The milk is on the turn. At least I think it is. I have sniffed it over and over again and I can’t decide, It might be. It might not be. I seem incapable lately of dealing in the definitive. Things that are or aren’t. Because things may be. I want to be comfortable in the not knowing. And while this may better apply to what happens in my tomorrows, in the short term I am dallying with imminent demise by adding dodgy milk to my afternoon tea, for there is a ticklish part of me yearning to live dangerously. To take a chance. To risk. To risk anything, in the words of Katherine Mansfield.
Read past editions of my diary and you will mark the pendulum swing between my need for safety at all costs, and then a sudden rush towards the ridiculously sublime. For we have to believe in impossible things don’t we? Or else the harbinger of old age don’s his greying cloak and comes knocking on our door. So belief in what feels impossible, ludicrous or fantastical matters if we are to feel alive, to not just be alive, but to feel it, and that I think depends on trust, on hope, on leaning in to whatever feels right instead of running scared and staying too tight in the bud.
I have been so cold lately. I simply can’t get warm. I quiz people on what temperature their living room is, as if domestic variables don’t apply. As if my ever plummeting thyroid has no bearing on why my body feels so stiff; on why it is so easy for me to hibernate in Winter, to remain tight in the bud, because to unfurl risks not just the kind of goose-pimples that scatter across my skin like a splitting net of toyshop marbles, but so too forces me to once again go into the fray that is being emotionally available. Winter makes that easy to avoid. Winter makes it possible. Winter says stay here, curled up, cosy, safe.
I have been so cold lately. Today I am trussed liked a turkey in thermals. My scrumptiously old-fashioned yellow pea soup bubbling on the stove. But it cannot last. There has to be a thawing doesn’t there? Spring is coming. Spring always comes. Soon I will be able to fling the windows open and wander outside with my laundry basket. Soon the sparrows will be pecking at the kitchen window, and I will have to start the search for a well-behaved gardener to deal with grass that has grown longer than the Winter fluff on my legs. Only this morning, the lane called my name and I answered it, popping my silly-big coat on and wandering for a while in a shy sun. A drizzly sky. Peeking into people’s lives and back gardens as I walked down the canal beaming hello at dog walkers and passing ducks. Spring is coming and like last year I will now keep on venturing out because the daffodils are once again singing their siren song, ready to burst into life along the side wall of the house, nodding their happy hellos and not minding at all that they share the wall with an ugly row of wheelie bins.
Of course wandering the canal is hardly the stuff of derring-do. I am not Dora the Explorer. There is enough secret society in my own mind to always keep me occupied. I am not looking for adventure. I am looking for home. I have perhaps always been looking for home. A place to breathe. To pause long enough to catch my breath. And there can be no compromise can there? It is why this Winter, hibernation has been so necessary. Why putting a stop to my own gallop, hushing my own fierce needs, was necessary to inspire the kind of introspection we all need to re-visit our values, our boundaries, our place in this life. Time to provoke a new outlook. To poke the beast that is my intrinsic yearning to protect myself and declare myself victorious. Ready. Ready to risk anything!
Or at least to stir the soup, and mither the child in maternal pursuit of evidence he still exists. To go through the beautiful motions of an ordinary Sunday. A walk, shopping for everything but milk, Come Dine With Me, a geranium oil massage to tickle my sense of possibility, an hour with my head in the Louise Gluck poetry I am not so much still devouring as savouring, reading line after line, tasting them on my tongue, spritzed in peonies and a smile I seem to have embroidered on to my face today.
Tonight. A man has just knocked on the door to tell me I am GOING TO BLOW UP. Goodness. That seems a little excessive in terms of neighbourly greeting doesn’t it? But oh yes, this passing man has seen fit to knock on the door and say that if I do not solve the paving stone fountain I will either blow up or the house will simply slide away! I tell him I know. I tell him he isn’t the first man to impart said vital warning but the water people know and I am waiting for them to prevent my car being fountained to Timbuctoo and he mustn’t worry. And he said “oh but I do. I know you live by yourself and I go past the house and I worry.” So I find myself reassuring this kindly old man that I am ok, that I will be ok, and he looks doubtful, as if it might be necessary to bundle me up and take me home to his wife so she can wrap me in cotton wool and make sure nothing untoward ever happens to me again, and I tell him I have soup on the stove and he seems to find that reassuring, pressing a piece of paper with his wife’s number on into my hand, so they can come and old people me back to safety should the explosion come in the dead of night.
People are kind aren’t they? It simply never ceases to amaze me how very kind they are. From the phantom doorstep flower dropper, to passing men who come to worry on my doorstep, people are kind to me and though I have sometimes spoken of being alone, I am rarely lonely, always certain that there are friends in my phone and reassurance just a door away, three doors away or across the lane.
Some days, Sundays, I feel blessed. Even if the milk is on the turn and the house is destined for the heavens. Some days I know how very, very lucky I am. Some days I let myself wander the secret society of my own mind and I discover happiness filed, available, and mine for the taking.