Starling Tree

I hope that this isn’t a disappointment to you, the letter said, and that you will keep writing.

I didn’t have to apply. I don’t have to do anything. He says it all the time. You don’t have to do anything. Anything. You don’t have to do it. So why do I? Especially when the nays, the rejections hit so hard. That’s what it’s all about, he says. All writers experience it. Gore Vidal was on the radio on Sunday morning, In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, and he kept talking about writers. Writers. His club. His milieu. Do I belong? Have I earned the right to call myself a writer? It took so long for me to call myself an artist. And now? I say it without a flinch. I don’t flinch. I know that I create. What if I just did it without judgement? Neither good or bad. It just is. I’m writing now, does that make me a writer? Always this need for outside validation. It won’t come like that. It has to happen within first. You write because you need to. You make because you need to. That is the first impulse, the first requirement. What comes after is a bonus. Making money from it, applause, reviews, acceptance, honour, whatever it is. It is the cherry not the cake. The cake has to be what is inside pushing to come out. I know my lack of confidence. I feel it is as a cold place inside, an empty place, an empty room. All that I don’t know, all that fear of being foolish, and yet there is this drive, this impetus to make, to create, to write. It is overwhelming.

Let’s just sit with the failure a while. A failure. Just a word. Fail. Sail. Hail. Just words. What have you learnt? I organised myself, made it real for myself. Made decisions. I saw the wobbling. Perhaps they picked that up too. And let’s face it, awards are not all they are cracked up to be. One is expected to jump through hoops, wear a strait-jacket. This way it remains mine. I hope you will continue writing. Will you be put off? No. He encourages. I think it is good. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. It’s the not finishing that hurts. So many ideas not yet realised. I have to do it, to make them tangible, manifest. I take a remedy and wait for the detachment.

I think about the two of them all the time. Are they sleeping? Taking rest. Is she still in pain? I wish I could do more. I wanted to help. Did she cry too? What does she feel? I miss her more than I can say.

There’s a tree on North Road full of starlings. I hear them through the dark. A shishing, a wishing, a chittering. A noisy tree. An animated tree. It’s near the eye clinic, just before I turn the corner. Are they a separate flock from the one under the Pier? Why have they chosen that tree? Are they just there at night? It is a weird sound, eerie. Such chattering. Getting ready¬†for their¬†murmuration.

Shopping done. I ask about her son’s play and her daughter’s nativity. She is proud. She promises to bring her discount card when we next come. A sweetheart. Does she do it for all her customers?

Off now, work soon. Keep safe my loves. x

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.