Wall markings (2)

You need to turn your life upside-down, he said. Yes, I said, yes, I think I do. But how? I wanted to say. How do I do that, where do I start?

I spent the week in Middlesbrough. I was there to learn. To learn about type, about the machinery that produces type – how to cut it, etch it and form it. I followed her about. I observed, listened and asked question after question. I watched the laser cutting machine do its tender work – cutting with light. I went into workshops that reeked of fibre glass with all those damp-smelling boys in white coats. Watch your language, she told them, and their voices became muffled, shamed into whispers. They won’t help us, she said, when we were looking for strong arms to carry the stuff to the car. The technicians did though. I’d bought them Captain Pugwash Easter eggs as a thank you. They were happy to help.

Her students were working on an important project. It was good to be around students again. All that flurry and passion. I thought I wanted it again. Knee-jerk, he used to call it. Yes, he is right. It was. Someone else’s life. It isn’t that I don’t want my own, I do. It’s just sometimes I get lost. Dry up, he’d said. Other people’s lives seem simpler – that’s all. So I thought I wanted it, what she has. I don’t, well not completely. I want this, this life,┬áthis space, though it’s scary. This sitting here with the white page not knowing what to say, what to write. Leave the mind, move to the solar plexus and find the truth there. There, there it is. That, that is you. There everything is right. Everything is true.

It was hard to be there without belonging. I think that was it. That not belonging. Out of one’s comfort zone, they call it, don’t they? I am out of my comfort zone every time I begin to write. It is all new. I have no sense of whether it is any good. You do not have to be good, wrote Mary Oliver. So what do you have to be? Genuine. Authentic. True. I want to write about faith, wrote David Whyte. I want to write. Those applications. I managed three in the end. All that flurry. Do something. To what end. What have I learnt? What I don’t want, perhaps. What do I want? A room. A room of one’s own. My own. And then? Will the work, the ideas come then? They are already here but I can’t always access them. In that room I can lay them out. I can survey them. Sort them out. Yes.

It is a gloomy Good Friday. A gloomy anniversary of a good man’s death. A brutal death. I can’t watch it. I wear red today and it makes me edgy. Itchy. I am itching to begin. I need to be in something, immersed. Just sit. Sit in the edginess and watch it fall away. It is not what you think.

He told me to wear a pearl. And to say a mantra to the moon. I felt self-conscious, even in the dark and the pearl earrings seem too clean, too much like the girls of my teenage years. Nice girls with pearls.

Nothing matters. At least not as we think.

We went to look at it yesterday. It’s all upside-down, he said. Yes, I said. That’s good. I’m happy to say yes, I said. Are you sure, he said. Yes, I said, yes.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.