It’s been a while since I’ve truly put pen to paper and I wonder why. There have been poems, but in fairness, there’s always a poem. A month can go by, even two, and poem will produce itself to be plucked from a tree, I consume it, messily, juices still on my lips, but mostly I am a vessel. And this is short-lived. A poem for me is a moment, a feeling stretched out to the end of the canvas, often ones I can’t bear to articulate honestly in casual conversations, but they never tell a full story.
I think…me not writing is somewhat of a head-under-the-duvet-cover-kind-of-thing. It feels like, to write full prose, would somehow pulls truths from within me that I was not ready to read, a phone call I was trying to avoid. So what is the story I ask myself? And as always, it never seems like anything grand or storyline worthy, it’s just a lot of little bits of life happening, back to back like dominos, pain chipping away, and further fractures in your heart region where you didn’t realise had space to break.
But the thing is—I’m not alone. Everyone is going through it, like everyone. I think of my friends and family in this moment of reflection and imaging us all frozen on a TV screen hanging from the fringes of life, each one only by the hand or a couple of fingers. I want to unfreeze myself and gather them and take them somewhere safe, quiet and plain. A simple house with simple sofas, nature in the back garden and full fruit bowls. I would keep the world on pause though, so they didn’t have to worry about losing any time.
I am heading out of Berlin at the moment, a six-hour train to a place called Landau, in Southwest of Germany. It’s a university town famed for wine and home to 50,000 people, one of them being one of my closest friends that moved there a month ago.
Out of the window, the simple-ness of the pale blue sky and green fields is a balm for the bustle and greyness of the city, the metallic cog of work that has been wearing me away since before the pandemic. This is what I appreciate: that the stretch of the green and blue goes on forever, the clean lines press themselves out like fluffy dough, and with it they unfurl complexity in my mind.
My mind has become like this finely cut grass in the field: wide, empty and manageable. I might as well be on this train by myself as the people have quietly disappeared for me, just woman and laptop. Just woman who likes words with a laptop. Just woman who likes playing with words and her laptop…observing life (the fields and sky) and letting it be. No wishing for something around the river-bend, no wanting to go back to the field before. This train ride is turning into mediation.
There is something comforting about being far from home. Travellers will relate. You make a deal with this new place. In exchange for familiarity and comfort, you get a ticket that makes your life that you left behind quieter, the characters smaller, the events you would attend like leaves blowing in the wind. The tease of signal loss on your mobile phone is delicious, and the thought of switching it off forever, too. The newness gives you a complication reset, to start anew and let life be simple again.
I remember discussing with a friend recently how as humans our tendency is to make things more complex with time, we add more detail, more meaning, more methods and end up with the complicated. Of course this applies to relationships, and in that vein, I have a treasured memory of what my nan used to tell me when I would go on about my boy troubles and telling her why it wasn’t that simple. I remember her soft Irish-Mayo accent lamenting at me:
”I don’t get it Ky, either you be together or you just be friends!”
It never helped me in my situation, but it was comforting in the moment to have her waive her metaphorical wand and make things simple for me again. Maybe for a second or hour–sometimes longer I’d believe it to be true. And later in life, after she passed, when I would find myself deliberating about what to do about a boy, I would replay her solution in my mind and it would give me the courage to say that, in my own words of course.
I know the new city plus nature combo is a winner. This trip is the first of many I’ve planted in my summer, hoping for bloom and a little magic, the exercise of planning, and now doing has been a healthy reminder that (allow me to continue the nature theme here) I am not a tree, you are not a tree; so you can pick yourself up and take yourself somewhere, discover something–gift yourself wonder, and more important the chance. And that chance is, to connect, to meet people, to be inspired, to learn something about yourself, maybe to fall in love.
Note: I will talk about these trips and my approach to them in another blog, so perhaps you can inspired to do it yourself, so stay tuned.
4 years ago, my friend from London moved to Berlin, she loved, she was disappointed, she hustled and tried to create home in the enigma that is the city, but ultimately it wasn’t for her. The unknown end date of the pandemic combined with an exhaustion for the city saw her move to Landau with her partner, just over a month ago. The town is where he grew up so they have some connections here, but I am visiting for the first time to see the life she pursued away from the madness and sometimes-damaging drudge of the city.
The length of this train ride means that I have has the time to dust off a bit of my chaotic city residue, and as the journey goes on I become eager for my destination. I’m eager for the mixture of familiar (with my old friend) and new. I also longing for less people, less movement and less complexity. I feel that much like this piece of writing which I’ve finally taken the time out to write, this journey and visit is triggering my unfurling, the spreading out of my life like a crinkly old map, to point this is where I am and this is where I’m going, and this is what I really want. I look forward to doing that exercise with her, and myself. (We’re very good at this).
When people write, or at least when I write, people often assume its easy to write around a theme, I’ve learned with time this takes some skill and practice, often, with my poem and writing, I simply pour myself onto the page and the theme and message comes out like leaves at the bottom of the tea cup. It seems to me, that this dusting off of my pen, or breaking of the river bough, has unleashed or revealed a desire in me, to simplify, to clear out my mind, and stakeout in my heart instead; to be close to nature and mimic its form, and especially to shake off the complexity I added to my life that is no longer serving me.
I hope this is beginning of many pieces, as its clear to me that my tap tap taping away on a keyboard is actually more than just that, rather a window for what lies within, that has been bubbling away, without a voice, for far too long.
How have you been keeping? Let me know if anything here resonates with you below!