Summer is almost over. I know this because Real Life is beginning to kick in: daughter is back from Edinburgh and now has the grizzly (gristly?) task of finding some means of earning a living that isn’t a) too mind-numbingly ghastly to consider b) working behind a bar for tuppence an hour and c) immoral or illegal – while continuing to put heart into the work she wants to be doing; apples are falling from our tree with unseemly haste and Mr. Signs is making apple and damson jelly; every day we have blackberries; I am filled with equal amounts of anxiety and optimism; making resolutions. And today I did my first poetry workshopping of the season. True, we sat under a canopy of leaves while the sun beat down, it was hot and I wore my summer white clothes for protection, but still I say it is almost over and autumn will be here soon – the sooner the better, far as I’m concerned, let’s have a real one with a bit of bite to it.
And I begin again. Me and the small house and the cat. I live, for periods, hermetically. This is a word I picked up recently from a piece by Jeanette Winterson. It comforted me; to know that someone else lives like this for periods, and this person is a writer I like; that it is possible to be alone, sealed off from society, and still live creatively; because I am by nature social, sociable, but I have M.E. so in order to live in a way that is meaningful I have also to choose solitude.
I remember a nun from a special order, a solitary who lived by herself in a caravan, speaking of how intensely connected she felt to the world as she lived this way. It is true that living a busy life, constantly in the company of others can be strangely disconnecting. One may belong, in a sense, without Belonging. But the solitary way sometimes needs courage, especially for those to whom it doesn’t come naturally. On the other hand, it becomes also a habit, a different kind to the one a nun clothes herself in when she makes her vows, though there may be similarities.
I meet with writers. We share our work and in this way connect at a deep level. But we are, must be, each of us apart – really alone if we are to do this thing.
It will begin soon, autumn. Meanwhile there are berries, birthdays, an orange and almond cake; intimate others.