Tonight, my friends, I go swimming in Y Gododdin. I dive right into the watery deep and immerse myself in the words. Motifs and themes and ancient lives swim past me, pulled along as I am by the narrative flow’s swift current…
The storm was brewing;
In the silence,
The night-time booms.
Its clammy heat
Makes nightgowns stick,
Like rain on a gutter.
Oh the silent downpours came;
but they were carrying no thunder.
Like the night in which I now write
They crept around me in the dark atmosphere.
Each torrential peak a taunt.
Each window-strike a show of what passion drenched may be but isn’t.
Oh well. Suppose I should put the kettle on, then…
I’m currently sitting in the dark. The lights were on, at times glaringly so, but now they’re off. I find myself desperately waiting for the lights to go back on again because in the darkness I am forced to be inert, and silent and surrounded by my fears. It’s a time of reflection, though, the darkness; the natural cycle of energy will soon switch the lights back on and reflection will become activity. In time. On time. Not my time.
So for now, I sit. In the darkness, and wait. And reflect.
Because being in the darkness is a great opportunity to examine our deepest fears and challenge them. To think through and plan our hopes for the future. So that when the light switches back on, and the shadows clear, we can be our best in activity.
Now I understand
All those years ago
A deep urge within me
To travel to Celtic lands
To connect with stories, music, history.
I now know
That was a seed germinating
A stirring beneath the soil
A flowering delayed, to bloom at the right time.
Transformation in Relationships
Sometimes, somebody comes into our life and forces us to look at ourselves in a way we haven’t been and desperately need to. We realise we have forgotten to live, long dormant aspects of ourselves reawaken, and fragments of our soul begin to return–a remnant here, a flashback there–slowly piecing back together the strength and self we thought we had lost in the madness and tumult of living. Except we realise, as the pieces of us begin to rejoin like a long separated jigsaw puzzle, that we were never really living; we only thought we were.
The person comes in like the brightest sunlight blazing through newly cleaned windows on an overgrown greenhouse, and then we set about cleaning it up and pulling the weeds we hadn’t even realised were there. We tidy up our tools, and repot our hopes and dreams, silently thanking the bringer of the sun for the illumination they have shone into us and our lives. It doesn’t matter how long the person stays, or in which capacity, because the effect can remain long after they’ve gone.
And there will be more sun bringers, those who seek to enter our sparkling leafy and lemony scented greenhouse and stay a while, or perhaps forever. Just as long as we keep polishing those windows…
Wishing you all a magical Christmas Eve, and a wonderful Christmas Day!
Love Jen x
It was a crisp starry night, and the stars looked like pinprick glimpses into heaven on indigo velvet. The birds were silent, and the trees were still. It had happened a year ago today, on Christmas Eve. He hadn’t stood a chance in his small car against a lorry, and now it had come around again. She glanced at the withered stumps sticking out from the soil in her window box. It had been alright at first, the Silence. It had long made itself at home by the time the crocuses were in full bloom, and the dawn of that morning sky that was blue and alight with golden rays and the promise of hope to come. And now it was time. She was sure of that.
She had held Jim’s hand as he went, unable to look into his eyes until the last moment, and when she did and he smiled at her, she was glad he was at peace. The light in his eyes didn’t fade; it simply went elsewhere. That she knew. And one day–one day–she would go with him.
It started with the small things. A sock here, a mug or two there. They’d disappear, then reappear.
‘It’s him!’, laughed her friend.
‘Don’t be silly’, she’d chide, certain he wouldn’t frighten or annoy her like that.
‘I’m telling you it is!’ the friend persisted, but she just smiled, shook her head, and offered another cup of tea.
However, deep within, she was aware that there was more to life, and believed it could be him.
When the sparrow showed up on her window box later that Spring, his leg wounded, she took him in. She made a bed for him with a shoebox, and one of those blankets designed for small dogs. She fed him, and put him next to her bed to sleep. The curious disappearances stopped, or she stopped noticing them, and the sparrow was slowly getting better. She knew he was well when she entered her room a few days later, and saw him out of the box and flying around it.
‘Ah, you’re ready to go!’ she clapped. She overrode the twinge of sadness she felt as she opened the window with thoughts of the bird flying free and well, back in his natural habitat.
He stopped flying around and stood on her bed post, looking at her quizzically.
‘The window’s open’, she said gently. ‘You are able to go now’.
His feathers ruffled in the breeze from the opened window. He didn’t move.
‘Well, I will leave it open darling, and you can fly out when you’re ready’, she said, leaving the room and conceding that his post-recovery apprehension was understandable.
She walked out to the post office, and to the grocer, and to the baker. She couldn’t see her house from the market square, but remembered the sparrow now and then. She imagined him long gone to a tree branch somewhere, and tears formed in her eyes but she held them back.
When she returned, it was almost dusk and she put the kettle on, before wearily making her way upstairs to deposit her hat and coat. Opening the door confirmed what she knew to be true–the sparrow had gone. She couldn’t see him anywhere. The net blew inward and swirled in the wind, and he was no longer on the bed post. Sighing with forlorn relief, she fastened the window shut, and went back downstairs to make her cup of tea.
She always went to bed at 9pm sharp and had been asleep for a few hours when something woke her. As she came to, rubbing her eyes to get them to focus, she felt two tiny claws digging into her nose. Head tilted, one eye sharp and glistening, the sparrow was looking at her. She grappled for the night light, and tried to push him away but, before she could, he had already flown over to the bed post. The skin on her nose was bleeding and she was shaking.
‘You’ve got to go!’ she ordered.
He hopped a little closer. He stared into her eyes as if to say, ‘I’m not going anywhere’. His eyes hit hers like a lightning bolt. She knew them somehow. Her gasp was hoarse and high.
‘No, you can’t! You have to go’.
He continued to sit and stare at her.
Then he flew into the box and began to try to draw the blanket around him with his beak.
She relented, helped cover him, made him cosy, and then put his bed box on her bookshelf next to one of her late husband’s favourite authors. The bird didn’t protest, and seemed to settle down. She got back into bed, and so they were until morning. For two years he lived with her, and became her constant companion. She felt her loneliness evaporating.
On Christmas Eve, the third anniversary of Jim’s death, she went to bed at 9.30pm. She’d had a little festive nightcap, and toasted him for the first time since he died. She made sure the sparrow was warm in his bed, and set her alarm for church the next morning, before switching off the light.
When she awoke, the daylight was streaming in from the window. But it was not a normal light. It was brighter than usual. As her eyes struggled to adjust, she immediately recognised the figure that had materialised before her. ‘Merry Christmas’, he said. He reached out his hand. ‘Come my love’. She rose up in her blue nightdress, swirling with the light and him, rippling waves of white light and blue cotton.
It was late on Christmas Day when her neighbours turned up at her house. She kept a key under her begonias, and they entered easily. They called for her; first gently and then more forcefully. The house felt silent. Empty.
When they reached her bedroom, they were stunned to find not one but two stiff, yet still warm, bodies. One was her, still in her night clothes, lying in bed, and the other was a little sparrow covered with a blanket in a box on the bookshelf.
And she was smiling.
©Jennifer Smedley, 2017.