4.2.18 Hydrangea, Mum's garden.
Today's photo is special because I didn't take it - my son did. I've been finding it particularly difficult to move this weekend so today, he decided to take charge of my camera on my behalf and push its nose into places I couldn't see.
Turns out there is something better than taking pictures: it's getting to see through the eyes of the person you love most of all.
Go, give cameras to the people you adore. See what they bring back of themselves to show you.
3.2.18 Rainy day in the garden
Today I sat with half a dozen half-formed thoughts on my lap and wondered what to do. They have climbed up there every time I have tried to rest this last week, like new children peering up at me, watching to see what I'll do next.
I'm a little lost at the moment. Very little is getting done. There is that tight, hot feeling that comes before change, when you know things can't stay the same for much longer. I don't know what it all means yet, I've just been alive long enough now to feel when the wheel starts to turn again. I have new lessons to learn, I think. New risks to take. And probably things to let go of too, because isn't that how it always goes?
I'm trying not to brace this time or to rush towards it in panic. I'm trying to remember that change doesn't always need to be dramatic or forced and you don't always need to try and claw it into an impressive story to tell. Whatever this is that's coming, I want to slip into it like walking into rain.
Maybe it isn't anything after all and I am just tired. Maybe it's simply the season turning that I feel and nothing to do with me at all.
In any case, I'm going to sit and wait right here, lap full, heart open. There's no rush, is there.
1.2.18 Drive home from swimming lessons
Too tired for thought. The moon could see I was in trouble and leapt to get home first, flickering in and out of the trees ahead of the car like a fat white fish.
Now she crouches in view of my bed, peering under the window frame where she stopped to wait for me. She is all mass now and I think I have never seen anything so still, so solid. Dark, bare feet planted firm on the sky, she sits back on those unmovable heels and beams with her whole face stretched taut, content to go nowhere. My round-faced Buddha. My shape-shifting godmother.
I let my eyes open and close and open again.
Still here, she grins. You sleep, child. Day's done.
31.1.18 Evening quiet
It was a day of birthdays today, as every day is when you think about it. We just don't notice many of them.
I watched a woman with a careful bob and focused steps cross the car park, a posy of daffodils in a milk bottle held out steadily before her. A late, accidental bridesmaid, she carried her offering to an even later bride who stood waiting, hunched over a thick stick, her jaw quivering under a small smile. She didn't take the flowers or reply to the singsong wishes, merely smiled a little wider and bobbed at them like a maid before turning slowly to walk further into the centre. The posy-bearer was left to follow haltingly behind her in gentle procession and I watched them go, the birthday girl and her acolyte, trying to hide my own smile. Her birthday must be eight decades deep today, at least, and it was like every birthday candle ever set alight in her name had remained lit inside her because as she passed me, light poured out of her, her tiny eyes aglow.
She was birthday through and through, that one. I hope I get to collect all mine in me like that. I hope it was a good one.
28.1.18 Evening, back garden
Few words today. It's been a particularly low-functioning day for my nervous system and I need to rest. I spent a little time outside as the light faded so the whole day wouldn't be lost to me and was in time to see the dusk take its ladder and careful black pen to the sky. The silhouettes were like the air - cold and sharp and perfect - and I breathed all in.
27.1.18 Making pyjamas
I struggle to relate to a lot of common human thoughts and habits. I know I am wired a little differently, in more ways than one, and that has often meant loneliness and doubt and a strange kind of freedom, all at once.
I keep watching people's preoccupation with being best at things. Not in patiently honing a skill out of sight, not in practice, but in wearing something about you like a prefect's badge. Everyone seems to want to be an authority on something or other these days. As soon as they get a sniff of something they might be good at or an opportunity they could take, they're off, racing eagerly towards acclaim and recognition. They want for the world to look at something they do or something they are and consider them top drawer. They want to be memorable, significant. They want to arrive, and the sooner, the better.
It sounds about the least fun that I can imagine.
I spent the day at my sewing machine today, attempting to make my very first item of clothing - a pair of drawstring pyjama bottoms - and thought about what it means to be a beginner, an apprentice. It such a gift to know that you don't really know what you're doing. Harmless mistakes only trigger panic and horror if, deep down, you already think you should be better than you are, when you secretly think you belong on another level entirely. When you know that you know nothing much, it is easier to shrug and grin it off or to find the whole business a marvellous curiosity. When you decide you're still a beginner, errors become fascinating books to pour over, puzzles to turn, not something to be hidden away or frantically overcome. You're not supposed to be the best yet, you're not even supposed to be getting it all right: you're just supposed to be having a go and seeing what happens next.
I'm amazed how willingly and how quickly we throw away that beginner's identity because I can't think of anything better.
I think I choose to stay a beginner in everything I do. There is so much more space here, so much more room for play and for laughing and learning. More and more, I feel that if my skills are going to grow and refine anywhere, it is in this quiet place of no-big-deal. Here I can really see what it's all about, and that's all that really matters to me in any case.
I feel a strange kind of reassuring joy sometimes, watching people hurry past me, heads down, faces grim, determined to get somewhere.
I've realised I can let them go right on ahead, because where I am now is just right.
25.1.18 The last of the birthday tulips
I used to love to paint. I imagine I still do, it's just that I don't paint anymore. The squeeze of colour from the tube and the mix and daub of it, it makes my heart beat a little faster just thinking about it.
Painting is alchemy with colour. To get to play with colour like that, to play with pure light, it felt like flying. It made me feel like light. And all the names, too: rose madder, cadmium, Prussian blue, viridian and burnt umber. I'd say them aloud as I picked through them; collect tubes of them like jewellery. I liked it thick and tactile, watercolour always making me recoil a little because it felt too distant. Pastels did when paint was too hard or impractical; just something I could get all over my fingers. I liked to paint small things big and bold, full of gentle detail, or try to capture light and shadow in some way. I liked missed things, single objects, nature, people. I poured over work by Georgia O'Keefe, Van Gogh, Monet, hoping it might find its way into me and out again. I was never all that good, my skewed eyesight making my drawing oddly stretched and flat. It didn't matter.
Painting is not an easy hobby to sustain in a very small, shared house. You need space to play like that, time to practice, and good light and energy, and money too, and I didn't have any of those things. I tried for a good long while, but it became a choice between an easel and somewhere to eat; time painting or time earning, and after a while, the more pressing priorities of life elbowed it all the way out. My diminishing energy and growing physical need for adapted spaces and extra support didn't help massively either. Good painting comes from your whole body.
That's ok. Not everything has to be always or forever, and one day maybe I will go back to it and it will be all the sweeter for the break. Time spent dreaming of an accessible studio, the right easel and chair, trays of paints under my fingers, everything white and full of slanting light, and time tracing the shape of things with my eyes, blending the perfect shade in my head and smearing it on the air: that's almost as good as painting for real anyway.
I've realised something lately though - that I'm using a camera to do my old brushes' job. These days, I take photos to make my paintings. I photograph what I would like to paint, and I only need to hold myself and use my body for a moment and there, it is done. It's not the same, but oh it's something, full of all the same light and noticing, full of the same energy and intent.
There are so many ways to do the same thing, aren't there.
I like that.
22.1.18 Clematis napaulensis in my back garden
Today I ran an early morning bath, a bath I'm not really safe to take but love to anyway. I slipped down into it in the dark and let myself sink low until my hair was a black halo. I pressed puckered fingers to the bottom and imagined I was something green and vital, soft seaweed, sinewy and graceful, round and light with oxygen, and that was a good way to start the day.
Today I heard the bright hello of a friend - the three-year-old brother of one of my son's classmates who has taken a shine to me. He appeared at my elbow like a wish in the playground, all grin and snot, and we talked about traffic lights, of the red and orange and green of them. I let him press the horn on my scooter and make the lights come on, front and back, as I do every day, and his face stretched into wide delight.
Today I took a slow wander down my garden path to check on my winter-flowering clematis. It is delicate but evergreen - an impossible, gorgeous thing from Nepal. Its closed flowers have hung like baubles for a month or more now and I have tried to be patient. Today, at last, I got to see the peeled back reveal of them, pink and shameless, and it was worth the wait.
Today I drank coffee in breathless gulps and let myself cry in front of someone who loves me, laughing in the next breath because that comes easier to us both.
There is more to say, of course, and today was a hard, hard day, but those were the best things, and I would rather have flowers fall out of my mouth than frogs.
20.1.18 Things on my dining table
The best present I ever received came with a tag that swung from the small square box. It said "TIP ME UP" and so I did. A mass of chocolate coins tumbled out, gold and silver, and, dotted amongst them, miniature totems of my life. A pair of wellington boots that I could wear on two fingers. A cup and saucer I could balance on my thumbnail. A dollhouse umbrella, wrapped tight and darkest green. Buttons and marbles and the smallest set of keys you've ever seen, for I collect them too, if you remember - they line my staircase. A copper bird with a long, curved beak. A tiny bottle with a bound note.
Other small things have found their way to me at other times, from friends and readers who know my propensities and from my own magpie nature. My house holds them all in its pockets, in dishes and boxes and tins. Occasionally, I'll lay them out and make a curation of them.
I have been dreaming today of a matchbox museum. Maybe I will start one. I could fill a matchbox a week, a month, with the smallest things I can find, label them and stack them high, drawing each one out from time to time, to arrange and photograph as if priceless.
A record of life in diminutive, overlooked, broken things - I'd like that.
Eyes to the ground then. I wonder what will find me.