A FIELD BEYOND TIME

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I took the title of my new novel from one of my favourite quotations from the poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” When you’ve reached the end of the book, I think you’ll understand just why I chose it.

This novel has been a long time in gestation. It began for me with Daniel’s story, his account of his time in India when he was in his early twenties. In the book this is revealed piece by piece in his journal entries, but for me it came with all the hurricane energy of a tormented soul desperate to be heard. When I began to write for Daniel it seemed to come from somewhere else: a voice that demanded to speak, to tell every last detail of the truth he needed to share. It took me over, and wouldn’t let me rest until he had said all he needed to. And after I’d finished telling his tale I was left still wondering just who this Daniel was. I needed to write the rest of the novel to find out.

I hadn’t entirely shed my own role as a psychotherapist when I embarked on writing it. It’s a moot point whether it’s a role that can ever be entirely shed, as it’s so much more than the work, and an intrinsic part of my personality. It seemed inevitable that Daniel would be a psychotherapist, and not just because I know what it’s like to sit in a room with someone else and care more for their suffering than my own. He is a wounded man, and has used his understanding of his own tragedies to find the way in to helping others to heal. It was important for me when I wrote about Daniel in the present that however much he was haunted by his past, he would be freed ultimately by facing it. What this turns out to mean for him you will need to read the book to discover. No spoilers here!

When I am writing there is a curious process that occurs, much as there has been for me when working as a therapist. I fall in love with the characters, the more real they become. And the more I fall in love with them, the more of themselves they reveal to me. When my characters first walk through the door of my mind to join me on the page they have yet to give away their deeper motivations for coming. By the time I’ve got to the second or third draft we are old friends, and I’ve reached the stage of never wanting to say goodbye. Although, much as it has been with clients, the time comes when the rest of their lives will continue elsewhere, no longer between the pages of my book. Hopefully, with clients, we have both been changed by the experience of our meeting. I always hope that this will also be the case for you, as a reader.

A number of elements came together that inspired me to write this particular novel, otherwise it might simply have remained as Daniel’s story: a narrative that had no context in which to place it. Events in my own life made me think deeply about the effects of childhood trauma, and the identity that evolved as a result. Some people believe that our identity is fixed from the moment of birth – before birth, in fact – and dictated partly by our genes and partly by some mysterious element that we might call ‘soul’ or even ‘karma’. Another view is that whatever the blank canvas is that we start out with, life experience, environment, parental and societal influences, all contribute to painting the unique portrait of the person we become. Perhaps there is something of both in forming our identity. We seem to develop a script about what life means for us very early on. We absorb the messages we receive from those around us and from the universe that presents us with our experience, kindly or unkindly, and we soak them up like the eager little emotional sponges that we are. What we learn intellectually is nothing compared to the life lessons we receive, good and bad, that make us decide where we stand in the greater scheme of things and whether we ourselves are good or bad.

There are underlying themes in the book which touch all of us at some point in our lives. Betrayal is one of them. There are some betrayals that are obvious, but how subtly and sometimes unconsciously do we otherwise betray one another – and can those betrayals be forgiven? We first meet the main characters in this novel as sudden turmoil begins to turn their safe, known world inside out. In different ways both Daniel and Mira are trying to make sense of who they are, and heading for possible destruction. Daniel and his wife Callie are faced with choices about whether to trust, and whether to hold on to secrets that if uncovered could risk their relationship. They are all three complex, confused human beings, confronting truths about themselves.

The truth is a theme that arises frequently in my stories. Its slippery, shape-shifting, often perplexing nature taunts me as I examine my own life and that of other people. Is what we believe to be the truth all there is to know? Doesn’t our perspective change as we draw back from close up and see the bigger picture? And yet discovering and claiming the truth is often what fires us into action and forces us to make judgements. Mira is a valiant and determined torch-bearer of a truth she holds as the fulcrum of her identity. I wanted to explore with her, as with Daniel, just what had shaped her into being the person she has become, and to question how possible it might be to bring about a change of heart.

I was discussing the themes in ‘A Field Beyond Time’ with a friend who had just finished it. He said he had sat up till 2 a.m. reading because he couldn’t put it down until he had found out what happened at the end. What was it that had kept him gripped? “I had to know if Daniel would find the resolution he needed,” he said. “From the point in the novel when I started reading his journal entries I was hooked. His story was so compelling.” Well, obviously I’m not going to give the game away here, but it was interesting to see that it wasn’t just me who felt in some way possessed by Daniel and his plight.

I hope you will be as touched by the characters in this novel as I was while writing about them. I came to love them in their flawed, imperfect human beingness. Did they all find the resolution they needed? Whether or not the novel keeps you up till the early hours, I hope you too are spurred to find the answer.

‘A Field Beyond Time’ is published on kindle at Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00K3Q9FDE

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Friendship

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I didn’t really understand the true value of friendship until I got into my thirties. I was an only child and for various reasons always felt like an outsider when I was at school. The friends I made there were similarly not part of the in-crowd. For mysterious reasons that ultimately served me well as a writer I was always drawn to the offbeat, the dispossessed, the possibly slightly unhinged, the ones that looked as though society shunned or misunderstood them. My mother despaired when, having been sent to a private school at age four, my best friend of choice was Sally Sullivan, the girl whose cardigans never had any buttons on and whose hair looked like a bird’s nest in a hurricane. What her story was, I have no idea, but I do remember admiring her wild and devil-may-care attitude. There have been many Sally Sullivans in my life in the years since. At secondary school I was, if anything, part of the out-crowd, if there is such a thing. It was a small select group. In fact, I don’t think the word ‘group’ could realistically be applied. I wasn’t unpopular, and I wasn’t bullied, but I was a bit too clever for my own good. I wanted to talk about philosophy, preferably in French. Well, that was just a passing phase, of course, and unbearably pretentious. But you get the picture. I used to ask witty questions of the teachers, which raised a laugh but didn’t endear me to anyone. I was never teacher’s pet. More like teacher’s thorn in the side. When I left school at seventeen, flying in the face of all the hopes, dreams and intentions of my parents and my teachers, my headmistress said: “I wonder what will become of you?” I lost touch with my chums from school and moved into what seemed much more colourfully to be The Real World.The stuff of which my autobiography, if and when I get around to it, will be filled. But for now, let’s skip quite a few years during which an awful lot happened but none of it particularly relevant to the theme of friendship. I suddenly discovered what I now think of as real friendship in my early to mid-thirties, as my second marriage began crashing melodramatically into a heap of predictable rubble. Plenty of grist for the writer’s mill there, for which I have been glad. It’s always good to observe the silver lining and make the most of it. Prior to that friends had been ‘our friends’ or increasingly ‘those weird women you hang out with’ (his definition, never mine.) I discovered how supportive women could be of one another, how brave, how bawdy, how honest. I found how important it was to share feelings, however shameful and irrational they seemed, (especially the murderous ones,) and how good my women friends were at listening without judgement or without doing that very manly thing of ‘fixing’ the problem that you already know is tragically unfixable. For the first time since the days of Sally Sullivan I risked getting closer to other women. Having never had sisters I really didn’t know the rules. These friendships were not social ones, where we went out and partied (I’d had a number of those) but deeply intimate exchanges of our thoughts and desires and sorrows. We understood one another’s disappointments and weren’t afraid to laugh at ourselves. Women are particularly good at that. By the time I had swept the last of the rubble into a corner of my mind I rarely noticed any more, I had embarked on a very different chapter of my life. As I entered my forties I really got the hang of friendship. By the time I’d completed my psychotherapy training my inner world had been transformed, and my outer life reflected that. I didn’t give up being witty entirely (wordsmiths mostly just can’t help themselves) but I valued increasingly the importance of kindness over cleverness. The friendships I made during this period of my life proved to be enduring and supportive and life-changing in ways I never could have imagined. I guess that’s the nature of experiences that change your life. Most of the friends that I made then were also psychotherapists, or therapists of other kinds. People intent on healing – which meant they were inevitably wounded themselves. The obvious fact is that we are all wounded. It’s what you choose to do with the wound that makes the difference: flaunt it, wear it like a badge of identity, make it worse, blame the world for it, seek revenge for it, invite more of it, deny it, cover it with layers of disguise… there are plenty of ways to not do anything to heal it. But then, if you face up to the fact that the wound is there, and begin to understand how it happened, you are one step towards the process that ultimately heals. The people who came into my life as friends in my forties and fifties have all been all on that pilgrimage towards healing, one way or another. We speak the same language, have the same priorities, struggle with many of the same issues, and breathe in the same life-giving air of truth. The best friends I’ve known, and still know, are the ones who never duck from careful self-examination, and recognize that blame is futile. When you stumble into the potential minefield of disagreement it’s a waste of energy to point the finger either towards the other person or yourself. However much we all love to be right (and don’t we just!) friendship thrives on the willingness to make that less of a priority than understanding one another. To be understood is one of the greatest blessings, and to offer that understanding to another person is such a gift. As you get older your perspective shifts so radically. It really isn’t something you can comprehend in your youth, the way that the equation shrinks in terms of percentage of life expectancy yet to come. You start making statements like: “Life’s too short…” about an increasing number of things. Life’s too short to spend time doing this or that… where will it end, I sometimes wonder? Will I eventually think life is too short to get up in the morning? I suppose it could happen. You do begin to value the things you have, the more you see slipping away. And friendship is top of that list. It gets harder to make new friends as you get older, even in this age of facebook and twitter where ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ take on a whole new meaning for those of us not born into this age of instant and often unstable hellos and goodbyes. Sadly, the older you get, the more likely it is that some friends will leave before you, and partners are more likely to be lost through death than divorce. Which gives “Life’s too short…” a completely other spin. Life is too short not to enjoy every moment of connection you can, to imbue it with meaning and authenticity, even if it’s a tweet or a facebook post. I’ve had a number of relationships in my life (in case you were thinking it all ended with the rubble of my second marriage… oh no, dear reader, that was but the start of a whole new set of adventures…) and some have not been possible to sustain beyond the breakup drama. Sometimes the kindest thing is to exit stage left from someone’s life, or to wish them well on their onward journey. But in a few cases a deepening friendship has been the outcome, and for that I’ve been grateful. In my own experience, true friendship has been what has nourished me, enlivened me, healed me, and inspired me. When I think of my friends, as I am doing now, I feel humbled with gratitude for all that they’ve meant, over the years, and all that they’ve given me, freely and without expectation of any return. These days I include four lovely men among my dearest friends. I think of them as brothers, although none of them know each other and they each come from very different backgrounds. And my much loved women friends – you know who you are. Some have been in my life for longer than others. All are beautiful, strong, courageous women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. The picture at the top of this post is of me with my friend Sheelagh. We met almost twenty-five years ago, and have been alongside each other ever since through so many changes in both our lives. She is the closest I will ever have to a sister, and our experiences and challenges have so often run on parallel tracks. There is such a profound sense of being held in a friendship where you know and accept each other not just for the positive stuff but for the shadow that lurks beneath. Friends forgive. They don’t judge, although they give you sound advice when they think you need it, even if it’s something thy suspect you won’t want to hear. They do it in such a way that you know they love you anyway. Tears come to their eyes when they feel your pain, and they don’t hold back from sharing their own, so that the friendship always feels grounded in equality. They feel joy at your successes, and do everything they can to help you make them happen. And when life’s inevitable disappointments come, they give words of comfort that come straight from the heart. On days when you feel that nothing is possible, after half an hour with them they can make you feel that anything is possible. They aren’t combative or competitive – except perhaps at Scrabble or Uno. And they really enjoy sharing a good moan or a rant about what’s wrong with the world. Plenty to choose from there. It’s a conversation that can run and run. So, anyway, today these are my random thoughts about friendship. As I said in a previous post, I have been told I have a friendly face. But there’s a lot more to being a friend than that.

Oh no, it’s spring!

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Oh no, it’s the first day of spring. I am not a spring person. I have barely got over it being winter. In fact, if I’m honest, I have barely come to terms with it being winter. I am not ready to extract myself from hibernation. So don’t try and drag me outside to enjoy it. I like having the heating turned up high and the blinds down, keeping out the miserable sight of the grey oppressive sky hanging there like a reminder of something half-done. I like getting into my fleecy jammies at 4 o’clock when it starts to get dark, hunkering down in my candle-lit cave to greet the night. I don’t like all this flagrant early sunlight which promises but rarely delivers warmth outdoors. It’s all a bit too bright, too soon. My grandmother was a wise woman who taught me certain irrefutable truths, like for example it being bad luck to reverse a garment you’d inadvertently put on inside out or back to front. Every year at the first sign of bulbs pushing their snouts above the soil she used to say: “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out,” and I’ve taken her at her word ever since. Whether or not we understand ‘May’ to refer to the month or the Hawthorn blossom of the same name, it comes to the same thing. March is not the time to be stripping off your many layers of clouts. Maybe one layer, or even two on a particularly unseasonably warm day (and with the whole climate change thing there have been a few of those lately to fool us into false hope) but please – leave it there. There is nothing so demoralising for someone who feels the cold even in the middle of summer as the sight of young foolhardy fashion aficionados strutting their skimpy vests and bare legs along the street, while I’m still debating whether I need a sweater and a coat. And possibly a woolly hat and gloves. You can’t be too careful. When I was at nursery school we used to have a big poster on the wall, telling you exactly what to expect throughout the year in terms of weather. “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers” it proclaimed. And beneath that the chilling verse: “The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then, poor thing?” So don’t talk to me about cute little lambs and daffodils. It’s bloody freezing out there on the hills and in the fields, and I’m glad I didn’t incarnate as a sheep. Or a daffodil. Or indeed a robin. By the time Easter arrives towards the end of April, I might feel more grudgingly accepting of the fact that summer is bound to happen. Round about the end of May I start to get the hang of it. By then I’ve got stuck in with the hay fever that inevitably gets kicked off by the combination of all that pollen from the Hawthorn blossom and the reckless shedding of clouts. I am not an outdoorsy sort of person. I was one of those unfortunate babies under the dubious regime of Dr Spock. We had no option about being bundled up and stuck outside in our prams in all weathers to “get the benefit” of the bracing air. As soon as I was old enough to exercise some choice in the matter I decided I’d had enough of all that, thank you. So Vernal Equinox or not I won’t be fired up with enthusiasm about reclaiming my garden from the deathly arms of winter (and please stop sending me seed catalogues and cheery emails reminding me when I should be planting things.) The trees are still bare, the March wind doth blow quite aggressively down my chimney as I write, and my cat is still spending most of his 18 hour sleeping day either snuggled in his own duvet or mine (I don’t know why I still bother to make a distinction.) I will decide when spring has sprung, and it hasn’t happened yet.

The Mouse Saga continues…

The mouse that escaped last week didn’t perish after all. I have been waiting for the tell-tale odour to indicate its passing, and clearing up the remains of several more in the interim. Emailing details of this to a friend she replied: “We had 15 dead birds in our house over the last year, and a blood bath on the carpet, got the carpet cleaner in, two days later on the same spot another half dead black bird, with blood and feathers all over.” That made me feel better. Although I did start to wonder whether my cat has some form of Attention Deficit Disorder (along with all the other adverse personality traits) that causes him to be so easily distracted. He’s not really a dedicated assassin, more like a playful clumsy boy with instincts he hasn’t entirely mastered yet. And then yesterday morning I opened the kitchen cupboard under the sink and saw a trail of mouse droppings weaving a path through the many cleaning materials that are there mostly for decorative purposes since I rarely clean anything. This was the golden opportunity for that cupboard to get cleaned, even though I dreaded finding a small corpse at the back of it. How can one person accumulate such a huge variety of spray containers of stuff for cleaning every conceivable surface? And when did I ever realistically believe I would want to polish stainless steel or add extra whitening to my washing load? I followed the track of the mouse as I removed every item, using one of the sprays to usefully disinfect as I went. Finally I came across a half chewed J-cloth and a small sieve (why did I ever get that? What would I even use it for?) full to the brim with mouse droppings. That intrigued me. Had it been designated a latrine for some arcane reason best known to the mouse? And the chewed J-cloth just broke my heart. Was it that desperate for food? Or was it building a nest? Suddenly my propensity for anthropomorphism kicked in and I started to over-empathise and worry about the mouse. I visualised it, isolated from its family, hiding out under the kitchen cupboards, subsisting on dust and J-cloths, pining for the water-logged fields from whence it had been dragged. I began to think of it as plucky and resourceful, making the best out of a bad situation, much like Anne Frank in Amsterdam during World War 2. I was relieved when the entire cupboard had been laid bare to find nothing but the vast amount of droppings as evidence of the mouse’s sojourn there. Perhaps she (by now it was definitely a ‘she’) had escaped somehow through an unseen hole under the sink unit and found her way back to her real home? I could but hope. This morning I opened the cupboard again to get out the washing up liquid (I’m not an entire slob) and saw more droppings. She hadn’t escaped, then. Good on her, I thought. Then I opened the drawer under the sink to get out a tea-towel (see, I’m quite domesticated really) and there she was… We stared at one another, transfixed, for one of those nano seconds where you wait for your fight, flight or freeze mechanism to remind you of the animal you really are, and then she opted for flight, while I froze. Too late, I pulled the drawer wide and called out: “Anne! It’s ok, I’m here to rescue you!” She had already leapt from the back of the drawer down into the depths of the underworld beneath the sink. Yoni, meanwhile, was sleeping on the sofa, in that enviously profound state of unconsciousness that cats do so well. The mouse had looked suspiciously well fed, I realised. I’m wondering now whether it isn’t just the fat cat down the road who comes in every night and blatantly steals my boy’s food from his bowl, but perhaps the mouse who has developed a liking for it. Anything has to be an improvement on J-cloths, after all.

You have a kind face

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 “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” the woman at the bus stop said. “But you have a kind face.” I wasn’t sure quite how to respond. Was I feeling kind? I had smiled in commiseration as we both stood in the rain waiting for the fleet of buses that would inevitably all turn up at the same moment, despite what the timetables promised. One smile had led to another, and before I knew it she was telling me all about herself and how difficult her life was, especially today. I sympathised. How could I not have done? It’s a hard job sometimes, being a human. We parted with a little wave as I got on my bus and she got on one of the three that had arrived behind it. I was heading for the station. I felt cheered by our conversation and was slightly lost in my thoughts about it when I noticed that the young woman sitting next to me was sniffing. As I turned towards her I could see it was more than that. She was actually crying, and being brave about it. She looked as though she could do with a tissue, so I took one out of the packet I always keep in my coat and handed it to her. “Oh, you are nice,” she snuffled, as she blew courageously into the tissue. I handed her another so she could wipe her face. There was a bit of a disaster area under her eyes where the mascara had run, but I thought it best not to point that out just now. She sighed and said: “The thing is, my life is in bits. My boyfriend left me, I just lost my job, and I’ve fallen out with my best friend.” A tragic scenario obviously, against which the problem with the smeared eye makeup across her cheeks paled to insignificance – well, almost paled. Relatively paled. It was about twenty minutes before we got to the station, what with the pit stop at the bus depot in the high street, where the drivers changed shifts and chatted for a while, and the long hold up at the temporary traffic lights where the road works were. By the time we got there the young woman was looking much brighter (apart from the mascara debacle) and managed a faltering smile. “I don’t know why I’ve told you all that,” she said. “But it’s really helped. You have such a kind face.” We parted at the end of the queue for tickets. She already had hers. She was off to visit her parents for the weekend, where I hoped she’d get some more of the support she evidently needed. As I waited to get to the head of the queue, I reflected on my conversation with her. Well, I say conversation, but really it was more a case of listening attentively while she talked. Eventually I got my ticket and stood on the platform. I could see her on the other side, waiting for the train that would take her to Birmingham. She waved. Quite a cheery wave, considering. Once on the train I got out my book and started to read, but it was hard to concentrate with the three people nearest to me all talking, laughing and generally being incredibly sociable with whoever it was on the other end of their mobile phones. I started thinking about the way we communicate now – what a strange paradox it is that so many of us are constantly updating one another with what’s on our mind right now while at the same time oblivious to the person sitting right in front of us. I would have quite liked to share this thought with the man shouting into his mobile phone inches away from my ear, but was aware that he wouldn’t hear me, never mind take any notice of my opinion. I caught the eye of the elderly lady sitting across from me, and she leaned forward and said: “Terrible, isn’t it, the way they carry on?” I shrugged. If there’s one thing worse than listening to someone else’s boring conversation on a mobile phone it’s listening to someone banging on about it. I smiled – that damned commiserative smile again – and opened my book, hoping to pick up where I’d left off, or at least give the illusion of doing so. But that smile was my undoing. By the time we’d reached our destination – a rather tedious fifty minutes later – I knew everything there was to know about what this surprisingly feisty eighty-year-old thought was wrong with the world today. It had no redeeming features for her it seemed. We were just on the verge of exploring an early, happier time in her life, when we arrived at Paddington. People all around us stampeded like escaping prisoners towards the train doors. I stood up, ready to join in the slipstream and allow it to carry me to the ticket barrier. “I’ll sit here and wait till the rush dies down,” she confided. “This train isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I don’t know where they all think they’re heading for. Like lemmings, over the cliff edge. We all die in the end.” Now there was an optimistic thought to carry away with me. “It was good to talk with you,” she said. “People don’t have the time any more. But you have a kind face.” As I made my way out of the station I looked around me. She had a point. I started to think about myself as just another lemming, and it wasn’t at all a happy concept. I considered my kind face, and wondered at what point in my life it had become such an intrinsic part of me. For some reason the photograph of myself as an anxious four year old jumped into my mind. Was this the true face of what lurked beneath? Were we all really covering up that childhood bewilderment and anxiety with all the frenetic quasi communication and activity? I decided to stop by a newsagents and pick up a paper on my way to the meeting that was the purpose of my journey. As I took it across to the counter I was still mulling over what the elderly woman had said. The young man behind the till took my money and grinned at me. “Cheer up, love,” he said. “It may never happen.” I looked at him, wondering where my  kind face had vanished to, trying to muster a returning smile but miserably failing. 

Yoni’s vigil

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 Anyone who knows me is forced into a love/hate relationship with my cat, Yoni (Full name Yin-Yang Yoni, but don’t let’s stand on ceremony.) He is very clear about who is in charge around here, and I have learned to know my place (preferably on pouch-opening duty by the food bowl.) I used to spend my lounging hours in a room  which I jokingly referred to as the Mistress Bedroom, slightly dominated by a conveniently Queen sized bed. That’s his room, now. I get the feeling he mostly tolerates me, and have asked myself a few times why I picked such an obvious loner from the litter of mostly friendly purry kittens. Perhaps we simply understand one another. He refuses to do anything as girly as sit on my lap (I did think he was a girl initially until nature proved me wrong, and by then I was already committed and a bit in love with him.) However, when I’m sitting in an armchair with a furry rug at my feet, he will sit beside me and look at me pointedly until I get down on the floor and provide a space between my legs for him to snuggle inside. It’s not the most comfortable position in which to relax. Not for me, anyway. Yesterday morning I got up at 6 am for no better reason than that I was bored, having been awake since 4:30 am contending with the continuing effects of a bout of pleurisy. “A nice cup of tea,” I thought optimistically. “That will help. And maybe then I can drift off again for a while.” But no, it wasn’t to be. I’d no sooner opened the kitchen door when Yoni came bounding in through the cat flap with a mouse dangling from his jaws. A very sweet, very alive and wriggly field mouse. “Put it down!” I yelled, as I invariably do. I had my mouse rescue kit ready. There was a time when I used to pick up the dear little creatures in my cupped hands and ferry them back outside again, until the day when one ungrateful sod bit me and I spent the next seven hours in A&E waiting for a tetanus jab. Oh, how the nurses laughed. I still don’t understand what was quite so funny about being assaulted while in the throes of a compassionate mouse rescue operation. At the sound of my voice Yoni looked at me in disbelief. He never gets why I’m not as enthusiastic as he is about the mouse capturing game. He opened his mouth, possibly to make a sarcastic comment in cat speak, and the mouse saw his moment and made a valiant bid for freedom. I admired his style. He zipped across to one side of the kitchen, and by the time Yoni had figured out what had happened and followed him, the mouse had changed tack and sped back towards the opposite corner. There he squeezed himself through a hole at the side of the units you wouldn’t have thought you could get a paper clip through (but somehow mice manage it.) I sighed as I watched Yoni still sniffing at the place the mouse wasn’t. I knew this meant we were in for the long haul. We have been here before. Eventually he followed the scent trail back to where the mouse had last been seen, but let’s face it, the mouse was by now in that vast hinterland beneath the kitchen units where he could survive for days if necessary. Did I mention that Yoni has a bit of an OCD problem? Perhaps all cats do. His capacity to focus on the fine detail is astonishing. If there is a speck of the last rejected meal left in his food bowl, for instance, he will turn his nose up at anything fresh put on top of it and walk away in disdain. When it comes to escaped prisoners, his bent for obsessive attention is unleashed to the full. The last time this happened he sat in front of the freezer for 24 hours, barely moving, staring intently, waiting for the escapee to emerge again out of hiding at the exact spot where he could still catch a lingering whiff of it. As if. Yesterday was no different. I knew, the mouse knew, and probably you as you read this know, that Yoni’s vigil by the kitchen cupboard was like waiting for Godot, an utterly futile exercise. I hate to say it, but the most likely exit point for the mouse – given my wealth of experience on this subject now – is going to be mouse heaven. Cats seem to be very good at demonstrating the power of hope over experience, however, and nothing was going to make him give up. I left him to it. He did get bored a few times during the day, or was possibly distracted by the thought of food (not really what he wanted, as usual – he has a bit of an eating disorder, too.) But each time he remembered the mouse he was back there on duty. When I went to bed last night, he looked at me reluctantly, and if I could interpret cat speak I’m sure he would have been saying something like: “It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.” This morning he looked like a cat who has not slept a wink (an unusual sight, given that they spend most of the day doing it.) He also seemed slightly depressed, as anyone who has invested too much energy and attention into a project that just hasn’t worked out is wont to look. Or am I projecting too much into what, let’s be real about it, is a blatantly expressionless expression on a cat’s face? In any event, he seems to have given up. Evidence of the escapee now being in mouse heaven is likely to soon follow, and will hang about in the miasmic air of the kitchen for quite a while. As I said, we’ve been here before. Yoni is presently sleeping, thoroughly exhausted by it all.

GRANDMOTHER WOLF

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To add to my last post… The female wolf is a deeply significant image for me – I discovered her as my power animal a number of years ago, and when I was seriously ill a few years back she became somehow connected in my mind with that other grandmother – my mother’s mother, who had given me so much affection when she was alive. I had a strong sense that she was there in spirit, protecting me in the way that wolves do with their young, and giving me the strength I needed to get well. Later, when I had more of an insight into the core reasons for my illness, beyond the merely physical, I wrote this poem in gratitude.

Grandmother wolf
So gentle, strong and wise
Walking between the worlds
On soft grey feet
Always at my shoulder
Watching out for me
My careful companion
On the path of truth
And silent spirit guide
Look on me with kindly eyes
Hold me where it hurts
Here at the very core of me
Heal the mother pain
And hold her in your heart
As well as me
This moon kissed bird
Inside my soul
On wings of love
That soar towards the light
Longs only to be free

© Lesley Hayes 2014

If you would like to read more of my poems, visit the FREE GIFTS page on my website: http://www.lesleyhayes.co.uk

Random thoughts in a wobbly world