Coming Home to Myself

As I stare into the camera with my long hair framing my face, there is a light side and a dark. My eye traces the silhouette of the beautiful left, and in her softly refined cheekbone curve to the jaw, I don’t see me any more. Mum is looking back from the screen, directly meeting my gaze. She is in me, and my portrait won’t let me forget; she is watching me.

It is her youthful beauty channeling through the light side of my face, wondering what I will do next. I search for condemnation in her pupil; does she mind the way I write about her? I find only a questionning, a look that is checking.

The light side is only a sliver the width of an eye; grossly out-proportioned by the shadow. The darker part is tired and pasty, baggy-eyed; wearing the weight of my worry like the picture of Dorian Gray. It is real life lived, completing a model with stories to tell. Only squinting can I shed the ugliness to reveal a blurry pretty me/my Mother all in one.

In Victoria Rance’s class I agreed to sit, on Zoom, finally giving in this term. Yesterday evening an experienced class drew me in Steve’s clean studio space. This morning I was at home in Brockley for beginners.

Looking straight on, in Victoria’s drawing this morning

Last night was my first good night’s sleep in the last four. Returning to my own bed with its double mattress all to myself, helps to reboot my insomniac system. I spread out luxuriating, stretching my limbs to each corner as far as they’ll go. I feel the cracks in the walls, the raw plaster above my head, the drafty windows and their damp underside; pictures on the walls telling pieces of my history (my sister calls my home ‘the museum’) and my bones know they are home. I haven’t had a home this long in my life ever till now, and I know its value. Not just in terms of housing benefit. It is a sanctuary.

In the afternoon I met one of my oldest friends on the Heath. We talk about how we are different when we are spending time in our homes alone, to when we are staying with our partners. She has a similar set-up. Sometimes coming home is a reconnection with self, and this is something we hadn’t always realised in our lives. Now in our 40s it is really clear; but when we were younger, we didn’t always notice the disconnection.

Here is a short video I shot yesterday in Bowers Marsh, close to where Steve lives. I was very tired and spontaneous; it’s a bit rambly, but honestly I love the ambience! It wouldn’t be the same on a grey drizzley typical day, but here in gorgeous Spring sunshine, something is working. It continues from yesterday’s theme of sex and connection.

Equine Encounters ~ part 7

I want to share with you a happy experience I recently had with some horses. A friend of mine called Maureen who is an animal lover made a performance where she talked about how horses are empathic and some are taken to hospitals where children are very sick as they know exactly who to go and comfort. I had never experienced anything like that and have never been that close to horses before. Out the back, beyond the garden at my partner Steve’s, horses have often lived, so spending time there has been my first regular connection with them. Not like getting to know them individually so far, but frequently appreciating their presence and beauty.

There’s been some drama recently out the back sadly, as a few weeks ago in February, a bulldozer cleared lots of the land of all its wild shrubs, bushes, little trees… and it felt very traumatic on a physical level for me and Steve. It made us feel unwell, and realise how important that wild land is to us, like an extension of home. The idea of it being taken away felt horrific. It was like a tiny tiny tiny piece of the experience that indigenous peoples around the world have… so it was a bit of an awakening for us, which in itself is a good thing.

We feared the worst, but a neighbour told us the land is privately owned and that many years ago it was used as farmland, either for cattle or crops. Since foot and mouth disease or something like that over 10 years ago, it was left to go wild after all the animals had to be slaughtered. She thought perhaps it may be likely the land may return to being used for farming. It has mostly been left since that awful episode, and we have yet to discover its fate, but for now it’s been quite peaceful, and it’s still basically a green and brown field, just a lot fewer plants. Things quickly start growing again though. Lots of birds have returned to the garden. Our friend Victoria who is a Green Party activist said that if birds’ nests are removed after March 1st, whoever is responsible can be taken to court, as it is nesting season. The clearance happened before that date however, so that could be strategic, unfortunately.

Going back to the horses, all this while, five horses were living in one part of the field, separated by hedges and a ditch. I was grateful they are still there, and when we go for walks across the field, we can see there is a gap in the hedge where the horses could leave their section and just wander all over the place, but we never saw them doing that since the clearance. Sometimes we saw hoof marks and dung, so we realised that now and again they must roam. A couple of weeks ago, one night as is typical for me, I couldn’t sleep, and at 5 in the morning got up to pour my frustration into my diary. I came downstairs and after I’d been writing, I thought I’d peep out the curtain to see the early morning light.

What did I see? The horses were all outside the garden, right there just hanging about, eating some grass or having a lie down. They always move around together as a gang. I was amazed – all through the day time, they just stay in their area, but here they were, and of all the places they could be, they were outside our place. I felt deeply moved by their special presence, like they were protecting me, like this was a sign of their mysterious and advanced emotional intelligence. I looked at them for quite a while, maybe 20 minutes and they just stayed there. I returned to bed filled with joy.

Again a few nights after that, I got up at 4 unable to sleep. This time didn’t feel like writing, but thought I’d take a look out the window. It was darker this time, but I soon made out some horse shaped blobs right there! Because I wondered if I was imagining it I stayed for ages to be sure, and gradually I saw them move a bit, walk, and as my eyes acclimatised I could see they really were all there, outside the house again. I am blown away by this phenomenon and hope it bodes well for the future of the field.

The horses in the picture above are those who are present now. The ones below used to live on the field for a few years until Summer last year. Then there were no horses for several months and I missed them, until the recent mini herd came along. As you can see, the original cohort were more numerous and free. We don’t know what happened to them but they were awesome too, and often came to say hello during the daytime. Once, they even got into the garden while we were away, made a right mess, and had trouble getting out again, like naughty teenagers! Love all these horsey characters.