Alone in my hospital room at night I watch tiny particles of dust and fluff swirl beneath the reading lamp. They say dust comprises of dead skin cells, we sweep them away when we clean, removing all trace of our former selves. Our cells are constantly reproducing and every seven years our bodies regenerate anew. Your body is repeatedly recycling itself but not your mind. Your mind is an entirely different story. Our brains become less active, neural pathways die, our memories fade and disappear, we lose skills and alertness, sometimes we even lose our sense of self.
But back in my mean small room, Ward 3A. I’ve been here fourteen weeks now. A reluctant patient, more like prisoner. So every night I sit, sleepless and thoughtless watching the dust and wondering if these are particles of the old me, a shedding of my past life. Occasionally moths enter through the open window and dance wildly in the pool of light, their fragile wings clinking against the electric bulb. Blinded and bewildered they circle. In the morning I find their wispy bodies spent and shrivelled on my sheets.
One morning, when you are least expecting you
wake up a hole
in your abdomen, a salivating
red circle, slap bang middle of the soft
flesh beneath your ribs,
big enough to fit two fingers.
You feel no pain, just uncomfortably numb.
There’s a hole and you can’t recall
what was there before. You try not to look,
put a sock in it and Elastoplast over the top.
After fruitless Googling you
ring in sick and visit the doctor.
She’s wearing lipstick and a feather boa.
She advises vitamin D and camomile tea. Just one of those things, she smiles and hands you
a free whale music CD on your way out.
Next day, you wake feeling cold.
The ceiling is scabbed with mould.
There’s a strange smell in the room, like geraniums.
When you study the hole, it’s become a tunnel
and you cannot see the end.
You shine a torch and for a moment
glimpse the white shriek of an eyeball.
On the last day
you wake before dawn.
The cornflakes taste stale and you’re out of bread.
You worry about office dead
-lines and the state
of the carpet where the cat is digging for gold.
You take a hot bath and try not to look.
Through the opening you
hear the trill of bird song.
I saw this magical cedar tree with a huge canopy today at the Botanic Gardens, Inverness. It appears to be surrounded by a fairy ring of small foliage plants and immediately reminded me of my favourite W.B. Yeats poem:- ‘The Wind Blows out of the Gates of the Day’
The wind blows out of the gates of the day,
The wind blows over the lonely of heart,
And the lonely of heart is withered away
While the faeries dance in a place apart,
Shaking their milk-white feet in a ring,
Tossing their milk-white arms in the air;
For they hear the wind laugh, and murmur and sing
Of a land where even the old are fair,
And even the wise are merry of tongue;
But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,
‘When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,
The lonely of heart is withered away!’
1. The scent of lavender and pine on a summer breeze.
2. Sitting under the cherry tree in the noon day sun, light filtering through the leaves like gold satin.
3. Fast-moving, shape-shifting clouds carving up the sky.
4. The premonition of rain in the air and when it falls, the softness on my skin. The way raindrops gather and trickle on the window pane making patterns. The way rain strengthens the colours of leaves and flowers.
5. The miraculous existence of rabbits.
6. Birds that sing at night.
7. The rhythm of the sea, white surf boiling up on the beach after a storm.
8. The cool smoothness of sea pebbles.
9. The darkness of forests, the dry crackle of twigs under foot.
10. Biting into a ripe nectarine, the juice trickling down my chin.