Vol 4, Issue 1: The evening light

Photo: a scene of trees at twilight, G. morris

I’ve fallen in love with the evening light. The liminal time. The point in the day where past and present meet one another and entwine. There is at last, no need to interpret or mould the other into any one thing. In this space, I find myself not needing anything, or wanting anything to be different. Relief settles over the long reeds and the wild grasses. The edges of outlined things melt into the sleeping land and soften. Above it, as the sun gently breaks the skyline, my oblique resignation from the world is turned into a trail of crimson hues and dusty pinks, littered with defiant oranges that sketch a sense of promise in me.  Amidst the lost directions of a locked or not locked- down world, I can’t imagine a better shade of red to bathe in. 

I know this liminal time well, not only because of its sacred place before the night, but because I carry it inside me. On my first outing after many months in bed or nearby it, I find myself walking down a cobbled alley, taking in the sounds of feet falling against hard cement, (one of my favourite sounds, in fact). I am enjoying hearing about other people’s lives as conversations tangle and fall through my ears. I am out, I am walking. I have acquired some energy and I feel okay. But I am also aware of another version of myself that I’m courting. There is a person inside of me who drains away the more I rise, who returns more starkly the more I try to escape. I am like Cinderella, making careful footsteps across a night that is sure to vanish. I carry on collecting details of the street scene, noticing how life is going on in some small, defiant way. I employ the advice that I keep hearing, to stay in the here and now in order to protect the mind from things that remain beyond its control. And so I carry on looking, absorbing. The sights and sounds are all the more precious for being out here, a visitor to a world I have momentary access to. The kinds of small things that would have gone undocumented in a previous life settle into me now. I am careful, as I tread and travel and move from place to place, to lean back into myself. Not to fall into the trap of rushing or believing that the worst has past. For I am only a momentary character here; I am only liminal. 

At the top of the cobbled alley, I find my local book store.  I feel the novel graze of physical books against my hands, free from the fractured sense of space and time I’m used to looking at through a screen. I ask the bookseller if she’s read anything that she enjoyed recently, I am delighted to receive two recommendations of books that she suggests. She doesn’t like kindles or computers or social media either. We agree that there is an inexplicable, subtle and delectable delight in feeling a book’s story enter into your mind through your fingertips. The English have tailored this kind of light hearted commentary on the world well,  always averting the vulnerability of the inward gaze in exchange for neutrality. I don’t tell the bookseller about how I really am and where I’ve been, or how reading words on a page without the sensation of them bouncing against my brain is a relatively new sensation. We don’t talk about struggle. After all, on the outside, I look alright. I seem okay. 

 I thank the bookseller as I place my purchases in my bag, relieved but also feeling a little guilty. Though we have shared a cerebral connection, exchanged recommendations and favourite pass times, I have kept something from her; the searing, jeering presence of something I always carry inside of me but rarely show. Many people who experience chronic illnesses are disbelieved because many of their symptoms don’t show on their outer appearance, despite how they show up in virtually every activity they undertake in a day. An exasperated member of the Long Covid support group that I’m a part of expressed how it can be frustrating when people comment on how well you look – frustrating because there are already swathes of people, doctors included, reducing the experience of physical pain to psychological invention. ‘We are not pretending to be ill,’ one woman wrote in the comment section, ‘we are pretending to be well.’ I paused after reading this comment. It spoke to a feeling of pretence I’d long been with but lacked the language to express. I often have a feeling of not quite belonging to an outer day time realm that seems to be largely driven by by wellness and activity. It seems this sense of displacement is a common experience in Long Covid sufferers, and indeed people alive on this earth at this time, of participating in two worlds, without feeling fully at home in either. In the book shop, I straddle the tangible, physical world that I share with the human being in front of me, one of books and light hearted conversation, and the secret one within. My muscles are beginning to ache now, from talking, from this gentle walking, but none of this shows on my smile as I bid her goodbye.

When I arrive home, I am tired. So very tired. The enjoyment of the day begins to reap its momentary scars. Aches begin to spread into places where there were laughs. Tension arises where but hours before there was carefree movement. Dreams of further plans on other days wind down now and travel on past. My arrival back to my trusted duvet cover chimes with my favourite time of day; the liminal. The clouds are meandering their way into an infinite backdrop of indigo blue. Animals are scurrying back to their cosy warrens. The last rays of the evening’s light makes such a delicate and precious union with the landscape because they will shortly fade away. Is this such a radical way to move through the world; reaching delicately for its delights as they pass through your fingers, holding rare jewels of plentitude in the same place that loss travelled across your palms? Is it so wrong, so strange, to live at the point where two worlds converge, mystically lapsing into one other,  gathering losses whilst occasionally knowing wholeness?

The furnace of memory

Memory comes to me
Scattered

Harassing distance
in the scraps of images 

With reeds as deep as grasses 
 And ravines so deep they burn, 

The furnace of memory 
Is a place that scolds 

and makes my heart quicken
Until a glimpse of life before

Comes in and before it pours
 It floods,

Taking me from here,
To a nowhere place above 

And yet  I cannot help but go there 

but
For a quick glimpse,

A quiet taste – 
A soft hint of what was. 

Love

I’ll meet you in the place where, 
the certainties bound in my heart 
Rest in the sanctuary of your wisdom,  
Holding onto light, like a lecturn.

I’ll find you there, gardening, 
and tending to the wound,
I thought grew from emptiness,
 but moves towards a source of love

That is forever and endless. I’ll keep walking, 
emptying what I’m carrying
Till I reach that point, in this existence.
Where we can be all we are,
Beyond this place, I’ll meet you there.

 

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