air and light and time and space

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
create.”

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work 16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

Charles Bukowski

There is always something. There is always something that will get in the way, even of air and light and time and space. If you allow it.

And you do.

You wait. Until after the house is vacuumed. The cat has move from your lap to his bed. The dishwasher is unpacked. The car is serviced. The work week is over. The children have grown. The cup of tea has gone cold. The fire has gone out.

You wait for the perfect time.

But you do not need air and light and time and space. Only yourself.

Drink from the well of yourself and begin again.
Charles Bukowski

Music Monday | White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane

Someone I love(d) sent me a photo with a message the other day that said “remember this place? xx”

And I do. It’s my old apartment building. Nine years ago, I lived in the far middle apartment with a view of the beach. I miss this place. It was small but cozy. And it took me less than fifty paces to put my feet in the sand.

Back then, I’d sit on my balcony and smoke. And listen to Jefferson Airplane.

Warm White

He shivers, hunched in the underground walkway between Berlin Schönefeld Airport and the train station, holding up a sign, an A4 sheet of paper that has been folded and unfolded one too many times. A lower corner is making a bid for escape, only held in place by frayed paper threads. Large block letters scribbled on it in blue biro read: I’M LIKING A TICKET PLEASE.

“Home,” I hear him whisper in English as I pass, “please, I need to get home.”

Me too, I sigh, I’m liking a ticket, too.

At his feet, a shoebox contains a handful of scattered coins in different currencies. There’s not enough change in there for a meal much less a ticket. He babbles in a language I cannot make out. His words catch in the whine and whir of the nearby jet engines and run away on the wind.

The icy air weaves its way into my bones. I pull my hat down to my ears and squeeze my gloveless hands into little fists deep inside my pockets, the crook of my elbow hauling the wheelie suitcase along behind me. My boots scuff the concrete as I drag my feet towards the terminal. I don’t stop to ask where’s home. I have no money to help. But his words continue to haunt.

Home. I’m liking a ticket, please. I need to get home.

Home, I scoff at the idea, what is that anyway? I’m more than 10,000 miles away from where I live but that isn’t home either. Not by any metric you’d normally use to gauge these things. ‘Home is where the heart is’ according to the adage but my heart is a restless wanderer. An aching nomad. Rootless.

My best friend from high school lived in the same house from the time she was born until after she graduated from university. If a house was supposed to be home, I had none. By the age of ten, I’d lived at seven different addresses. Mum and Dad renovated houses, doing almost all the work themselves to earn some extra money and just when one started to feel familiar, they’d sell it and buy another cheap dump in need of repair. At two in the morning, I’d find myself squinting into a dark kitchen with bleary eyes wondering where the toilet had gone before my sleepy head would register that we’d moved again. I’d bump into walls where there used to be doors. Do a double-take when I saw windows that used to be walls. Even after I moved out on my own, I couldn’t stop. Twenty-eight houses and three countries in thirty-one years. Each relocation a reorientation.

The first question you’re often asked when travelling is “where’s home?” My reply is always the same. “I don’t really have a one.” But always present, a feeling of searching, seeking, wanting, needing. The Germans have a word for it, the inconsolable longing for something unidentifiable; sehnsucht, they call it, the desire for a far familiar land one identifies as home. I’d felt it, sehnsucht, staring at the stars on a clear night.  But my heart is an itinerant with no fixed address.

***

It is a warm sticky evening at the end of summer when the nights are beginning to cool. I am seven and a half years old, sitting on the back steps of the latest house my parents are renovating, with my dad and a pair of binoculars. We are looking for Halley’s Comet. In my memory, I see it clearly, a soft warm-white incandescent blob with a fuzzy tail alone in the black void of space. Without binoculars, it looks almost the same as all the other warm-white blinking blobs that surround it. Dad has borrowed the binoculars from a friend. We don’t have enough money to purchase our own. But he wants me to see it. “You’ll probably still be alive when it comes back,” he says, “I won’t.” I can’t imagine what seventy-five years means, to live ten times longer than I already have. I can’t imagine being an adult in my own home because every time I look at the warm-white glow from other people’s windows all I feel is sensucht.

***

The thin concrete path that runs from the laundry of the house to the clothes line is warm. The heat it’s absorbed during the day seeps into my skin as I lie on my back staring at the sky. More stars appear as I watch it fade from a deep midnight blue to black. It is almost summer and I’m in yet another house in another part of the country. They’re catching me; thirty-two houses, thirty-four years. And none of them home. I’m waiting for the warm-white of the shooting stars; every year in October, Earth passes through a stream of particles that Halley’s Comet dumped into our inner solar system on its last orbit to give us the Orionids meteor shower. Every time I look at the stars, I am reminded of my father. He instilled my love of the sky, incited my curiosity of the cosmos. And every time I look at the stars, I feel more at home than I do on this planet.

***

I am thirty-six when I move into my thirty-fifth house with G. A few years later, we stand together in a friend’s driveway in Angwin, California staring at the sky. We are at her family farm for her wedding. Howell Mountain rises in front of us, the oaks and conifers silhouetted against the deep blue. Silver pinpricks appear above the treeline.

“I don’t know which one is the North Star,” I say, scanning the skies, “do you know what it’s called?”

“Really?” he replies, squeezing me as he wraps his arms around me from behind.

I can’t see his face in the dark but I know his expression from the tone of his voice. His eyebrows will be raised wrinkling his forehead, a half-smile spreading across his lips, a small curl in the top one. I know all the lines on his face.

The night sky is different here. I recognise Mars, bright and orange-red but I pull out my phone, hoping for cell service and Google ‘What is the North star called?’

Polaris.

“We need to find Polaris,” I say.

“Yeah, sure,” he chuckles, “that makes it easier.”

As it turns out, we are staring right at it. “That one.” I point to a group of trees, “the one above the third tree from the left. On the end of the little dipper.”

He squeezes me again pulling me tighter, burying his face into my neck and for the first time while looking at the stars, instead of feeling sensucht, I feel safe.

Six months later, when the electrician replaces all the lights in our home prior to our wedding and asks what type of bulbs I want, I don’t need to think before answering warm white.

Perhaps home is not the length of time in one place as much as it is knowing all the lines on someone’s face.

The stars belong in the deep night sky, and the moon belongs there too, and the winds belong in each place they blow by, and I belong here with you.

M H Clark

 

Music Monday | Nuvole Bianche – Ludovico Einaudi

On May 14, 2014, I wrote this of you. The date is important because it would be less than two weeks later that I’d meet G.

“Thank you,” I text, after an arduous afternoon, “for everything. Always, for everything. Love you. xo.”

“Thanks for the bunny!!” you reply, referring to the chocolate-Easter-bunny-egg thing I’ve been carrying around with me for weeks because each time I see you I forget to give it to you and this time, I finally remembered.

I laugh to myself at your reply. But moments later, my phone beeps again. “I love you, too.”

This time, I don’t laugh. A smile teases my lips and I push my head back into the head-rest as I drive, listening to…something. It doesn’t matter.

It’s true, I say to myself because you aren’t here, I do love you.

And I wonder what might have happened if I’d gotten my heart together, stitched it up, only to let it burst wide open with love for you way back when your heart was curious. But these are idle thoughts. Merely observations because I don’t long for things to be different. And I wonder about all the things that have happened since. And the only truth I’m sure of, is that I am so grateful for your friendship. For your steadfast love and care. And, for you, looking after my cat.

On the weekend just gone, you came to visit us; G and me, and my cat. Years ago now, you introduced me to Ludovico Einaudi’s music and late last year I saw something pop up in my Insta feed: Ludovico Einaudi in his first Australian outdoor performance. “Come,” I wrote to you, “please? I’d love to see this with you.” So you booked flights and I booked tickets. And on Saturday night we sat entranced at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl through Einaudi’s latest creation: 7 Days Walking.

Of course, he couldn’t not play one of his most recognised compositions, Nuvole Bianche. And so in the encore, he did. As he played, I pondered the last eight years. You were so good to me at a time in my life that was particularly awful. When I was particularly awful. And again, I was reminded, that I am so grateful for your enduring friendship. For your steadfast love and care. And I love you.

Music Monday | Sleep Baby Sleep – BROODS

A friend I haven’t heard from in a while got in touch today. Our contact is sporadic but consistent. I have loved him in all the ways it’s possible to love someone over the last 21 years. I love him still. He’s had a rough month; a sliver of the hard news, his cat passed away in his arms a few weeks ago.

I once wrote a poem about her. Or about him. Or about us. Whatever it was about, it was called:

His Cat

His cat is whoring herself
out to anyone
with a warm lap.

She chews on a belt loop
and looks up
disgruntled
when prodded to stop.

She sighs, stands, turns around and
returns to sleep.

It is surreal
or perhaps just
unreal
to think that life could be
like this.

It can’t.

She wakes again
his cat
murmurs and bathes
without leaving my lap.

Circa September 2010

Sleep, baby Piper. You were loved. You will be missed.

WIP (Work in Progress)

A few years ago, I sat down to write a book. And I did it. I wrote “the end” and everything. Now, I am editing that manuscript, my WIP. Which sounds like I’m close to finished. But a terrible truth in writing is that you can finish a draft (or several) and never be finished editing. I could probably drag it out for several more years if I wanted to.

The reason I’m not finished, though, is because the story has changed since I started. As it does. With understanding. Acceptance. Experience. Perspective.

But I’ve set my intentions for 2020. And while I won’t reveal all of them, one of them is to finish finish the book. Finish amending. Finish editing. Finish changing the story. Not because my memory of it won’t continue to shift but because it no longer belongs to me.

As we approach the end of the decade the customary comparisons are surfacing. The way I live my life is completely different. So is the way I love. But the deeper shadow parts of myself still lurk in dark corners, waiting for an opportunity. In 2010, my eating disorder had such a hold over me, the doctors didn’t think I’d see the end of the year, much less the decade. Yet here I am.

I once thought that if I wasn’t different at the end of all this, I wouldn’t be better. And while much has changed in the last ten years, plenty hasn’t. Who I am at my essence is entirely the same. Some days, I’m not sure what that makes me.

6162fe28-9f10-43ad-ac02-142b20210336

It’s impossible to tell by looking at someone how they are feeling. The picture on the left was taken in 2010, eight months into recovery. I had been re-feeding and gained quite a lot of weight, almost 25 pounds. The picture on the right…? March 2019. I weighed quite a bit more than I did in 2010 and had been back in treatment for three months. I’m still in treatment now. Perhaps this fight will always be a work in progress.

But the story of the last ten years no longer lives in me. And next year, ten years after I almost died, I will let it go entirely.

Christmas 2019

Merry Christmas. It’s 10.30pm and everyone has left. We’ve had G’s family here since 3pm, feasting and drinking. The year is coming to a close and so is another decade. As it does, I’m reflecting on all that has happened in the last ten years and I am overwhelmingly grateful.

 

 

Music Monday | Nocturne – Blanco White

It’s the 23rd December 2019.

I tell you this, not because you asked me what the date is – I’m sure you’re capable of reading a calendar – but because today marks five years since I packed up my VW Golf, drove from Sydney to Gippsland one last time, and moved in with G.

It’s forever and five minutes, all at once. And it always will be.

And time fell away
With the sound of each step
If the stars align then
For us they were meant in the lunar sky