My Golden Ratio

I will allow myself to wear red again or so it seems, in this image, on that day over there, in the corner of my mind. But if I’m honest with myself and I do need to be, it’s not in the corner of my mind, it’s in-front of everything I do, it’s loud and daring on my kitchen floor and I have unraveled today.

I’m waiting for the leaves to turn a little more, waiting for the soft ageing to calm me down, let the golds and umbers settle me, let vermilion still my mind. But it’s not yet.

The hawthorn outside my window is hanging on to summer, its leaves are glossed and green but the berries have started to burst through. I can feel the blackbirds watching, grateful for the abundance, for the ease of finding food.

They lived under my eaves through spring and summer, I used to hear them rustling and scratting in the dark above my head. Sometimes at night when I woke, when I couldnt settle myself, I’d hear them move around and I’d call out.

I’d call them birdies and would whisper soft into the darkness, go back to sleep now birdies and they would and I did too.

But now they’ve gone. I just hear silence in my eaves but I know they’re still out there, keeping an eye on my tree, eager for berries, waiting for the lush firm fruit to fill their beaks.

And I wait too.

There’s such a tension, like something humming at my core, some necessary essence waiting for its turn and this morning it burst through.

I have calmed a little now, regained some poise and quietness but this morning I changed my ways.

I charged out through the grey autumn, unfurling and stretching out as though there was no resistance, as though there was only joy.

And in my unraveling I booked tickets to the show and then my mind wandered up the street, past the estate agents, past the army museum and the old red brick walls I knew so well, walls that I knew from an earlier time, when I was chaotic and free. And so this morning I walked that route again, past the Hotel du Vin but then I stopped.

I found myself able to do anything so I paused and went through their doors, I looked at rooms and made choices and in my haze and daze I found a suite. And how perfect it was with patio doors that lead out to its own private garden and that would do nicely I thought.

And there draped in red, in russet maybe, nothing harsh or emboldened but a softened red of ageing, of wisdom, of a maturity to hold myself up to the light. And there in my russet awareness I almost booked the room. And I would have added dinner of course but stopped just short of that.

And then the winds danced at my window and pulled me back inside away from the streets I know so well, away from the memories of purple curtains and the swirling depth of wine. Days merged and frayed, moments hanging like the leaves that need to fall, like words dropping onto grass, like footsteps on cobbles, Italian streets when I wore cream linen and the golden light through their windows which rippled across and stopped time.

And somewhere in autumn, in the fracturing moments of myself, in the scent of the Sistine chapel I burst through, from there to here and out and onwards, upwards, outwards to another day, another time, when I would allow myself to wear red again. To wear russet and flow, to sparkle and drift through streets with no resistance and in the overwhelming colours of possibility I almost booked a room.

I can breathe again now, memory and fantasy have merged and drifted down. I’ll be alright soon. I do think so much of wearing red though, of being delirious autumn trees in sunlight, of not being afraid to shine.

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Pigments

Sit down beside me, here on the floor and bring your palette and your paint.

Take my feet and cover them in sap green so that they merge with the undergrowth, with the things that spread out and take root. So that my toes wriggle in the earth and feel the soil seep in-between them.

Take my legs and cover them in opera rose, let the paint coat my limbs like a small girl’s tights. And she doesn’t care about the luminous colour because she’s bright and loud and free. Colour my legs until they run helter-skelter down the road with no concerns.

Take my abdomen and cover it in alizarin crimson, remind it of when it would flow, when blood signalled life, when it held and it pulsed and became.

Take my breasts and cover them in cerulean, calming and restful, a soothing blue to feed and sustain, to remind them of the nurturing. Paint them and feel oxytocin flood.

Take my face and cover it in brilliant yellow, let it be vibrant and glow so that it lights up the room, so that rays burst out in sunshine.

Take my hair and coat it in orange lake deep so that I look like a punk, so that I look like I used to when my hair was short and spiked, when I wore a zebra print dress and didn’t care.

And my orange hair will spill out across the floorboards in rivulets, ideas and plans and possibilities tumbling out, soaking the wood with unbounded thoughts and dreams.

Take your palette and your gouache and cover all this grey then wash your brush out in my water and sit beside me on the floor.

Cumulonimbus

I need to find the smallest of words, seek them out and hold them close. I must be careful though, holding them means I must lift my arms and that seems too hard. So I’ll just think about them instead.

I’ll think about stillness and sleep, that’s all. The rain came back today and with its soaking, it washed away part of me, took my feathers and my frills, drenched my ribbons and wet my bows and I’m bedraggled. If I looked up I’d see them, sodden, lying around me but I won’t open my eyes. I still think about them of course, crave them, remember how it felt to move and jingle and shimmer and shine, but not now.

The rain came back today, it saturated me. There’s almost a breeze but not quite. I’ll just sit still for a while and if I breathe soft and slow, if I look down, no-one will know that I am here.

For Safe Keeping

Find her by the canal in her black and white skirt with bells. Find her navigating it all as she jingled, as she smiled.

And there under the August sky, find her leaning up the old Orion, in her black Mary Jane’s and her silk waistcoat.

Later, after chicken salad, no doubt, find her by her candlewick bedspread, chartreuse and tattered but perfect. The only way to end the day.

And in the morning, in the same skirt, find her smile at the bedroom door and make plans to carry her home.

Just find her. Over and over and over again. Always in August, to keep her safe.

Ephemeris

I have been avoiding myself for a while, she thought, but the leaves rushed in and said don’t worry. Watch us dither on the bluster, see how we don’t care.

And she strained her head to the sky, to the spaces where she used to be and watched. They maundered like old thoughts which caught her out in the night, like missed moments, like the regrets which crumbled at her door, twisted and fragile, the haphazard seconds of her life.

But the leaves taught her well. They cried out as they tumbled into her, thither-zither, helter-skelter to her palms. And for those which remained on the trees, she poured her love up to them. They were weary, clumped and battered on the undressed branch. They knew not to resist.

Clouds moved in, cumulus caressed her mind and she didn’t care, not really. Not now. Somehow the day was still gentle.

Listen to the leaves, she said. It’s only spacetime. It’s only 9,192,631,770 periods in the hyperfine transitions of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom. One second after another falling to her soil.

There was nothing to worry about after all.

Me in Amber

Near the top of Three Maid’s Hill, in the din of russet pavements, light pierced like a diamond, caught the edge of purposeless leaves.

Whipped them, wild. Clattering up in eddies, delirious, absent-minded in the disturbed air between cars.

And it was my eyes which soothed them, which held them as we passed by. As though I were unique, as though the retina stain from a low flying sun could only belong to me.

The hill smiled, outlived me and everyone else, until all that remained were my thoughts, thinking. And may I be a memory of this place.

Our wheels were long gone. Leaves settled in the drains, they bunched up, held on tight to each other.

They knew what to do.

El Techo de la Iglesias

It didn’t matter to her that she pushed English pavements under her feet, or that the maple leaves which cluttered round her boots were from local trees – she was not there.

And it didn’t matter that the spire which she was drawn towards, or the parapet which pulled her eyes up to the sky, belonged to Saint Peter’s Church or that the gentle whisps of white which framed it, came from her Hampshire sky – she was not there.

And because she wasn’t there it didn’t matter that her English streets were busy with people wrapped and warm. And because she wasn’t there, her form cast no shadow as she passed Saint Peter’s Church because her boots were in Barcelona and her autumn coat was a waterfall top. It billowed around her hips like the soft white fluff above the spires which framed the baby sweetcorn. And it was irrelevant that her eyes looked up to a Hampshire sky because they were not there. They looked out across the park and studied Gaudi’s glory which left an imprint in her mind.

It didn’t matter where her boots wandered in an English town because she wasn’t there. She was striding out across the Carrer de Sardenya as though her small feet belonged on Spanish soil.

Zephyr In The Sky

She buttered the bread and thought about him. The butter was slightly salted and indulgent, like him. And she indulged him. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone else but she knew that she had bought him into being and there, now that she had committed it to the page, given life to the thought, she didn’t feel so bad.

She had no recollection of when it began, he just appeared and she surrendered to the process. But she was pleased with her work though, she placed him on a hill, visible but out of reach and for many months he was divorced.

He was stoical, he carved and built, his rough hands restored and repaired. She didn’t understand how she’d achieved this, yet she recognised her thoughts in the way he carried himself, in his language patterns and proclivities.

She kept him tucked away in her top drawer, under her embroidered hankies, the ones with Lily of Valley in the corner and next to an oval photo frame with an image from her time in Paris. And there he lay, safe and warm and every week she’d take him out and listen to his mind.

And then he married. She drew him with a wife and wrestled with relief and disappointment all rolled into one. She was unsure why she had drawn him this way but maybe it kept her safe, maybe with a wife on the hill, she had no need for action and nowhere she could go.

She confused herself though. Wouldn’t it have been more frivolous and fanciful to have drawn him nearer to her town and she flushed. How would it have been to have created him without a wife? She let the thoughts settle for a while and saw herself on trains, with bags, with movement and direction, with new clothes for the trip. And there was fun. She rolled the words around her mind, tasted the idea.

It had been many years since she’d allowed herself to do anything so ridiculous and she sighed. No, he was much better off with a wife and frivolity would remain something that shimmered just outside her window, something she caught a glimpse of if she lay still and quiet at night. It was an echo, a rippling remembrance of who she used to be.

So she settled herself, brushed down the layers of taffeta that fell before her and stood up. It’s fine, she said to no one in particular, I am safer to give him a wife and so she continued.

The wife was drawn in pencil though, a 4b, something soft that she could smudge while he was fleshed out and filled in. He was flowing in gouache, viridian and cerulean with Prussian blue for depth. Rose tyrian in his gait and he strode out, surveyed his fields, he was vivid, rich in detail and recited poems from her page.

There. There now, she said in familiar tones to soothe herself. I may add details to his wife but not now, for now she is a faint drawing at the edge and that’s enough because while she is there, she keeps me from clambering on a train.

She felt a little calmer now she’d explained it to herself. He did fascinate her though and she revelled in the intricacies of his mind, in the way light and shade fell on his thoughts, in the way, despite the quality of her invention, he remained just beyond her fingertips.

She folded her sketch book away. Still, he lived in the drawer with his wife, with his ways and there was a serenity, something pure yet invigorating when she passed by his hiding place. He was in there waiting, curled up next to the pomander and the scent of lavender made him smile.

A zephyr moved the curtains of her open window, fluttered up the hankies in her drawer. She accepted it was all her own doing and took the greatest care. She pulled the window closed, her room smelt of lavender and vanilla. She smoothed down the hankies next to him and pushed back in the drawer. Go steady she told herself, it was almost as though he was becoming real.

Aerial Faith Plate

She found August in the packing boxes, in the quiet chaos of the empty house with the phone on the floor and their son at a friend’s. And it was still, dust balls plumed in corners, little spheres of moments where they’d sat. She found August in the slow closing of the door, the soft steps to the car and the pulling away.

And removal men like Brutus and Popeye upended sofas where they’d sat, manoeuvred their minutiae until one home morphed into the next. And in August, she found it in the giggling of their son down hallways and the opening of boxes and playing hide and seek. She found it through the serving hatch which hatched out their new world. August, in the packing tape and box numbers, August in their days to change and grow.

The rain had soaked the bamboo, now it leaned over, leaned into her like the weight of feelings. Its persistent lushness rippling, forging through it all, like her. She found August in the way the bamboo had grown.

***

And then the bamboo took her oxygen for a while, it gave up and gave in, drooped down to the ground as she sat out on its leaves. She was the tiny spheres of her world turned upside down and in the inversion she saw the old kitchen chair by the bedside with her clothes laid out for the trip, the crisp, white, crinkled cotton top, the reams of Indian skirt. Ready. Waiting.

She sipped tea and watched. The leaves waved, sodden, as if to say this is now, this rain is right now. But she didn’t care. She was upside down in raindrops and then it came again, a rush, a gushing on her patio, the fractured sky where the water wouldn’t drain away. And in the rain drops she leaned up her parents’ kitchen cupboards, black Mary Janes and a smile. You know the one, the one that took her to Wooten Wawen with canal boats moored alongside, their gypsy painted roses watching them as they parked and went inside.

And every petal knew what lay ahead and boats bobbed and algae glooped and pond-skaters did their thing. It was early evening, and mid evening, it was much later in the day. But above all else it was August and she found it yet again, upside down in raindrops.

Thank goodness for the rain she thought and through it she saw herself swishing, with tiny bells which jingled from her waistband as they walked. And later her parents’ settee would rear up again and beyond that, later still, in the silence, the soft moth-winged breath of their beginnings.

She was so glad she made it rain today, she clung onto the bamboo leaves and waited to dry out.

***

The sun had turned up, a little too excitable for her liking, a frivolous energy like the birdsong. She paid attention to it but nothing more. The bamboo had perked up, it felt optimistic and each leaf was striped and the stripes were their roads heading south. All of them, filling her garden with directions, with arrows saying it’s nearly 4pm, it’s time to leave. And it was and they did, in the old Orion, pausing at Evesham for a tea-cake, then beyond.

Percolations

Maybe it would be on a Saturday and the pavements would shine dark, of course it didn’t matter and we’d cut through from the car park somewhere, turn left by The Baguette Shop and try to find the last remaining seats.

Jazz played, of course and the mothering comfort of coffee making sounds hissed and chinked and steamed up the view. And if we were lucky, we’d get the seats by the window and watch the humans go by. My earl grey was hot and I’d watch their disposable gloved hands load up the French bread with chicken salad, of course. And with a choice of six toppings I’d be reckless and wild and choose red pepper and grapes.

And we’d sit not too far down the road from Tyrell & Green, in the days before it became a nightclub, in the days before I waddled in there in my lilac ditsy print, to choose the rocking chair that held me while my back ached, which cocooned me while my tummy lurched.

We bought the footstool to go with it and somehow the print on the champagne fabric reminded me of a painting by Jean Miro from the days when I spiked my hair in orange mousse, when I pulled away from home and looked for myself in northern streets, in clanking lifts, in old buildings, with the smell of stretched calico on canvas.

There was something reassuring about the Jean Miro print underneath my swelling ankles as I rocked, as I soothed and it soothed me in the memory of when I wore zebra print, but not then. Then I held tight and held on as the spasms charged up my spine, as I took on my new form.

I liked Tyrell & Green and waddling in late summer, stacking up on the things we’d need for the journey ahead and while I twinged and swayed, somewhere just down the road in the steamed up Baguette Shop we sat looking out, Waterstones bags to our right, of course. And you ate prawns and I ate grapes and our Saturdays unfurled with raindrops down the window and the splintering shapes of humans doing their thing.

I always found it hard to hitch myself up on the high stools but once there I was content. Baguettes and books, wet streets which shimmered with the people that we’d become. On a Saturday through the filters of back then.