In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
The sun-warmed wood is solid underfoot. The rough stairs climbing up and away. My bare feet, spreading out, feel as if they’re growing into the stairs beneath them. They want to grow deep into the wood. My toes grip the warmth and it is too much to consider anything else, here and now.
When I was young, my mother carried me. As mothers do. Her arms round and under me – the sum of the world. From the open glare of the garden my mother carries me into the cool dim of the kitchen. Her hands under me, like solid wood underfoot. The room smells of rosemary and mold, deep and dark and green. Those three chickens – forever about, forever underfoot – scatter the rushes across the soil, the hard-packed floor in front of her wide stride. In one motion, deft against the air, my mother shifts me to her solid, angled hip and lifts herbed bread from the wood table to my hungry mouth. The summer breeze, trailing through the open kitchen door, wraps round us. So it was, there and then.
The wind finds its way – everywhere. Overhead and round my legs, over the wooden stairs and scaffold. The wind whips up and back, cool against my neck and face like Veronica’s veil – it fades back into the bright heat of the sun. An unlikely wonder – the ever present, ever waxing and waning wind. Simple and expected, profound and surprising. Flowing like a river, over and round. Raising my heavy body one stair, I can hear it – the wind – a lonely wail round every corner. Like a river rushing round a bend.
The water is always moving. It’s always churning and talking – talking to me. Laughing over stones and whistling round bends, wild music – deep in the green and earth. There is a spot. A spot I know. I know... I know it well. A spot down a hill, under a willow. Sad and lovely – all at once. I know the stones there. I know the slope there. I know the stillness – the air there. Under the willow. I know this cool river bank. I know the flowers – the wild thyme and violet, the lusty woodbine and sprawling sweet-brier – and other great wild things. Growing things. The grass is welcoming. Warm and soft like fingers rich with dirt and growth reaching up from the curve of the earth to hold me fast. Canopied o’er by the bowing willow, I am in a rich darkness with my tired feet free in the cool river. Thoughts carry me up...
And the warm wood, ever-solid, supports me yet – lifting me up another worn stair. Lifting me up, here and now. My bare feet sliding over the honey-colored wood...
...The splinter stung. Just so. Red and throbbing between my pink toes. It’s deep. Deep in that soft webby flesh. It’s angry. Buried. I cannot step. Hobbled. I went too far. Too far into the brambles. The great overgrown edges of the garden – choked with weeds. Went too far, too high. All lanky arms and legs, climbing the stacked slats, wood meant for a new gate. How high? I am the ruler. Gloriana. Surveyor of all I see...oh, but it stings so. Too high, too high. So down I come...like a tarnished Phaeton wounded and wanting the manage of great and gangly limbs. My mother is there. Her mouth warm on my flesh. Sucking and pulling. Warm and wet. My mother cradles me in her broad warm hands. She smells of moss and sandalwood and things long burnt. I feel the angry heat leave my body and I am empty looking for filler, for ballast...lest I float away. Up and away into the silent warmth.
Here and now, I am up again. Surveyor, once more, of all I see. Stepping up even as my feet are reaching down, growing down through the wooden stairs even as they raise me up. Raise me up, alone. I’ve been alone for a long time now...alone. With my thoughts. Seeking hard to compare – this small world, this mind, this body, this paste and cover of my bones to the great world, bright and wide beyond the warm stairs and sunny scaffold. In seeking hard I have been many people, ever myself...
Here and now, the stairs are carrying me...even as I lift myself. I am lifting myself. Mark now, here. How I will undo myself. With mine own tongue I deny my being. With mine own tears I wash away the name given me at the font. With my own hands, my own feet I lift myself up these stairs carrying me. I am lifting myself. I am lifting myself alone. I am alone now. All the crying and wailing, the ashes and sackcloth, the great gnashing of teeth, the music of angst – all blows silently like so much air amongst the baying crowd.
Here and now. There is nothing left. There is nothing left for me and this gross flesh. The earthly pit yawns great and wide and near. There is nothing left but for my soul to mount high. Nothing left between my feet and this warm final stair. Nothing left but to climb with care. With the music of the spheres at my back. With courage under each step. Here and now.