When I turned on the computer this morning, a surprise was waiting for me. iCal (my calendar) alerted me to a Letter to Myself that I wrote a year ago. And my first thought was, “oh no, do I really HAVE to read this?? I was going to get more work done on my drawing!”
I told myself off for being lazy, found the letter to myself, read it, and thought, “is that it? No blinding words of insight that will add something to my day? It’s all stuff I could have written yesterday (or could write tomorrow), though I do have glasses that work now (varifocals), and have found some (not all) of the books I was looking for.”
Unimpressed. Though that snippet about my father was of value, as I would have forgotten it otherwise.
I didn’t say much about it last year: Memory of a Garden. But below is the blog post I meant to post last year, and didn’t!
“Write a short letter to yourself, to be read one year from now. You don’t have to post the entire letter, but you do have to:
(a) write it
(b) post about what surprised you the most about what you wrote
(c) whether you found the experience interesting or not…
…and don’t forget to set a reminder in your calendar to read it in one year.”
Thursday 21st July 2011
I have no idea where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing, but I hope all of your current aches will have gone, and that you’re wearing glasses that work! (Right now I can’t read, write or draw well, with or without them). I hope you’ll have found and read the books on your ‘to track down’ list… Sean Thomas Russell, the missing Patrick O’Brian novels, Robin Hobb, Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts.
I don’t know what else I hope for you, as I can’t wish a particular course in case it’s the wrong one. Que sera, sera, perhaps… but the newspaper article that Mum found today struck a chord… she handed it to me with a significant look.
After reading it, I was silent for a little, then said, “Obviously we haven’t flattened the men quite enough. I vote we start with [censored].
“Spoilt for choice!” said Mum, with a basilisk glare.
She said earlier today how men of previous generations did not like shopping — but my father ‘was unusual’ because he enjoyed it. I asked what was in it for him? Gadgets? And she said “I don’t know. Just enjoyed looking.” It lifted my heart to think of him enjoying such frivolity. Of course he always was warm and human, but it makes him seem even more so.
My main regret, I think, is that everything rushes by so fast — and sometimes you don’t fully understand or appreciate people, things or places till they are long in the past. To want them back seems useless — to fly in the face of how life is.
Regret is also futile in other regards — if I didn’t say or do certain things, I wouldn’t be me. Sometimes you read something bad you wrote, or find a depressingly poor picture you’d worked on for hours, but other times there’s a pleasant surprise or two. Today I found panoramic images I didn’t remember creating — of the garden and my bedroom! Rough, but evocative.
Just don’t give up on yourself… try to keep your ship afloat, like in this morning’s dream. It would have been easy to let it sink, but I kept on and was around to rescue someone who sank his own. Also, it’s such a cliche to say “you’re never alone,” but it’s true that you’re one speck among many who share similar experiences.
That last bit sounds detached and a little frightening, as though you could blow away at any moment and never be seen again through the swirling dust storm. But you’re still in there, along with people you know — the dust cloud is all of us.
I’m beginning to feel a bit lost in this message, and my pen has already run out, so I better stop. As you know, there is the blog and the private journal if you want to read more from the past! Asterix and Obelix are waving to you from the side trolley, as perhaps they are waving to me from wherever you are. The song in my head is ‘I Am, I Said’ by Neil Diamond, which is strangely apt.
Please keep blogging, reading, making pictures/videos, sitting in the sun outside, looking round the shops… enjoy life while you have it.
Lots of love,
To complete this assignment, I’m supposed to post about what surprised me the most about the above letter, and whether I found the experience interesting.
Previously I scoffed at myself, writing ‘…my entire journal is a letter to any future me who cares to read it.’ But some things came out in the letter that I was too lazy to write in my regular entry for the day… Mum’s words, the panoramic pictures and the newspaper article. I don’t mention my blurring eyesight much either, though it causes me problems every day. I wonder if it will be better a year from now, or worse? Will I have found a solution… bifocals??
Did anything surprise me about the letter? Yes, that it wasn’t longer and more waffly! That things like my dream fitted into what I was trying to say. That I wouldn’t tie myself down to anything more specific, such as a better career or a more organized life… as I know how life often isn’t what you expect.
Something I didn’t mention in either letter or private journal entry but which I found interesting… Apple is building what I would call a mini city or a Ringworld. Rather scary… but I wonder if there is room there for me. 🙂 I could do a panoramic photo there…. “my new abode”.
Art work… don’t know if I’m as talented as I would like to be, but your words are as balm. 🙂 The jewelly wallpaper I was working on, well there’s a technique for such a jewel (there are a couple of tutorials on the wallpaper site). Though I have been trying for years and I think that one’s the best I managed so far… there were a couple of things I finally figured out!
Crossed my mind I keep putting the ‘postaweek2011’ tag on my posts even if I’m posting every day, or once a month, or haven’t taken up any of WordPress’s suggested topics. So I scrolled back through past suggestions till I found one I liked: “What makes you feel like you’re still a kid?”
Oh, let me count the ways…
(1) The temptation to take all the credit to myself. 🙂
(2) A certain perspective from halfway up a hill… when you look back down at a tiny building at the foot, and everywhere else is countryside. That’s an odd one, I admit. I know the view I’m thinking of (halfway up to visit my grandparents) but I’m not sure why it had the impression it did. Why not my first view of the cottage, when the car crunched round the tight, pineconey corner at the top of the hill and through the gates? Why was I so struck by looking back down the hill at the garage?? But every so often I see something similar, and there’s a feeling of magic.
(3) Remembering what enthusiasm feels like… for a few seconds!
(4) When something really tickles my funny bone and I laugh out loud. For instance, when I borrowed ‘Simon’s Cat’ from the library today.
There’s a second part to this topic: “What makes you feel like an adult?”
(1) Pain I think, more than anything else. Sullied memories, disillusion, fading hopes, eroding health.
(2) Realizing I can keep quiet and not ask for reassurance from anyone. The whole ‘keeping it to yourself and not worrying others’ thing.
(3) The feeling that you’ve seen it all… at least in your corner of the world. Boredom with things you thought funny or interesting when they were fresh and new.
I wonder if I enjoy playing in Photoshop because it absorbs my thoughts for a while, and I don’t need to think about anything else. I have control over a little world of my own — for instance, I’ve been making houses in Photoshop (not very well), but (when I finally got there) I loved creating the details. I’m looking down on the top of those houses, come to think, and I love them best when they look distant, as though I could pick them up and hold them in the palm of my hand.
They haven’t gone anywhere yet, but I did post the jewelly wallpapers:
On Geo’s post What If, I was trying to sound deep by saying that we can always go home, even if we think we can’t, because we carry home with us. That idea comes and goes, because sometimes you feel that you can never go home (if you think of home as being a particular place at a particular time, surrounded by specific people). But at other times you realize that you have certain memories and resources inside yourself which do just as well, probably because they stem directly from the experiences and people you are thinking of.
Having written my comment, I realized that I was wearing a perfume my mother gave me… Summer Hill by Crabtree and Evelyn. It is a lovely, sweet, summery scent, and strangely familiar. It’s very like one I was given as a little girl, and I wonder if maybe it’s the same. I had a shower tonight and put the perfume on, and it took me right back to that ‘home’ I spoke of — where we had Christmas carols on the old record player, and my grandmother would stand on our icy doorstep saying “it’s chilly for June”… Along with that memory came warmth, and a sense of peace and belief in the future.
There was something I did when I was studying at school that was oddly interesting in later years; I was writing biology notes in a folder, and at the top of each page (to wake myself up, presumably) I got in the habit of writing the name of a favourite song. ‘Dream a Lie’ by UB40 was one. So you look back at these notes, and there are all these old songs I was listening to at the time… quite atmospheric.
I’ve sometimes thought about reviving that in my journal, but mostly now I sit in silence, and so the songs mentioned are just the ones stuck in my head. At the moment it’s Forever Live and Die by OMD. That takes me right back to a book I was reading about 20 years ago… about drifters. It was sad, and seemed to fit in with the song. I can’t even remember what book it was — just the cold grip of it.
I was feeling a touch depressed over the past couple of days… just life! In my sleep I was thinking how I couldn’t get interested in anything, even pairing up my socks. I went to town and didn’t want to do anything or look at anything… I looked at sketch pads and pencils, and thought how I would have been all over them once. Now I couldn’t care less.
Then tonight ‘The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency’ came on TV, and that was just what the doctor ordered. I love that. I particularly love how she seems to feel no need to involve the police or the law! I’ve only read the first book… I must read the rest.
My blog went a bit quiet, didn’t it? I took a shot at working out why in my journal.
Sunday 15th Feb 2009
Feeling different today — not sure why. Elizabeth’s latest writing challenge is ‘A Feeling of Harmony‘ — would like to try, if I could get it together. (Is there something ironic about that?)
Feeling slightly scattered today. PC struggling. It was making quite a racket tonight so I shut it down and turned it off at the mains. There’s a risk it won’t ever turn on again when I finally try, but I won’t lose much of importance — the stuff is backed up.
Just had a realization — been quiet on blog. I think it’s because I got so into writing this journal again, which is ironic, as I stopped journalling when I got deep into the blog a while back. Then I realized something important was missing from my life, and picked up the journal again. I only seem able to run both of them at full whack for a while, and then something gives.
I need to express my thoughts somehow, and they’re not all blogworthy… but if my journal was just a few lines or half a page a day, it wouldn’t have the same ‘gravity pull’ that this monster has, and the blog would stand a better chance.
I’m curious now; if I had to summarize today in a few lines, what would I choose to highlight? I’ll try that at the end of this entry.
Song in head is still Don’t Cry for Me Argentina by the Shadows.
When I was looking on the PC, I found a folder of ‘cat movies’. Truly dreadful they are, and all too short, but they are of Thor, Fusspot, Sharky. I didn’t want to look at them but couldn’t help myself. I started with ‘Fusspot talking’, and went on to all the rest. I smiled at them, even chuckled, but when I turned back to the Mac, I got sad.
Delilah came and looked at me, and I gave her a long hug, and played with the woodpecker-on-a-pole toy. She put her nose against it as though to feel its vibrations.
Don’t cry for me…
I need a new computer. I wish Apple would hurry up and update the iMac. I wonder if I should get a PC… even a little one would probably be faster and roomier… the old one is more than 10 years old. It has been around for Thor, Fusspot, Sharky, Lucky and all their photos.
That’s why I feel different. I’m contemplating change. The PC reminds me of the old cats and the old house, and I’m having to give it up now. And it’s also because I’m looking back more vividly (the movies). And there’s a funny smell around here — it came in through my bedroom window and all the cracks in the house. On some days I think “what’s that weird smell?” and it turns out to be ‘sea haar’ or something… but I’m not sure about today. It’s like varnish. So… it smells different and it makes me feel different… living a different life!
Oh, my little experiment — today in a few lines:
Beanfrog 1st. Ate 2 dragonflies. Worked on picture. PC v. noisy, have turned it off. Found some movies of Sharky and co on the PC — they made me sad. Song in head: Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. Read Elizabeth’s blog post ‘About Heart Day‘ and commented. Fish pie, peas and evil tinned macaroni cheese for supper — didn’t eat much.
It was so short I ran out of things to say! About the Heart Day blog post, I said to Elizabeth I used to like the quiet mystery of Valentine’s Day, but it’s become a kind of parade for established couples.
I don’t intend to give up either blog or journal… or truncate them; not if I can help it. My world focuses on imagery and ideas. Even the the fish pie doesn’t get much of a look-in. At this rate I’ll end up meditating in a cave high in the hills somewhere… but only if I can run my computer from there.
I looked for a photo of Fusspot to go with this post but they were mostly bad scans or taken by a very poor quality digital camera (1.3 megapixels! It wasn’t long before mobile phones could do better than that). He passed on a little while after I got the new Canon. He was already quite old and lanky. I found one half-decent photo and tried to brighten it, but the contrast went haywire. He looked out of the picture at me with his soulful blue eyes, and I had to close it.
We think we’re taking pictures for ourselves, but they’re really for other people. Others can look and say things like “oh, that’s what he looked like?” but we just want to close our eyes and remember quietly.
The day after watching the movies of the cats, I was resting my ears (no hearing aids) so I couldn’t hear a thing. And then I heard Fusspot yowl… just once. I sat up and looked around, but Delilah continued to sleep peacefully. I think my brain manufactured it, the same way it creates a suitable ‘sound’ for every vibration.
I posted a pic of him before… I’ll just reuse that one. It’s one of my favourites anyway.
I was quite a girly little girl; I liked skirts and dresses. Trousers struck me as ugly, but if you saw the trousers I got to wear, you wouldn’t blame me. I liked nice pastel-coloured socks and pretty shoes, and wished I had long hair. One day disaster struck! For some reason I had to wear a pair of grey socks to town. (I was probably about 5 or 6). The carry on! I hated them. “They are BOYS’ socks! I don’t want to wear BOYS’ socks!”
Too bad… I didn’t have a choice. Probably they were the only clean pair I had that day.
Nowadays I wear grey socks, black socks, brown socks, white socks, pink socks, stripy socks, odd socks, socks with Tigger and Piglet on them, or bedsocks with stuffed cow heads… I don’t care. Just so long as they keep my feet warm and clean.
When I was still that sort of age, my mother was talking to a friend of hers and suddenly they both looked at me. Mum asked, “do you like babies, Diddums?”
I stared at them as though they had gone out of their minds.
“Babies? Yes I like babies.”
“Oh, that’s nice, Diddums. Because your sister thinks babies are horrible.”
I found the whole concept incomprehensible… why would one like or dislike babies? It was like asking if you liked the ground. It was just there, a part of life.
On the other hand, my sister said she didn’t like babies. Probably it was cool not to like babies, and I was being silly girly Diddums as usual, with not a sensible thought in her head. Why does she not like babies? Because they cry, drool, are ugly, and only girly girls like them. I hadn’t really thought about liking or disliking them myself.
But once the idea had got in my head, I couldn’t quite shake it off. It was possible to form an opinion on things, and not just accept them blindly. And sometimes it was cooler to have a definite opinion, even if it was negative… or particularly if it was negative. It was cooler and more intelligent to wear trousers and grey socks, fall out of trees and be dismissive of little crying bundles of joy.
Which brings me to a third memory: falling out of trees.
Just because I didn’t like climbing trees or jumping down from the lowest branch, don’t assume I didn’t fall out of them. I wanted to show my sister and some friends how fun it was to swing from the branch of a small tree in our garden (a frangipani; probably full of huge spiders but I never paid attention to those things, mostly because I didn’t realize they were there). So, because all eyes were on me, I set off swinging a little too enthusiastically, my hands slipped from the branch, and (describing a slight arc) I landed flat on my back on the driveway.
I must have been completely winded, as I lay there going ‘gaargh! gaargh! gaargh!’ I couldn’t do a thing to stop it; it was like an attack of the hiccups. My sister and friends exchanged looks that said “we knew this would happen,” picked me up, carried me round the side of the house, and laid me down near Mum, who was talking to the other girls’ mother. They went off to play without me, while our mothers carried on talking.
I’ve not been thinking all that much about music or playing it at all recently, but looking through those boxes of old things… most of all that letter… seemed to set my mind very much on a different track. It’s still as though I’m viewing something done or written by somebody else, but there’s a small corner of my mind that says “yes, I remember that.” It was hanging about when I knew which items those old invoices detailed before I even looked, and sometimes explained things I didn’t remember at all… or didn’t think I did. “Yes, I know why this packet of postcards is here; you had them in an album and decided it was taking up too much room… so you took them all out and put them in boxes. And that pretty but pale greetings card of a white sea unicorn swimming in sea breakers (by Jan Brett) was a particular favourite of yours and you put it in a cheap and ugly old frame, which you eventually got rid of as it was just annoying you. But you kept the card. And here it is. Amongst the old postcards.”
Oh. I’m still me, then.
“Yes,” said the tiny, faraway voice. “And when you wrote that letter or filed those things, you probably had the hi-fi on. You would listen to things like UB40.”
Which was why I suddenly jumped up and put a UB40 CD on… I couldn’t bear the silence any longer. That isn’t me any more. I used to be full of life, sound and movement. I talked and wrote letters to other people and did things. And I’m still that person… suddenly I felt happier and more connected.
And every hour of every day
I’m learning more
The more I learn, the less I know
The less I know, the more I want to
Digging deep for clues in higher ground
The fishes swim while rivers run
Through fields to feast my eyes upon
Intoxicated drinking from
The loving cup of burning sun
In dreams I’ll crave familiar taste
Of whispered rain on weary face
Of kisses sweet and warm embrace
Another time, another place
(from UB40’s Higher Ground)
Time flies, and I regret nothing.
A black-haired lad from my past. We met at a wedding.
It happened the way it did because it had to, and we still share certain memories. I wonder if he remembers the same things.
I regret if I ever said or did anything to hurt… though for a long time I didn’t know what else I could have done.
Last night I solved a mystery. I’ve blogged about tinnitus, and how it often takes the form of music, or seems to. I’ve seen it referred to as musical ear syndrome, which I quite like. It often dogs people with hearing loss.
Mine are not completely random… right now it’s a tune I’ve experienced repeatedly over the years. Not all the time, or every night; I mean ‘now and then,’ maybe once every couple of months.
I never understood where this tune came from, or why it should be one that returns frequently. I speculated that it matches noises in the house… bearing in mind that I’ve experienced this particular tune in my old house as well. It’s not specific to one building.
Last night (breakthrough!) I matched it to a song. I’ve not been playing any tapes, CDs or video clips. It wasn’t on TV. I haven’t seen the singer mentioned anywhere, or the song… but now I can almost hear him singing it in the background, and it definitely matches the MES tune I’m getting. Having seen the title of this post, you’ll already have twigged… it’s In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins.
The black-haired lad had a Phil Collins tape in his car. Once we were on a motorway at night, headlights all around. We sat in companionable silence, not talking, and In the Air Tonight came on. Of all the fleeting moments that come and go… we remember a few for the rest of our lives for their magical quality and significance.
When In the Air Tonight is playing, I think of him. He’s a ‘what if’; a fork in the path I turned away from.
Well I remember, I remember don’t worry
How could I ever forget, it’s the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don’t fool me
The hurt doesn’t show; but the pain still grows
It’s no stranger to you or me
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord…
Mood: Relaxing in the cool Scottish mist
Listening to: Blessed quiet
Memory can spring surprises on you. I remembered something, previously forgotten, about someone I haven’t seen for years. It was the way he sat rubbing his chin when impressed by something, clear green eyes gazing intently, yet dreamily, as though his thoughts weren’t quite in the room with you. Then I became a little confused – I remembered someone else with clear green eyes who did exactly the same thing. It led me to wonder if they had more in common than I had ever considered.
While on the topic of memory’s sudden quirks, one night I caught a fleeting whiff of silver polish that wasn’t even there. In an instant I was standing in a cupboard, looking at cleaning items such as a floorsweeper and an old upright hoover with external dust bag. I knew the cupboard was my grandmother’s… then all of it was gone without recall. I don’t know where it came from as I hadn’t even been thinking of Gran or any of these things, but the memory was absolutely real – almost 3-dimensional. I wanted to hold onto it so I could explore the shelves, but it wouldn’t stay.
Memory seems better at handling detail than chronology or general events, but they aren’t always there when you look for them – they just fall unexpectedly out of a box. In my conscious memory are very many little details – such as a pretty ornament of a rose and a butterfly. It was on the mantelpiece in our old home. I was upset about somebody who had flown away, and I knew I would never see him again. One day the sun appeared from behind a cloud and shone full on the rose and butterfly. I watched quietly, a feeling of warm peace stealing over me, then turned to look at my father. He would have been reading a newspaper or watching TV, I can’t remember – but he turned his head and looked back, and smiled. It was as though he knew the storm was over.