind please.
Anyone who would like to submit something via email, or even anonymously will be more than welcome to do so. I’ll post them on the site here and include the link in Thursday’s round-up.
Feel free to use the Workshop badge on your blog or as part of your post if you like. Code is here:
Note: I’m told Blogger does something a bit funny with the code so you’ll need to copy and paste it and then retype the quotation marks (“) as Blogger changes them for some reason.
See you Thursday then!
This Writing Workshop is brought to you in association with Mama Kat’s Losin’ It – who’s lovely author came up with the concept and runs her own workshop over in the U.S.
I had a bad couple of weeks last month. A fairly-typical-for-me roller-coaster plummet down Mood Mountain to wallow in the Mud Pools of Despair and Dissatisfaction at the bottom, with the usual Hippos of Doom, with bad teeth, whispering nasty thoughts at me.
Followed, of course, by the express train back UP Mood Mountain to frolic in happy, confident abandon at the top, with new friends and time off with my boys, and the, umm (thinking…) Big Sparkly Birds of Positivity and New Ideas and Exciting Projects fluttering all around the interior of my brain where all this endless up-and-down-ing goes on.
Somewhere in the middle of all that I may have ‘forgotten’ to pick up my course books. For the entire month.
And now there may just be an assignment due this Friday which I have neither thought about, or looked at. And which is now looming like one big mother-flumping asteroid over Mood Mountain threatening to engulf the entire extended (slightly crap) metaphor in huge pillars of searing flame.
And of course, in a tendency I have demonstrated so many times in my short life, the thought of the giant asteroid has become so horribly scary that all I want to do is hide under my bed, or arse about on Twitter, or write silly blog posts with extended metaphors in them that don’t really make much sense. I’ve even started exercising for heaven’s sake – that’s how desperate I am.
And actually doing the asteroid, um, I mean assignment? Well it’s just not happening.
I’m in that horrible place that all serial procrastinators like me dread. I am in complete and utter procrastinator’s paralysis.
Pissed off with myself.
Feeling a little like I may cry.
Crap crappity crap crap crap.
Now I’m off to look at Wii’s and Internet phones, both of which I have decided I MUST have in my life IMMEDIATELY or else I may actually DIE.
And not think about that huge asteroid which is now inches above my head and moving fast.
As well as being able to confirm to the community at large that none of the above bloggers are actually nutters, or balding men called Steve, I can also confirm that they are actually one of the loveliest group of people I have ever met. People that I am proud to be beginning to think of as friends, and who I hope to see again very soon.
It came at a good time for me, all this. I sort of lost the love the last few weeks, began to wonder why I was doing this blogging malarky. I came back from meeting everyone yesterday with such a sense of satisfaction and peace about it all.
Yes, I blog because I love to write, and because I want people to read what I write, and for that to open new doors and opportunities – I’m not ever going to deny that. But actually? Days like yesterday are what REALLY make it worth it. If it wasn’t for this little piece of cyberspace here I would never have had the chance to meet so many wonderful, interesting, life-enriching people.
And for that, and for them, I am so grateful.
AND, just for Jo who made me laugh (and who I think I would like to bottle up and let out on grey days because that woman is just like sunshine), I want to leave you with a little musical interlude. Let’s just say that I hadn’t realised my blogging persona had been projecting an Amazonian-like stature, and feel it only fair to you to disclose (in case of future disappointment) that I am in fact a titchy, scrawny little midget-girl, who has a tendency to blush horribly when complimented and has to concentrate very hard to remember to speak, try not to stammer or fall over, or look like a deer in the headlights when in the company of big groups of people.
It says something about the people I spent time with yesterday that I managed to behave vaguely like a human being! Thank you for making me feel so relaxed and being so lovely x