A baffled and hot wind from the north, dashing back and forth. Leaves scurry across the kitchen floor, the dogs run in and out thrilled by this moveable feast of a wind, combining the dust of butterfly wings, fragments of ash from wood fires, particles of bark, moss, dried cattle dung, insect larvae, rumours of rain.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
I’m reading the poet WS Merwin and writing up a grocery list that begins with dog food before tofu or green tea or handbound notebooks for private journals. Another lazy day on a long holiday weekend, the housemate finishing cold coffee as she calls up to see if she can find a place on a Salvation Army farm for a homeless young alcoholic.
And spilling dried fennel seeds into brown paper packets to dry, sweeping a thick carpet of leaves (beaten copper shavings) off the verandah, putting black-eyed beans to soak in a deep enamel dish. The tabouleh yesterday worked well, so now I surge on an adventurous spirit and dream about cauliflower heads cut up and toasted with black mustard seeds, turmeric and spring onions. Or brown rice with sesame seeds and flaked almonds, crispy caramelised onions, lashings of chopped fresh parsley.
Work waiting for me, the folders on my desk. More rooibos tea in my old blue-and-white Greek teapot, the temptation of aniseed rusks made by a neighbour. The Great Dane has munched some of my small foxy dog’s plumed tail, not aggressively but from boredom. Stories that dash back and forth in the psyche, not unlike a directionless wind. Stories that have their jumping-off place in my life, in suppers with friends and the blueness of dawns after a sleepless night, in snatches of conversation overheard, in the poetry books piled on my bedside table. What can be said, what is possible in conversations between friends or lovers, between strangers pausing to exchange greetings on a country road? Or in what Yeats called the ‘foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart‘.
Reading Yeats as a schoolgirl, beguiled with his musicality and unsure of his layered meanings, his oddness and idealism and crazy, cracked poems: An elderly English teacher born in London’s East End talking about the Victorian tinkers and beggars who would take rags and marrow bones away, render down the bones for tallow which would be sold to candle makers, the rags patched and reused for coat linings or shoulder padding, resold. The heart there in a scrapheap, a junkyard, to be repaired and rendered down, melted and patched over and over again.
The ‘supreme difficulty’ we each encounter when we try to write from the heart, tell stories that matter..
Virginia Woolf on Montaigne, via Cassandra:
Montaigne…refused to teach, refused to preach; he kept on saying that he was just like other people. All his effort was to communicate, to write himself down, to tell the truth, ‘and that is a rugged road, more than it seems.’
For beyond the difficulty of communicating oneself, there is the supreme difficulty of being oneself.