beach memories

I recognise the mindful way
each foot is placed
stepping over
walking around
careful as she walks
the sandhill path to the beach

I feel the rhythm
the slow quiet pressure and release
as each foot falls and lifts

hands brush through
grasses that grow tall
along the edge of the path
marram grass and lupin
toetoe* and spinifex
each stroke a caress
a hand in a lover’s hair

I reach forward into her touch
and bend away
eager and shy
trusting

the rhythm changes
feet run over sand
land heavily after jumping
over driftwood and seaweed flotsam
until the sea is reached

then all weight is lifted
as she floats and drifts
and still, there is a sense of her
as waves bring her back in
to scuff feet against the sand
and I wash over, tasting her skin

when she leaves
my salt kisses
drying in her hair
wind and sea
smooth her footsteps from the beach

and I hold the shape of her
the weight of her
memory embedded
encoded in roots
lying deep below the surface
waiting

© Claire Griffin 2016

*toetoe = tussock grass (pronounce as “toi toi”)

distance

there was always a distance

between us
a space I tried to cross
to reach you

I was alone
I sought your approval
thinking it was love

but now

I walk alone
crossing a bridge of my own making
to a place of my choosing

I don’t need you
to be on the other side

I am complete

© Claire Griffin 2016

This is the shortest edit I can make of a piece written in September. I find I am still processing the events and subsequent realisations from the end of last year. A massive emotional blow that led to the reassessment of a key person in my life and everything I thought I knew about my childhood.

I’ve been writing about these experiences over the last few months, and I hoped I had “dealt” with it all, but these thoughts keep surfacing.

So I hesitated to post this, yet another expression of my personal turmoil. When I shared this hesitation with a friend – she encouraged me to post saying “but you can put into words the things that others can’t – it helps others that you share your feelings” and then I remembered that I’ve always believed the deeply personal can be the most universal – so I trust that there will be something here to connect with.

And I’ll stop feeling I need to make excuses for them. These words are who I am, and who I am becoming. 

Still, while I’m tired of the darkness these pieces contain, writing my way through these feelings has released me, and I feel as though I am an adult at last, although I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

the hidden shine

standing at the sink
scrubbing rust
from a favourite baking tin
determined to reach through
to the hidden shine below

I can smell the brown stain
as my efforts shift the surface
the metallic taste becomes
almost overwhelming
like blood in the mouth

and I remember all those times
when I found the silver lining
hidden in the damaged and the dark

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

the visitor : myth, traditions and interpretation

With reference to the poem “the visitor”:

Myth:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.

Tradition:
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)

Interpretation:
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.

When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.

Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.

I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.

Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.

One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.

One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.

© Claire Griffin 2016

the fallen

IMG_4226
the ground beneath is hard and dry
not a place to rest, not a place to lie
this far down was only ever for foraging
wind-rivers here can not carry
but blow dust flurries into eyes
dust rose and settled, glossy black coat undone
reaching into air but finding no purchase
eyes opened blind to the sun
fallen
fallen
this far down
all horizontal, all solid, all still
body cooling under sun
hard nest of stones and dust
bones and black
sight gone, shine gone
fallen
still

walking home she saw the contrast
black against the blonde ground
small lost body in the dust
she sensed fragility
approached cautiously
blew gently revealing the dull eyes
fingers nested, lifted
warm hands enclosed
one finger stroked away the dust
revealing the shine
compassion carried him away
her quiet voice shared secrets
whispered into tiny ears

she found a box and a doll’s blanket
and made a bed
she lay her black prince to rest
she knew this sleep was forever
there would be no wakening kiss
she tucked the blanket around him
to comfort and protect
a final nest
and blessed him in silence
a small child’s sacrament
a small child’s attempt
to honour the wild world
to care for the fallen

to an only child
anything could become animate
anything could become the voice of her imagination
he was her pet, he was beloved
he was a sleeping prince
a treasure, a secret
a gift from the world she walked in
at one with the raw pure energy of childhood
not yet disconnected

she felt the need to share
this treasure felt too much for one so small to hold
she showed her mother
expecting softness and awe and sensitive respect for her care

the mother snatched the box
threw it in the bin
half-filled with ashes from the coal-range
clouds of grey ash rushed up on impact
then settled slowly over the small black body
this last wind
this last nest
a desecration
a child’s heart broken

looking down
the blackbird thanked her, blessed her, kissed her tears
she would remain known to the birdworld, the greenworld
the elemental consciousness of nature
granted access
and held the thin door open

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

 

a list of truths and lies – revealed

A list of truths and lies – I’m wondering now about the information I chose to share, and the lies I chose to tell – one is definitely an unfulfilled wish.

IMG_2229

a list of posts

I tried this list with a couple of friends as well – people who haven’t known me for long – so they don’t know all my history. So interesting to discover what others think might be my truths, my lies – how the person they know now influences their ideas about the person I used to be – that in itself is material for a whole lot of thinking 🙂

This is an effective process for reflecting on the past, bringing back memories, recalling wishes – part nostalgia, part self-discovery – realisation of just how far I’ve come.

Thanks to those who shared their guesses. Now – time to reveal my lies.

  1. I am an only child (true)
  2. I have three tattoos (its a lie – but I’m thinking about it)
  3. I’ve worked as a graphic designer (true – when I took off from NZ and landed in London I was lucky to quickly “fall into” a job with a wonderful classic designer – I learnt such a lot working with him)
  4. I’ve read “Ulysses” cover to cover (its a lie – Ulysses is one of those books I thought I ought to read – tried the first few pages – but just couldn’t stick with it – maybe its time to try again)
  5. I didn’t go to university until my 30s (true – I hated high school/college – and wanted to get as far away from schooling as possible – I left knowing I was intelligent – but no way of “proving” it since I failed nearly every exam in sight – I had become cynical and disillusioned by the “system” – the irony of what I’ve ended up doing the last few years isn’t lost on me)
  6. I’ve only ever been to one rugby game (true – and it was possibly the most boring experience of my life – I made the mistake of going along with something a guy wanted to do instead of saying “hmm – no”)
  7. I used to drive a big Toyota Landcruiser (true – so great for making other drivers get out the way – and for surprising people when I jumped out of my old truck in my gorgeous girly prime)
  8. I got my drivers licence on the first attempt (its a lie – from memory it took three attempts to pass the practical – I was too young, too nervous)
  9. I wanted to be a psychologist or a vet when I was a teenager (true – but this was before I discovered how much maths was involved, and how my brains turned to porridge when faced with exams – see number 5)
  10. I’ve seen “Stalker” by Tarkovsky three times, and enjoyed it (true – what more can I say – this film is very slow – and friends I persuaded to watch it with me have been less than impressed – but it has some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen – it keeps drawing me back)
  11. I can bake bread without a bread-maker machine, and you would want to eat it (true – my first few attempts were more like bricks – good for door stops – but I couldn’t really cook anything back then – I tried again a few years ago and now I can bring these rounded, crispy crusted golden loaves out of the oven and into the world – to be sliced and slathered with butter)
  12. I used to develop my own black and white photographs back in the days of film (true – I would take over the kitchen – black curtain over the window – working in the dark using touch to feed the film from camera to light-proof tank, and then working in red-light exploring enlargement and cropping and focus and exposure – and getting lost in the magic watching a print develop.

 

Perhaps you would like to try this… I’d be happy to guess your lies 🙂