This week was good, back up in Northumberland to see my family and my friends. It was a hot weekend and I ran along the river through the poppy fields, and walked on the beach three different times: morning, the evening and in the purple-black night.
On Sunday JA and I went to run down dunes and fly a kite – something I haven’t done for years. The thin nylon was crinkled when we unrolled it but pulled taught into a blue and yellow bird. The feel of the string twined between two fingers, the sky-tug of the wind.
It made me think back to school reading this poem, a summer-term of swinging chairs, leg, a buzzing fly, essays, paper, revision notes. The words of ‘Mother, Any Distance’:
Mother, any distance greater than a single span
requires a second pair of hands.
You come to help me measure windows, pelmets, doors,
the acres of the walls, the prairies of the floors.
You at the zero-end, me with the spool of tape, recording
length, reporting metres, centimetres back to base, then leaving
up the stairs, the line still feeding out, unreeling
years between us. Anchor. Kite.
I space-walk through the empty bedrooms, climb
the ladder to the loft, to breaking point, where something
has to give;
two floors below your fingertips still pinch
the last one-hundredth of an inch…I reach
towards a hatch that opens on an endless sky
to fall or fly.
There is something about those objects, lovely visuals of the kite, the anchor, lines stretching between parent, children, friends, the people we love. They make me think of washing lines, paper airplanes, boat sails, flags – earthly things that reach upwards and outwards, connecting us to others. The base organic elements of cotton, paper, wood that feel smooth against the skin.
I remember my tutor Kirsty Gunn’s haiku for her daughter, Millie:
I hold your paperclip
Shoulder between my thumb
And finger, my love
Simple little words, but beautiful.
That weekend, the lavender was out. Sitting in the garden with Alice, Becca and her daughter Holly who spins and twirls. We play witches barefoot on the grass, with her blonde curls and small toes. We find some lavender and I crush it between my fingers so she can smell the purple buds. She holds the flowers in the tiny cup of her palm.
And a very different age, I visit my grandpa and wheel him through the gardens of the care home. Over the wall is the square of the church tower, and the fall of summer blossom. The creaking creases of his face, brown skin, moles, thin hair and woollen jumper. I see him pull at the head of a lavender stalk and slowly, slowly grind it in his palm.
I love how they both bring their hands to their faces with the same crook of the elbow and dip of the head with eighty-five years and worlds between them.