When I woke again, it was high summer,
the trees in full green leaf, green
on the altars, and you,
beside me, smiling, diffident,
having stopped by
to see if
you might be of assistance.
I loved all that I saw in that waking
and you, being then in the foreground,
could not help but be loved. Love springs
from the heart unasked-for, clings
to the one who stands ready
to bear it. You and I
(when I’ve become more than the end
of a quest, and you
have retreated somewhat, into perspective),
you and I will have learned
what to do with this unforeseen,
blazing, implacable love,
and then we’ll begin.
Heaven, I sometimes think, must be
where I grew up – mid-August,
the raspberries run wild and ripe,
hens scratching in the yard,
the house dim and cool,
red tiles under bare feet;
where, all the long afternoon,
those whom I love and will love
arrive, sleepy, stretch out on the lawn,
washed in the sunlight after the long drive,
and, after, talk late round the kitchen table,
plates pushed aside,
with song and red wine and laughter,
the world set to rights.
(Or two handbags. One in black; one in brown or blue. You could be the same design in different colours, or you could be different designs, both of which match my specifications.)
You have a decent square or oblong base, and you are sufficiently bottom-heavy that you don’t tip over when I put you down.
You will fit into my bicycle basket without having to be put on end or tilted.
You have two handles, long enough for you to be carried comfortably over my shoulder, but not so long that you drag on the ground when I carry you in the hand.
You can be closed completely, but you are deep enough that stuff doesn’t fall out of you if you aren’t.
You can carry a large paperback book and my Filofax simultaneously, or a pair of size seven ballerina flats. You have a pocket for my purse, phone and keys, and another one for my work pass and travelcard.
You don’t have tassels. You don’t have writing on. You don’t have an ostentatious logo.
Any metal trim is silver coloured, not gilt, and there isn’t much of it.
I buy you in a shop. I don’t buy you online, and nobody else buys you for me.
You are made of leather. I want you to last.
I think I’m a bit scared of entering my thirties.
Thinking back to myself at nineteen, staring twenty in the face, and how much I’ve done and how far I’ve come since then… I think I’m scared by the prospect of the next ten years, knowing that I won’t recognise myself at the end of it. No, that’s not quite what I mean, but knowing that by the time I get to forty I will have grown and changed in ways that I cannot imagine from where I am now, at twenty-nine.
I remember myself aged goodness knows how old, say ten, thinking I’d never go to university, because at that point I couldn’t imagine having the intellectual capacity to cope with university. I hadn’t learned that knowledge and wisdom accrue day by day, that by the time you actually get to wherever it is you have all the resources you need to be there.
I grew between ten and twenty, I’ve grown between twenty and thirty. I’ve discovered whole new dimensions in which to grow. The same thing will surely happen between thirty and forty, and it makes sense that it will happen in ways that I can’t see from where I am now, and it makes sense that I would be a little bit scared of that.
This, I think, is why people get so irritated about people who are younger than they are stressing about their next big birthday. There are lots of people who have got to forty who know that their thirties were brilliant and amazing, and they have forgotten that they didn’t know that at the time.