Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hidden in plain sight



A gentle breeze so soft that it is seen rather than felt in the autumn air, flowers nodding in the hedges, leaves releasing their foothold and drifting to the ground; there’s a stubborn fog that’s turning buildings into movie-set facades, their angles concealed along with the depths within. The headlights of cars appear as soon as they are gone, slowly snaking into the grey expanse. Even the waves just visible on a truncated horizon slap themselves down in silence, a rhythm that can only be imagined.

On the path, a small bench has been placed, a careless rockery on either side. Into the wood, a small plaque has been screwed, its brass tarnished and dun. If you run your fingertips across the words, you’ll feel a silenced story come to view, if only for a moment: a dear relative, much loved – now gone –adored this spot, apparently, and this seat is to remember them.

Despite the picturesque placement of this memorial, it sees far more than the peaceful trajectory of seasons. An addict entered a final, dreamless sleep here just weeks ago, in exactly the same place where a child was conceived days later, in a breathless, hurried coupling that finished in giggles and hurried straightening of clothes. Children have climbed on it, cramming old sweet papers into its cracks, and an ancient couple use it every week as a resting spot along their stoop-shouldered journey.

When the path is empty, especially just before dawn and in the last light of the day, animals and birds twitch their way across the seat, squirrels with their scraps and fretful rubbing of paws and paranoid robins, sparrows and thrushes dart around, one eye fixated on their surroundings, jerky, clockwork motions.

Dogs come and go, lifting their legs and claiming each other’s territory in a meaningless cycle. Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. And again, on their return.

Once a year a representative of the local council comes past with a clipboard, inspecting the bench for its structural integrity. He ticks off a box, gives the panels a caring slap and moves on, whistling something his father before him used to whistle, a tune picked up in the carefree seasons after the war.

The fog has lifted, now, and the sun is out.

In the distance, a family can be heard, taking a walk. Their shoes are scuffing the path and they are laughing intermittently.  They come into view, hurry past and barely spare a glance for this bench, tucked into its careless rockery.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Birthdays





You don’t know how many you’ll get.


Horizons don’t draw closer, they just are.

They sit on life’s periphery,

Reminding you that there’s something beyond what you see,

The curved earth dipping into eternity.


At 45 the simple lesson learned is this:


Be kind, appreciate kindness.

Kiss and appreciate the kiss returned.


Put music on and listen to the thoughts stirred up by collected notes.

Feel the breeze, close your eyes and remember others.


Try not to give up, unless you give up.

If you do, grow back, don’t look back; move on.


When you read a phrase you like, read it aloud –

Let it roll on your tongue like a blissful dog.


Enjoy food.


Hug even when it makes the other person uncomfortable.

Close your mouth to senseless arguments.


Leave your mark on this world in hearts and minds,

The place erosion cannot file away.


Sit on drafty mountain peaks,

Wade in cool streams with jeans rolled up.

Turn your collar up against the autumn winds,

Find shelter in doorways from sideways rains.


Life is sensual, and senses can be hard.

Acrid stenches, physical pain at the touch, deafening noises,

The taste of bile, awful unforgettable sights.


Senses can be good:

The scent of memories, the warmth of an embrace,

A soothing piece of music,

A meal made from simple ingredients that satisfies the tongue,

Seeing the ones you love happy.


At 45

The reminder of my age is more to me than

The popping candy in my knees and greying chest,

But a hint to abandon the worst

And appreciate the best.


You don’t know how many you’ll get.


Horizons don’t draw closer, they just are.

They sit on life’s periphery,

Reminding you that there’s something beyond what you see,

The curved earth dipping into eternity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tupperware Party



Always poke holes in the lids, Joe reminded himself. Ever since he’d first gathered silkworms and piles of mulberry leaves, he’d learned that lesson. His uncle had helped him clean out the ice cream tub where the first batch had turned to foul-smelling mush and told him what to do next time. Always poke holes in the LIDS, he’d repeated.

He liked storing things, bringing bits and pieces of nature into the house. He remembered the time his mother had come home from a Tupperware party with the entire boot of the Morris Minor filled with tubs. And how she’d struck him with that despised wooden spoon when he’d taken a couple of them and poked holes in the lids. She’d been livid.


The lesson was confusing. Sometimes poke holes in the lids, then.


Growing up the holes in the lids began to make sense. The creatures scuttling around scavenged bits of bark and handfuls of soil needed the air to breathe inside the tubs.


He didn’t always find them the right food. He’d hold the box up to the window and peer inside, but the creatures would be on their backs, brittle legs folded in silent prayer.


Now that he was an adult, he recognised that childhood rules can change. He still liked storing things, although Tupperware no longer suited his purpose – the company that managed to dominate the market in containing leftover food had overlooked his storage requirements.


He preferred to let the insects and crawly things have their way in the house. He’d study them as they claimed their corners and spaces inside the cupboards. The spiders would keep their filigree larders polite distances from each other, and the moths, roaches and ants doodled their own cartography throughout the rooms.


Joe looked at his wrist. The scar was tingling in a way that reminded him of the pain he’d felt as his mother had lashed him with the spoon, but he couldn’t recall everything that had happened the night his uncle had held him down while his mother had taken the pot of roiling cooking oil and poured it over his hands.


The air in the basement was odd. It was damp and dry at the same time, the same way that a snake looks slick and wet, but the scales feel papery. At least the smell had lifted a bit. That was something he’d picked up very early on: Never poke holes in the lids.


Stacks of large plastic containers formed a wall within a wall, and he gathered the insects in one hand as he lifted the lid to one of the boxes. A liquid darkness reflected back at him as he dropped the bugs inside.


He replaced the lid. Listened to the rippling noise and smiled. A lesson his mother had taught him well.


Never poke holes in the lids, Joe, the ripples seemed to say, never poke holes in the lids.

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This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. SEVEN other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Tupperware party” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!



Click away on the names below:









Megan  


Cath

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mumbai





The terrain wasn’t good on the road to Kathmandu. It had been a couple of weeks trekking and some rough nights in the cheap hostels along the way. The chill seemed to freeze the smells of cooking and dung in the air, the only movement the steady flutter of Lung ta prayer flags tied onto the eaves of the huts. But we’d made it.


My mother and I had planned this trip for nearly twenty years, and for last few months had been going on longer and longer treks into the mountains near Cape Town to prepare our muscle memory. We’d flown to Joburg to get used to some altitude, and had wheezed our way around the crags with amusement. We weren’t fit, just determined.


It had taken decades for me to save up the cash for this: our trek to Base Camp in the Sagarmatha National Park, a dream to gaze up on Mount Everest and imagine the aspirations won and lost that blew around its icy peaks.


Perhaps it was the legends of Mallory and Irvine, the climbers who vanished into the mountain’s mists in 1924 that inspired my mother’s obsession with Everest. It could have been the craggy New Zealander, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s riveting first ascent in the same year that Queen Elizabeth ll sat tentatively on the throne of England for the first time. That would have filled her imagination as a child, the little details – Norgay leaving some chocolates on the peak as an offering, Hillary a cross.


She’d read or collected every single book she’d come across about Mount Everest. I’d worked in a book shop and had been her enabler. “Have you seen this one, Mum?” I’d ask, and it would go onto her Christmas list.


She managed to convince me with her library. Books written by men and women of their battle through the Death Zone to conquer the mountain, tales of the ones who remained behind, frozen into the slopes of the hill that had conquered them.


So we planned to go there ourselves. To scoop up dal with a roti in a darkened room on the way. Feel the coarse yak fur blanket against our faces. Laugh with the village kids as they skidded about in the gravel and mud. Listen to the wind and the stray dogs howl and the ring of the singing bowls in the temples.


Only this never happened. She became ill with Alzheimer’s around the age of sixty and died five years later.


In my mind I make this trip with her. 


I book my flight to India and arrive in Mumbai with a rucksack, ready for the connecting flight to Nepal. Watch the kites slicing through the thin air like souls released by the scavenging birds of sky burials. I hike into eternity and beyond.


Mumbai.


Mum, bye.

*This is from a personal experience and is in no way meant to diminish the impact of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal experienced by the Nepalese people and the international climbing community.

************************************************************************


This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. SEVEN other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Mumbai” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!



Click away on the names below:









Megan  

 


Cath

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tonight you’re mine, completely





It had taken the glaziers almost two days to install the massive mirror above Scott’s bed, but he thought the effect had been worth the wait. He was fastidious about details, and this one was the final item he needed to cross off his list. A train rattled in the distance, annoying him slightly. What was the point in choosing the perfect location if the location happened to be shared by a train?

He’d waited five years to complete the House of Mirrors. He’d observed as his hair had leaned towards that shade people called “silver fox”, but hadn’t accepted that. Imported hair colour treatments once a week saw his black locks kept in check.

Mostly it was quiet in the valley, and he liked that. The city was too crowded for him; the crowds of people unsettled him, but up here in the hills that rolled like sculpted breasts into the horizon he was content. 

The home gym was one of his favourite places to be, watching his taut muscles heave against the strain of the weights, a towel catching the runnels of sweat as they dripped down his slick chest. He preferred to push his body hard, and, in summer, would strip completely. His eyes fixed on his own mirrored eyes in silent communication.

He remembered the time as a teen that his parents had sent him for therapy. They’d been worried that he had no friends, but they didn’t know about the power of reflection. Narcissism: that was the word the psychiatrist had mentioned in his report. Scott had laughed, a laugh he had practised in the shower that very morning. A laugh that was scathing, derisive. His parents hadn’t asked him to do any repeat sessions.

They’d asked him once or twice about girls, but he’d never seen the point. His space was his own, and the thought that lace underwear would be left lying around in the bathroom along with balms, lotions and the general detritus of femininity was too much to contemplate. Scott kept the few Scandinavian toiletries that he had in one cupboard. They had very strict production controls in the Scandinavian countries.

He was still sweating after the workout, so he twisted the mother-of-pearl handles on the hot tub and sank into the foam, eyes closed. Every pore felt alive as he worked a straight razor across his chest and belly, slowly down to his legs, every hard contour. The hairs collected in a container that whirled in the water, keeping his body clean while he relaxed. After a half an hour, he rose, dried himself and walked to his bedroom, naked.

Scott thought back to the thoughts of girls again as he lay on his bed, looking up at the mirror on the ceiling. He sighed. The bottom left corner of the mirror was slightly lower than the top. He’d have to get the glazier back in. A low rumble signalled the last freight train of the evening. The vibrations travelled through the house, gently shaking the mirrors he’d placed on every wall.

The mirror above him made an odd grinding sound. It sagged down and he watched as the eight steel bolts slowly slid in unison out of the plaster.

As the mirrored Scott grew bigger in an instant, Scott smiled a wet smile of longing.

“Tonight you’re mine, completely” he thought.


****************************************************************************

This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. EIGHT other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Tonight you're mine, completely” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!

Click away on the names below:



Megan  
 
Cath