Love your little heart out.

Category: Love letters

Till human voices wake us…

‘Till human voices wake us and we drown.’ T.S. Elliot

There are some stories that are rarely told. They slip by silently without words ever really formulated to remember them by. They remain unpracticed, unrehearsed and because of this feel more visceral, closer to the bone. Perhaps these are the ones that are still too tender. Some too raw. Some so old and never articulated that you can hear yourself say, ‘What’s the point of beginning them now? Who’d care anyway?’

And this story? This is one of those stories. Stowed in the shade of low definition, there are few times that I have properly told it and so even now, after so many years, it causes me pain.

(As best I remember)

Anna Meyer Hospital, Florence, Italy 1988

Age 7

It’s the look on the adults faces that I understand. We arrive at what feels like a huge door and are greeted by a man who smells like cigarettes. He puts one forefinger up to my head and traces over the lump. There have been headaches. Bad ones. Two weeks on and there is this lump.

Someone raises an eyebrow. Somewhere I hear an alarm.

I didn’t leave that day. Nor the next. The time I was there felt like forever. One day spilt into another day of tests, examinations, CAT scans. Later I was told I was in the terminally ill ward of a famous hospital. There were more words like, ‘suspected brain tumour’ but that was all background noise, medical hum. What I knew was that my brother and sister could leave but I couldn’t, that there was fear on my parents’ faces and that something was very wrong.

The girl next to me had red hair and leukaemia. With her wan little face and all that fire around her, she was markedly beautiful and obviously very sick. On the first day she gave me a Kinder Surprise from her bedside table and we became instant friends. Despite a lack of common language, we played sometimes in quiet ways, with stolen time. Often, I’d wake at night. Red lights flickering beside me and a rush of people on call to be by her side. There was a long narrow window that looked out from our room to the incoming traffic from the corridor. I will never forget it. Nor those lights. Nor the day she kept sleeping beside me. ‘Too sick…’ they said, ‘to play.’

There came a time when I’d had enough. I’d become so used to tests and needles that I’d watch the needle ends as they went in. I heard a boy protesting once and decided on the spot that I’d do the same. When they came for me I told them. I said, ‘Enough’ and they replied, ‘Okay.’ But while their words were soft and their manner kind, they drew a picture on my arm, held me down, and did it any way.

Children die and adults lie. I still wake up during the night. Sometimes, even now, I think of my red-haired friend and I sob like a child – afraid of the dark and afraid of those lights.

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This bullet is an old one…

‘This bullet is an old one.

In 1897, it was fired at the president of Uruguay by a young man from Montevideo, Avelino Arredondo, who had spent long weeks without seeing anyone so that the world might know that he acted alone. Thirty years earlier, Lincoln had been murdered by that same ball, by the criminal or magical hand of an actor transformed by the words of Shakespeare into Marcus Brutus, Caesar’s murderer. In the mid-seventeenth century, vengeance had employed it for the assassination of Sweden’s Gustavus Adolphus in the midst of the public hecatomb of battle.

In earlier times, the bullet had been other things, because Pythagorean metempsychosis is not reserved for humankind alone. It was the silken cord given to viziers in the East, the rifles and bayonets that cut down the defenders of the Alamo, the triangular blade that slit a queen’s throat, the wood of the Cross and the dark nails that pierced the flesh of the Redeemer, the poison kept by the Carthaginian chief in an iron ring on his finger, the serene goblet that Socarates drank down one evening.

In the dawn of time it was the stone that Cain hurled at Abel, and in the future it shall be many things that we cannot even imagine today, but that will be able to put an end to men and their wondrous, fragile life.’

                                                                                        –  Jorge Louis Borges

Love letters: My child, so grown

‘How full-on to watch you grow.’

                                          – James Blake

Listen

Here we lie, you and I. Backs flat against the floor and held so close. My child, my baby, so grown and I, suddenly, shockingly, see you gone. The softness flown. Older now and on your own. You come to visit but it’s not the same. Not like this where the world is young and the day in all its chaotic, dizzying grace,  revolves around the opportunity for this embrace. This infant bond. And here we lie, you and I. Someday soon you’ll be older and gone, no longer my baby but still my son and I cannot help but mourn your growth, pull you nearer, kiss your face.

I wish I could have know… how fast this would go.

How full-on it is to watch you grow.

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Love letters: Mila

(to an unborn child)

Slowly, quietly, you are becoming familiar to me. A name almost close to being spoken out loud, a familiarity creeping in around the edges but not quite ready to make an entrance. I read somewhere about a tribe for whom their children’s birthdays were marked as the day that the mother heard and began to sing their song. Long before birth and conception, the beginning in all its significance was the simple familiarity and knowing that they would come. So some day. Some day, little one. Not today but someday I will meet you. I hear you. I hear your little song and can almost say your name. Not yet though, my darling. Not yet, little one. But I’ll be waiting for you…and I’ll be ready for you when you come.

5a7aa0c258bfdcf6be9076dd93a06737Image via here

Love letters: afternoon sleep

Despite the chaos of life and the tracking of time, you remain a kind of constant of mine, a kind of deliverance, a kind of lover.

You are my refuge, you see,

my retreat:

the place to be quiet. To rest. To dream.

You are the open sill and the gentle breeze. You are fresh white sheets

and nowhere to be.

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Image via here

Love letters: From A Father

22/2/1996

‘Bonnie was born when the blue gums were in flower. She was born with a wisdom and generosity of spirit that I have never seen in anyone before. She glows with an innate graciousness – like a gift. You can hear it in her laugh and in the moments when she is gleeful – brimming with joy or smiling secretly as she raises an eyebrow. She is quite different from anyone I have ever known. Her burden is that she is so attuned to the needs of others that she shoulders their troubles. I sometimes worry about this; about her huge capacity for giving love. But I shouldn’t write about this, not here. If anyone has the capacity to live a life to the full, in all its moods, it is Bonnie. In whom I try to encourage a little selfishness – just to protect her.

Graceful Bonnie.’

Her Father

Love letters: Erik

Stockholm University, Sweden 2005

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if things had worked out differently. I didn’t know much about you except your name. For all of fate and time and place. I didn’t know much about you except your name and that from that first time, that first day, I think we both knew. Yes. We did. We both knew. You stared at me and I stared at you and we left the bus and I had to admit that I didn’t speak Swedish. And you had to say that you were leaving but only for a few days to go snowboarding in Olso but that you’d be back. Okay? I said, yes, okay. Goodbye but I’ll see you soon.

Except,

your letter on my dorm wall got blown away by the snow storm. My housemate saw it but I never got it. You didn’t know if I’d simply ignored it.

Except,

every time I saw you, I was walking and you were on the bus and all we could do was wave through glass.

Until,

the day before I left when I finally (literally) collided with you and I had to tell you that this was it. Yes, this was it.

Did I get your letter?

No!

Had I seen you wave?

Yes.

And you took my hand and we walked together for a bit. You picked me flowers from the forest.

And that was it. Just that one day.

That was it.

But we knew.

We both knew.

And yes, sometimes I think of those snow covered trees and of you.

En annan tid, en annan plats…

Trees_Blowing_Snow_500Photo by John Sexton via here

Love letters: Hamish

There are these moments that would otherwise be forgotten. They are not the typical stories: the engagement, the children, how we met. They are the quieter things, the less obvious beauty in all that you’ve done for me, all the little things you’ve said. And of these there are plenty – too many to name but a few we must never let slip away…particularly that one day, very early on, when you had a conversation with my soul.

‘What did you say?’ I asked but you wouldn’t tell me.

Instead you smiled. Bold and brave.

‘It’s a secret. Some things are sacred. But I hope it heard me. I think it did.’

7c700bd38c87b86be4df53fc1ca822abArtist unknown, image via here

Love letters: Wild cherry tree

 

Warrumbungles – possibly 2003

I can’t remember exactly when this was. For several years it was only my father and I that went off to the Warrumbungles to visit and it was in those years that this happened. It was the same time we harnessed the second natural spring on the land, a way of creating an overflow and pool from which the animals could drink. The drought was still in full force. There was brittleness to everything and even the more drought-proof trees were starting to wilt and die. There was something deeply worrying about this. ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ Dad said. We walked the dry creek beds –  a way through the fence barriers between properties – looking at these old eucalypts with deep concern.

It took a few days but we erected a water tank somewhere down the hill from the spring so that the water could run in and fill up. At its base was the pool for the animals that, in turn, was fed by the tank. We gathered up rocks from the mountains and paved its walls. Somehow, these stones fitted together perfectly – as if they were simple coming back to each other after many years apart.

It was my habit to go for walks alone. Dad and I could co-exist in this place and sometime see very little of each other during the day. He too had his own pace and things to do and while we came together for little adventures and for evening’s return, we set our own rhythms. I was somewhere in the valley and all of a sudden, it rained. I saw Dad emerge from maybe 100 feet away and both of us stood out in the open, basking in the glimmer of sunlight through water, feeling everything respond under its touch.

Almost simultaneously, we noticed something neither of us had seen during the week we had already been there. Years ago, a passing bird in flight had dropped a cheery pip and from it a wild cherry tree had grown. At first, it struggled and we watched it over the years, leaved but not fruiting and somewhat small in size. On this day, in the middle of the valley, in the sun shower, despite logic, it glowed the most incredibly vibrant neon green. And what did we see? Small round cherries.  Finally and despite all odds, it throve. A little triumph. A feat of nature. A small miracle.

As most of you know, severe bush fires burnt through the Warrumbungles in January of this year. This week, my father returns to the land, his home

Love letters: Alice

Stockholm, 2005

We used to sit in the cafeteria of the Universitet for hours on end. Typical of Sweden, there’d be a buffet of whole-food everything and a long row of people waiting in line to get in, desperate to escape the biting cold of a harsh winter. At its worst, I think, it got to minus 30 ° C and we’d sit there during our breaks, amongst the hustle and bustle, drinking endless cups of strong black coffee.

We had met in class on the first day – International Politics perhaps, it doesn’t matter now. We became fast friends and through his social network I met – and fell in love with – his best, unavailable, friend. Often, our conversations would turn to this. He knew, of course, and consoled me with stories of his own unrequited love – stories of Alice, a friend long ago, whom never knew.

Eventually the snow melted and the grass appeared as a green mass beneath the white cover-all. The forest came alive and the days warmed up. We would adventure together, exploring the lakes, the woods, the city – he showing me the lay of the land, he telling me stories of his life, of his work, of Alice.

Time passed – as it does – and the day came when my time in Sweden was almost up. He looked worn and ragged and I asked him if he was alright. He hadn’t slept, he said, and that there was something he needed to say before I left, something to tell me before we said goodbye.

‘What?’ I said. And he paused.

‘You’re Alice.’

bb5eaa1f14566078863548f7f8625156Image by Alicia Baladan via here