I am tired of division.
I am tired of the old being arbitrarily separated from the young, the young from the younger, the boys from the girls, the straight from the binary, the black from the white. It is not how I was brought up. I was brought up that the cover may indeed inform you about the book but only that it is possible. Generalisation is only a discussion point. Fluffing up one group like a pillow isn’t so that you understand it better, it is so that you can market to it and manipulate it more successfully, whether ideas or pet food. I am tired of that. I was brought up to believe in circles and journeys and a central spine to life, like the spinal column, from which everything derived, often interrelated and to which, sooner or later, everything returned.
And just because I am primarily a dog person, it doesn’t automatically follow that I don’t like cats. Groovy Kitten (named in the sixties) ran away when I left Michael. And I shared two moves with Chocolate Pud (he was Burmese) but I couldn’t do that to him again so we found him a home in the country with a cat he got on with, companions to cherish him and trees to climb. He was beautiful.
A friend has been throwing away old papers
and we agree that there are things you can’t toss till you’re ready. And I shall never be ready to part with the worn edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, one of a set of books my father bought and which both parents read to me. And of course keeping the book is not just to do with the stories but to do with memories of my parents. And I find recall is like a mental tree, like those lovely drawings of the Tree of Life,
or Joshua trees, or the baobab – once you start, the mind begins to project images, and the nose to recall smells, your ears hear voices and even the fingers twitch at the remembrance of this sheet or that coat.
Kipling’s story of The Cat that Walked by Himself came to mind last night, because it was Halloween which was originally Summers’ End (Samhain) in the Celtic calendar, one of those permitted because it couldn’t be overcome festivals that the Christian church let be, especially if they could doorstop it with All Souls immediately afterward. Last night Samhain (when the barriers between the dead and the living were thought to dissolve, gods and devils came among us) was also the night of a full moon, and this was the first time the two had been together since 1944, my birth year. I have never needed to wait for more than a nudge to respect the old. And I remembered the Woman who lived with the Man in the Cave of the Kipling story and how she made the First Magic.
In my childhood there were no pumpkins. Halloween lanterns were made of turnips. And if we were lucky we’d be invited in to play bob apple or to eat sausages and potatoes cooked over an open fire (delicious), on the common at the end of the street or in somebody’s back garden. And we respected what went before because we had imbibed that wisdom which says that if you have no past, you have no future. No root, no bloom.
All fire is wild and I have the greatest regard for it, from bonfire to match, and its concomitant, light. Fire drives away danger, light banishes fear,
candles keep you company and offer respect to the old and the new, and the power of both. And I thought of pine cones which symbolise renewal and the Third Eye. So I arranged a line of nightlights across the sash window with careful spaces into which I put the cones. I sprinkled salt around the perimeter of the house and I went to bed, oddly comforted at having made a small gesture at pulling the bits together.
In the middle of the night, I saw a face, the face of an African child. I can rationalise this for you but I’m not going to. What is interesting is that she smiled warmly and sweetly, and that I smiled back in the darkness of not quite awake.
*dreamtime, the Golden Age when the ancestors were created,
from the Australian Aborigine – with respect.