Category Archives: word pictures
pictures painted with words
Last week was the first time since I’ve been back, the first time since I expected it upon coming back, the first time since I was a teenager, that this senseless, panicked aggression, that sense of suffocating and having to claw and shout and scream at other people came over me. That feeling that if I don’t scream, don’t burst through walls, don’t shock people, don’t hold on to myself while raising my voice above all the white noise, all the muttering, murmuring, mumbling, stumbling, … if I don’t assert my self, I’m going to slip under and just sink into the deep, well-lighted, comfortable depth of routine and stability and expectations and days going by and never come to the surface again where there is wind and laughter and storms and danger and change and waves and dreams and space.
One of the most persisting and pervading day dreams or dream pictures I have is that of driving my car down from a plateau into a huge, empty landscape, the road rolling straight ahead of me, the sun beating down, the windows wide open, hair whipping in the slipstream, blasting music, not a single soul to be seen anywhere, just endless nature, sand, gravel, rocks, plants, maybe some birds of prey gliding on the thermals and the endless open road before me.
It’s the embodiment of freedom, the mental picture that keeps me going because I know, deep down, that one day I will drive down onto that plain at the fastest speed I can, with the most heart-rending, howling-at-the-sky-worthy music turned up as high as I can take it, and when I’m at the point where I will feel as though shortly I will explode into a thousand pieces and shatter the universe, I will stop the car, screeching and whirling up dust, and jump out and let out an almighty scream to shake the world in its foundations as it reverberates from the mountains behind me and in one tiny moment I will be a part of everything, every particle of this world, of the rocks, the water, the wind, the people, even you, and I will split your heart with the beauty and the magnitude and the free-whirling mystique of this world and leave you changed forever.
I sit on the terrace. It’s been sweltering and humid all day. I’ve kept the doors and windows closed so it would stay nice and cool inside the house.
Now the sun has disappeared behind the hill, although the sky is still high and blue and hazy clouded. It’s cooled down some after a five-minute-summer-rain. My skin feels sticky.
I drink endless glasses of water. I feel restless. I wish the flies would let me be.
Snatches of poetry run through my head. Words that adequately describe the feelings of sitting on the terrace on the evening of a hot summer’s day, watching the swallows dip and weave, listening to the blackbirds singing, feeling flies settling on my sweaty skin and wishing for something to happen. I cannot remember the poems, nor the poets, only flashes of their work.
The red-pink roses look good against the clouds gathering on the horizon. The goldfish in the pond move lazily just below the surface. There is no wind down here, although the clouds are moving closer fast enough.
I love this place, and yet I’m restless. Will I ever be satisfied with what I’ve got?
I hope the swallows will be able to stuff themselves tonight. I like swallows. I don’t like flies.
A plane cuts its way through the sky, sunlight glittering on its silver skin. It hums along in eager pursuit of a different place to be. The swallows stay put, close to their nests, even though they zip through the sky on their fast wings. The goldfish don’t zip. They just drift.
The edges of the clouds are white, tinged with a rose-golden hue. I hope the swallows and the planes appreciate how pretty they are.
I’m sitting in the reading nook at the back of the garden, on a comfortable chair, my laptop on a small table in front of me, feet propped up on a stool, right below an orange cloth that is fashioned tent-like above the wrought-iron structure that shades this corner. The Moroccan lamp dangles down from the highest point and isn’t lit because it’s bright afternoon.
Outside my shady tent my youngest sister lies on the soft green grass of the garden, reading a book and tanning in her bikini, while dragonflies zip through the air around her. Birds chirp and sing and sometimes the far-away humming sound of a plane can be heard, as it cuts its way across the pale blue sky and the wisps of clouds up there. Playful gusts of wind tease the branches of the roses that have climbed over the arched garden gate and flutter my tented roof.
On the terrace, separated from the grassy garden by a stone bridge over an artificial little brook that runs around two sides of the garden, with little ponds in between, is the terrace, where my father naps in the sun, and my mother reads on a reclining chair in the shade. The dog moves from shade to sun, from sun to shade, and cannot decide if one is too hot or the other too cool. Whenever one of the big black flies, or bumblebees, or dragonflies or bees come too close to him, he jumps up and snaps at them, trying to catch them, but he never succeeds.
All around, trees are softly waving their branches, blue and purple and yellow and white and pink and red flowers are nodding their heads in the breeze, and on the pond, pink and white waterlilies have opened their petals and float serenely on the glittering surface.
It is a long weekend in early summer, and I’m so very happy to be where I am.
As I was lying on the springsoft meadow, flies buzzed about my ears and the dandelions looked down into my face, wondering what I was doing amongst them, shaking their heads in slight bewilderment, but smiling brightly nonetheless. What was I doing?
I was watching the wind erode the tracks that the planes had cut into the hazy sky.
Suddenly you are snatched out of time and for a few moments, in which you don’t dare breathe or move and stare unseeingly into the distance, you become acutely and physically aware of the unreality of everything around you. In that space of time your mind is suspended above the humdrum chatter that usually fills your brain and everything you are touching, everything surrounding you, everything in your mind is totally, absolutely unreal. Made up. A story you tell yourself so as not to have to look too closely at the stark, painful truth: that you are alone. That you are not doing what you want to do. That you are not living like you want to live. That you will die without ever fulfilling your full potential. That you’re not even trying to fulfill it. That nobody will ever know you. That you are alone.
The sun rises weakly over the green wooded and fielded hill, only a soft blurred red area in the quiet fog. As she rises, she gains strength, burning away the dampness, slowly at first, then ever faster until the houses and gardens, the villages and little towns sit in soft clear light, under a hazy, not-quite-blue sky. It is quiet. Birds chatter from time to time. Flowers open their petals. Coffee is being made inside the homes and crisp fresh breadrolls eaten, still warm in the middle, with butter and honey. Churchbells ring, calling to service. The landscape soaks up the gentle heat of the quiet sun and lies in peaceful stillness. A small airplane drones across the sky. The birds are mostly silent now, but the sounds of cars driving by, in the distance and sometimes closer, can be heard every few minutes. A dog barks. Children play, far away, their voices only just carrying through the quietness. All public life has stopped, no shops are open, no deliveries are made, Sundays are private. Some villages, however, have autumn festivals going on – market stalls along which the people stroll, chatting to their neighbours, acquaintances and friends, buying pottery or woodwork, herbs or home-made jam, eating sausages in a breadroll or a steak sandwich for lunch, while a band plays music or the children’s choir performs their repertoire. Everywhere else Sunday lunch is being cooked and the smell of potatoes and roast wafts through the air and soon the families will be sitting down to eat. The sun shines on unconcernedly, covering everything in a diffuse golden light.
The sand is still cool under my feet as I climb, slipping away as I try to reach the top. I’m struggling past dustygreen sharpleaved dune grass, growing in patches all over. The sun is starting to get strong and its warmth on my sleep-chilled body makes me feel alive and present. Everything is quiet around me, only my breath disturbs the salty morning silence, but as I crest the dune, the crash of the crumbling waves hits my ears and the wind my face. Standing on this mountain of sand, facing the Atlantic, all I can see for miles around are endless waves of white and blue.
Wisps of fog drift like ghosts between the dead bodies of giant trees, washed ashore this pebbly beach. The still, wet air dampens all sounds: the slow, steady, gravelly swelling and rattling retreat of the flat grey waves that rise out of the smooth grey water and the occasional forlorn cry of a seagull. The trees look petrified, bleached to a whiteish grey, broken, splintered, bent, tumbled together, immobilized in their death. As I climb carefully over their fallen majesty to reach the edge of the Pacific, a fine mist settles on my skin and hair. The whole world is made up of stone and wood and water. I am the only one alive today.
The waves come rolling into the bay in long foaming lines, crashing on the rock that’s reaching out from below the surface in the middle of it, the spray glittering in high circles against the red sky. A golden path leads from outside the bay across the Indian Ocean to the sun on the horizon, but in here the water is blue, green, white, dancing onto the beach in playful licks. The last surfers are coming in, swinging in and out of the folds and dips of the water, balancing their boards before the crest, jumping off when they get close to the white sand. They bend down, pick up their boards and carry them across the sand to their cars parked on the dusty little road leading here. Beer cans are opened, faces turn towards the sun, which is now starting to set in a glory of gold, red and orange. The smooth brown rocks that protrude between the grass and the low gorze bushes above the sand are still warm and the distant laughter of the young people is the melody to the steady beating rhythm of the ocean.
Dreams are dangerous.
Don’t be tricked.
Don’t get caught.
Don’t believe the self-proclaimed prophets that offer salvation in rainbow-coloured hearts, that haunt the dumps for empty shells of dried-up wisdom to sell them to the desperate.
They will tell you to don’t let go of your dreams.
They are fooling you.
They are deceiving you.
They are killing you.
Don’t believe them.
Dreams are dangerous.
Dreaming is easy.
It’s easier to dream of travelling than to set out into the unknown. It’s easier to dream of having the perfect job than to work for it. It’s easier to dream of having a romantic relationship than to really have it. It’s easier to dream of being happy than to be it.
Dreaming is safe.
It doesn’t require action, or devotion, or sacrifices, or perseverance.
In a dream you cannot find out that travel isn’t always fun. You don’t have to apply yourself to being successful and then find out that the perfect job is not always perfect after all. In a dream, you don’t have to understand the need to compromise and learn and fight to make a relationship work. You don’t have to take the bitter with the sweet and realize the importance of joyfully bearing the dark days between the bright ones.
It’s important to have dreams.
But it’s more important to have a life.
The following may read a little grim. Don’t worry, it’s not an expression of my state of mind, except maybe for a minute or two. It just poured out of me in one flow. It is neither poem nor story, just a wave of words painting a picture.
Behind every pleasure there is darkness. In every heart-bursting, ecstatic moment of happiness lies a dark seed. You are aware of it even without being conscious of it – that is why happiness hurts, why ecstasy makes you gasp and draw in a ragged, desperate breath – it is because you can feel the edge on your throat. Every true moment of happiness has this dark side to it, the knowledge that this, too, shall pass.
Every time you think of your dreams, your heart expands with trying to contain your happiness. It grows, it puts pressure on your lungs so you cannot breathe properly. It puts pressure on your throat, so you cannot swallow properly. It makes your body tingle and your mind open up and a shiver passes down your spine, a feverish and fervent feeling that spreads to the rest of your body, like coldness, like heat, like madness. One heartbeat of ecstatic happiness and in the same instant as you become aware of your happiness, you see the darkness on the edge of the horizon, closing in so fast that you know there is no escape, and while you try to hug your happiness to your chest, to keep it to yourself, to not have it wrenched out of your arms, it is too late already. You may ignore the chasm that has opened up in front of you, that is beckoning you, but even while you look another way, pretending you cannot see it, it is there. Waiting. It is always there. You can only see it in your happiness. In your fulfilment. But it is always there, waiting for you to fall into the knowledge that you, too, shall pass.