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It’s been a tough old week. After Tilly, a number of things. But it’s also been life-affirming in many ways. Mainly because of friends. And R and Mom. And E and M. 

I came to friends late in life, having the ‘desert them before they desert me’ mentality of someone used to not trusting anyone. For good reason, I might add.

Anyway. Despite several wonderfully loyal and giving friends hanging with me through my teens, twenties and most of my thirties, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally stopped running. I looked around. I saw wonderful women (mostly) around me, offering friendship, true friendship. Most of them had been there for some time. I have the feeling somehow they just decided not to give up on me. For which I remain absurdly grateful. Such a simple thing.

I have a thing about not taking anything for granted. Seems almost disrespectful to do so. Yet some things are meant to be taken for granted. They flourish by being as a ‘matter of course’; they quietly sink roots beyond the surface, where wind and a heavy rain can’t dislodge them. They need tending, but only in the daily run of things, no more, no less. They are there, no matter what happens.

No matter what happens! No matter what happens. This is the secret celebration for me, the unexpected. It’s no big deal, no drama. No questions need to be asked, no unspoken price.

Two phonecalls, three texts, many blog comments. Several emails. Four, five, six face to face conversations. A raucous dinner.

So, to all of you, thank you. I’m not looking forward to the week ahead, but — cliche upon cliche — you’re making it bearable.

I started this post wanting to point you to my good friend Nancy Wilson‘s Flickr widget that I’m so thrilled with. I love her stuff, really love it. I just wanted a bit of her kind of light on these pages. 

To get you started. And me. Happy Monday.


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blue sky

1) The weather today! Startling blue sky.

2) M’s health. After a surprise ‘hurl’ as she calls it (bleh) this morning, nothing. We figure odd anxiety: protective of cats, she had worked herself into a froth about them going outside. We all need a break.

3) Step count: 3,000 and I’ve got six hours to go. Slowly but surely.

4) Sight in a swimsuit tried on today.

5) The forecast for The Lakes, where we head tomorrow. GONE FOR A WEEK! Yay. And only mixed rain/sun on those nice charts. May strike lucky and get lots of walks in (obssessive, moi?).

6) The picture and article in the Gazette about Word on the Street, which did appear today. Again, rather jolly. Unfortunately not online that I can find, so you’ll just have to take my word (on the street) for it.

7) Mindset before a journey. I’m usually imagining all sorts of things that might go wrong by this stage, and/or desperate to clean the house top to bottom. Neither of those things are occupying much head space at the moment thank goodness.

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Two bits of unadulterated good news:

1) Saw Helena’s new baby today — stunning. At three weeks the size M was when she was born: 10lb 4oz. The familiar bleating like a lamb, feed me.

2) M got a Distinction on her violin exam. Hurray, M!

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See you in a week. Have a good one.

After a pretty awful 48 hours, during which I tried and failed not to phone all local birthing centres — after receiving a text that read ‘It’s started!’ — the baby girl has arrived on the scene, daughter of good friend Helena and her husband.

And she is absolutely gorgeous. Wonderful. So precious.

Another question, going on from two days ago: why is new life so very very astonishing?

My father-in-law, a retired GP, says the one thing he never tired of was helping babies into the world, that moment. I find that moving.

What do I remember about those first moments? Relief at E being so healthy, so solid from the beginning, an emergency C-section. Panic the first night when I couldn’t reach him, stretching to rock the crib. Relief at being alive. These feelings co-existed with some wariness until he was six weeks old, when I watched him sleeping at 6 am, his profile there, and thought yes, I am his mother, and I am so thankful.

With M: getting the shakes going into theatre, a planned C-section this time. The midwife understanding the flashbacks. And the irrefutable, instant connection, like an electric circuit. The same midwife nodding, standing next to me in the recovery room, M at my breast. Better this time? And not being able to speak.

Congratulations. Everything’s always alright in the end, even if the beginning is rocky. They are still the best things since sliced bread. Hell, they’re unspeakably better.

Fruition in Stereo — Manistee Lighthouse

I’m waiting on a baby. Several, really — but only one actual one. Most are metaphorical: the kitchen (how many people couldn’t have seen that coming); end of term writing portfolios from gung-ho students; Laureate activities. And a few are just plain wishful thinking: a clean and orderly house, a linen basket you can put the top on, a sense of completion in general.

Completion. Maybe I should have called this post that. Like with my prose poems, I almost always title posts before I write them. It gives me a space to go into. Maybe.

Back to babies. Three manuscripts on the go at once. Little done with them in two months. Enduring a familiar ennui. In suspended gestation.

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Now back to the real one, the actual star of the show: my good friend Helena is expecting, overdue in fact. For some reason I find I’m almost waiting by the phone, double-checking for texts. I had lunch with her last week, and her house was at the peak of preparation: nappies set up, little folded all-in-ones, Moses basket, cot, and pram by the door.

Sigh. How the first child razes everything, then builds it all back the same but different. Things are so empty before the baby arrives, and you don’t even know it. It’s impossible to imagine how full life can be.

Stay tuned….

This time of year is not at the top of my list of favourite times. With Christmas over, all you can do is wait for the mornings to get lighter. And keep your head down.

Saying this, it is a time for considered thought somehow. I think of people who’ve died, who I’ve lost touch with, or things I’ve let slip. And I am grateful for those who’ve reminded me just by their friendship and steadfastness of what’s important: Nancy, Lynne, Lisa, Katherine, Deborah, Helena, Valerie. Not to mention relatives, again whose consistent and unconditional presence has been life-changing: David, Janet, Hugh, Bridget, Anna, Howard, and my mother.

And don’t even get me started on the children, or R.

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I feel a need today to write for Valerie. From the ages of 10 to 12, we were each other’s best friends. Bestest friends. Times change though, and we moved on, and lost touch, and…to her credit she searched me out last year — after 25 years. It’s been a treat to talk to someone who is ‘from where I’m from’ and who — still, all these years later — is interested in what I’m interested in.

Anyway, today I heard that Valerie’s much-loved dog Luna had died. The memory of holding our 17 year old moggie as he died last year is always close to the surface, despite our two new lovely kittens. Like everything we lose or lose track of, they stay with us.

The title of this post is taken from a poem by Yehuda Amichai called ‘Ballad on the Streets of Buenos Aires’. It’s a love poem, really, and the whole thing is one of my all time favourites, but this particular line keeps me breathing this dark time of year: and the light is always there to serve all loss. (I prefer the Stephen Mitchell translation, so have used his version of this line.)

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

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Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.