The Hunter and the Cone of Shame

The Hunter has an insect bite on his posterior. Whatever the provenance he's been chewing at it and it's driving him - and us - to distraction. He's a vain sort of dog at times and I'm quite convinced that the sight of a splendid lump on his bum has made him self-conscious. So we resorted to a conical collar to stop him getting at it. This, clearly, was the ultimate indignity and he stared at me accusingly for a long time.

He refused to go out until it was dark. Then, to his immense satisfaction, he made a discovery. His collar is a megaphone, and his bark - already much bigger than his bite - is amplified. He ran to the fence, faced the long garden, and set forth a series of deep, intensely loud, intensely macho barks which terrified me if no one else. Birds fled the trees. Cats backed carefully into the bushes and slipped away into the night. Every fox for a mile ran away in a low scurry. Even the wind grew silent. 

The hunter wagged his tail, which reminded him of his indignity, so he trotted back the house and past me, huffing.


Ash Trees on Sodium

Tonight, about 10pm, with the sky almost dark, I saw the Ash trees against the lights of the distant roads. Although they are many miles away, in certain conditions the lights make a band against the sky. The ash trees are not yet fully in leaf, so they stand over us like transparent lungs in the dark. Yellow behind, black in front. Clear black sky overhead. Cancerous, vaguely.


Wetland Jinn

Often when spring arrives hard on the heels of cold and wet, the fens fill with insects. So it was tonight. As I drove home, I saw great wraiths of insects, curling menacingly over the trees beside the road, long curling black columns, thicker than smoke, forming ghostly shapes over the road, like wetland jinn.


Red Bay

Rifling through old peices for another post, I came across some fragments that I'd written about Red Bay in Labrador. 

We spent a few days on an island at the northern tip of Newfoundland at a lighthouse. En route, we visited Rocky Harbour where we'd stayed many years before. I remember looking at the town and thinking about how long it had been, but even that memory is twelve years old now. We visited Anse Aux Meadows and saw the ruins of the Viking settlement there. A race memory, this time. On Quirpon island we watched humpback whales from the tops of the cliffs and then, on a long walk, one of the great beasts came a little way out of the water on a steep shingle beach and looked right at us.

On the way home, we decided to cross the water to the nethermost part of Quebec and from there drive into Labrador. Some way up the coast there is a small town called Red Bay. It's an old mining town in a tiny part given over to the kind of touristy things that work when you get one or two tourists a week. Across from the town there is a beach and some old industrial ruins.

On the beach there are bones. Lots of bones. More whalebones than a human being can safely look at and not feel ashamed. I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't even bear to look. 

I hadn't forgotten that short side trip, because it burned me, but I had forgotten the details until I looked back at what I'd written after that visit. Like a scar that is always there, part of your identity, with the details of how it got there faded into the background.


Broken Crockery

Another flush of snow and deep cold at the weekend left me staring at the sleepy orchard. The pruning is done. The tidying is done. The birds are already in the trees, shivering even as they claim their territories for the coming spring. The grass is late in its spring flush. I was left with no excuse. I had to clean the study.

 ...seasilver succubus, bitter and bold ...

The study, or the Slough of Snoutingdingle as it has become known, is beset by fragments of mosaic and other projects. The tight "V" of shelves which once made it a cosy, impregnable refuge now make it seem somewhat closed and dark. I took two black bin bags and an armful of boxes and made an expedition into the dark interior.

...the gods lie graved here, our sawmarks on their bones...

I variously threw away, recycled, re-organised and 'lofted' material for a whole day, then moved furniture, hoovered and then dysoned, polished, opened and liberated until Lady Snoutingdingle pronounced that 'it looks like a bedroom again'.

...they say that in the softest breast, the darkest magic works the best...

At this point I knew that I'd gone too far. No matter. In the process I'd emptied two whole drawers in the desk, freed the work table, re-sorted all the mosaic tiles and filled one entire drawer with pens and another with impulse-purchased empty little notebooks. In the process of all that, I got to the bottom of each and every drawer. In the lowest strata, almost fossilised, I found all kinds of strange junk. There were old passes which I'd kept as if to prove to myself that I hadn't imagined visiting these rare and curious places.

...the city eats the worker and pumps him underground...

There were wrist bands from old festivals. There were bits of plastic in interesting shapes kept because I always have kept oddly shaped things, even when I was an infant. There were old coins. There were mundane things of my Father's too precious to throw away. There were bits of broken things, adapters for devices long discarded, spilled vials of glitter, broken watches, bits of electronics, sea-glass, pebbles, stones, fossils. Real fossils that don't appear to have actually formed in the compressed bottoms of these drawers. There were letters and cards from long ago, stamps, photos of people long dead, photos of children long grown, old pets. Photos, that is, not the pets themselves. The Hunter's puppy teeth. My puppy teeth. There were polished stones and the seeds of trees. There was a box full of once-scented balsam pine cones and herbs from a remote island in Newfoundland which I'd collected and sent as a present to an aunt going blind. Now dried and scentless they returned to me the last time I saw her alive. 

... I'll make good the aching before I grow old ...

In amongst all that detritus there was a tub of old data cards. Among those, a backup of old fragments of poems written log ago and stored in almost forgotten formats. These lines of unfinished poems are just like the other gems in the drawers. They were written for projects I can no longer remember, using thought processes that are no longer mine. They are like peices of broken crockery, or fragments of masonry found at the bottom of a plant pot. Their form hints at what they once were, like holograms which contain a a hint of the whole in one shattered fragment. But now I can't imagine what they were destined for, or how I planned to finish each poem. My mind no longer follows those old furrows. The sparks of desire fly in different paths now and these old ones are burned out. They are curiosities. They can never be finished. 

...and among the tumult, high as oaks...

So I shall put them here, at the bottom of this post which shall be their plant pot, their home for a while until something else grows out of them. They are too old and inert even to be the seeds of something new, but they will let something new grow over them. In the way that old posts here grow through and over each other, they will provide good drainage. That one about dark magic, for example, was the opening of a book about elves. It's already pushing its transformed little head out of the compost, a dark, brooding little seedling of an idea.

...where lie my father's bones...

I'll make good the aching before I grow old.