Monday, August 6, 2007

Auspicious Signs

On the weekend I spent a day with a friend who came up from London on the best of all possible days, the weather being warm and blue and gold with just the right amount of breeze. We sat outside on the terrace of a country hotel that used to be a convent, looking at the monkey puzzle tree and close-cut grass that sloped down to the lake with ornamental fountains, drinking white wine spritzers with cassis, eating Caesar salads with fresh prawns. There was a wedding party and we watched the guests gather on the lawn and considered the strange Queen Mother-style clothes that women wear for such occasions. There was one, though - a striking and very large dark-haired woman who wore a white trouser suit that made no apology for her size and clothed her beautifully. An added adornment was the shine of kindness on her face and in the way she accompanied a much older woman as she walked away from the party and back into the hotel. Watching her it felt, somehow, auspicious. But then, you know me.

My friend and I both used to live in Hackney, round the corner from each other, we belonged to the same women’s writing group. Our children played together and we saw each other most days. Being with a good friend means one can breathe more easily, properly inhabit one’s body and skin. She poured coffee straight from the packet into the cafetiere. We liked coffee and books and writing. The first time she heard me read my stuff she said I was possessed and I felt newly and exuberantly gifted. She too could write up a storm. I had M.E. then but I could still find pockets of strength with which to override it. It cost me, but really there was no choice, I had found the thing I wanted to do and I sat at the kitchen table in the late hours, in the early hours, and I did it. We published stories and then I moved here to the edge, we both did all kinds of other things, my illness became more entrenched, but whenever we met we talked about writing; about everything else too, but it always flows back, as a river goes to the sea, to the writing, the process, the notebooks, the others, the words, the writing.

After the Caesar salads, strong Americanos and an absence of cigarettes (we have both given up again), I spilled my misgivings about the formal, paid work I was about to undertake, how the small strength I had would be taken by it. Her judgement was swift and uncompromising. Don’t do it, she said. Life is too short and we are women of a certain age and must grasp it, life, the nettle or the thing that won’t be pushed aside, the writing. Sometimes it takes someone else to say the obvious and the road ahead suddenly rises to meet you.

The novel-racing, competition-hosting, good Mr. Moon has given me an Inspirational Blogger Award. So cloth-headed do I feel that I can’t for the moment figure out how to upload the nice badge thing so it appears where I want it to. But I’ll see to this and everything else because just now – what with the woman in white, the perfect advice of a friend, good words from a blog-pal and a very attractive black and gold award – everything looks very, very auspicious. Of course, there is always the possibility that I am losing my marbles. At present, however, I remain,
yours truly,
Reading the Signs.

25 comments:

cusp said...

No no dear you're not cloth headed or deluded. What a fine and sage friend you have. As we have often said before, the energy/duty/creativity balancing act is most precarious and if you truly believe that the dutiful call of paid and gainful employment will sap your creative flow (and you can manage without the money) than dont turn up, don't do it and pour your energies into what you do love.

Reading the Signs said...

Plans and strategies in place, dear Cusp, including those for unavoidable cloth-headedness, which comes with the package, along with rag-doll limbs. (Ever read the Mennyms?)

Nicola said...

Dear Signs, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I am vexing over vocation, have been for a while, wondering whether I am deluded to imagine that I can write. And I, too, being of a certain age feel there is no time to waste, but what if I am mistaken? These arguments being fought inside my head are due to a decision I must make for this autumn.
But I had a long conversation with a writer companion last night and woke feeling much more positive. Then this morning I read that a calling is 'the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need.' And I know that my deep gladness resides in poetry. And that we all answer a need in each other.
Thank you.

I hope this doesn't come up twice - I'm having trouble getting through!

Reading the Signs said...

Gosh, well I need to think about this, Nicola. Whether the world has a deep need for my writing, I mean (no, I know it's not supposed to be read that crudely). I'm even stumbling over the word Vocation, but I suppose yes, that's just what it is. Having said that, I felt strongly called to teaching also, and know that it's something I did well and could still and, referring to what Cusp said, I did love it too, else I wouldn't have been good at it. But I don't have strength for both and have to choose.

Re what you said about wondering whether you are deluded etc. I think one writes out of an inner pressure to do so. And then the rest comes.

Nicola said...

No it's not, but what makes you think you aren't still teaching? I, for one, am learning from you. I sense I have brought a horribly serious note to discussion here which is not at all what I intend, enjoying inordinately the give and take of words and the wonderful humour here. (This is surely the point at which TPE should gallop in, hooves striking sparks?) But I remain passionate, Tsvetayeva's words to Rilke only serving to underline.
Maybe you don't have to choose. Perhaps you are doing both now - writing and inspiring. I think you are.
It doesn't solve the money problem though, does it? Which, to bring things down to earth, is what I am grappling with.

Reading the Signs said...

Nicola, thank you, and we welcome the serious as well as the humorous chez signs! And anyway, I wanted to engage with the things you brought up.
I will still be earning a pin's worth from a couple of things I do - but I never made much, so it's easier not to miss it. We live modestly, but it's ok and I know I'm fortunate in this.

As for TPE - well, he's very busy over at his place these days, I think - always good to see him, wherever.

Kahless said...

Signs,
I could imagine from your writing that I was sat next to you enjoying the white wine spritzer too. I had a lovely time, thanks.

And I too agree with your friend, life is too short. Do you think on your deathbed, you will say, damn I wish I had taken the formal paid work? Think not!
:o)

Kahless said...

Signs,
I could imagine from your writing that I was sat next to you enjoying the white wine spritzer too. I had a lovely time, thanks.

And I too agree with your friend, life is too short. Do you think on your deathbed, you will say, damn I wish I had taken the formal paid work? Think not!
:o)

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

I wish I'd known you when you lived in Hackney. I'm sure you've made decisions that you're going to be very happy with. Brilliant.

xxx


Pants

R.H. said...

Darlings you don't have to give up work to be a poet, I gave up work because I don't like it.
I was always a poet.

-Robert.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Kahless,
I think those were some of the very words my friend said the other day. Sometimes it just needs someone else to say it, doesn't it?

Pants,
Can't you please just go back in time Doctor Who-Style and meet me at Chelmer Road?

Yes, it's the right thing - thanks.

Hello r.h.,

The thing is I do actually like the work I did and found it rewarding and worthwhile. The issue here is health and strength - and priorities, I suppose.

I can think of other work I've done in the past that I would have ditched with pure relief, though.

Kahless said...

yes signs, sometimes we just need someone else to voice the words that we ourselves have been thinking.

Hope you have a good day.

witnessing am i said...

I think your friend is very wise and obviously knows you well -- she has seen you "possessed," knows of your gifts. Life is too short, way too short. If you can find one little way to follow her advice and to not do it, I think you should grasp hold of it and not let go.

I wish I could echo Maht's words of praise in giving you the Inspirational Blogger Award. He hit the nail on the head. You are very, very inspirational.

Reading the Signs said...

Thank you, good David - now if I just get that badge thing posted up I can stop pretending to be Katharine Hepburn.

Anna MR said...

Hei Princelet Glorious - I must agree with Nicola (hello from the Northern Lands to you too, Ms N) in the thing about learning from you, it is something I feel too, very strongly. As you know, we have engaged in discussions both corny and serious, and both have really fed my (dare I say it, careful folks, PONCE ALERT) soul and my mind. Not to mention the effect of reading your beautiful posts.

Anyway, before you start thinking I'm an impostor, someone else trying to blacken my dorky rep by being all you know, non-dorky, I'll quickly tell you the incredible word ver that allows me into your house today:

mwqgslur.

Yes, slur. Slurred speech or a slur on someone's good name? I am puzzled. The leprechauns have thrown me. Nevermind. Hello leprechauns, this round is yours, but you know you'll never, ever beat me really.

Signsy honey, it's good to read you.

xx

Nicola said...

Hello right back Anna mr from the southwest and deep apologies for not acknowledging your first friendly greeting - the memory is not as good as it was which was never very.
I'm sure Signs won't mind me using a little of her space here to say how much I enjoy your flashing smiles from Finland along with your singing compatriots. Thank you.
Crikey, I've got such a long word ver, and it's so wavy, I can barely read it.
Nope, must have misread it. Got a much better one now - twhrla - here goes!

Reading the Signs said...

mwqgslur, I can tell you with complete authority, dear Princeannalot is to welcome you across the threshold with a bottle of strong hooch in hand. And, of course, it is all part of a very clever system I have set up just to make sure that it is really you and not an impostor - though instinct tells me I would have known. But you can't be too careful these days, my dear. Hence the twhrla device I specially set up for Nicola (which is also a type of Irish dance I'm sure you are both familiar with).

Lovely indeed to see you in this neck of the woods again - and you can soul and mind, indeed should as much as you are capable of.

otiancr, my dears.

But, on the other hand, epfmnl

Anna MR said...

Lovely Signs, there's a Creative Blogger award for you at mine. (I understand you have a) already been given the BlogNobel, and b) that you too are finding it virtually impossible to upload the damn badges.)

Beautiful Nicola - is your own bloggy up and running yet (hello, charming to be talking)? I cannot click on your name before finishing this no-good comment here. And don't worry, it's not your eyesight. Signs has this special double-word ver aspect to her that nobody else does. It sometimes trebles, too, just to keep you on your toes.

Effort 1: bnnoxpz - mwqgslurrian for "been noxiously pissed"

Effort 2 (see what I mean, Nicola?): iyjstdjy - "I used to do you" - Signs, this is getting disturbing. Tell your pet leprechauns to decenty up a bit.

xx

Edmond Clay said...

I don't know why, yet, but your writing has touched me. Nice to meet you, my name is Edmond. If I can, I'll help you post your award online. I know a little about these cyber things. What I don't know, and there will be many things, some about you, is what is M.E.? I'm from Southern California.

Reading the Signs said...

Thank you, Anna, and I have now, very auspciciously methinks, managed to put up the badge of honour with the help of (ok it must be admitted) Him Outdoors. Raising a glass to you, imaginary, naturally, nothing but the best.

Reading the Signs said...

Edmond, thank you, I remember seeing you over at Ms Baroque's and enjoying your delightful exchange.

I have sorted out the award thing, with help, as you see. I am learning about these things.

I would like to give you a short answer to your question about what M.E. is, but would rather refer you to the Hummingbirds site which you will see on the right, or to the blog of Greenwords who is listed in my sidebar. It is a complex neurological illness that affects the immune system.

Collin said...

Congrats on the new blog award.

To be in England in the summer, close to the edge, with my love...

Edmond Clay said...

I left you a poem over at "Any Bird in Flight"

Reading the Signs said...

Thank you, Collin, I can imagine you might appreciate it considering the heat you're having to endure. Cool breeze to you from the edge.

Righto Edmond, will have a look.

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