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Self care

I’m pre-menstrual
The silence is deafening
The blank page blinding

I’ve stumbled out of the forest into a clearing
And I don’t know what’s supposed to happen here.

I managed to write about the benefits of plastic pipes
Yet I’m terrified to write anything about me.

I believe for a moment in the need to offer
Only a shiny sellable self.

I don’t believe, for a moment, in the
Self that sits here and shakes.

I have a dog now.
He believes in me, I think.

I don’t want to talk about me
Because I don’t have the answers to
The questions that will come.

I’m blindfolded walking a precipice.
The only compass I have is trust.

Following the tiny sparks where they flicker
In my heart.

Dare I believe
That if I look after myself
My self will look after me?

 

 

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Stockholm on the cheap – have a nice time!

Stockholm is known for being an expensive city, clean and expensive. It is both of these things but not to excess. Prices linger around London rates plus a bit, depending on where you are. It is however possible to have lots of fun without splashing the cash.

I discovered this on my first day off from the car parking data collection job which had brought me here, when I realised that my bank was still holding £800 of my advanced expenses out of my reach on account of an Airbnb booking that never was. Oh the glamour of it all!

So I know that “European City on a Shoestring” blogs are a thing, and have even found them quite useful myself at times. So here is my guide of how to spend a day in Stockholm with literally no cash. I’m sure there will be something for everyone…

FOOD AND DRINK

Stockholm is very clean, and there are lots of bins, so one can only assume that these bins contain many hidden morsels. I have seen so far just one person taking advantage of this bounty. This however is not my top tip….

Basically I cheated because I had a breakfast booked that came with my hotel room and filled my belly to bursting with muesli, yoghurt, slices of processed meat and cucumber, rye bread rolls, cold boiled eggs and bitter treacle coffee. Before leaving I filled my Dutch military flask with Apple juice from the big chilled udder and contemplated pocketing some boiled eggs for the road, but there was a lovely polite sign about not taking food out of the room, and nobody at all policing it, which are the exact conditions under which I can’t take the guilt of subversion. Had there been an uptight reception manager body scanning us all on exit for jammy toast in soggy napkins, I might have had a pop just to spite them.

Despite my morning feast, after 12 hours of walking in 2 days I was inevitably hungry again by 3pm. By this time I had transferred to new digs, just across the water in the hipster heartland of Stockholm, Sodermalm. Quietly confident that funds would be released today, I took a leisurely shower and got dressed (3 hours – see ENTERTAINMENT) then breezed out the front door, along the quiet cobbled streets and out among the coffee shops and vintage stores to find some kind of avocado based afternoon treat. Went to withdraw funds for the much awaited afternoon tea. Nada. No dice. £800 still held hostage for no good reason and an unspecified amount of time by a paranoid automated banking system that apparently no human on earth can control or intervene with (scary huh).

So I turn tail and march back to the apartment, remembering the words of our kind host Lena – “take whatever food you find”. Flinging open the cupboards I scrabble together a pleasingly diverse if carbohydrate heavy three course lunch of ryvita with whisky marmalade and earl grey tea, instant Chinese beef noodles, and spaghetti with oil, black pepper and rosemary. Could be a lot worse.

Dinner will be rejected British Airways sandwiches if I’m lucky. My dear friend is arriving this evening and I’m meeting her at the airport. Washed down with whatever we can get in the 7eleven!

TRANSPORT

So how to get around the city with no money? Basically everywhere is walkable, just get on with it and enjoy the walk. When your job is walking, like mine, this might feel like a bit of a busmans holiday (irony) but being able to go at a leisurely place, stop and take it all in, and sing loudly to headphone music, makes it a treat all the same.

Lucky for me, I had something I prepared earlier once again… A weekly public transport ticket. This means I can go out to the airport to meet my friend, and cruise about for a couple of hours for free (see ENTERTAINMENT). An SL card can be purchased at the airport with a week or month pass on it for 320 SEK or 790 SEK respectively. For currency exchange to pounds, just divide it by ten and you are close enough.

ENTERTAINMENT

Now I do pride myself on the fact that, to my knowledge, I have not been truly bored for over 5 years, maybe longer. This don’t come for free. Well it does, but you know, it’s a turn of phrase. I work hard at being amused by something most of the time, or content with being utterly unamused, or amused by nothing. Nothingness can be very very funny when you really encounter it fully.

So how did I amuse myself today in Stockholm? Fairly transparently, by writing this utterly self indulgent blog, but I have lived a fair amount up til now else there would be very little to tell.

Sleep late – like til the last minute before breakfast closes – my favourite manoeuvre!

Be slow – do everything as slowly as you like, luxuriate in it. Stop and look at nothing for a bit, think about that time when you were seven, wonder about that invitation you turned down, feel the texture of the sofa.

I took three hours today to have a shower, cut my nails and my fringe and get dressed. No conscious delaying, just that’s how long it took when there was no schedule to attend to. Getting dressed alone took the entire length of Beyonce’s album Lemonade. There was only one outfit, which I already had in mind (hipster AF, just have to share – blue and white striped knee length yachting shorts, salmon pink shirt, Laura Ashley embroidered wool waistcoat, leather jacket, doc martens – imagine!). I faffed a little with a choice of jacket vs cardigan but that took only a moment to resolve. I don’t know why it took so long. I like being naked so that might be part of it. It makes me think of how little children get so upset by our hurrying them to get dressed after a bath or to leave the house in the morning. They find it such an unnecessary affront to put clothes on at such a pace. Perhaps they are right, they usually are. Yeh…. Think deeply about everything – that’s another one, great free entertainment, who needs the Internet when you have the freewheeling free association of your own mind!

Talk to humans. In a city where free wifi costs you a cup of coffee, in the unlikely scenario where you have no internet access at home (this is me now) spending much of the day immersed in the false social whirlwind of Facebook is not an option, so you will need to talk to humans maybe a bit, depending how introverted you are, or perhaps a cat. In Stockholm most people speak English, so it’s possible to get into a conversation with most people.

It’s possible to have a very smiley drunk man lurch up to you on a sunny afternoon, compliment your style “I just have to say…that.. You have such… Such great..clothing right now…” and end up having a lovely exchange about your respective homelands “…yeh England… Right… Yeh I was an au pair once in Blackpool…. Back in the day… Back …(breaks into song)…when we were heroes!!!……… I’m drunk by the way….baby…”

It’s possible to find real, nice humans outside Espresso House, who will spill the secrets of those places where Stockholm is not expensive, and you can get beers for (whisper it) about four quid!! Who tell you where the hipsters at and the re-lax-ation and the vintage stores and which parks to get drunk in. Who explain to you that only “weed people” smoke rolling tobacco here, it’s not a thing. Sweet flinty eyed young women who tell you where you can go to meet other real, nice humans, with no Botox, and no blonde about them. Who tell you about their teenage trip to London for “the usual, you know, shopping in Primark and Madame Tussaud’s” Who give you four cigarettes and tell you that nobody ever goes out here and nothing happens, but have a nice time, it was good to meet you.

Smoking. Wrangling with self about smoking. Trying to find ways and means of smoking/not smoking. Noticing how I feel about smoking/not smoking. All can help the time go by.

If it gets really bad, hang around the steps of the hostel you stayed at previously and rinse the free wifi to post some pictures of yourself having a splendid time in Stockholm, and see what you are missing out on at home.

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You never did.

You watched me struggle
To love myself
And chose to let me
Love you instead.

Captivated by
My open heart
You stuck in your thumb
For a sweet taste of it.

You punished
My defenceless longing
With lashes of your tongue across my hips
And sent me away.

You bathed your wounds
In the brine of my sweat
And my tears
And healed them.

I know now you never loved me.

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The not-so-new 30s dating paradigm, am I missing something?

As a single woman in my thirties I feel like the options I have for healthy and fun relationship these days are stiflingly narrow, where does that come from? Where are the heralded brave new frontiers of human relationships dawning? My experiences since turning 30 are leading me to the conclusion that my socially sanctioned choices are as limited as marriage and babies, casual/tinder, “Polyamorous” divorcees or lesbian. I’m not loving it.

Men who want children and marriage are few and far between at this point, and they really want it, to the extent that it feels not ok to date them if I don’t definitely want that. Men who definitely don’t want that, appear terrified of my fertile womb and optimism about love, and tell me with patronising looks, that they “know deep down what I really want” and write me off as a panicky uterus with claws. Often the ones who I am actually aligned with just refuse to believe me when I tell them what I want, which is insulting.

Strangers who are married with kids love to remind me uninvited as I peacefully sip my tea in a cafe that I “have all this to come” as they wipe the puke out of their hair with a napkin and their partner sinks deeper into candy crush saga hoping it will all go away for a moment.

Also, I’m great with kids and love hanging out with them, which is deeply confusing for people who feel that if you like children then the logical thing is to make several and devote your entire life to their care. I like a lot of things that I nevertheless don’t want as the dominant theme of my existence – doesn’t make me like them any less.

About once a year I go on Tinder for 1-3 hours and that is about as much as I can hack it. I feel myself slipping into the kind of dislocated torpor I used to enter as a child flicking through the Argos catalogue, a truly horrendous distortion of the beauty and complexity of human connection. It’s like going trout fishing and being hit with a freaky cyclone of goldfish lurching up out of the lake.

The Polyamorous dads club is a genre of their own and I actually really admire these guys because they are unabashed about being clear and upfront about what they want from a relationship. They’ve been through the emotional sausage machine of marriage and they just want fun and sex on tap with zero demands. They come to realise over time that having multiple casual relationships with real humans is even more demanding than monogamy unless you want to be sloppy about it and live in an episode of Eastenders with one eye on the window at all times.

Not easy for them either to find a woman who has the energy and freedom to play with them and will not expect them to call for a chat or take active interest in life outside of the bedroom. I think this woman is a mythical creature and I am often confused with her because I appear to be free and a bit wild, and self identify as a unicorn…. Needless to say it doesn’t work out for long.

I’ve noticed women my age spontaneously or intentionally opening to relationships with other women after previously only having relationships with men. Perhaps they come to realise that emotional connection, intuitive intimacy and nurturing communication are available to them here in spades, and with less presumptions loaded on top. Perhaps they simply fall in love and are open and sovereign enough to claim it.

Is it possible to have a relationship that is fun, healthy, interdependent and also has depth and shared purpose outside of marriage and babies? For me, growing, learning and exploring together and supporting each other in our full expression and purpose is a beautiful intention for relationship. This, and all the sweetness and joy there is to be found in being two humans with bodies that like and trust each other bumbling through the day to day pleasures and pitfalls of life. Let’s start  with play and dancing and not be so scared of what might come next…

It’s been suggested to me that it’s my own ideas about relationship that are too narrow.  Am I missing something? Is it just me? Shall I pop this on my Tinder profile?

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Meh. Break Up Poems.

1.
Straight off the train and it’s hanging in the air.
Scanning everywhere
For a glimpse of a moment gone by.
I feel his hand on my thigh.
Your name in lights, literally, above the night.
Your name in lights, literally, above the night.
It’s that time again
When we began.
The air feels just right.
Such a waste and such wide-eyed delight…
Fireworks
Featured heavily
Inside and out.
I watched through the lens of love
And you were next to me
Seeing clearly
What was in front of you.
Seeing only that.

2.
I’m too finely tuned to tango.

I serve up my heart raw
Like a high delicacy
When I open
To dance.

You smell the iron sweetness
Emanating from my neck
And the hairs stand up
On the back of yours.

However far afield
I feel your radar find me
When I open and emit
My full embodied pulse.

It is safe and sad to be shut up tight,
My body sluggish and sorry
Headed for hibernation,
Hiding from hurt.

It is ravenous and mighty
To let all the feeling
Frozen deep in tight musculature
Throb and release
In salty dissolution.

It is all my beauty and power
Bound up
Packed away
Pushed away
Kept at bay.
Kept quiet.
Lest you hear its call and turn your head.

And it would be nothing to you
To undo me completely,
Surfing and swirling in salty, scarlet waves
To invigorate yourself
And leave me there in pieces.

So I dance alone far away
Safe without postcode
And just feel the pulsing sonar
Of your attention
Through my body
Like a drum.
Like a warning.
3.
If you just want
To pick at me
Like the lukewarm remains
Of a meal you weren’t really hungry for
At the time.
Do not.
4.
I am furious
That I let you touch me
So deeply.

I am outraged
That it meant
So little to you.

I am sad
That we do not know
How to love each other.

When you touch the heart
Of a woman
Whose love is an ocean.

Be ready
To feel the waves
When you dip in your toe.

Or stay on the beach and watch.
Perhaps I am too terrific to touch.
5.
All the things I love
That you love too:
When I celebrate them
I celebrate you.
Why is my face always leaking when I do?

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Reading the signs: getting clear on connection and commitment

I’ve been repeating a pattern for a chunk of my life which involves getting attached to people who are, for one reason or another, unavailable for the kind of relationship that I’m interested in at the time. Or any relationship with structure or commitment. It usually begins with them telling me so and me nodding, and ends with me in floods of tears wondering why on earth they won’t just love me in the way I want them to and what terrible character flaw I possess that makes me so deeply unloveable.

Most recently, after falling head over heels for someone who had expressed clear disinterest (for good reason) in forming a committed relationship I found myself almost a year on licking my wounds and trapped in the pain of unrequited love. Pushing it down and kidding myself that what was on offer was enough. After finding myself in an Airbnb on the other side of the world for work, mooning and missing this person and writing to tell them so, and feeling utterly unmet by the response, the blackout curtains of denial fluttered open for a moment and I saw the light. We were in different places, he had been right all along telling me so as I sing-songed back my totally-fineness and utter lack of attachment, deceiving myself totally, and him by extension. It had to stop.

So I wrote and told him so, with as much kindness for the both of us as I could muster, in the middle of a tear-soaked coffee stop in a day of walking the streets for money (not like that – I collect data for a living, sometimes). After about 20 minutes (quite the anomaly) there was an answer back. He had suspected as much and was truly sorry but was not in a place of being willing or able to commit to a relationship, as stated, nearly 12 months ago… I’m trying hard to be kind to myself right now as I write, about how long this took me to truly grasp and to him for not nudging me a bit harder, against his interests perhaps, to wake up – though nudge me he did. I stormed with grief for the rest of the day, flooding the streets with salt water and stamping my pain into the Tarmac. Howling into the wind and the faces of passersby and singing out my sorrow to every pop power ballad I could summon.

Almost 2 months on, it has taken daily courage to keep walking away, step by step. I’ve had to turn myself back around several times, as I find myself metaphorically stood knocking at a closed door again. My good friends have listened to me talk myself back into a world of delusions and self abandonment and back out again more times than I’d like. I’ve sent messages I regret, made myself feel vulnerable, worried I’ve hurt his feelings. I’ve received beautiful listening, compassion and friendship from him. I’ve met silence and confusion. I’ve raged, fantasised and broken apart. I’ve doubted myself and derided myself and watched with detached disbelief as I disentangle myself from the affection of a wonderful human being.

Breaking my own heart, for my own good, is the weirdest experience. Emotionally it’s like cutting off your leg to get out of a bear trap. Hideous analogy but anyone who has experienced the withdrawal pains of breaking free from this unilateral pattern of relating will know that in the most arm-gnawing, hair-pulling, eye-scratching moments, it is true what science has shown us – the emotional pain of a breakup is experienced in the brain in the same area as physical pain and is hardly distinguishable by our nervous systems in the moment.

It is in those moments of anguish and disorientation, when just dropping them a text or going back for just a cuddle would make it all stop, that it is hardest to uphold the courageous choice to walk. In the moments when my head is clear of anguish and ambivalence, and I am not pacing around clutching my mobile waiting to receive the response that will never come, I know the choice was the right one and that I am healing a pattern that does not serve me or anyone else. Repatterning feels very disorientating and sometimes I find myself experiencing a sort of inner scrabbling for ground, clutching for false anchors, seeking out a shelter I have dismantled, and I know I’m on the cusp of building new ones that will stand.

I know I’m not the only one to go through this. People choose, at certain times of life or perhaps for their whole life, not to be available for deep emotional commitment. It is a totally valid choice to be respected like any other. The difficulty comes when these people, still wanting to connect and enjoy the company of those they are attracted to, lay this out dutifully and clearly and… for psychologically complex and I’m sure totally varied reasons… the other person just does not hear it/believe it/accept it and gives the go ahead.  Maybe we think it won’t be a problem for us, maybe we think it might change, maybe we just flat out don’t understand what they mean. On we go hurtling headlong into heartbreak.

As a woman, I know that my brain chemistry works in such a way that as soon as I am physically intimate with someone, then my brain releases oxytocin and gets me nicely bonded and emotionally attached to this person. The more this repeats, the stronger that attachment becomes. I might think I have a handle on the situation but all of a sudden I am playing out all kinds of attachment behaviours and my capacity to think rationally about the situation is going fast out the window. I’m in deep, and getting myself out activates the same regions of my brain as heroin withdrawal. So just know yourself. Know what’s happening in your body and brain, know your attachment style, know your vulnerability.

I believe in loving whole heartedly, I believe in going all in, and because of this I need to take better stock of what I’m getting all into, read the signs and read them again til I am clear what I’m signing up for, and what I’m not. Work on understanding the beliefs and desires that cloud my vision. Get clear on what my own vision is for relationship, and be brave to say no when what’s on offer doesn’t fit.

 

 

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No Ball Games

A: Wanna knock a ball around with me?

B: Sure – I love tennis.
A: No, I really definitely don’t want to play tennis, I’ve just finished a long tennis match, I’m kinda done with tennis for a bit and don’t have the capacity to focus on all the rules and the structure and the lengthy commitment of a tennis game… Let’s just knock this ball around.
B: Ok sure… I can do that that’s fun too… And yes, there’s not really time for a tennis match right now for me either, good point.
… A few hours later…
B: Hey why don’t we play tennis now, we are pretty good at this, tennis will be fun
A: No, I don’t want to play tennis. Just knock this ball around.
B: Ok….One- love!!
A: What are you doing?
B: Nothing, definitely not playing tennis in my head, we are just knocking the ball around right? Fun…
… Match point!!!!
A: Wait… What? We are just knocking the ball around… What do you mean match point? Are you playing tennis? Because I’m not, I’m just knocking this ball around and you are hitting it back… Doesn’t mean it’s tennis.. that’s all in your head.
B: You’re right. It takes two people to play tennis and for it to be meaningful.
I’m just getting frustrated and hoping you might get keen for tennis, I see that you are not…Well it’s sad, I’ve been having loads of fun with you, but I’m just ready to play tennis now… So… I guess let’s stop knocking this ball around, and I’ll go see who wants to play tennis…
…some days later…
B: Wow I really feel like playing tennis.., ah yes I’ll call my friend, we had such fun that day playing t… Well, knocking the ball about, it was kinda like tennis, I guess it would do, maybe later he will want to play tennis…
…so here we are, knocking this ball about again. I really love it…. You know what I love even more? Playing tennis!! Wanna play? Seems like maybe now you might be ready for a game?
A: No, I told you, no tennis for me… Now can we knock this ball about and just be content with it or are you gonna keep trying to make it tennis??
B: Sure… Let’s knock the ball about some more… Maybe we can play tennis in a couple weeks… Meanwhile we are good at this and I like how we play together….it’s fine…
…no. No, I really just want to play tennis!! This is so frustrating!!
If I keep knocking this ball around with you for weeks on end, I’ll never get to play the full game I so enjoy. Gotta go find a tennis partner…
…Hanging around the nets, nobody is about just yet for a tennis game….
B: hey, dude, wanna knock that ball about? Maybe it was ok after all, maybe it doesn’t need to be tennis. Maybe…. Maybe you are wishing now you had agreed to have a go at tennis with me…
A:…No reply…
B:… Hey dude… We can just knock the ball back and forth real gently, come on, what do you think?
A: I’m too tired now to even knock the ball about and worried you will just hassle me to play tennis with you again…But…. Hmm ok, let’s give it a shot knocking this ball about…
B:… No, you’re right…. Let’s just both wait here, not playing ball. Til someone comes along who wants to play tennis and someone who wants to just knock the ball around for a few weeks. Will be so great to both be playing the way we want to play, and maybe we can have a lemonade after the game.
…. Stand there, looking sadly at each other over the net, nobody is having fun… Better just go home.

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Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 5

Sheltered and exposed at the same time, Arielle perched on her chair like a swami at the dinner table, both legs folded under her. A friend had told her once about a postural diagnosis technique based on observing the way that a person sat down in a chair. The friend had gone on to point out that, based on observation of her sideways, four-legged approach to the chair, her diagnosis would be “patient is in fact a cat”.

The rain pattered light-heartedly all around, for the air was warm and still and this was not a storm, just a freshen up. She could see and sense the sunshine behind the rain clouds, watching on with care and encouragement as they showered their life-sustaining gifts on the world below. The wide open sides of the kitchen welcomed in all weathers, all seasons and all comers – offering always the shelter of a warm hearth.

Mrs Pepperpot purred determinedly in her lap, pulling rank for the warmest spot whilst several of the other cats were perched about the place in variously soggy states, waiting it out. Arielle was not waiting it out, she was inviting it in. There were spaces in her heart that felt dusty and dank. The sparkling freshness of the raindrops permeated her rusting armour and leaked in cool rivers down to those forgotten places. She sat and opened and felt the rain. Loved it, imbibed it into her soul, remembered it.

Her heart was like a busy railway hub with constant arrivals and departures. There were multitudes forever passing through: trailing chocolate wrappers and cigarette butts, moving too fast and too early in the day, charged on coffee, arriving late, lingering over leaving, making connections, missing them. It never closed, though in the quiet moments she could clearly see the muddy footprints and forgotten baggage left behind and set to work sweeping out the space.

 

…to be continued

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Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 4

As the daylight danced away over the hill and deep purple night descended, something stirred and woke in the pit of her stomach. Arielle had been a skillful repressor in her time and the mechanism still moved. The trapdoor no longer sprang shut on the cellars of her self at the first movement of monsters, these days it would creak and strain and the muscles clenched around her heart only slowly, giving time for her to notice and looking her in the eye as they locked down her somatic experience.

Legs weary from a long, lumbering ascent of the land with Hagrid, and with one eye on the tiny smoke rings puffing from the lid of the log burner, she rose stiffly and began pacing around the rug. Inviting the living grief to rise up inside her, to animate her limbs and stretch itself out through her shoulders, she hit play and let the music tell her stories. The first ripples began to rise from her belly, undulating up her back and pouring out of her throat, her heart and her solar plexus. Like a cat choking down grass she had swallowed enough blades to draw out the old poisons that lurked in her gut from lifetimes of learning to love.

As the waves broke she whirled like a puppet hung out on a porch in the wind, arms flying loose and the coiled spring in her spine whipping her head around her neck like a whirlwind. The storm rages wilder and she let go into its flailing ferocity, aware outside of her own walls of a rising drum chorus of rain, driving her on. She whirled and wept and the storm rocked her fragile vessel til her anchor broke its moorings and she overturned onto the sofa bed in a strung out heap of humanity.

Convulsing deeply as the darkness drew in around her, Arielle’s world became an invisible point of light that she could feel but could not see through the storm clouds. Still knowing it was there, she could let the tunnel take her. Let this living story die in her, let herself be reborn with the force of its labouring.

Finally her breath deepened and slowed and her body fell open. Released from the strictures that bound, Arielle felt the soft, warm silence return. She could feel again the solidity of the sofa, the stone floor, the standing structures of the farmhouse, the bedrock of the valley and the unconditionally present curves of her mother the Earth.

The agony of solitude and tearing need to be held subsided in the sweet peace of stillness. Another storm weathered, another cavern cleared out of its subterranean sludge, ready and open for her soul to venture in and reveal the treasures to her in time. She sighed deep and felt his hand arrive softly on the side of her face, stroking a finger down from her tear-stained temple to the soft curve of her jaw. She raised her head a little to look for his sparkling eyes and felt again the firm and loving pressure of his palm on the side of her head. Relax, let go, lie still. Yes. Chema. His unrelenting warm presence and the touch that melted through her resistance like a laser beam of love.

That first night with Chema was the first time she could recall that she wasn’t left aching and raw. The first time that sex did not feel like a battle. The first time her body truly softened and her belly made way to be met. No bracing, no pushing back, off, away. No fighting to take control. She could feel a deep reverence and the intention to give pleasure, rather than simply to take it, in his every approach. He waited for her without a whisper of impatience, held her face and kissed it kindly when tears came. She felt deeply safe, only then, for perhaps the second time in her life, in the arms of a man.

She let go into black velvet slumber, lulled by the warm weight of his body at her back and the soft sway of his breath against hers. As she slept he took her hand and led her through rooms filled with unknown faces. Bewildered and shrinking from the mass of humanity she trailed behind, leaning her weight against his steady grasp. Now and again a reflexive jerk tried to yank her hand from his but he held it firm and squeezed love and reassurance from his palm to hers.

They came finally to a table of people that she knew. There were two places laid for them. She moved to sit and he turned and looked back at her, eyes asking a question she could not read and offering an apology she did not want to receive. She stood still. He let go, fingers trailing goodbye across her palm. His eyes promised his return, but she sensed the wave that carried him, the presence of something he could not yet see but felt propelled by. She sat down. A smiling someone took his place and began to animate soundlessly at her as she watched his beautiful, strong back disappear into the crowd that awaited him.

Chema had a spectacular life to live, and a whole universe inside to give. He carried a pure fire, a warrior for the earth and all who loved her. Every child was his, every parent. Every breeze carried him, every wave welcomed him. Chema belonged to the world and not to anyone and she loved him for it.

As the dawn broke, Hagrid’s rising, throaty rumbles penetrated the cosy bliss of a morning snuggle in the arms that held her soul safe, bringing Arielle tumbling into another day. The arms around her melted in the morning sun, a dream that could not survive the light. She stretched out like a starfish in the too-big bed and let him go again with a deep sigh.

“Another day in the hall of mirrors. What will I see?” she murmured sleepily as she stumbled down the stairs. The fire had gone out, Hagrid had not, and in this way the valley called her back to tend the wild heart of it.

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Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 3

A ragged bass line pumped and throbbed throughout the old farmhouse and Arielle’s bare feet slapped the warm flagstones in the afternoon sun, returning the beat. “This is love. This is me.” The mantra ran through her mind, just out of view of her thoughts. The vacant mist of wide open acceptance still hung thickly about her and she fought to ground with every foot stomp. “This is me, this is me.”

Staying anchored in her ego seemed crucial in the absence of any reflecting other. “I’ve only got myself to see me, so I must” she thought. Dancing grounded her, smoking grounded her. Cats on her lap held her down and balanced her energy through their own alternately spinning systems. Walking the land grounded her, dust to dust.

In the weeks and months since coming to the island Arielle had grown strong in her body. Climbing hills and carrying logs each day built a high base line fitness that fuelled a fierce hunger for protein, and so she ate like an athlete. With the relatively pure living and good sleep, she was a filly in fine fettle. Her body had never felt so good to her. Lithe and lightly muscled, skin soft and clear from soap-free simplicity, hair shining of its own accord, and a gentle rosy tan from the Mediterranean winter sun.

Some days she felt her own vitality and beauty so intensely she would weep with frustration. She wanted to share her body, use her body to give and receive pleasure, to communicate with gestures and touch, converse through dance. She wanted to mesmerise and catalyse with her body, to tangle and twine and test with her body. She felt like a circuit board that didn’t quite connect, unable to light up its full potential. She endeavoured daily to be enough for herself, to listen deeply and respond with loving presence, but she knew that it’s not how we are wired.

We humans are wired for connection. We are one with all and every cell in the great urban sprawl of our bodies knows it. We feel the whole world and hold it within us. She knew that all of humanity was there, throbbing with life. Complex systems bumping uglies and replicating wildly, all just out of view, just behind the veil that had descended when she arrived here.

At some point she must have sat down because in that moment she snapped into the experience of tiny needles in her fleshy thighs and a soft, furry cheek vibrating against her own. Tzatziki. Zazzle cat. Zazou. Her mitten soft little body shimmered black and amber in the late afternoon sun and she began to knead determinedly at the camel cashmere beneath her.

“Zazou, my love. Gah! My flesh! Please. I love you, but ow… Enough!” She scooped the elegantly sprawling bundle of hot kitty love into her arms like a baby and sauntered into the cool of the kitchen. One hand deftly lit the gas hob and the kettle groaned at being woken from its slumber, then began slowly to bubble and whine. “Time for tea again, must be” she muttered to the cat. Tzatziki only blinked her pistachio eyes slowly, upside down, and stretched out a languorous paw to Arielle’s lips.

Here was connection. Here was a perfect little being seeking warmth and sensual delight. This one also remembered her ancestor’s lifetimes in the desert. The relentless battering blaze of the sun that burned through bullshit in a flash. In the desert life is a gift and precious water is God, the giver of life. She knew water and fire lived side by side in her soul, sunshine weaving rainbows out of the rain. The one carrying oxygen that breathes life into the other, but only the flame can partner to release this precious cargo into the air and so they thrive interdependently in an eternal elemental dance…

This world of wild wondering and space-time wandering draped itself like a low-hanging mist over the pragmatic earthy mass of her daily routine at the farm. Chop wood, carry water. Walk dog, make soup. Feed cats, sweep floor, wash clothes. All punctuated weekly by a great big intake of sea air and mountain views, and the stark solids of earthly forms laid out for consumption in the minuscule Saturday market. Here everything was ordered like with like, and set out in rows to be clearly seen and unmistakably known for what it was. Even though she could read but a few of them, the labels felt good to her. “We all agree what these things are” she thought, fingering fruits and fronded beetroots, “and thats’s nice.”