Monday, 14 January 2008

Gods of the Warm Fuzzies

Right. I was supposed to do this earlier but never mind. Outside it is pouring with rain. I can see it swish down past the yellow blush of the street light. When I wandered out to Sainsbury’s earlier, the warmth of the air startled me. Like spring packaged up and waiting - a ghostly, bulge of heat.

But inside I still chill easily, so now I sit in the living room, the gas fire on, slippers cast to one side, but moe’s magic gloves still on my hands. They are comforting.

I was going to write about comfort. The small things that wrap us up and make us feel like life can be like the story books we were read as children.
Sometimes comfort requires an element of innocence, of playfulness. Like monster slippers. Are they necessary? No. Are they marvellous? Oh, yes. Do purple mittens “go” with a red fleece? No. But is it grand? Absolutely.

Playfulness is just another element of drama, and I love drama. Drama is the strangely satisfying, itchy by-product of pure creation. I think this is why my greatest comforts tend to be the books that pack my shelves, and music. The album of the moment is Raising Sand, a new offering from Robert Plant and Alison Kraus. An unlikely combination, but what a great sound. These songs are dreams on a back porch swing or the cartoon faces drawn in the mud at the edges of puddles. Or thoughts of the days of freedom, when you just turned 21 and the future stretched out like a desert road. Every sweet memory you ever had, but seen from a long way off. Aren’t memories always a long way off? They are no longer there, in the flesh. But the comfort us just the same.

Lately I've been in touch with a lot of friends from years past, and many of my memories are coming back like mental hopscotch. For two days I have heard Sandra’s gloriously manic laughter in my head, punctuated by another memory of five frantic syllables ranted in high-pitched, Monty Python style: “Is your name not Bruce?” The image in my mind is of Leanne’s little feet, safe inside the sturdy leather hiking boots she used to wear. Half-remembered quotes from dear Tania are skidding through my brain, trying to find catch hold: dreams of swimming in silver dresses, a ram‘s frozen ear, and a desperate love of gum. Finally, today I was called “Everglades” for the first time in in nearly 15 years. It’s all going to take some adjustment. But what fun.

As always I am steadied by the slow pulse that snakes along not far from my flat. Another great comfort of mine, the canal is a long, soft yawn of ease and quiet assurance, a symbol of the grandest, sticky-sweet influence in my life. It is the cat’s slow blink.

I have never read a description of nature that is as beautiful as J. A. Baker’s. My dear friend Craig has located for me a copy of Baker’s The Hill of Summer, which is now out of print. His descriptions are so natural, so organic, it is like the land itself is telling the story. I have opened the book at random, and this is the paragraph I landed on:

“The moon rose from the dark rim of the wood, a red arc flaming upward like a fire rising, turning from red to orange, from orange to a circle of deep yellow. The hay bales flung their long shadows from them, like a silent flinging out of wings. The hay was white as frost. The trees were darker now the mood had risen. I walked through the pine wood. The grass in the rides had been cut and left to dry. It swished softly over my feet. The pines and spruces were black beside me, but up in the moonlight, high above, they were blue, deep blue, like the draped wings of the magpie that hung glittering down from the dead gallows-tree. A tawny owl rushed from branch to branch, as fast and light as a hawk. A hawk would have seemed almost cumbersome compared with this cloud-soft throwing forward of the silence.”

As often as I am beset with jealousy when I read the perfection that other writers have found, I do not feel it when I read Baker. All I feel is deep appreciation and an intense warmth and comfort which he has loaned me by sharing with me his experience of the world around him.

Finally, in just two more sleeps, Craig will arrive to visit me. Soon I will be able to show him around Edinburgh and also take him into the Sainsbury’s, which compared to the tiny grocery store he and Anne rely on for their goodies, is going to seem like a Mecca of choice. Tonight even I was awed by the how baked beans can take up nearly half an aisle. No one eats beans like the British. I am mostly prepared for his arrival, for I have lists of all the chocolatiers and other interesting cafes. Good company and good chocolate - yet another glorious comfort.

To finish, a quote from a woman who knew how to enjoy the drama.

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive..."
-Eleonora Duse


your new best friend said...

books are great comfort. poetry or prose, as long as it is true shared experience. i'm sure they've saved me from myself many times

Marcheline said...

Have you ever seen the movie "84 Charing Cross Road"?

If not, put it on your list. Bring the hankies, though. It's marvelous.