The sky is pale and grey, not heavy, but flat and low.
The world is shallow, horizontal, with little space to breathe,
except in spaces cleared by flurries of warm wind.
Sparrows visit, fearless, curious thieves,
crumbs disappearing at the speed of flight.
A magpie swoops in, a botanic priest to correct the masses.
The roses are every colour from cream to peach, cerise to ruby,
some freshly opened, some over-blown.
Stopping at the climbing roses,
and drawing a branch close to breathe in the scent,
voices approach, a conversation full of soft “-sh-sh-“ the sounds of the breeze and these dark, blood-red blooms.
The gates are open, the path reaches on ahead
and down the hill to the city.
Purposeful runners make short work of the distance.
Tourists walk past, looking straight ahead, keeping to the trail, “you’ll see a lot of them here – this is tattoo country” but looking down, this forearm is bare, unadorned,
the design resting in imagination,
as does the house of possible ancestors.
The outline sketched in brick, visible across the grass,
sliced in half by the path these people walk on,
oblivious to the souls that made a life here,
the commitments made,
the children born,
the woman who refused to leave
after the death of the man she loved.
Children cluster on the edge of the hillside,
where the ground falls away through the trees.
They look out over the city,
people they will never meet, lives they will never live.
Names and dates and ages
carved into their homes of stone.
Angels hold the space, but offer little comfort,
wings broken, eyes blind.
Isabella draws her hand from the water, and stands to leave the pond. The memory of goldfish kisses tingle across the ends of her fingers. She walks past the rose garden, and up and across the brow of the hill, until she reaches the stone door her parents had placed above her small narrow home, the home that was gone now. All she has is the door. From here she steps in and out of the world, watching until sleep calls and she slips through stone into memory, held in the sacred space of love and loss.
She watches the woman. She watches her trace the outline of the cottage with her steps, sees her break a kawakawa branch and place it on the plaque, sees her step back in silence. Sees that the woman feels the disturbance in the soil, feels the loss. And she feels the years collapse around her until they are two women standing on a hillside, two women lost in time.
As the woman turns to leave, Isabella sends a butterfly to brush past her head, and a fat bee to land on the white rose that grows wild nearby. Roses whose work is done, their centres turning brown, dropping their petals to rot untouched into the earth. All is beauty and desolation for the girl who watches, silence for the woman who listens.
Well, this has taken a long time to resolve!
From first notes made on the day (19 December 2017) until now, this very evening.
I’d tried prose, and being much more literal, then more poetic forms,
until I just stopped looking at it at all a couple of months ago.
Finally (and rather suddenly) tonight, I settled on this.
I’m interested in your impressions – what meanings you take from reading this. I like the sense of mystery but I wonder if its too obscure. To aide understanding – this is based on notes made during an afternoon at the Wellington Botanic Gardens and the neighbouring Bolton Street Cemetery (see: https://boltoncemetery.org.nz/history/).
Any ideas for a title would be welcomed too 🙂
The word I chose to guide me through this year was expansion. It can be easy for an introvert (or at least, for this one) to spend time alone, and to settle for the familiar. This felt like a good word to remind me to look outside myself, to step outside, to remember to breathe out…
The little verses I wrote for each month at the start of this year, are like my reminders, suggestions for how to live, how to relate to others. This one especially, reminds me to look outward.
I’ve been trying to explore the idea of expansion, committed to painting every weekend, and trying a few new experiences (eg: a dance/writing workshop) – saying yes to things that feel outside of my comfort zone. So far, this has been expansion of my own skills and experiences. I need to remember to expand in the sense of my contribution to others, to look for ways to share and support those around me.
Winter is coming, and this is a good time to glow, to share a little warmth. To be the bright light I look for in others.
Eyes squinting into the sun, so easily misinterpreted as “grumpy-face” if not balanced by the smile. This smile right here.
I had glimpses of her over the years, but she was often lost. In these early photos here I am, staring straight down the line to the camera, smiling with a quiet confidence like I know who I am, like I know how I’ll be living my life.
The circle is drawing back round to the beginning and I am so happy to have found this little being again and been able to release her into the world before the circle closes.
Finding your own truth, your purpose, your voice – what is life otherwise?
This is me – someone just needs to untie my hair and I’d be complete.