April Moon: Day 14

Yes, I know it’s May. Shh.

Comfort

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Having spent Lent getting my head around Paul, comfort is throwing me into John and the farewell discourses. Tallis, of course: if ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will give you another comforter, that he may bide with you for ever; even the sprit of truth. Comforter is the word that is translated elsewhere as advocate. And I remember being told that comfort in this sense is more like encourage.

And, thinking about that, I begin to see comfort as a spectrum. There is, of course, the duvet-and-blanket, warm-heavy-cat-on-the-knee comfort: an encouragement to relax, to sleep, to let go of things. Then, in Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo has killed Tybalt and Juliet has no idea what to do next, she asks for some comfort, Nurse. And then the dancing, flaming wind of the Spirit, distinctly uncomfortable, you would think. And yet.

Comfort is the thing that pushes or pulls me towards whatever it is I need to do next. Very often resting is exactly what I need to do next. I remember last year, when circumstances had me staying nearly a month with my housemates’ parents, and how warm and comfortable and supporting was that spare bed of theirs, and how white the sheets, and how that month of being looked after was exactly what I needed then.

And what I need now? Well, my bedroom is dusted and vacuumed. My possessions are piled on the bed, waiting for a rucksack to put them in. I move on tomorrow, and it is time and past time. Comfort is only comfort for so long; one’s foot goes to sleep after a while.

April Moon: Day 13

Curious

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

This word forks, and at first I am more drawn to the more active sense. One can be curious about a thing that is curious. I am immediately reminded of Alex in Leeds, who has a tattoo that reads Curiosity > Enthusiasm > Action – a fantastic motto. Curiosity gets a bad press – it famously killed the cat, and ‘satiable curtiosity is the reason for the trunk on the Elephant’s Child. This seems unfair. To know things for the sheer pleasure of knowing, not out of malice, but because there is a space in one’s mind where a fact ought to go, that seems very wholesome to me.

In fact, this seems to be a very literary word. Down the other fork, where it is things that are curious, there is the Old Curiosity Shop (I have never read it) and Alice again. Curiouser and curiouser. Oddness, interestingness, something-not-quite-right-about-thisness. Something that is curious makes one curious even if one isn’t naturally curious.

Are curious people curious? They are usually good fun to talk to; they don’t mind admitting what they don’t know, and they share what they do.

Curious.

April Moon: Day 12

Flow

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Rivers. Idyllic Revelation rivers, the sort that are metaphors for grace and love. Water flowing from the city. Mostly hymns, actually. Flow, river, flow, flood the land with the Father’s glory…where golden fields spread far and broad/where flows the crystal river.

Which reminds me of a mondegreen in another hymn: through gates of pearl streams in the countless host. I always took streams to be a noun, and pearl to describe the streams rather than the gates. I was probably extrapolating from ocean’s farthest coast in the previous line. Even now, there is a sense of clear light and clear water, in this and in all the new-heaven-and-new-earth hymns that I love. Flow is, somehow, part of that.

Flow is first cousin to current, which is a lovely fizzy word, but more scary and unpredictable. Flow feels steady; not necessarily strong or overwhelming, but reliably going that way. Flow belongs at the mature stage of a river, out towards the floodplain (oh, I remember building dams at the beach; there was an outlet of water from a bird park a little way inland, and we used to divert the flow and dig long trenches out towards the sea). Flow is calm progress.

April Moon: Day 11

Reflection

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Mirrors. Oh, I spent a long time thinking about mirrors. I came across an early proposal for the mermaid project the other day; it included a list of all sorts of things that contain mirrors. Kaleidoscopes (have you ever come across the sort that have glitter and beads and sequins suspended in a tube of some sort of clear viscous liquid? They drift from one end to the other and when they are reflected in the mirror the effect is one of such opulence that one might be in a jewel casket). Periscopes. Pepper’s Ghost.

Blue skies in still puddles. A streak of moonlight on the sea. The moon itself. And Alice.

Now we see in a glass darkly. Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror… There are various metaphors in the New Testament; that’s one of the best of them, I think.

I’m aware that this is only the surface of the concept, with no more substance than a reflection. That feels appropriate. I can see myself, double-reflected in the double-glazing of the patio doors. You won’t find even one of me behind them, and if you reach out to touch the reflection all you meet is cold, clear, glass.

April Moon: Day 10

Secret

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

See also: sacred.

I know two sorts of secrets: the ones that can’t be let out because they’re too sad and scary; and the ones that aren’t yet grown up enough to go out on their own, but which are going to be beautiful and joyful.

I let go of most of my secrets. Some of them weren’t even mine; I was carrying them around because I thought I had to. I handed the worst one back. Some of them stopped being true. Some of them I told, and they turned out to have never been true – particularly the one that went nobody must know what a social failure and weirdo I am.

I have one secret left. It is the good and joyful sort, and it’s not really a secret, because there are some people who know what it really is. For everyone else: I’m organising a cultural exchange programme for mermaids. It has been tremendous fun and incredibly hard work. Sometimes the mermaids have co-operated; sometimes they have hidden behind rocks and sulked for weeks on end. I have come to understand how different breathing air is from breathing water. Very often I worry that whether the host families on the surface won’t appreciate my efforts at all. At the moment I am trying to find the password that will let the mermaids move from sea to air. That’s a secret. I’m going to find it, though.

April Moon: Day 9

Yearning

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

‘Tell me, child,’ says the poet Bunthorne to the milkmaid Patience, ‘do you ever yearn?’

‘I earn my living,’ she replies.

Which makes me think about my earning and my yearning. I work for an organisation with high ideals, an organisation that’s trying to change the world, yearning, if you like, for change. My daily duties, however, are pretty prosaic. I don’t think I ever expected anything else: I’d already got my head around the idea that a servant with this clause/makes drudgery divine, that if a job’s worth doing it doesn’t matter if it’s frontline or backroom. Even when it’s stuffing a thousand envelopes, there’s something at the back of it that’s about yearning.

It is tempting to say that earning is yearning in action, but I know well enough that I’m in a privileged position, to be able to think so.

And then yearning does not have to be about action. A wish is an act in itself, even if one then doesn’t follow it up with an obvious action. We must be the change we want to see; fine, but we begin not by changing, nor by being, but by wanting. I remember last May, when I was burned out with all my causes, feeling corroded and unappreciated, going to a lecture by Leslie Griffiths, Baron Griffiths of Burry Port, a prominent Methodist. He was angry. He was angry about a whole lot of things, most of which I was angry about too, but which I was just too damn tired to do anything useful about.

I cannot remember what exactly he said, but the effect was to give me space, to let me be angry, to let me want change – yes, to let me yearn – to remove the expectation that I would immediately go out and fix it. I could breathe again.

I’ve been trying to let myself just want things. To desire a change, an outcome, a quality, and not to be ashamed of desiring it. Not to be afraid that I might not get it. To yearn.

April Moon: Day 8

Wild

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I have had Born Free stuck in my head most of today. That, I think, has a lot to do with it. Wild is the opposite of tame is not being in a cage is being free. Freedom is something that I have been thinking about, on and off, this year, but it has been more about being free from the constraints that I place upon myself. (Oh. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Except I don’t quite believe that, because being born into chains – literal or metaphorical – is a long way from being born free.)

Wild is somewhere that I’m not ready to go, just yet.

Wild beasts. Les Fauves. Tiger, tiger, burning bright.

We were talking, my housemate, his mother, and I, this morning, about cats we have known; specifically, the cats that came into our families having been neglected in kittenhood, and how they have been alternately affectionate and vicious, as ready to scratch your face as to sit on your knee. That is a difficult place to be, between wildness and tameness, never quite trusting anyone else to look after oneself, and never quite trusting oneself to manage alone.

But then there are wild flowers and wild strawberries. I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows – actually, it’s more of a cliff. And there is something there about going where one pleases, and doing what one pleases.

Wilderness.

I don’t know. Lots of stuff here, and it doesn’t want to sit down and curl up neatly. Which, I suppose, is not all that surprising.