Tears growing around my eyes, I reach my hand out to seek comfort in contact. Funerals are difficult. Unexpectedly, she takes my hand and I feel warm fingers in mine.
To physically know that someone is present, alive and breathing, is a gift. Gratitude swells within me spilling my tears over the brink of my eyelids. I bring my left hand to rest on the back of my sister’s hand so it is between mine.
Skin catches against my palm: her skin is drier than mine. I want to soothe, make the skin supple and soft for her. Anxiety prickles in my gut: evidence of fragility is difficult to bear. “She probably does too much washing up,” I think.
Guilt washes over me for this interfering over-protective thought and I remain still. Focus on breathing, focus on touch.
Rinsed by emotion after emotion after emotion I am left the impression of a dry hand clasped between mine, the texture a pattern I can see. The warmth and pressure of our folded fingers an indent upon me.
We are very different, my father and I.
I am emotional, empathic, impulse-driven and passionate. Everything is grey area, everything up for interrogation and exploration. He is rational, reasonable, logical and business headed. The world is black and white and he knows his place in it. I declare war against the world’s injustices. He calmly bends it to his will or declines to pick a fight.
We are very different, my father and I.
I’ve struggled for years with this.
I’ve struggled with the aftermath of my parents’ broken relationship.
I’ve struggled with the belief that I am wrong for not being more like him.
I’ve struggled with the fear that I’m not loved because I am different.
Today I felt an unexpected, overwhelming affection for my Dad as we did food shopping together for dinner. It was unbidden, creeping up on me with a slow warmth within my chest that made me smile.
I observe the judgements he shares of the people around us – I always fight my own impulse to do this. For once I don’t feel uncomfortable hearing his thoughts. With a jolt of realisation I understand why he is doing this and it is okay. And it is okay that I choose a different path. And that he is good at some things that I am not so good at. And the reverse is almost certainly true.
We are very different, my father and I.
We are not so different, my father and I.
I held a big, furry moth in my palm today as it quivered its way out of life. I made a point of appreciating just how beautiful it was in its perfect imperfection as I felt something within it pulse ever so faintly against the flesh of my hand.
It mattered to me that this little creature had a warm place for its last few seconds alive rather than being forsaken on the pavement.
It mattered that someone, somewhere appreciated the beauty of it being alive and vital while it lasted.
I cried, a little, at how lonely and impervious to my grief the world sometimes feels.
Of course, this isn’t really about the moth because it is and was always oblivious. The above tells you much more about the architect of the words than anything else, as the things we say and do and write always do.
One life long conversation about ourselves.
Knowing what it feels like to touch an other opens a world of possibilities of loss.
Sight crosses space.
Words have form.
Touch lives in memory alone, outside moments of connection. Touch is not being alone amid bravery and misdirection. Touch is being undeniably present with an other until we are separated again and all I have is unreliable memory to tell me it was so.
Knowing what it feels like to touch another
to hold, to be held, to be still against someone else’s skin for a time
opens a space for the rest of the world to fall away for a moment.
I am safe and warm in your arms, in our bed, before the day has laid any obligation on either of us.
I noticed grey hairs a day or two ago. Not obvious, unless you’re still (dozing before waking fully in the morning) and I’m running my fingers through your hair (a favourite pastime of mine).
Only a handful scattered in your sideburns, but this discovery made me catch my breath. Then, a welcome distraction and I considered it no more.
This morning my fingers sought those grey hairs. Did I imagine it? No, they’re there. Only visible as you sleep. You’re never still for long enough if awake.
I considered that this too shall pass and one day you’ll be gone. Pulled you close, whispered in your ear that I love you and let you sleep on.
Yesterday’s adventuring in Tintagel left me so shattered when I got myself back to the cottage I’m staying in that I could honestly barely move. My head was deep into thoughts of mythology and magic, of which more in another blog post.
Yesterday’s small thing that made a big impact, however, was part of a conversation with someone I’ve been having remotely while in Cornwall. I get very excited about the chance to read fiction when I am away on holiday and often agonise over which books to take to ensure I have something I enjoy reading while I’m away.
Having recently met a writer, whose company for a coffee I found charming and very welcome while I was in Rome, I was interested to read his work. I love to read the writing of people I know or I’ve met. When I wrote about writing as part of my MA I went to great length to illustrate my understanding of writing and reading as creating a dialogue over time and distance. A remote dialogue, if you like, which introduces the possibility to leave gaps in the dialogue that are entirely different to those found in a one to one conversation. Gaps which the reader must fill for themselves without recourse to the usual personal context that accompanies a conversation.
Charles Lambert’s Little Monsters has captivated me during my holiday and unusually for me, I’ve read the whole novel in less than a week. As we’ve met and follow each other on twitter I wanted to let him know how much I enjoyed the book.
Reading writing by someone I’ve met doesn’t erode that space between reader and writing, but it does introduce the writer as a very real entity which I find adds another layer of interest and possibly defines more clearly the boundaries of that space. It mattered to me to share my love of his book because I was fairly certain it would mean a lot to Charles to hear it. And indeed, his delight at recieving my thoughts was palpable even through the restricted medium of 140 characters! 😉
I treasure this: being able to make a connection with another human being through their somewhat abstracted one to many statement to the world and also through a more immediate, ephemeral and one to one dialogue.
I did something a little unusual the weekend before last. I wrote a letter by hand and then actually posted it. I don’t often do that any more and I like sitting down and spending time writing something by hand for someone else. The tricky bit, as it happened, was remembering to post the bugger. It was another 6 days before I remembered to buy stamps and pop it in a letter box. Never mind my organisational failures, however, that actually highlights another thing I like about creating and sending physical things to people – they each have their own idiosyncratic journey through space and time.
I am well practiced in the art of conversational writing to people – I have been composing and sending rambly emails for years; I kept a personal journal for ages that I occasionally still add to and of course I write this blog. My tone is generally chatty and even when I am the only person carrying the conversation, I no longer find this uncomfortable. As long as I’m sure the other person won’t feel overwhelmed by a long rambly message it is all fine by me.
Unlike email or having a conversation via social media though, letter writing and sending may require a consideration of when the other person is likely to recieve the letter. You cannot assume it will be instantaneous. Will, for example, it arrive after you have already seen them and shared all the news you spent time carefully writing about it a letter? Or will a letter share a snapshot of what is in your mind at writing, only to sit at the bottom of a handbag for 6 days before finally being posted, only to miss the Saturday post, hence have to wait until Monday’s collection and not arrive until Tuesday a full 9 days after originally being written? (Not accounting for any delays or failures in the post system.)
There again, another thing to consider about letter sending. There seems to be some fragility of the connection, an unusually contingent quality to this mode of communication. What if the letter is lost and never seen again? I would very rarely make a copy of a personal letter before sending it. Those words are, quite literally, gone forever once I’ve committed my letter to the postal system. I won’t have an electronic copy I can go back over to remind myself of what I’ve written. They are cast away into the world, no longer my property in any sense. If they never find their destination, what then? Nothing can be done.
Hand written letters seem to be strangely fleeting entities for the writer, yet somehow more substantial and tangible than an electronic communication for the recipient. I think one of the nicest things about sending a letter is the anticipation that it will arrive, physically, on someone’s doormat and they will be able to pick it up, experience it physically and read it. I love sending postcards and am prone to sending ones (from my unreasonably large collection) from home, with no particular reason except a whim of mine. To make a physical connection with someone. I think that is reason enough.