Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent

Well, it’s here: first week in Advent. I still do things that prepare for the great midwinter event and the sun’s turning at the darkest point of the darkest month; and not just the business with the turkey, the trimmings, the wrapping paper. This time I have lit all four advent candles at once instead of doing it gradually, adding one more as each week passes. I want all the light of them now. I also want to make a space that is ordered in such a way as to accommodate emptiness – not barren emptiness, but that space where words and substance come, the empty place that is starlit, or it is dark but it is a dark where things happen.

And add to the wishlist a handful of beans, and wherever I throw one something will grow. These kind of beans are only given to poor people who don’t have much and I wonder if I am poor or rich. There is no room at the inn and the stable is filled with clutter. Out with it.

I seem to have been hearing the word ‘transition’ a lot recently, perhaps because I am in it, writing mainly fragments I do not wish to share. Increasingly, the real writing suggests a secret activity, one where even the end result should not be shown, not be witnessed by anyone at all, but I choose to read this as a temporary condition.

I had a good couple of days in London, staying with a friend who is also in transit, between one phase of life and the next, and living in a beautiful bedsit in Belsize Park. It is not one of those IKEA’d shiny fake parquet floor and microwave oven jobs that you see everywhere advertised for about £180 a week (and it costs a fraction of that). It is the kind of place that students and people like me used to find in the seventies: scruffy and woodchipped with real sash windows that shake with the wind, a gas fire that glows – no central heating – and people of fragile means in other rooms who share the bathroom and occasionally pin up a crayonned sheet of paper asking God to give grace to accept with serenity the things that can’t be changed. I didn’t know these things were beautiful then but I find them so now because they are passing, almost gone, as this house will be when it comes into new ownership and is converted into studio flats. But also it was a reminder of the beauty of a life lived uncluttered by too many possessions, too many certainties, and the possibility of grace.

We met my daughter for breakfast and I gave her a pair of Ugg boots which she put on her feet there and then. Later she sent me a text to say she loved them and “they’re the best present I ever got” which says something about the boots but more, I think, about her capacity to relish and rejoice in the particulars of the moment – which makes me exceedingly happy.

Son has this morning flown off to Sweden to see a friend and northern lights. He came back from Oxford sporting a sheepskin coat bought for £50 in a second hand shop. This was to see him through the cold weather and it looked great but was, I could smell at once, riddled with mould. So it is lying wrapped in polythene in a shed until I can think of a solution to this, and he has gone off with a new quilted and windproof thing bought at Millett’s yesterday just before closing time.

In a week’s time I begin The Process. More thoughts on this anon.

23 comments:

Kahless said...

Signs, I will be thinking of you as you partake in The Process.

As a student I lived in a house with no central heating and it was VERY cold. I must say I like my creature comforts these days.

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks, Kahless.

The house was warm, we even had windows open, though it was cold outside. Even the loo was cosy.

Kahless said...

Hello Signs,
hope you don't mind but I wanted to leave a message for Anna here...

Hei Anna,
I seem to have a problem in commenting on your blog... the comments link doesn't appear. Not sure whether that is deliberate or not but given all the links look squidged I am assuming it is a fault...

Thanks Signs!

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless, what you need to do (as I found out by accident) is press on the title by the arrow thing and then the post opens up the comments.

Anna MR said...

Ha. Hello Signs, hello Kahless. To my understanding, my comments have worked fine for quite some time now, although for a while they were a bit encrypted (although enterable, certainly, and particularly with the help of the little goose at the bottom. Dear little thing). But, Kahless, what on earth do you mean by my links looking "squidged"? I am somehow strangely reminded of the late Princess of Wales. Do you mean my links have puppy-dog eyes for all passing men (and, reputedly, a mean bitchy streak at other ladies)?

That'd be an interesting development.

All I can say, in unison with the WVL's (who have obviously been lying in waiting for me), is mypgxabm. Yes indeedly. I was going to go and answer my lovely comments, but something has made me very cross indeed and I think I shall do so another time - but Signs, I loved your post here and we had a very uncanny synchronicity hit there a bit earlier - if you go through your stats and compare them to the timestamp on your comments to me, you'll see what I mean. You made me jump, girl, jump...

Kahless said...

Thank-you Signs. Problem solved!

And I forgot about the Squidgey tapes Anna lol! Not that I ever read the content of them as I dont like such taloid filth.

NMJ said...

Hey Signs, I love the romanticism of a desirable (but mouldy) second-hand sheepskin and the pragmatism of a Millett's wind-proof jacket, juxtaposed with such elegance in your last line.

Collin said...

I'll be keeping you in my thoughts. :)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

There is nothing better than being able to relish and rejoice in the particulars of the moment, it creates a powerful vibrancy and joy!

Reading the Signs said...

Anna, I have never connected you to Princess of Wales, but now I think of it - the royal connection you know, Queen of 'Earts. Of course the WVLs have been waiting for you - as have we all, your majesty. Har!

Kahless, it's a pleasure to be of service, ma'am, especially in relation to things technical, as I have only just about mastered the business of sending an email.

NMJ - I have just heard from son who is cheerfully accommodating temperatures of -12 (and counting) and I'm thinking the sheer cold might have extinguished all the mould spores. Dry cleaners don't want to touch it with a barge pole and really, who can blame them?

Hi Collin - thanks!

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Vanilla - it's true, and I remember feeling that way once too about a pair of new sandals.

Nicola said...

Dear Signs, I love the sound and warmth of your Advent.
Yesterday I returned from a writing group which was meeting for the last time before Christmas. The theme of the evening - endings - became transitions, bridges, gifts.
I too am without central heating, the boiler having choked itself to death. So...I have lit the wood stove which stands in the kitchen in the heart of the house. The house lives and breathes again - my younger daughter curled up on the deep, dark sofa, reading; my husband, worn and tense, saying 'I feel I'm on holiday', the dog stretching deliciously and, yes, it's cold upstairs and I continue to insist on having the bedroom window open to catch the call of the tawny owl, the roar of the wind through the douglas fir. In the morning I cross borders in my bare feet, stepping from polar through degrees to temperate then into cosy. There is something primitive about it.
After the family has gone to bed, I return down the stairs not once but three times to look in at the warmth flickering on my painted caven walls.
(I think I just made that word up - caven!)

Reading the Signs said...

Nicola, I lived most of my life without central heating. It took me a long time to get used to having the invisible heat. And I appreciate it and all, but - it took me by surprise being back without it. Visible source of heat makes for a hearth, which is good in winter.

I'm making things with wire and evergreens tomorrow, something creative, but really this Advent is (for me) hard work - clearing up, clearing out, emptying, stuff and stuff.

A cavern, or caven, sounds like a fine thing.

Queen of 'Earts, Her Squidgey Highness said...

Princeling Pirate, that'll easily be the first time anyone's ever called me "your majesty". Careful, mind how you go, Signs, we could grow very used to it...we are very amused.

(Hello also, Kahless (you don't mind, do you Signs?) - we are glad you enjoyed the Squidgey reminder. May we also here call to mind The Man Who Would Be Tampon, so both sides and their escapades are remembered?)

(I liked caven, too, Nicola.)

Rising Rainbow said...

Good luck on your journey.

It seems like there must be some cure for that mold. Something that would kill the spores and not harm the skin. If it was smooth leather I would know but sheepskin, I'm just not sure about.

Kahless said...

Signs,
I reckon you hate them so ignore if needed but I have tagged you on Random. It is a quick meme at least.

And her Squidgey Highness, yuck to reminding us about Tampon Man!

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Rising Rainbow, thanks. I never know how to spell that word - mould or mold - but either way, I wish it gone.

Yer Maj (so glad we have amused) and Kahless (a meme! how jolly), something weird is going on. Well isn't it always - but this weirdness is manifesting in my comments not coming through to email. You did, Kahless, but several, including Queen of 'Earts and Rising Rainbow, didn't. Is this the beginning of the end of the world, I wonder - Signs and omens?

'Er Maj the Squidge said...

Ha, we're so glad you mentioned that, Signs. We too have experienced problems in comment notification, and had just decided to develop paranoid delusions about being watched and tabbed and secretly spied upon and listened to and all sorts. At least if it's happening to you too, we needn't feel lonesome in our delusions. I mean, in our being spied-upon-ness. Or the end of the world.

(Synchro Signs, we can never decide mold or mould either. Separated at birth, known by their webbed toes - you know what that means - it makes you royalty too, girl. But hang on a minute - we already were Princes anyway. This is too confusing. I need to go.)

Reading the Signs said...

Dark days indeed, yer maj, when such as we are targetted by the forces of who-knows-what. Things fall apart, the centre will not hold. I wrote that. Well, maybe Yeats did, but I would have if he hadn't done it first. Of course, we don't need signs and omens to tell us that the end of the world is at hand. We just know things. I see paranoid delusions as another faculty really - a gift.

Anna MR said...

I can't really add anything to what you and Yeats have already said, but txbxer is a bit too good not to be brought out to the light of day.

I have been working - yes, working, me, I know - in front of the computer for quite some while now and my brain is so fried I just spelled it Brian. The signs therein can be left unread, Signs, okay? Particularly as it's the name of my first ex-father-in-law, whom I never met.

Gael said...

I love the last bit of your first paragraph. Sounds like something Ali would say. (Which is just about as good as it gets, in my book.)
Wishing you lots of clear, white light

Reading the Signs said...

Anna, there is a Brian in all of us - and I really believe this. When we are in full possession of our faculties, though, this is something we manage to keep hidden. Fight the good fight, as Yeats and I have always tried to do.

Gael, just remember that you read it here first. I'm going to be keeping a sharp eye on Ali, I can tell you. Been a bit lax since The Accidental, but I'm on the case. Or will be. White light appreciated.

Anna MR said...

Your Brian revelation leaves me gasping, Signs. Gasping. Fancy him always being there, and me never noticing. This explains rather a lot. Who says blogging doesn't bring about moments of revelation?

cravhrz. The WVLs know more about me than they ought to, too.