Friday, 15 August 2014

to an unknown soldier

haven't moved much from where we last said goodbye. But now, the wind howls and presses the breath out of me; it no longer ebbs calmly at my elbows as it did then. We used to sit here with our feet dangling over the bridge, watching the steady flow of river tumble out to sea.

Years have danced before me since those fast hot days, the last summer before it all. I hate time when it dances like that, taunting me, telling me how late I am and always, always, how gentle you were.  

I grow old and so do you, but your skin does not fall from your bones like mine will, or your hair drain of its colour as mine should, and your head won't ache and your hands tremble no more, because you grow without the gravity of age; you grow in beauty just as the barley ripens and falls back into the earth again and again and again.

Some nights I won’t sleep - I’ll just sit on my sill, my feet dangling out of the window. But now, the nightingale won’t sing and the moths bump into me; their feathery pallor scares me. And I’m a stranded rock and all I can do is wish I had arms so I could hold tight to the last ribbon of fraying seaweed attached to me, just hoping the river will change its course so it could never be swept away. But the water pushes faster and harder with every winter and you have almost gone.

I try to tell them. They never listen: they do it again and again and again. You said you couldn't understand how bodies were so fragile until you saw that there was no wall between life and death, skin and blood. I’m sorry beloved that the sorrows of sorry and the weeping of one hundred years haven’t ended it. The disease of war invades each of us and death streams from our voices like flares plunging into inky blackness.

 But you wouldn't like it here now. Things are rushed and loud, never gentle, not now.

When you watched from the train, the day you went away, you saw it all: the shy English soil slipping away. Now the oak is stooping with the years and your name upon her bark is almost cracking apart. But it hasn’t gone and you’re in each one; in each flower dancing wild and pure in this valley, in the clouds that grow heavy and with the rising of the sun. Your whispers move the barley husk. You sigh with the coming and going of the tide, reaching me, feeling me, watching me, keeping me.

But still, I cannot stop the shadows crawling or the rooks clawing at the earth, and I am sucked further into sinking dirt, when I think of you telling me,

I’ll go, because then you’ll be free.

-Joanna Grace

Sunday, 10 August 2014

never saw blue like that before


Gusty wind today. All the valley bends and groans under the weight of the years. Clouds scudding on by, sailing up above me. I went walking to the river and sat on a rock. Saw the otter watch me then glide easily into the water. Her fur was puckered and jagged from the wet drops rolling off her back.

Then, of course, the splendour of the Kingfisher, fleeting, shooting above the river into the safety of the orange banks of mud. Her colour always surprises me; such a bright, electric blue. Glimmering she was, as the sun dropped through the clouds.

Then down under the great brick bridge where there is a mighty waterfall, and the cars sailing over the top, cannot be heard. Wrote my name there, with the blood of a blackberry.

Now here am I, writing as though I were Virginia Woolf, and you, her diary. Full of her today though, always am whenever I see her Kingfisher. Her unspoken favorite.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Monday 24th March 1941

A curious seaside feeling in the air today. It reminds me of lodgings on a parade at Easter. Everyone leaning against the wind, nipped and silenced.
All pulp removed.
This windy corner. And Nessa is at Brighton, and I am imagining how it would be if we could infuse souls.
Octavia's story. Could I englobe it somehow? English youth in 1900.
L. is doing the rhododendrons . . .

Virginia Woolf

Friday, 8 August 2014

Saturday 8th March 1941

No: I intend no introspection. I mark Henry James's sentence: Observe perpetually. Observe the oncome of age. Observe greed. Observe my own despondency. By that means it becomes serviceable. Or so I hope. I insist upon spending this time to the best advantage. I will go down with my colours flying. This I see verges on introspection; but doesn't quite fall in. Occupation is essential. And now with some pleasure I find that its seven; and must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down.
Oh dear yes, I shall conquer this mood. Its a question of letting things come one after another. Now to cook the haddock.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Easter Sunday 24th March 1940

Wobbly like one of the spring lambs in my legs. And its refreshing and rejuvenating to see the gold thick clumps of crocuses, and the unopened green daffodils, and to hear my Asheham rooks dropping their husky caws through the gummy air. The twig carrying has begun, and this goes on while all the guns are pointed and charged and no one dares pull the trigger. Not a sound this evening to bring in the human tears. I remember the sudden profuse shower one night just before war which made me think of all men and women weeping.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Monday 28th August 1939

I stay out here, after bowls, to say - what? on this possibly last night of peace. Will the 9 o'clock bulletin end it all? - our lives, oh yes, and everything for the next fifty years? Everyone's writing I suppose about this last day. I walked on the downs; lay under a cornstack and looked at the empty land and the pinkish clouds in a perfect blue summer afternoon sky. Not a sound. Workmen discussing war on the road - one for it, one against. For us its like being on a small island. Neither of us has any physical fear. Why should we? But there's a vast calm cold gloom. And the strain. Like waiting for a doctor's verdict. And the young- young men smashed up. But the point is one is too numbed to think. Old Clive sitting on the terrace, says 'I don't want to live through it.' Explains that his life recedes. Has had the best. We privately are so content. Bliss day after day. So happy cooking dinner, playing bowls. No feeling of patriotism. How to go on, through war? - that's the question. Yes, it's a lovely still summer evening; not a sound. A swallow came into the sitting room.  


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Monday 7th August 1939

Oh and I thought, as I was dressing, how interesting it would be to describe the approach of age, and the gradual coming of death. As people describe love. To note every symptom of failure: but why failure? To treat age as an experience that is different from the others; and to detect every one of the gradual stages towards death which is a tremendous experience, and not as unconscious, at least in its approaches, as birth is.


Monday, 4 August 2014

Tuesday 11th April 1939

Roasting hot: birds achirp: butterflies. I am reading Dickens; by way of a refresher. Also I'm reading Rochefoucauld. Chaucer I take at need. So if I had any time - but perhaps next week will be more solitudinous - I should if it weren't for the war - glide my way up and up in to that exciting layer so rarely lived in: where my mind works so quick is seems asleep; like the aeroplane propellers.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Tuesday 31st january 1939

A very sensible day yesterday. Saw no one. Took bus to Southwark Bridge. Walked along Thames Street; saw a flight of steps down to the river. I climbed down - a rope at the bottom. Found the strand of the Thames, under the warehouses - strewn with stones, bits of wire, slippery; ships lying off the bridge. Very slippery; warehouse walls crusted, weedy, worn. The river must cover them at high tide. It was now low. People on bridge stared. Difficult walking. A rat haunted, riverine place, great chains, wooden pillars, green slime, bricks corroded, a button hook thrown up by the tide. A bitter cold wind. Thought of the refugees from Barcelona walking forty miles, one with a baby in a parcel.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Wednesday 18th January 1939

I am going walking and adventuring, going to see pictures of an afternoon; and often come face to face, after tea, at odd moments, with the idea of death and age. Why not change the idea of death into an exciting experience? - as one did marriage in youth? Age is baffled today by my creative gift - still abubble. And then the steady passion with which I now read . . . A rainy day. Rain real wet drops: white splashing from the road.


Friday, 1 August 2014

Saturday 18th December 1937

How much do I mind death? I wondered last night, and concluded that there is a sense in which the end could be accepted calmly. That's odd, considering that few people are more immensely interested by life: and happy. It's Julian's death that makes one sceptical of life I suppose. Not that I ever think of him as dead: which is queer. Rather as if he were jerked abruptly out of sight, without rhyme or reason: so violent and absurd that one can't fit his death into any scheme. But here we are, on a fine cold day, going to mate Sally at Ickenham: a saner proceeding than to analyse here.