The sensation of living

drawings from spoleto - Duomo 2007

All I am good for today is to steal, magpie-like, ideas from others. I scan and flick, allowing sentences to capture me. ‘What stands out is the sensation of living’, writes Rebecca Ray. Yes. The sensation of living. The sense of being alive. The senses involved in being alive. I am reading Rachel Joyce’s ‘The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’. He is walking, in deck shoes, to Berwick-on-Tweed to see a friend who is dying of cancer. A long way. He is exhausted, wet through, losing hope and suddenly the sky opens up and he sees everything with a new clarity, a simplicity, a beauty. The sensation of living. Using the senses to live, to be alive. Yes.

I think of the sun. An Italian sun. Spoleto. Walking up the steps from the Duomo in that light. So sharp it hurts. Everything is clear, distinct. Terracotta against azure. And white. Such white. Such clean white. And smells of sweet pastries, ground coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, peaches, petrol, dog shit, ice cream, baking bread all assailing my nose. To be away, like that. Transported to a foreign place, away from the minutiae of oneself is so wonderful. Sensational. I am made alive by the gift of it. Giving myself time to be in it. Alert to everything. Skin, nose, mouth, eyes, ears all alert to the everything of it.

Is it is enough to be just that creature? To not record, write, draw or deconstruct it, life. But just be in it. Part of it. Is it enough?

I walk Spoleto in my head. I walk Nerja in my head. I walk in those suns. A creature of habit. A creature of sense. Sensational, isn’t it?



Talk to Me - book installation - Dying (small)

Will it ever pass? Like a stone in my soul, she described it as. Of course, hers is a nearer, sharper grief. Grief for a husband, a partner, a mate-of-the-soul. Mine is for a parent, nay, two parents, neither of which I saw that often. And yet, their existence, their presence somewhere, anywhere on this earth touched mine. Not always positively, I admit. But they shaped me, they moved me, they impacted upon me. And now? What now?

Should it have stopped by now? This weeping. Should I have stopped weeping? I just don’t know. Doing anything, particularly making, creating things, writing things is presently such a weighty business. I have to pull myself up, pull myself from a sleepy languor of wanting. Wanting to what? To disappear, to keep on walking, to run away, to fly away, to take myself somewhere else into another person’s life. I am not unhappy. No, not that. Just. Just not happy. I am locked in that space in between and it hurts to recognise it.

I want to get on a train. No, I don’t want to talk to people. I want to get into a car and be carried somewhere distant. Somewhere vague. Remote. To a hotel. A large hotel. Old-fashioned with heavy, ticking clocks that acknowledge the minutes, slowly, reassuringly. To drink tea from a metal pot that is hot to touch. To stare at a large log fire. To lie in a strange bath. To sleep in the afternoon. To read Agatha Christie paperbacks, much thumbed and yellowing. To not be me. To look in the mirror and not be me. To be in transit. Moving on to somewhere else. ‘You’re always running away,’ she used to say. No. Not now. Not for a long time. I am tethered by obligation. I am a good girl. Always.

How good it would be to fly.



Bedroom Fragments (2) (small jpeg)

Other people’s stories. They are not mine and yet they resonate. An uncle painting a mural on a childhood wall. Then the layers of wallpaper, floral upon stripe. Another’s father who made dioramas. An Edwardian. A polymath who stopped eating.

On Mothering Sunday we took her flowers. A circular arrangement, stiff in oasis. It was too fancy, too particular. I wanted to take a posy of freshness, of spring. We talked of getting a glass, a thin vial, a test tube vase and pushing it into her earth. Then we shall bring cornflowers, lily of the valley, daisies – even buttercups. She’d like that I think. Soon we shall take her to the Gower and set her free over those bays. A painted lady followed us as we walked.


I am still so grey, so fearful. I don’t know why. It is an ugliness, a stopping of joy. Let it return, this joy, that joy. Let it return. Soon.