Person-centred writing-. . . along the quiet path

. . . along the quiet path

 

I like the poetry of Mary Oliver and Carol Ann Duffy and Rainer Maria Rilke, and I suppose my own writing mirrors something of each of these, while nowhere reaching their heights.  I have a fascination with meetings between people, and you will find this a frequent theme in these vignettes and poems.  They are intended as catalysts for the reader's own process.

 

 

In the end we are the stories of our being, woven into the stories of all those we have touched, each of us a fibre being spun into a yarn and affecting its texture and its colour and its nature and becoming a part with the million others of the thread that weaves the tapestry…

and this is how we matter, for the touching makes us part of another’s touching, and another, and another…

    “…I knew this man who said…”

        “…and she told me how…”

           “…he helped, a total stranger…”

               “…whoever she was, she made the difference…”

                   “…someone somewhere said…”

                       “…I always do it this way, I suppose it started somewhere…”

 

So what matter if you can’t recall my name?  I am out there still, for ever, somewhere,

... and you could find me, if you just knew where to look.

 

Stations can be such sad places.

Four people, one leaving. Not much to say. Strange how there is always so much unsaid and so little time to say it, but yet how little comes out. I saw their dad first, leaning from the carriage window, he looked oldish to have such young boys, only eight or so. Lined face, world-worn, perhaps he was a seaman, or on the rigs, or a contractor going abroad again after the Christmas break. He was trying to say something meaningful to his two boys, but nothing much was coming. Just the yearning to stay, to be with them, a little longer. He looked up and our eyes met for an instant. I think he knew I was saying 'I am sorry you have to go'. Fathers alike. Then he was moving, two little faces, outstretched waving hands and sorrowful gazes following their father still leaning out waving back as the train turned away gathering speed.

Now the emptiness, the space across the spare platforms, nothing holding in the moment, holding back the tears. It was then I noticed his wife. Christmas, togetherness, fun, presents, family. Apart now, and just the memories for the interminable absence. When next, a month, Easter, the summer? Look strong for the boys, wipe away the tears. No, can't do that this time.

 

 

 

To share a moment. A glance. Eyes meeting. Insignificant in the context of things. Part of the flow, the ongoing stream of events. But also the meeting of two worlds, which won't ever happen again. If only we could see it coming, then we would know to be prepared. Anticipation. Expectation. But then of course it would be different. My look could not have contained the interest, wondering, searching, joining, enjoying. And hers could not have so unwaveringly returned it, knowing, giving, smiling, joining... then gone. Like the dried-up leaf whisked away by the next gust of wind in Russell Square - for that's where we were. But no, not quite like that. For the moment has stayed with me this many years, or rather the wondering about what it might have meant has stayed. She was tall, thirties, striking, eastern appearance, her camel coat was billowing in the wind, she was walking confidently beside a man who might have been Japanese and was older. I think they were holding hands - but for that moment she was with me. He probably didn't notice. But we knew. And she was saying - not him just now, but us... just now, we know everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If animals have a notion about time, it mustn’t be as something
linear, but surely more like a wheel, something
that keeps on turning, coming round
to where it’s been, confirming
the place for each activity,
giving purpose for the season,
pattern of ending and beginning
constantly subsumed within a cycle of creating,
and the end of life no more than when the wheel ceases turning.

 

If we too, looking round, could see the beauty of renaissance,
sinuous thread of living for no reason other
than keeping faith with nature’s order;
and the earth always turning
indifferent and unchanging
always moving through and through,
coming round to where we started when we
first felt cool air bathe us, understanding no anxiety,
the end of life no more than when we’d cease to feel the turning.

 

It was like watching a film and being in it, at the same time. Quite unsettling because I was there - yes - in the scene, an open country road on a small island, but for them it was as if I didn't exist. No glance, no gesture, no pause, no inflection, no slowing down, no speeding up. We passed within inches - we had to, three of us and the road was very narrow - but I wasn't there. I had seen no-one for an hour and probably wouldn't see anyone for another hour. And likewise, I am sure, for them. But I wasn't there.

And there were other things which were strange too. There was a cool breeze on a dank afternoon, enough for a pullover and coat. But they had only skimpy tops, short sleeves, jeans. And they were talking, like friends, openly. "Rate" I heard, and "physical beauty". Like mosaic fragments on a wall where more has been lost than remains and we are invited to imagine colours and shapes from the dull grey cement of a partial restoration. We strain to picture the whole… and we give up - just not enough to go on. I wanted to collect more fragments, but we were moving apart, and only the wind could hear.

I was alone again. The road, the wind, the sky… and me. I looked back, just to be sure. The road wound away up the hill, and the tall grass swayed in the wind at the turning.

 

 

Bag lady. Not quite. Dishevelled and looking 50 though probably much younger, but she didn't have bags and she wasn't pushing a supermarket trolley. She shuffled, but that was probably more to do with the drink than general condition. And the drink was obvious as soon as she came within a few feet of me. She sat down next to me, and there we were, an ill-matched pair on a bench which very quickly became an island as the tide of passing commuters receded to a safe distance. High and dry. But I am a helper. I am compassionate. She turned towards me and leaned over until through her ragged jumper I could feel her breasts compressed against my arm. "Want to come home with me? … You'd have a good time… We'll go to the offie and buy a bottle of wine, then go home. You'll enjoy it… Come on".

Helping has boundaries. Compassion has limits. So easy to be indignant. So easy to patronise. But this was no straightforward cadge, just pay the money and leave quickly. And she was no obvious prostitute. It was herself she was offering, for a few moments of escape in a bottle of oblivion. I paid the money - not for sex, of course - and for a while she just sat and looked at it, and then looked back to me, her eyes glistening with tears. No faded memory would be re-kindled this time, no quickening pulse, no longed-for ecstasy. It was me she wanted. But I wouldn't let her help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remembered the bright patches of red glimpsed between brown drooping figures which Spielberg used for a vivid highlight in Schindler's List, a child in a bright red coat shining out amongst the sepia-tinged images of despondency. Red for life. Red for hope.

On a chilly autumn morning, across the drabness of an Amsterdam square, cobble-neat and cloud-grey, another red highlight. She was in a wheelchair, about sixty, bundled up against the cold in a bright red coat, listening… dreaming, I think. A small group were standing around two musicians playing celtic harp and guitar, a wonderful melodious sound, the guy on the harp, in a brown leather coat, and his girl with long auburn hair. They played seriously, as if they were excusing themselves to their music for exposing it in such unnatural surroundings. They gazed intently, looking past their onlookers, no need, it seemed, to make a personal connection. The small group parted to let the wheelchair through, pushed by a companion. When the music stopped, the woman in red motioned to her companion, who leaned over while she said something, and then went over to the girl with the guitar and passed on the message. A few moments consultation and then the duo began again. The girl looked softly at the woman in red. This is for you. For your memories. For your dreams. This is for the good times. May the music warm you and lift you far away from here.

 

 

7/11. Still standing then. The cathedral-like entrance halls marble-lined, and the ticket booths looking like the way-in to some cheap fairground attraction, and the queues, patient, chattering, shuffling… just in time. The attendant's patter as you shot up 110 floors in little more than a minute. - Where were you when the lift fell to earth? - Arriving in a concourse at the top, but not quite the top. This was the entertainment floor, shops, enclosed viewing, New York helicopter flight simulator... and such a small un-prepossessing stairway to the real top of the world.

And now it is different. On the roof. Mesmerised. Thirty or so others all spell-bound. Plenty of room to walk around, sauntering in the air. Released. Unbounded. Sky-high.

"Will you take our photograph please?"

An Indian couple about our age wanted to be able to remember this time when they stood taller than everyone. But how do you capture this?

So we snapped and were snapped in turn.

What does this mean to you now, back in another world? Birthplace of Buddha. Where does this fit in to creation? Monument to mammon. Bastion of enterprise. World trade… at the toe of Manhattan.

 

Hubris.

 

Men are not meant to walk in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first I did not see her,

a movement only amongst the rocks and ledges

through which the path was scrambling,

and, concentrating hard myself, I missed

the colour splashing in the rocks,

until somehow we seemed to both be walking on

converging paths and I wondered

how to do this, this sharing of a way,

this walking on together.

And the meeting was immaculate,

happening together on that open moorland fell,

the convergence so precise as to

defy an explanation down to chance and yet

how else account this travelling serendipity.

I looked around, thinking to see another –

so implausible it would be, just the two of us,

and chancing on this self-same spot and in the very instant –

but no other,

ours alone to share

this moment, this eternity.

 

And so we fell in step, a walking meditation,

our other lives a world apart from this shared solitude.

 

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