Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Life lines

I'd sit there for hours at the dining room table, the Spirograph set in front of me with everything in its rightful place; the cogs and wheels laid out in their plastic packaging, four pens with different coloured inks, a corrugated card backing-sheet and the small pins with round yellow tops that would hold the wheels in place. The instruction leaflet showed me the countless ways I could produce intricate patterns, just by chasing a cog around a wheel; and I believed it. I was captured by the promise of the swirling patterns, by the idea that I could recreate those pictures from lines.




And sometimes I did. But more often than not, my hand would slip as I changed direction, or the paper would move where I hadn't pinned it down tightly, and my intricate pattern would be scarred by a jagged line of ink cutting through. I'd always been proud of my colouring-in, my skill at keeping the bright pencil shades inside the bold black lines, but this was different. In the Spirograph patterns, the lines haunted and taunted me, marking out my successes and failures for everyone to see.

As I sit here tonight I think of all the other lines. The thickening waistlines and thinning hairlines; the multiplying creases round our eyes, the pillow line that carves my face like a ventriloquist's dummy. I reflect on the times at work when I've tried to cross the line, or encouraged others to toe the line. I smile at the warm feeling of success and relief that comes on opening night, when after months of rehearsals, all the lines come out with the right words in the right order. I remember old relationships where I failed to draw the line or was too stupid to read between the lines. I recognise the thin line between right and wrong, between love and hate.

Then I look outside and see your vests flapping against my t-shirts on the washing line, and I remember the lines I wrote you in that e-mail, back before our beginning. I would never have guessed then of the marriage lines we'd share so many years later.

I think of the lines that mark the beginning and end of life, the umbilical cord, the blinking line on a heart monitor. I'm glad you are my life line.

18 comments:

Robbie Grey said...

Simply beautiful.

Happy Frog and I said...

You have such a skilful way with words, a really clever piece of writing.

Kane said...

Wow Sharon. This was really beautiful.

I often think of time and space and how we move through them; the past and how it leads us to the here and now.

You are lucky it led you to him.

Kane

Jim Murdoch said...

My biggest problem with Spirograph was actually tearing the paper. I was a bit heavy-handed as a kid. Nice little meditation this – quite poetic. It’s not until you read a piece like this that you start to appreciate just how metaphorical our day to day language is. I thought of another for you: walk the line.

Pat said...

Excellently put - as per. I think of the lines when rock climbing, belaying and wondering if the rope would hold.
A bit like now.

Dicky said...

Spirograph! I'm too clumsy and the bloody thing always moved just as I got near the end. Love this post especially from the line “As I sit here tonight I think of all the other lines.” Beautiful writing.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Sharon, this is lovely.

Philip said...

I'm so flattered words fail me. Thank you. X. P.
But that was also, just a beautiful bit of writing.
P.

Philip said...

I had a conversation with a certain mr dg tonight where I tried to convey some of what you said here. Not 100% sure I got it right, but I tried. Real love is mysterious and elusive. It may bite but you may not recognise it and may not, initially, know what to do with it. I know. I hold it close.

Linda Myers said...

Wonderful! Thanks.

bamaloo said...

This is exceptional. Thank you for sharing!

Dpr said...

I still find it amazing that you write so beautifully about your love. When I think back to how hard you used to find it when Phillip would write of your relationship. I'm glad you do now write though as it is wonderful. Your love for your man-a vest wearer no less- comes through so clearly.

Hillary said...

Wow. Your last paragraph tied it together so beautifully. What lovely lines.

Jennifer said...

This was incredibly wonderful.

Olga said...

What a wonderful post! I also often think about lines. For me, they usually have a visual feature - the horizon line; lines on the t-shirt of a person who is passing by a stripy fence.

Sharon Longworth said...

Robbie - that's a lovely thing to say - thank you.

HappyFrogandI - I always feel the exact opposite of clever when I'm writing!

Thanks Kane - the whole time and space thing is enough to make me lose hours wondering! And yes - I know I'm lucky :)

Jim - I think the challenge and attraction of spirograph for me was always at least partly about trying to feel less clumsy. Thanks for suggesting 'walk the line' - I've got Johnny Cash in my head now...

Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - I can't bear the thought of dangling on the end of a line, reliant on it to stop me falling down a mountainside - have you ever seen the film 'Touching the Void' (or read the book?)

Dicky I never mastered the art of keeping the paper still! I'm really glad you liked this - thank you.

Blissed out Grandma - thank you so much,

Philip - thank you lovely bloke. I hope one day soon you manage to talk some sense into Mr DG on the subject of love.

Sharon Longworth said...

Linda - thank you!

Bamaloo - too kind, but lovely of you to say so.

DPR - I know, it's bonkers how much I disliked it at the beginning and now I do the same to him all the time. Funnily enough, he appears to have stopped writing about me completely now - not sure what that means...!

Hillary - thank you for your comment and your ongoing support - much appreciated.

Jennifer - that's dead nice - thank you. On a totally unrelated note - your profile picture against your comment is really lovely.

Olga - that's a cracking image of criss-crossing lines!