Details (105)


Sometimes it is all I see. Details. The devil is in them, they say. Details. The things up close. Close up. Close up to the face. Like Rilke’s rock. Someone told me a long time ago that I wasn’t good at seeing the overview. An Art tutor. It tended to stick, the things they told me about myself. I see the details, zooming up close to what I can manage, what I can handle, what I can deal with, what I can change.

Walking this morning in that cold, I see the shimmer of frost on the wooden slats of the Perygyl. Fingers touch the handrail for safety. Watch yourself. Don’t slip. The stars in the thick black. A penny in the road.

The town tree is up. Still bare. No decorations yet. It is enclosed by a square of farm gates. Appropriate for a rural community. The lamppost decorations have been hung but like the tree, remain, as yet, unlit. Readiness. In readiness.

The frost on the steps up to the flat looked like glitter. Glitter. I loved it as a young girl. It was magical to me. Making decorations with her. She made such an effort. It was a pleasure to her. Twigs, pine cones and leaves from the garden sprayed silver and dipped in glitter. I remember the chemical smell of the silver spray, like pearl drops. The glitter would spatter everywhere, like the mica in the pavement, fairy dust. And the little Nissen hut. Can I do it? I’d ask. Can I? I tried not to rush it. Savouring the joy of having it under my command. My little world. Set the little yellow light. Yes, it’s working. Then lay the cotton wool to make the snow. Then set each individual Nisser in the scene. Some skiing, some cooking, some dancing, some eating. Careful, now, don’t knock it. There.

I used to bother, she is telling us as she scans the apples. But now its just for myself, I don’t. Though I bought a little tree last year, from here, you know. Yes. I know. Less is more these days. I am one step removed, it seems, from most things. At a distance. Even my work. I am inside of myself with it, contained, watching, waiting. I do but I don’t. It’s the fuss. I don’t want the fuss, the flurry. No presents, no panic-buying, no major consumption of food. It’s too much. I want to watch, to wait, to wait and see. I see the details. I like the smells, the anticipation. The smell of pine. The smell of mince pies. To remember. To find glitter on my fingers.

I go slowly these days. My feet hurt again. Under the arches, a tearing. I walk each step. Feeling each step. The little mermaid with knives in her feet.

He is cold these days. His hands so cold. It will pass. Winter will pass. But not yet. The surprise of white on my gloves. The steel coloured skies. The stillness. The frozen stillness.

A story about Oslo. A female policeman. I like to hear the street names, to recognise the places. It is the coldness in me. Never really acclimatised. A place within which I seek to belong. I steal the details, hug them home. I have some. A forest, a coffee shop, a rented room with a white painted floor. They are mine. They live in me. Frozen. Glittering.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.