“A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.”
Here is my stream of daily small stones written throughout January 2011, when I took part in A River of Stones. Some of these are a bit lame and just show how some days we are less inspired for one reason or another! I would love your comments if you find any of them effective:
Blissfully balanced black, bitter brunch of burnt toast and chicory coffee at 1.11 on 1/1/11
Script-writing while outside a grey sky day grows darker.
Hoping for a sunset I look up but the only colour comes from a light bulb reflection.
My tea is cold.
A dark January sky and dark January memories flood my vision and my conscience suddenly.
I am dropped into sadness and struggle to join in with the outpouring of grief for an actor who will remain immortalised on the screen while my father’s face and voice slowly fade.
Two years… two years…
Bird seed brings colours of goldfinches and tuneful starlings with lustrous wings as a pheasant pecks peacefully alongside chaffinches and sparrows.
A pigeon claps in the cold grey sky.
Reluctantly, obediently smoothing “light-reflecting”, “dark cherry-brown” over natural golden brown, I inhale sickly-sweet chemicals and realise it is getting harder to see the top of her head.
Saggy, water-logged padding is pulled out from its folded up position as joints are eased out creakingly. Stretch, stretch, click. A rusty body groans in remembrance of its pre-winter positions.
Sunlight flashes high on the wall in skewed squares like yellow kites.
Teetering on the tip top twig of a twelve foot tree, a female chaffinch balances by shifting and shuffling.
Do baby birds get vertigo before they find out they can fly…?
A pheasant’s metallic chuckle.
But all that’s visible is a cat.
“But why can’t I stay home and play with my presents?
But why can’t I take my balloons and presents to school?
But you don’t go to my school so you don’t know the rules.
But you… Oh-wuh…”
There is no birthday boxing day.
Joined-up, unpunctuated dark and rain and groaning exhaustion.
Where are the stones today?
I think they’re in my belly.
Bubbles ring out in a glass of fizzy water like tiny distant telephones.
Devastating news is delivered silently in the dark as it hits home ten hours after the phone call.
The chaos in the house now looks welcoming as a distraction from the chaos in our heads.
It’s half past midnight – late for him. The wine is not enough so he lies in bed with headphones, listening to music from his past, following a youtube link from an old pal, revisiting his youth, a time before we met. He looks closed. “Don’t shut me out,” I think and give him my hand. He takes it, squeezes and holds it tight.
He hasn’t shut me out.
The careful “almost-burn” to tongue and finger tips of hot tea in a firm smooth china teacup brings painful familiarity.
Crisp, washing-scented winter air shoots pleasurable pain through my nostrils to my eyeballs and aching stiff fingers unpeg chilly half-damp sheets as the crows sit in the black stick trees against a custard-yellow sky waiting for me to go in.
The sycamore tree that shines like hot wax as it drips, defrosting in the sun draws me to the window.
My pre-contact lense morning short-sightedness cannot identify the small bird sitting in the branches until a long tail wags up and down rhythmically.
A spring-like moment on a sun-warmed step.
The blue tits squeak to each other as they dart from tree to tree. The neighbours talk to each other across their garden as they hose something and I tell myself what an idiot I was to have bought thyme from the supermarket when we have some in our herb planter.
Yet twenty feet away the shade is still hard with frost.
The slightly unnerving crackling noise coming from the corner of the room is a 22-year-old peace lily lifting its tired leaves after getting watered for the first time in weeks.
I unstick my hot, aching ear from a 2-hour phone call and reach for the wine.
The bathroom fan heater is humming on the note A. I’m sure but I play an A on my flute to check!
Opening windows in a cocooned winter house lets in clean air, unfiltered light and breaks the self-absorbed seal that comes from shutting out nature.
The room is re-tuned to a gentle chorus of satisfied birdsong and breeze-skittered leaves.
A few minutes before midnight,
A bedroom in the eaves.
Sounds of scampering, searching, and scratching.
Around, above and behind when all else is at rest.
Fooled for a second that the repetitive, bickering jackdaws are actually metal buttons clanking around inside the washing machine.
Then the nerve pain in my thigh reminds me that I am not doing any washing today.
Blown up against the hedge, grass skeletons do the Danse Macabre.
Attracted by bright sparkles, I turn off the light and go to the window where the panes mist up immediately.
The air outside is frozen but I open the window and lean out.
To the far left: an orange curve of light pollution and a gentle steady drone of distant traffic. In front: open dark fields, sloping up to a black winter hedge which points brittle fingers up to a net curtain of glittering dots and pin pricks of light hanging silently over my head. My lips dry and my nose stings with cold as I stare up, shrinking the blackness between Earth and the distant suns.
White lilies, white roses, white lilies, white roses,
“Hand tied”, “free vase”, In Sympathy, Thinking of You,
White lilies, white roses; the webpage scrolls.
In peace, white lilies…
I want to send spring bulbs, give colour, bring joy.
But this can’t be fixed so I choose thoughtful white.
The tyre swing hangs, empty and still, in a hollow O shape.
The space hopper lies helplessly on its side, looking south with big staring eyes.
The deserted bicycle is turned away in sulky neglect.
Discarded before the frost, they wait for the little girl who comes back a year older after each passing January.