Morning essaying from The ThoughtBooks of K L McV, 29 July 2020 relating to memories of 1962
Sometimes an image – for me especially an image of something natural & evanescent & transient – will evoke such an intensity of remembered experience that I have to stop to catch breath.
And in that inwards breath – a word-happy biologist might call that “inspiration” – is a conspiracy of associated sensory memories and traces. Fragrances, textures, collisions of light-bending surfaces.
Silvers, pinks, pale blues, “hues and cries”. Reflections off tarmac roads. Thirst. Tired feet from the rising midday sun on a hot footpath. The basket getting heavier and heavier. Wearying as I shifted it from arm to arm. Allowing my even smaller friend Gilly to carry it, and not knowing who was responsible for the occasional flower-strewing as we went along.
Along a long, long Wealstone Lane, from Upton village into Newton. From one suburb – over the railway bridge near Newton School – to another, the sun burning down so that to say “drink” might offend the July blossoms resting in the basket. And groping beyond hope that the longed-for refreshment would come quickly, from the intended recipient of the flowery bounty.
Who wasn’t, in the event, at home.
I – for I alone could reach – struck again on the burnished knocker of the House in Hoole. We checked the number that She, my Mother, had written on a scrap of paper and tucked in with the flowers.
We stood wilting on the grey hard pavement, before the terraced house with its curtained blank eyes and its door only a step up from the dust and dog dirt that we must on no account get on our shoes, or else.
We looked at one another for a lead, a guide, the authority of a parent or at least a sister, and found none. Just our sweet, gentle friendship, itself now drooping and wearying in the hot sun of noon, of nearly lunchtime, at least drink-time. Orangeade from the Corona man. Nesquick from the hand of Gilly’s mum Jean. (Tree Top squash from van der Bergh, and that is the anachronism in this sixties story.)
The journey home hurt. Crestfallen. Not only our crests were fallen, as we drifted – disconsolate and a-thirst – over Newton Lane Bridge. We left a few stranded scabious, the blue ones that Mother loved so well. And now we reached the crossroads where once I’d seen (and never spoken till today) the bloody afters of a crash, like orange-squashed ‘Gloy’ glue, flowering inside the windscreen. Late columbines, Aquilegia, like sacrificial doves held in the Latin grasp of eagles, and dropped behind us as we wandered on our aborted errand, still clutching the swaying basket, now between us.
Past the avenue that might have led us to my piano teacher’s house. Even the quench of her lemon barley water, furry on the tongue before lessons on Tuesdays after school … even that preferable to the crying thirst.
Along Newton Lane past the Barracks at Western Approach, and turning up Wealstone Lane. There to the left the intrusion of houses on the Do-You-Like-Butter?Cup Field. Here where once a man in a hat like Grandpa’s and a grubby mac had offered me, alone, an orange from a manilla bag and I, already fierce, had announced with stammering poise: “My Mummy says I shouldn’t … speak to strange men”, and bolted, full speed, trailing my shoe bag and my leaky satchel in my wake.
Past Wealstone House, derelict portal to The Back Field where Gilly and I played at Space Exploration on the fallen tree, she the Heroine, I the Captain sitting at the electronic wiry roots. Until Judith Maddocks (whom with modelled Christian charity we’d invited all-aboard) one late August fell off the cabin, cracked, and howled like a Golden Monkey. And had her arm en-sling-ed for months, so that we were grounded from Outer Space.
I digress, and so did Artemisia ‘Lad’s Love’, strewing the stumbled pavement opposite the Playing Field. Where two years later Gill and I would slouch on swings and eye up t’opposition. The Older Boys who thumped their ball into goal with thrusting power.
And not there yet, we were innocent and spent, like wilted wallflowers dropped against the wall of Cynthia’s house. The ‘overlooked’ bungalow of “different” intellectuals, it was said. They drank the water “from boiled cabbage, for vitamins”: what next?
What next? The welcoming arms of my Mother, a fair haven, taller than us, Her flower-maids. Damp cloths on foreheads, sips of tepid water like refreshment after nightmares. “Well done my darlings! You did your best, and truly it would be unkind to leave those blooms in Hoole at noon. Come deep within, there’s refuge from the sun, and sanctuary from thirsty pain. I’m proud of you, for trying to deliver My own inflated hopes of horticultural generosity.”
Dream on of it. A barrage of frustration; a stand-off on the step.
“Why did you not think, instead, to try Miss Davidson’s, just round the corner from Dr Moore?” Her mounting Ire; Her burning PMT; Her hurt at incurled Wrath (Her Own); Her Nausea at the sight of the remnant irises, perverted rainbows arching lifeless in the sweaty basket, our hands still pasted to the handle like the carriers of a wasting disease.
My grieving for the Botanical Beauties, their wasted spent bodies, and my own, weeping with tears I could afford no more to shed.
© Kathy Labrum McVittie 29 July 2020
Now that you have read the tale of the scattered flowers, draw your attention into your own body, sitting here, now, in the present moment, in August 2020.
Become aware of any tension gathered in your hands, your arms, from carrying the basket in the sun. Let it down on the ground, no longer your load. Let your toes wriggle free, no longer having to grip the dusty soles of sandals in the lane. Allow your breath to regulate, to soothe, to rest. And your heart becomes steady, attending to the pulse of life in stalk and petal, vein and tissue.
Face the flowers, and as you open up your gaze, and flare your inner nostrils to the scent of growth, explore the pictures in the gallery below.
For their generosity with their images, I thank Liz Evans, Kettering, UK; John Raiham, near Boston, USA; Dr Jim McVittie; Dr Sara Collie, Cambridge, UK.
Let yourself be drawn towards one or more images, and/or one or more words or phrases in my Morning Essaying above, or in the Wendell Berry verses displayed in the last photograph.
Allow your selection(s ) to serve as Golden Threads, to lead you into your own Morning Pages of free-flow writing.
Or take a bee-antennae view of flowers in your local surroundings, even if only in a windowbox, a municipal park, or a magazine.
Or you might like to recall flowers that have lifted your heart, and those that you have identified with sadness or frustration.
You get to choose your own bouquet of words. Then get writing.
Today I have been dancing over Zoom, session three of six offered to a “closed group” by Rosie Perks, whose teaching is of Movement Medicine. We have been moving with Fire and Integrity as today’s themes. And being moved by each other and by what we bring to the crucible of the dance floor.
And I have become aware of a different track of music to which another friend, this time a teacher of Open Floor, introduced me this summer.
The lyrics include: “Let the water wash away your tears…”
.This speaks to me and to the wilted flowers with which I began this post.
I hope it speaks to you too. Blessings at Lughnasadh; happy Lammastide.