If we were sat down at a table nursing our respective hot drinks, I’d start by saying how wonderful it is to see you. It’s been so long. I’d mention that the weather is so changeable. It was sunny yesterday, and I felt summer had come, golden warmth and a cooling breeze.
But today, the sky is once again grey, interspersed with drizzle. I have an urge to just burrow under the cover of a blanket with more tea and a good book. It feels more like early autumn than the middle of summer on this island.
I’d wish we were somewhere else instead. Perhaps a bookshop in Paris with a little cafe outside in the sun. Imagine a curious ginger cat coming to investigate and sit with us.
I have this emotional exhaustion that longs to be lifted. I’m not sure if it would be lifted by a trip somewhere else. Probably not. But there is a part of me that longs for freedom – maybe an open road, a life lifted free of cares, moments that seem to stretch like the haze of a summer afternoon, with nothing to do but whatever you feel like doing.
In reality, though, that isn’t really a life I want, at least not in the long term. In the long term, I wish for stability, enough to enjoy the things that make life ‘life’. I want time, time to process, to think, to listen without the clatter of the world’s voice. I wish for health and peace, for rest, for everyone to have what they need. I want to be driven by purpose.
If I’m honest with you, I think I lost my way somewhere between writing and publishing a book, and my Mum being diagnosed with cancer. These past years have been full of challenges. There have been moments when I’m not sure how we managed to get through. We did though. Not unchanged, not unscathed, but maybe with a deeper understanding of some aspects of life and mortality. Of mental wellbeing.
Of course these experiences have affected my creativity and motivation to create. I’m still not sure who I am after all this, and I imagine this past year has also changed some of us irrevocably. You might be feeling grief-struck and lost too. That’s okay. Life is change, and we change with it.
If therapy has taught me anything so far, it’s that healing is a process of acceptance. Acceptance isn’t loving everything, or saying that you’re fine when you’re not. It’s accepting all the messy, unfinished, complicated parts of ourselves and our lives, and seeing ourselves more clearly. Sometimes that’s really painful, and often we go over the same things many times before it starts to feel a little better.
I’m at the point right now where I know what I have to do, but I’m still not quite there, and need to focus on making myself feel better first. You know – back to basics. Sleep, rest, food, movement, talking to people. Boring self-care stuff, a simple routine. So simple, yet difficult for me at this moment in time.
You might ask me what’s actually been happening these past few months. Where do I start?
My parents, husband, and I all caught Covid-19 in early January. Bear in mind, we had all been shielding for ten months (for my parents), and the only possible way we could have caught it was standing outside picking up a click and collect order before Christmas, or from a doorstep delivery. Wearing masks, using hand sanitiser, and social distancing. We are all okay, but had some very difficult moments. But it was during the peak of the new variant. Which makes me worried about this new variant too, despite three of us now being fully vaccinated.
But there have also been some great joys too. My sister finally got married to her partner of 14 years on 19th June. We’d had a frenzied few weeks of crafting, sewing, planning, and problem solving, before travelling to Norfolk where they got married in the presence of 30 loved ones, under the sky at a beautiful outdoors venue, The Keeper and the Dell.
They had to cancel and move their wedding last year, and I’m very proud of all of us for coming together and celebrating their love after everything. Our Mum made my dress, which was very special, from the gorgeous material we found two years ago. Everything was perfect for them – the colours, the decoration, the food.
I’m having a poem or two published in an anthology of writing by deaf and hard of hearing UK writers in September too, by Arachne Press. It’s the first time a poem I’ve written has been formally published, which feels like a milestone. I’m looking forward to reading the submissions by all the other writers too – people whose work I admire. You can find info here – look out for it in September!
My Mum is also having another operation this year – not as major as the one she had last year, but still a big one. It’s an early catch, so we’re all thankful for her NHS team and the brilliant surgeon who will be doing the operation.
It was a bit of a shock and I wish my Mum didn’t have to have another operation, but still extremely grateful for how thorough her aftercare has been throughout her cancer treatments. Even with all its faults and underfunding, the NHS is a wonderful, special institution when it works as it should.
For the moment, I’m just extremely glad that we are all still here. It seems like a low bar, but not with the collective grief and trauma of the past year. I hope you are well, and if not, that you have what you need, or are able to rest. I wish us all some peace and bright moments full of joy. Contentment and the love of friends and community. Connection and laughter.
Ah, Ah by Joy Harjo
Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.
Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.
Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.
Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.
Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.
Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.
Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.
“Ah, Ah” from How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems:1975-2001 by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2002 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., http://www.wwnorton.com.Source: How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)