A road less travelled

In which we go for a walk

My younger self roamed wild over these moss sprung hillocks, feet incautious until one would sink calf deep into a hidden burrow beneath a troublesome root. It was here we found blunt badger skulls, dragonflies the size of a grown up’s hand, and an endless supply of scratches and stings. 

Today wavers between sunshine and shade, shifting from dappled scenes of teddy bears’ picnics to the gloomy hollows of a Forbidden Forest. The wild scabious has hung glowing violet lanterns to light the way, painting a purple haze onto retinas. Willowherb withers and dries, then casts itself to the winds in curls of fluffed seeds.

The other floral efforts have retired now and the bees have moved on to less green pastures. This year, the blackberries never made it past livery pink before mummifying on the bramble. An early autumnal transformation signals stress amongst the deciduous. 

My younger self delights in the feel of hollow thumps beneath scrabbling hands and feet, she wields lichened stick-swords that are longer than she is, and stares up at a sliver of sky that snakes impossibly far above. 

She’s quite a while away from thoughts of climate change, invasive species, dieback, ticks, or sustainable woodland management. But it’s comforting to know that her uncomplicated delight can now wander hand-in-hand with the concerns of adulthood. 

The glue

In which I figure out my purpose

I always talk about not having a real role – no jobs with my initials, no tasks that are mine and mine alone. The baby quite often doesn’t, especially when surrounded by Gods of Practicality. I’ve always pattered around and lent a hand where needed: I hold up planks, check ovens, weed unruly patches, carry washing, grab people when it’s time to eat. 

But I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s okay for my role to be invisible rather than practical.

I am the glue. And occasionally, the WD40.

I trot from one workplace to the next – shed, garden, house – find a perch and begin my work.

I listen for the things that create frustration, the needs unmet, and when I move on to the next person, I carefully pollinate ideas to improve understanding. 

I translate when you’re listening wholly with your assumptions and pipette an appropriate amount of humour into the situation, defusing the tension. 

I acknowledge frustration and gently attempt to lend you someone else’s shoes to try on. 

I tease, peeling up the edges of sunken spirits until the hulking mass begins to rise upward.

I soothe ruffled feathers, am silent when you need it, and my arms are always open.

And in return, I am the recipient of such utterly uncomplicated love that it flows from heart to heart with no hesitation. 

Hatches unbattened

In which I find someone I had lost

A boy I once knew slouches cock-sure on a ratty red velvet sofa.

A decade dead, but still in those tight jeans, legs crossed, grin in his eyes.

I never grieved for him properly, unable to puzzle out just how long forever feels.

But tonight, I curl under his arm, head to a bony shoulder that no longer exists,

Pressed against a heart that pumped kindness with every beat.

He laughs at the girl who never knew how to unbatten hatches,

Who snarked from behind razor wire fences

That she hoped would cover a permanent state of panic.

A different person sits beside him. 

She’s better at opening heart to heart,

Letting others see her weep without shame,

Allowing feelings to flow even when her mind screams. 

He, who never had the chance to grow older, 

Already knew how to do all those things a decade younger. 

It turns out forever feels longer every day.

And ‘never’ ties a weight to your heart strings,

So they plumb a depth ungrounded.

I’m going to stay here a while longer

Next to a boy I once knew, on a ratty red velvet sofa.