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.