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.
And she floated down to the earth with her leaves, twisted, crumbling. They caught the sun as they fell, each one a moment, a glimpse of her. Here. There. And she cascaded, one second into another.
The girl in jeans lying on his bed, waiting for a trip to the forest. And they were there, wrapped and younger with hours ahead. And leaves crunched.
And then the morning, one year later, squeezing through packing boxes and squashed into his car, they traveled north. The fig plant on her lap, bouncing, faded lemon and green leaves, tangling into her long hair. And they unpacked.
A blackbird skooshed under the branches in the right here, right now and then she fell again, dropping from the trees, a mess of golden, a curled up fading form.
And she was there in their new lounge, taking on the owner with her fiancé to her right. A stressed-out seller to her left, who sabre rattled a rolling pin in the face of her husband-to-be.
And she rallied, she reared up. ‘You’ll have to get through me first’ she said and her words rattled around her head, the phrase that became their anecdote, in their new home, in their new life, on that day in a distant autumn.
And leaves fell and she joined them, down and down, as though there were no structure to her thoughts, as though her edges had given way. The sun in the Now called out to her, soothed her through the mothering blue of an empty sky.
And in the cloudless start to her day, she stood flanked and strong by her husband and son, as they stared out across the park. Gaudí’s Cathedral looked back, its stone sweetcorn against their perfect sky and it soared up, magnificent, intricate, an image almost permanent.
And they walked on, following the tour guide with her yellow sign, held high. The ground still swayed a little but they were out. Feet on dry land, together, hands linked as they went on their way.
And leaves fell in the park in Barcelona, and beyond her window in the right here and right now, she floated down. She let the cool breeze carry her, gentle, down-to-earth, where she rested with the others, where she turned her head up to face the sky.
She was the warm yellows of her past, in a scattered ochre morning. She watched herself fall down, an October mulch to feed her day.
She saw their faces, Florida worn and florid as they bellowed across the starched white breakfast linen. She let it wash across her.
They were a freak show at the table, a curiosity over the crisp hot bacon slice, the entertainment in their morning, while the orange pulp left bits inside her mouth. And she saw themselves stretched out, distorted in the silver coffee pot, elongated versions of themselves, smiling as the table rocked, almost imperceptible with judderings under foot.
The overnight pitch and yaw still rattled in her mind, the slam and crash of metal, tipping, tilting hard. And down the narrow corridors, room service trolleys swayed, clattering into closed doors.
Bay of Biscay batterings until exhaustion beat the waves and by dawn the creaking eased, by dawn the swell had calmed and took them, in gilded lifts, to start the day.
And their morning opened in the background buzz of chattering, of clinking cutlery, of sausage sizzle with its fat dripping on their chins while seasoned travellers just shrugged off the storm.
A gentle rolling with short sleeved strangers in the constant supply of toast.
There were days, months ahead of her when this feeling would be common, when this fragile sense fighting foes, of wrestling waves would be familiar in her day. But not then, then it was just a squall to ride and nothing more.
And the weather came up to greet her. She was so thankful for its covering, the solid mass of grey and in the twist and ripple of the orange and tired greens she could relax.
It was a time of ease, of unfurling and soon she would be out there, twirling, the rain clattering into her face, like sea spray, like that moment, that becoming.
And there she was, purple-wrapped in chiffon, hair up ended by the gusts and from the deck, their town would shrink and from their place above the churning grey they would be captured.
There. Then. In that second that defined them. Together swaying.
And today storms promise from beyond her double glazing and she’s primed to be out in it once again. To be twisted and ruffled, inverted like the leaves that stir her hair. And her feet push concrete but all she can feel are the waves, glorious, impermanent, rising up to meet her like that day.
Paul drove them, to drop them off from his tattered golden car. His children chirruping behind her head as the ship reared up on their left. The softened autumn sun glinting off the side of his bald head and they were there. Piling out onto the slipway, suitcases, hugs and her purple scarf danced around her, untethered.
And there were small footsteps from their home, running to the car and a wave and she would see him later.
The woman and the kettle sat in an empty room. But how full it was, how it pulsed and sparkled, full of every second they had lived. Bright with the moments, charged with the normal-ness of their life.
And she sat while their boy played elsewhere. Men and boxes came and went like the shifting thoughts inside her, until the door closed one last time and she thanked the spaces that became the past.
And there they sat, waiting in Starbucks, waiting for the call and for the keys, until they came. And their possessions poured into a new place, to fill it up, packed with their hours.
And later the small footsteps returned and they ran and they charged down a new hallway. She stood there seeing his beaming face and all the moments lined up ahead.
And now as a different kettle boils, she feels it all, every second of their world spinning in her hot green tea. Around and around in every spiral, safe inside the mug, inside her heart.
And they were there on that old green carpet that they left behind and they were here on the new blue carpet that filled up their home.
She sipped from the mug in the Now, hoisted up her skirts again and carried on.
Always there in that morning before their evening, in the morning before their night. And her skirt waited and her hair waited, long and thick and dark. And he would be leaving soon, heading north with his plans, with his ways and her day would unfold, quiet, in the way it used to do.
This day, neurons buzzing forming shapes telling her stories again and the Now fell away, her aging body swooned and they appeared.
Navigating. A closeness. A certain intune-ness in the swish of her skirt, in the whiteness of her crinkled top.
Always under sap heavy trees and he took her home in his old car.
And suddenly I’m back as though I never went away, as though the trees have been upholding me. And I stand here, now, in the roar and thunder of leaves, in the gentle kiss of rain onto my hands and weather soothes.
Tiny pin pricks of water dance across my fingers and I feel. How could I have been so far? How could I have moved from that perfect day? But I hadn’t. Not at all.
It’s in these moments that I see the mystery of time, that I reverberate with it deep inside my core. It seems a joke, a convenience that we tell ourselves, that we are here or there, then or now but I know that we are both.
And in these heightened places I have no form, just a sense of energy, of feelings. In my garden, on the fringes of this storm I am far away. I am in the car park at the Inn and that skirt swishes around my ankles and we leave.
Tiny bells blown by the winds that blow me now and I can feel it, years and miles from here. The cord around my waistband, jingles and in our car park, on the edge of our world, the moments line up ahead.
I am here.
In my young body, I am old, my vacant womb is waiting and somehow as we drove away, I rippled, ancient. I eased out into myself. This self, olden me, wiser me, slipping between the girl and the woman with you always on my shoulder, just like then.
A robin emerged from the bamboo, he appeared in my peripheral vision, as if to wink or raise its eyes. It sat watching me, watching it and all sense of movement dropped away, till we were locked, bird and women, woman and bird, neither one of us moving but both of us remembering the fledglings that we were.
I shimmered, called to him and head in the air, he hopped just close enough for food and then away. I know he watches me from the bushes, I feel him close.
The sky is swollen now, beating puddles at my feet but I am under the robin’s wing where I belong and there, protected by his feathers, I wear my black and white skirt, my crinkled white blouse is crisp against the summer sun and we are young.
Meals come and go, car wheels spin until home and to covers that hold us like these wings.Time means nothing to me today. I am this heavy rain, this breeze against my cheeks and I am still. The sun wants to come out, to dry out the robin’s wings. But we both shelter. Somewhere a rainbow will be forming, I can feel it in the lightening of the sky. Somewhere I wear that skirt, always and under these wings, we’re still young.
Such a quiet bird,she thought and thena sky songspiralled out. Anditsang as though it always had time for feathers,as though this was its home. And she saw herself,ship high and blown, above the docks on rising waves and it was here,next the creaking beasts up top andwithblusteredhair, that she grew.
Here,that her sense of wings exploded to the seas, it was here andalwayswould be. Down underneath its hulk,by the men–shouts and leaden ropes there would bebicyclewheels. On pavements grey there would be spokes turning rubber, metal rubbing,gears changing and younger than her,hisspeckled legs would be pushing onthepedals that shecouldn’tsee.
And there he was,escaped and expanded,exploring the docks by himself. White–outathisside,slab–steel toweringhighand he looked up. Painted letters sang out her name and he wasthere,adrenaline pumping,muscles aching,boundless and new on his bike.
And hegrinned,up and up,to the top of ship, he squinted in the light, hair with a singlecurl at the front that zinged up like hope,likeirrepressiblejoy and he was young.
She looked down,wings nestling in her back,thin greying hair,a testament to travel and as grunts of men hauled ropes and chains released her,sheswayed towards him.
He paused on his bike, soyoung and persistent, with a button bright mind,sabatiersharp, the boywho took her hand across the years and from the quayside his story burbled into hers,in the churn and spume,in the chaos of waves,his eyes lockedontohers, always and he freed her.
Wingsruffledbright, as her day–song followed the clouds, she saw him, and because of him–a boy on a bike, she flew.
The rain moved in, like her eyes opening, like seeing the morning for the first time and it was welcomed, like that dawn, like the gratitude of the day, like eyes locked close and knowing, and it rained.
But it didn’t rain back then, it was quiet, warm, a thought nearing the end of summer and in the tail end of the season, the water rippled up the boats on the canal and their faces were reflected in its soft stroking waves.
And evening would have moved in, like it did, like it does, it drapes the coolness, the calm end of day, like an arm around her shoulder, like the footsteps by her side.
And evening drifted up, traffic sounds gave way to birds and she hitched up her skirts, like she did then, when white washed walls were unfamiliar, not the faded grain of now. And they sat.
Birds watched them then and she watches them from back here, folded in the now, in the smell of wet soil, the kiss of lavender scent and the certainty of August.
Time came with her, her companion on the way, tucked in the pocket of her skirt, vivid, like their moment, translucent, like the wings. And her wings beat out in the evening sky, strong, like the bonds that hold her, glorious, like their day.
August had returned and she could fly. A rainbow swaddled her garden and under its hue and shimmer, they were young. And under its song she was old but she had wings.
The seagulls are back today, they swoop around, they circle her old home and from their wings she sees the carpet in the lounge, how it turned from spiralled blues to pink. And she sweeps above the kitchen, where the corner chair became a cupboard for the pills, opposite the kettle where she first made him a drink.
And as she looks, the seagulls fill the rooms, their wings waft feathers in her face and carry her upstairs and there they beat the air, there they hover at the edge of her old bed, with its camblewick green cover and in the light that lifts from day to night and day to night again, she sees herself lying, turning, holding thoughts.
The cupboard to the right is silent, where the drawer is stiff, the rich deep wood and a lamp stand of fading brass. She can smell the scented carpet and the polished trinkets, there, on a painted window sill that overlooks that world and as her seagulls settle and fold their wings she smells the coast.
Bedruthan rocks wrap around her and as the sand sneaks in her trainers she pads the beach towards him, laughing, parka flapping in the cut of air, then back.
Seagulls resting on her bedspread, her bed by a bookcase from her youth, crammed with early interests and they whisper. The ivy green curtains are closed, the lamp is off. Her seagulls watch over them, their words and murmurs.
And it’s August. They ruffle feathers around her and lift her up, away from her black and white skirt on the chair, its bells silent and the birds sing out, it’s always August, they call out, we’re always there.