Okay, it wasn’t actually midnight. More like 10:30. Poetic license; see my previous blog entry Midnight in the Fellows’ Garden, also Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene 1, Theseus, “The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve”, etc).
I was walking home, at 10:30 as we have now established, and in the dark the lavender that I knew grew in someone’s garden by the pavement smelled particularly strong. Then I made out the stems on the ground and the lavender shrubs all neatly shaved. They’d come and chopped back their plants but instead of collecting the flowers they’d been left scattered across the sidewalk, dark vegetable matter in the half light.
I started gathering up the stems, a little spray to take home. I didn’t want to just get stems and leaves so at first I tried to see each sprig as I picked it up. It was too dark and I didn’t want to linger. So I gathered up a handful in the darkness, a thick bundle giving off that distinctive fragrance every time I moved it. I held it out before me gingerly as I walked home, wondering what I’d look like to anyone who came along.
Should I have grabbed more while the chance was there? Should I have left it lie? What if they wanted their lavender? They shouldn’t have left it lying in a public street to be trampled, then!
I got home. By the light outside my door I could see I’d gathered well, not just stems and leaves but a good bunch of flowers, tossed on the step as I searched for my key. I thought about arranging them properly into a neat bundle, heads primly down for drying. In the end I wound some yarn around the whole lot all higgledy-piggledy like it was and hung it in a corner of my room. The fragrance woke me this morning.
I tend to be a sporadic blogger at best, because I believe my skill lies in funny little observations–my firemans, poking Mark’s lion on the nose, the incredible not-quite-sinking houseboat (hard to believe that was nearly two years ago now.)
Some people can create whole worlds that are beautiful and dangerous. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, for instance; Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera (oh, perhaps you think it’s over the top or trite or unsubtle. Maybe it is. I still think it is beautiful and dangerous, though.) Steven Moffat, who wrote the famous Dr Who episode “Blink”, the one about the beautiful and dangerous statues. Marjane Satrapi, who was recounting her own world, beautifully drawn, and dangerous, in Persepolis. Others. Some people are good at translating a dark inner landscape into one that can be shared and appreciated, enjoyed even.
I don’t think my skills lie in that direction, but I’ve had very little else to write about recently. In the space of a month–almost exactly a month, in fact–my thesis was booted back to me for major revisions, my uncle passed away, and a rift developed, quite sharply, between me and a dear friend.
Listed like that, they sound…not smaller, not lesser, but bearable. I am not bearing them, these things, particularly well. My thesis, which was in fact passed with major corrections, I no longer think of as mine. It is the thing that they want, now. It will be their message I have obediently incorporated into my words when I finally hand the finished one in. My uncle–a world of grief there. I don’t think I need to say more. And my friend. I keep thinking of William Blake’s “A Poison Tree.” But in the end it was I who ate the apple of the poison tree in my own dark garden.
I walk around all day feeling like a band has been tied around my waist, just under my ribs, and someone is squeezing and squeezing and squeezing it tight–but I know the person holding the ends is me. These things are bearable, but I fight against bearing them because I want, so badly, not to have to bear them. There are worse things, I know. Oh, I know. But the knowing does not help, somehow.
I wish that I could project my dark landscape in a way that didn’t feel like a cardboard cutout when I put it down in writing. My little world of darkness, magnified outside myself, becomes thinner, duller, more mundane. Everyday sorrows.
It is for that reason I wanted to recount an experience in darkness. In darkness out of which something beautiful could be gathered.