Dark nights and solitude- apart from a sleeping cat and a humming wood stove- are just the right conditions for writing introspective blogs and getting lost in wandering tunnels of thought. I’ve had quite a few magical , seasonal experiences lately but it’s funny how, sitting here wondering where to begin, things suddenly surface that I hadn’t consciously dug up. It can take me ages to write a few lines because I keep half remembering things and looking back at old posts to see what I was thinking about in other Novembers, other nights by stoves; times when writing about my day seemed so trivial in the face of world events or the guilt/ frustration at being ok, but feeling not ok, made writing a personal blog seem self-indulgent (well so it is) and even embarrassing. This week there have been more shootings in Texas, half the world is discussing climate change in Bonn and the rest are chucking plastic into the oceans, forgetting that there is no such thing as “away”. It’s easy to be overwhelmed , stunned into silence and I’m feeling uncomfortable because what I wanted to write about was the water and the stars and and maybe even try to sell you some cards. I’m going to hold on to the naive idea that sharing some beautiful, joyful things somehow leaves a tiny bit less space for the evil, negative ones, I hope that’s ok? Just for now while we keep looking for answers to the bigger things?
My fuzzy picture and this superb one by James Kirby were taken on the last weekend in October when I dragged myself out of my nest, with a tin of warm-from- the- oven banana bread, to take part in a Halloween swim in Derwent Water organised by Suzanna Cruikshank . I didn’t know anyone taking part, I only knew Suzanna in the virtual world, it was cold and I’m shy but it was more than worth the effort. The jetty at Ashness was all decorated with fairy lights and tow floats with torches inside so it glowed beautifully as the light faded and we shivered in to our wetsuits . When it was really dark and everyone was ready we tiptoed in to the black water with our illuminated floats and glow sticks and swam out into smooth icy water. In the photographs there seems to be a woman with my colour hair and many, many chins, looking like an overstuffed inner tube but I have no idea who she was, I was too busy drifting in the dark being a polar bear or maybe a water spirit. The Great Bear in the sky above us and the half moon in the trees towards Watendlath were the perfect finishing touches. I thought I’d be scared, too cold to use my hands or unable to keep up but the whole experience was quite gentle and atmospheric- much easier to forget about the DEEP and possible (probable) monsters, when you’re in the dark, quietly chatting to someone in full halloween makeup and a miniature top hat. I had such a good time and though I will never recognise the people I shared that experience with again ( face paint/pitch dark/ brain freeze) I don’t think any of us will forget it. I suppose in its own way it was a kind of virtual reality chat room and joking aside there is something almost spiritual about being in those elements, in the dark – celebrating the change of seasons, and the beginning of winter.
Yesterday after 4 days of migraine ( not connected to the swim) and wondering if I might die in the night and be eaten by the cat, I stumbled up the lane to stand in the beck hoping the cold would do something to shift the headache- I think it did a bit but it might have been all the pills. Migraines really are peculiar things ( I’ve had cravings for cinnamon lately as well as Brinjal pickle sandwiches- symptom or cause?) and the moment when you realise it’s leaving is such a relief that there is an almost manic burst of energy. I walked around the valley, being shouted at by a territorial wren who followed me for ages, hopping along the drystone wall beside the path. My camera ran out of batteries so I just stood and looked at all the fields striped and cross hatched with long diagonal shadows, the low sun painting the fells orange and sending all the craggy bits into high contrast, like an over edited Instagram filter. How to capture that in words or paint or pixels? I certainly don’t have the skills. Anyway, it felt amazing to be alive again so I made cards, lined cupboards doors with recipes from the Guardian, sawed some wood, wrote letters and listened to Northern Lights and the Book of Dust until late in to the night.
I’m pleased with the cards, they come in little boxes of 10 and are wintery rather than christmassy so hopefully much more versatile – I like cards that make you want to keep them, use them as bookmarks or tie them up in with ribbon in a box of secrets, not the sort chosen in haste and sent out of duty, just to be recycled in January. You can find these in the card section of my website.
I’ve been to post orders today ( including this handsome owl) and changed my third wheel in just over a week. I think my car is testing my self reliance by waiting until Rupert is in Nepal before getting a puncture in 3 out of 4 tyres. It’s made me realise how important it is to know how to do these things and my blue curses and fury today were tempered by a little smug self confidence in my own abilities. Anyway, the novelty of my new skill has worn off now so unless F1 want give me a pit stop job I’ll be very happy never to have to change a wheel again thank you.
It’s been a rambling, mash up of a blog post and I don’t blame you if you left to put the kettle on hours ago. I think I have in mind the fact that 10years is a long time to be sending these musings out in to the world and the way I feel about it has changed, does change… ten Novembers, it’s not surprising really.
Enjoy November, its brittle days and long nights- time to read and listen and dream.
Reading : Hag -Seed – Margaret Atwood Listening to : The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman