Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday on my mind

It's Friday morning, eight o'clock and I'm still in bed, propped up by a pile of plumped up pillows. Most mornings I'm up and out before Philip's even conscious, but on a Friday I work from home, so I'm the one who gets to stay tucked up in the duvet, with the cup of tea he made before he left.

I don't always live easily in the present. My mind's default setting is to think about the future, to mull over things, worry about and plan for what will, or might, or ought, to happen. Today though, there's something about the light outside that leads me to just sit.

The sky's a pale blue, cut in quarters by the white trailing clouds from two passing planes, like a washed out Scottish flag. From where I sit I can see the tops of the trees; they're still skeletal at this time of year. Though I know their leaf buds are forming, I can't see them from here. One old tree must have been there for hundreds of years. It stands in the back garden of a small cottage along the valley and it's been pruned a number of times to stop it blocking the light from the buckled leaded windows. It seems to have been hacked at without much thought for its shape so it now has a permanent one-sided lean, as though it's straining to get away from the cottage. For the last couple of years it's been the last tree to get leaves, like a recalcitrant old man who finds fewer reasons to get up and dressed every morning.

Where the tree's been cut back, I can see the upstairs of the house. The windows peep out from an old, uneven red-tiled roof, blinking in the light like eyes from under a fringe. I wonder if there's someone sitting in their bed thinking about the trees and the sky, looking out at me.

It's very quiet now that Philip's left for work. It's not just that he likes to leave the radio on in every room, more that there's a sound to his presence. When he's here, I sense his breathing. I can tell by the pace and depth of it, what mood he's in, how hard he's concentrating, whether he's tense or relaxed. When I first knew him, we worked in an office together. One day he spent a whole day coughing, trying to clear his chest. By the end of the day I felt the need to clear my own throat in sympathy every time he gasped for breath.  Sometimes now, without even realising it, I find my breath slowing down or speeding up to keep pace with his.

Before he left, I listened to him moving around, heard him downstairs talking to the cat; waited for his step on the stairs, on the creaking floor-board in the bedroom. I noticed the click that his tin of hair-pomade made when he set it down on the wooden box by the bed, I heard his keys jangle as he picked them up and dropped them into his trouser pocket.

I sit for a while, but thoughts of the work I need to do today start pushing into the empty quietness. I know it's time to get up. When I do, the news is all of a terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I switch on the TV and see film after film of buildings shaking, people screaming, rolling tidal waves of water washing over fields and through car parks.

It doesn't seem possible, that while I sat looking out at the peace of the valley, halfway across the world, people's lives were literally being turned upside down. I know there is no rhyme or reason. It simply isn't fair that some people will never again hear the turn of the key in the lock as their loved ones return at the end of the day. I am enormously grateful that I will.

25 comments:

Shopgirl said...

I'm grateful for writers like you who can paint a picture of serenity so well but chooses to line it up with reality this morning.

Thanks.

Jayne said...

Wow, Sharon. I'm breathless. This is beautiful, filled with stunning imagery and, as Shopgirl said, "serenity." And then the horrors of reality unfold, and even though we're still in our safe little world, those horrors so very much affect us and we feel for all the victims.
Definitely makes us want to count our blessings.

Pat said...

I love how you describe so well how one hears the sounds of a loved one. When both of you are home each day and every day they become almost as important as the air we breathe.

Fran said...

You paint the contrast very well. Yes, it does seem strange that it's the same world in which these two things can happen.

Stocker said...

As always this is a fantastic piece of writing, the contrast between the two settings was inspiringly done, I wish I could write with your descriptive prowess - my thoughts are also with the people in Japan.

Murr Brewster said...

It isn't fair; and I commend you for not trying to make sense of it. Gratitude is the right response.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Great snippet of a moment in time. Kudos!

Happy Frog and I said...

I really liked your take on the situation. A beautifully written and very true snapshot of Friday morning.

Penny Dreadful said...

I've loved your writing lately Sharon, this was so powerful.

I didn't get a chance to really see the news yesterday, but have been watching this morning. It brings tears to my eyes, it is terrible on so many levels. I'm so relieved my few Japanese friends live safely in Tokyo and Kyoto x

Anthony Hodgson said...

A very touching piece. The contrast in your morning compared to those in Japan was a good way to end it. Really enjoyed that once again.

Nicole said...

I'm still thinking about the old man of a tree. Lovely image. And maybe a bit of consolation in light of the Japanese disaster. The tree is still putting it's leaves on. Let's hope Japan will rally as well.

Baglady said...

Wonderful imagery in this (I too love the old man tree) and I love those tiny details, like the click of the pomade tin.

Nice thought provoking stuff.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Very lovely; built on so many details that it comes alive.

Out of Sync said...

Brilliant post.

Young at Heart said...

what lovely, evocative writing........every morning I flick on the radio and wait while boiling water for green tea and news......will the world be alright? Not so on Friday.....

Kim said...

My first time to your blog. I found it from your comment on Trashsparkle's blog. You ARE a writer! I'll be back. I enjoy reading and commenting too.

Maryx said...

Beautifully written... you managed to make me more peaceful today. Thank you.

caterpillar said...

Apologies for being so late in commenting...but nonetheless, I must admit this post showed both sides of the world, the peace and calmness and the horror of a natural calamity in a very realistic way. It reminds me to keep the people in Japan in my prayers.

JF said...

new to your blog-glad to have found. skeletal trees with buds in waiting. it's that knowledge of the incipient, isn't, that compels. look forward to more. JF

Sharon Longworth said...

Shopgirl - thank you. I have absolutely no comprehension of how awful the events have been for people in Japan and their friends and families around the world, but I couldn't just pretend it hadn't happened.

Jayne - thank you. I am increasingly grateful for the serenity in parts of my life. I think the events in Japan just made me want to value that more.

Pat - I think my appreciation of the sounds is linked to my previously described deficient sense of smell - I think I could pick Philip out in a line-up just by the sounds he makes!

Fran - thank you. Sometimes there's just no way of accounting for this strange world in which we live.

Sharon Longworth said...

Stocker - thank you for your kind words - very much appreciated.

Murr - thank you. At times there really doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to events does there?

IG - thank you!

HappyFrog and I - I'm so glad you liked this. Thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

Penny - gosh thank you. The events in Japan are almost beyond belief aren't they? I'm so very glad your friends are safe.

Anthony - I'm really glad you enjoyed this - thank you for your kind comment.

Nicole - thank you - that's a smashing thought for us all to hold on to, and hopefully the people and country of Japan will recover before too long.

Baglady - as ever, I really appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

Blissed out Grandma - thank you! I'm glad it rang true for you.

Out of Sync - too kind - thank you so much.

Young at Heart - I guess we all have our daily routines and take comfort in them. I've never had to deal with the sort of catastrophe facing the people in Japan; I hope they find a normality again before too long.

Kim - hello and welcome - thank you for stopping by. I couldn't ask for a nicer comment than that - thank you!

MaryX - thank you so much.

Caterpillar - I hugely appreciate your comments whenever they come - no such thing as late!

JF - hello and welcome - thank you for stopping to leave a comment I hope you'll come back again soon.

Tracey said...

Hello,
This is the first time I have hopped to your blog. I like your style and I am a writer too! I have written 2 books and a few short stories. I love the fact that I can evoque an emotion in someone it is a gift.
Tracey
www.tracey-confessionsofamother.blogspot.com

Sharon Longworth said...

Hello Tracey - thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment - I'll go and have a look at yours now!