Comfort and Light

I’d never thought about it like that. That is what it is. It was a throw away phrase that he let slip during his radio programme about an alternative Christmas soundtrack. He used to be a pop singer. I think he was in Bronski Beat. That group with the marvellous Jimmy Somerville. Anyway he is now a vicar, the Reverend Richard Coles. We’re all just looking for some comfort and light at this time of year, he said. Some comfort and light. That’s it. That’s why I long to return to bed or to stay longer at the table, hugging my hot water bottle surrounded by lights from the little Christmas tree and the line of lights beneath the window. And food too. I taste it more. I need it more.

The darkness is relentless, particularly now that Christmas is done. No more advent candles, no more expectations. Town is so quiet. I like it but it is also eerie. Everything is shut. No 24 hour garage, no Spar. And the people I do see make me anxious. Are they up to no good? There was a small white car that parked just ahead of me along the Prom. A young girl skipped to meet it, leaning in through the driver’s window. A young man stretched back in his seat. A minute later it drove off. Then nothing till a police car along Mill Street. Everything is out of sync. All routine lost. We hover in this waiting room. It disconcerts me. I hold this life, this illusion of normality, so tightly.

We did very little. We got up at the usual time and had breakfast. I opened my one present. A delightful little jug, the essence of simplicity, from my sister. Then he went back to bed and I wrote. Then it was off to church followed by a walk by the sea, then home. I worked and he slept. Yoga, then lunch followed by a nap than supper. Crosswords, a brief watch of North and South then bed. He seemed pleased with his supper. The best Christmas dinner I’ve had, he said. No, I said, surely not. Yes, he said. It was nothing, some cold pork, roast potatoes and vegetables. He is content. I can see it. I do my best. We both do. And how I love this gentleness. This ebb and flow. It is enough to manage the inner turmoil. That sucks up all my strength. But I am growing in understanding. Every now and again a flicker of something like wisdom. Perhaps, the voice said to me this morning, perhaps it is not about success or indeed failure but just experience. How about that? Well it’s certainly revolutionary. Perhaps it is just about the moment to moment experience of being alive. The taste of it, the feel of it. How about that? Think about that. I try to pay attention to the details. To notice the inner judgement but also the pleasure of loving, of feeling of seeing. The wind in my face, sharp and bitter this morning. The way it buffets me, pushing at my legs. The tern drinking from the puddle then flying off at my approach. The robin landing onto the post ahead of me. And maybe, the voice continued, there are no answers, no neat plan just a sense of being here, now, breathing.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.