I last wrote about our five quite some time back,
a time when, for each of them, you and I (and mostly you)
still weighed in and sparred, day on day, in any cause,
on standby should they slip or fall – though close at hand is, perhaps,
the better way to say it, the gentle way to convey a sense of
our being technically unseen, absent, yet able to be found
by one or two, no more than a few, who shared the rubric.
I agree that such formulation entails a grain (at least a grain)
of dependency and I know, as well as anyone might, that was
not their gig. But there were other continuing, quite clear,
connections: each knew that they might use to exhaustion any
chattel of theirs in digging firm foundations for the future; or perhaps
play tutor to them and thereby insinuate into the people they might be
something of the people you and I would privately revere.
In short, we would gladly set aside the sum total of our bodily strength,
and the full stretch of our conjoined minds, should a whistle, a whisper,
a lament from the moors or mountains be heard.
And still we yearned for ways and means whereby we
risked burning up inside by, for example, leaving on a spring tide,
under sail, not one oar carefully tucked away to offer small assists to
unplotted navigation, all on board dismissive of every one of those
stories of seduction by half-women, half-fish living on top of razor rocks,
so concealing that some said the water itself sang – which
it did as it sprang from the holds; and the rocks bellowed to reveal
teeth, patiently waiting, just underneath the waves, unnaturally shallow,
to redden for a moment this part of a salty sea – a pot pourri of
smells and tastes, spiced by blends of sailor sweat, wasted limbs.
As it happened, there was one of you who chose
the sea as her teacher and so in time rose and reached right across
its own bounds, driven like mistral sand, to smash and pebble-dash
all things that lay, innocently, in its merciless way. Yet her tales are but
colourful examples of a thousand short stories we built upon, especially
when the sun either wouldn’t appear or wouldn’t retire when required,
or when the wind pushed the blackest cloud above our heads to sling
its arrows, tipped with lead – oh, wretched gravity, the pain it caused
to you and me. But it was fun stretching gentle stories to epic glories –
such a shame we just observed, quiet as mice, rarely heard.
But it was more than enough, as we knew very well,
feeling the continuum of the love of each as a gentle gong
that marked the passage of each one of the four quarters of any hour.
And, armed with the strength of a love so imbibed and irreversibly addicted,
we began to build scenarios that could readily be taken for theirs –
so full we felt our understanding. A number of my stories were about
the fun and the fear, the enticement, the excitement they found in
the forests close by, in which you and I, as uncredited creators,
accommodated unseen owls that flapped unhurriedly above our heads,
the howls of hyenas drooling for red-raw flesh, fresh from a kill,
all leavened, perhaps, by the grace of fallow deer fleeing
across bluebell-swathed dappled glades.
The precise nature and flavour of our contributions changed each time –
imagination being our only master – and it is pleasing to recall that
such co-productions peppered our lives over many a year, such longevity
the reward for small concessions to maturity, theirs, mine and yours.
And as time passed, we found that our forest tableaux were in fact
easy to call to mind; all we needed was to stop and think the trees alive
and, by familiar stage whisper, revive the players in our quasi-company.
Thus early day reality gave way to high definition virtuality – though
this was not all: between you and I and each of them we could
find that the forest forgeries might be played again with no command,
no lifting of a curtain. Such a forest is, in hyper-virtuality,
no more no less than a change in mood or a frame of mind.
So, through successful use of our living aid, we came to
believe, each one of us, that we were the proud possessors of
a skill based on giving much of what others need and never
taking if it might empty the modest coffers intended only for
circumstances considered exceptional. Over the last few years,
I have used the blueprint less and have had some small success in
adapting simple themes to more modern schemes and
scenarios – and who knows now what we might expect?
New prophecies will come, old prescriptions will go; who’s to
set the rules as to what to have and what to forego?
I sense the rules of stories may have changed, just a little,
such that the promoters of change (or of no change) might
do well in supplying, publicly, solutions to their own conundra.
And I sense too a growing insistence on productions that exhaust
all concerned in the pursuit of perfection in all things, slowly
shooing away improvisation and subtlety of articulation. I feel this keenly,
as some would say of me that I am now cleared only for cameo.
The cameo character tends to watch the story grow from the outside
looking into the forest, perhaps from a vantage point a few feet up
in a helpful tree or on a path that, by and large, may, back jn the day,
have seen me all the way through, from entry to exit, beginning to end.
Well, what’s done is gone and for what is lost I hope to make amend.
A sense of detachment floods the leading edge of my
ageing mind. I briefly survey the first forest we ever made,
one in which we played a battle on land and sea, not knowing
the eventual significance of such small boy creation. And, thinking back,
I realised that something was afoot, that the last story was about just that,
the very last; and, dejected, I wandered this way and that, looking for
other interpretations. Quite quickly I came across some mid-term scenes
which served only to confirm the assertion that all my forest days had been
whistled in, each story with its garlands and its ghosts, its place vouchsafed
in a neat literary world that had not noticed me, nor me them.
And how quickly did the folios mount the bookshops’ shelves
(for the climbers, the ultra-tall and the strictly occasional). All before
I chose a wintry walk round a small country town to end the week’s
peregrinations – a familiar jaunt through a pleasant wood, on to a
sweep of darkening horizon, then back again. For the first time I chose
a path skirting the wood, which on its far side seemed unable to join with
any path passing through it, so continued on its (now mine alone) way.
But I must confess that my body rebelled against my circumnavigation of
this infant forest and my eschewing of its cooling shade; and thought, yes,
that was a mistake, as I paused for breath, worry-wondering if I’d left
behind my water bottle, my waterproofs, the things I’d carried with me
from callow youth to now – how forgotten in a winter scintilla?
There were low voices, lower than I had been accustomed – but
which custom was that? The air had thinned just hours before,
enabling deeper tones to peep in unison from behind the doors
in walls that soon towered above; and so be heard (to chant my
own mantra, monotone). I looked hard to left and keenly right but
no sight of the folk who’d walked through that wood – but hold:
perhaps they had agreed to stop the night then and there because
the signs portended better weather as from dawn?
But then I saw the backs of the last of them heading down the track –
and not one who turned a shoulder, perhaps confused, to get to grips
with what was going on yet seemed soldier-satiated with the day’s
doubled miles and even pleased that my fixed smile must
signify my convulsing sobs’ acceptance of their casting out of me,
my family and each fine friend (so far at least as linked with me).
And my tears dried as I looked outside to catch the day’s remains
and saw the greying skies on every side were unbroken, no deviation
in the line, no horizons, no more destinations of any kind.