Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life and art and memory and dreams and journeys...

Our house is in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It isn’t really, at all, certainly not by American, Canadian or Australian standards. We are 10 minutes from the nearest town, 10 minutes from the beach. 30 minutes into the closest city and 30 minutes commute to school.
There’s nothing like the journey home, wherever you live, that moment in the car or bus, walking on the streets, when you know you have the optimum amount of time left before you reach home. I would say about 7 and a half minutes from home. Those 7 and a half minutes give you time to relish the thoughts of your home comforts, your kitchen, fridge, sofa, tv, bed or toilet (because sometimes the first thing you just have to do when you get home is pee).
Those 7 and a half minutes allow you to process away all the bad things of the day and condense them all into one funny story that you want to share with your family. The minutes give you time to think about seeing your family again, awake or asleep and to give thanks that you have a family and a home waiting for you. Shelter, comfort, safety, family...they all appeal to our basic human instinct, to live, love freely and enjoy.
As I drive home there’s a long stretch of straight road as I hit those last 7 and a half minutes and it always feels like I’m getting ready for a great party. Sometimes it’s a mad riotous party, sometimes a quiet one with friends and sometimes a solitary one. If my children are at home, the minutes are my last moments of peace before I hit the house and the business of food preparation, cleaning, ironing, playing, reading stories and gardening that characterise our family life.
As I’m now working part time, those minutes are either a little respite (before getting home to unload shopping and start cooking)or the tantalising moments of doing stuff (out and about doing chores) before hitting the peace of home.
There’s something about the long straight road home and that magic seven and a half minutes that sometimes promotes a meditative quality. I remember bizarre things and wonderful memories and more than once I’ve found myself crying in the car because of old sorrows. I mourn for my mother, who has dementia and doesn’t know who I am anymore. I mourn for Antony, who died too early. I mourn for my own life, which is transitory. I watch the trees go by and the houses and think that it will all still be here when I am long gone.
Not every journey has such emotional weight; sometimes I dream about what I would do if I won the lottery, or I plan my garden, my evening meal, my son’s birthday, how to help my daughter cope with the myriad of changes in her life, my lessons at school the next day.
Sometimes I just enjoy the view.
Sometimes I live the journey and sometimes the journey passes me by and sometimes the journey enlivens me.
I travel those seven and a half magic minutes and soon enough they’re are finished and I am home again, to a house I love and a garden that we’re making. To a life that is sweet with sunny possibilities.


  1. The longest 30 minutes I ever spent was at a dark bus stop in my early days in Australia, waiting to go home at night after an orientation meeting for my first job. I was feeling terribly alone and homesick. Suddenly I noticed the myriad stars winking in the sky and realised that these beautiful constellations would be there, unchanging, even while everything around them collapsed and failed, long after I retreated into the haze of reality. I felt so miniscule then.

    I've always loved travelling - isn't there a famous quote? It's not where you go that matters, but how it changes you, that journey. I've loved it partly because of that familiar feeling on the journey back that tells me that there will always be an end somewhere, waiting with open arms to welcome me home.

    You've touched me with this blog post... it is now officially my favourite so far. Much love and thanks!

  2. Suni, thank you for your lovely message, you may want to read the poem Ithaca, I've pasted it below. I love the sentiments of the poem, even though the romance is somewhat tainted for me by the fact that it's Odysseus' journey and he's left poor Penelope behind in Ithaca all those years while he is off having his adventures....it's always the male heroes in history and mythology who get the exciting journeys. Other journeys from a feminine side to be found in The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy! I've pasted her Penelope underneath Ithaca. (I can't help it Sunni, I am forever your literature teacher!!) xxxxx hope you are well and that lovely baby too


    When you set out for Ithaka
    ask that your way be long,
    full of adventure, full of instruction.
    The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
    such as these you will never find
    as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
    emotion touch your spirit and your body.
    The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
    unless you carry them in your soul,
    unless your soul raise them up before you.

    Ask that your way be long.
    At many a Summer dawn to enter
    with what gratitude, what joy -
    ports seen for the first time;
    to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
    and to buy good merchandise,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
    sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
    to visit many Egyptian cities,
    to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

    Have Ithaka always in your mind.
    Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
    But don't in the least hurry the journey.
    Better it last for years,
    so that when you reach the island you are old,
    rich with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
    Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
    Without her you would not have set out.
    She hasn't anything else to give you.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
    So wise you have become, of such experience,
    that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

    Constantine P Cavafy

    By Carol Ann Duffy

    At first, I looked along the road
    hoping to see him saunter home
    among the olive trees,
    a whistle for the dog
    who mourned him with his warm head on my knees.
    Six months of this
    and then i noticed that whole days had passed
    without my noticing.
    I sorted cloth and scissors, needle, thread,

    thinking to amuse myself,
    but found a lifetime’s industry instead.
    I sewed a girl
    under a single star—cross-stitch, silver silk—
    running after childhood’s bouncing ball.
    I chose between three greens for the grass;
    a smoky pink, a shadow’s grey
    to show a snapdragon gargling a bee
    I threaded walnut brown for a tree,

    my thimble like an acorn
    pushing up through umber soil.
    Beneath the shade
    I wrapped a maiden in a deep embrace
    with heroism’s boy
    and lost myself completely
    in a wild embroidery of love, lust, lessons learnt;
    then watched him sail away
    into the loose gold stitching of the sun.

    And when the others came to take his place,
    disturb my peace,
    I played for time.
    I wore a widow’s face, kept my head down,
    did my work by day, at night unpicked it.
    I knew which hour of the dark the moon
    would start to fray,
    I stitched it.
    Grey threads and brown

    pursued my needle’s leaping fish
    to form a river that would never reach the sea.
    I tried it. I was picking out
    the smile of a woman at the centre
    of this world, self-contained, absorbed, content,
    most certainly not waiting,
    when I heard a far-too-late familiar tread outside the door.
    I licked my scarlet thread
    and aimed it surely at the middle of the needle’s eye once more.


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