Pivot Points

This week I’ve been pondering the pivot points in my life. You know the ones where you went somewhere, did something or met someone who changed the course of your life.

That’s what I’ve been doing. I looked back not only to my actions, but to others, to decisions my parents made about what to name me, where to live or go to church. If I think about who or what I might have been or been doing now had any of these events not occurred or choices made I see a very different me. For all I know there are those other mes out there in some parallel reality right now living those other lives, but not they are not the me sitting here writing this blog.

Now and again I ponder the one about the other names I might have had, and it might also help to know that I changed my name on the Autumnal Equinox in 1977. Changed the lot, all three names. What I am sure of is that had my name remained that which was given me at birth and affirmed at my baptism I would not be sitting here in the UK living the life I am now.

What triggered all this reflection on pivot points is remembering my first wedding day on 26th May 1974. The man I married that day eventually, after 25 years, divorced me and seven years later died. But I was thinking more of all the steps that led me to the altar that day and whether some pivots are stronger in effect than others. What such pondering does for me is put pay to the idea of life as a linear progression. My view is of a spiral, but even that is far from a simple image when looking at radical, life altering pivotal moments.

I thought of all the people, friends and family, lost to me over the years through death and relocation. There have been many, many losses and many, many relocations over the years. It is poignant to think back on them, who though not thought of often bring a smile to my face and tear to my eye, even today. The experience of our lives, using mine as an example, is a story with gentle curved turns and sometimes sharp angular twists. None of them foreseen, each of them fundamental to who we are and how we become that person.

The trajectory of an individual’s life as it is lived everyday contains small points of possible change, a decision to go somewhere may mean a meeting someone who upends everything and every plan hard thought out over years of patient endeavour. Going to certain place on a whim may mean finding one’s soul home and the ramifications that causes not only to oneself, but everyone else in one’s circle of connection, human and non-human.

What I ended up doing as I thought of the people and places, the names and faces of the people was to say thank you to them. To silently express gratitude for the part they have played in my life, into enabling me to be who I am, and where I am. Although some of those pivoting times were excruciatingly painful, yet were it not for them I would be someone else, somewhere else. Not necessarily in a worse place, though there are aspects of that, but in a very different reality, leading a very different life. The life I live now is mine and I embrace it with joy and gratitude, for though I can imagine others, this is the one in which I am invested in making the best and fullest that I am able.

So, as I whisper all those names and places here and now, I say again: Thank you ________ the time we shared together in the making of me.

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A Troubled Relationship

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

Since I was a child
when you meant three months
away from school,
which I loved and missed
during the long hiatus,
and later as an adult
when you meant
long hot hours in the afternoon,
and the challenging blast
of your heat when leaving
the relieving artificial cool
of air conditioning at work,
and the thunderstorms
breaking as I ran from
bus stop to home safety,
never ave I been easy with you.

Then there was the horrible
dry year lived in Phoenix,
where like today
I had a migraine,
but that one lasted
the whole of my desert time,
parched, desiccating, light,
ah, the light way too much
for me almost as harsh
as the interminable heat.

Though now I can seek
respite in a shady garden
or a dense green wood,
the physical discomfort
is not diminished,
for I find your extremes
punishing and cruel,
for even in the night
when darkness descends
the temperatures and humidity
do not always follow.

I have a long way to go
to make my peace with you,
for though I know we need you,
were it not for what you alone offer
we would starve,
still I continue struggling,
after all the decades we have shared,
with the gifts you bring
in abundance of light and heat,
to fulfill the promises of Spring.

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

After Manchester

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

You claimed to have taken down the crusaders,
yet these young women and men
were not responsible for the acts
of those long ago who were in a battle
perverting three religions
by staging bloody acts of horror
engaging in atrocities unspeakable
self-righteously acting in the names
of their war-blessing gods,
where there could never be any gain
and still today precious little hope of peace.

No, these were innocent children,
these were youngsters and teens
who had yet to learn the hard
cold lessons of adulthood,
despair and disappointment
scuppered dreams and latent wishes
for more and better ways to be,
who would never know
the tender touch of first love,
the delicate holding of a first baby,
the exhilaration of a double first.

Instead,
they rest in morgues in bits and pieces,
or in hospital beds balanced
between life and death,
with shattered limbs and mangled organs,
numbed by drugs sheltering them
from awful truths of agonising realities
they should never have had to learn,
yet to wrestle with the guilt of living on,
stealing forever the survivors’ innocence.

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

Reunion

Near enough to twenty years
since last we saw the other,
first sighted in the shadow
of old Salisbury Cathedral’s
twisted spire with a chill breeze
yanking the flowers
from a short row of horse chestnuts,
extinguishing their candles
under a grey clouded sky,
arms flung out as suitcase dropped
a long-holding hug and whispered tears
melting away time
retracting distance
renewing connection.

Sitting in the cloister
introductions made between
her and my new partner,
three cups of different teas,
mint, hibiscus, camomile,
and then he excused himself
leaving us to reminisce,
indulging in nostalgia
washing between us like tides,
revealing in our sharing
the good days and the dark times
we have each lived
in places far from where we met.

Time stood still,
distance evaporated
stories merged
interests twined,
whilst we sat together,
speaking punctuated
by shared tears and laughter,
hands reaching out to comfort
and affirm deep connections
yet exist between us,
stronger today than we had before.

Alas, our brief time together
came to a close marked by
the striking of the Cathedral’s bells,
and walking to the place of our parting,
we both knew that what we had
will remain and what we have now
will continue to grow
as yet more years tumble behind us,
for our reunion revealed
a deep abiding friendship,
neither of us will leave behind.

The Dawn Quartet

I was wakened by the rain
heard through open windows
pat patter pat beating
like a small tight drum,
then beyond the cloud water’s music
the winged ones began
their chirruping songs
to scores they only know
once the pattered drumming
slowed and ceased.

Head resting on my pillow,
cats eager to see if at
o four hundred I was awake
enough to heed their
presence and desire
to break their nightlong fast,
I heard the morning’s
emerging avian songs,
voices added one on one
the vocal ensemble reached
but four this morn,
no dawn chorus then for me.

Still, I was blessed,
and with a grateful heart
listened to the sweet refrains
of the dawn quartet
to begin my day,
the damp air perfumed,
the ground wet and leaves
bedecked in glistening droplets
after several dry weeks
under a cloud shrouded
breeze bearing sky.

Apple Shedding Blossom

This another breezy day,
twigs twitching
on branches jittering
lifting lightly
as the air sings its enticing song,
flowers follow me
petals join the dance,
release your tender holding
so your fruit may form.

Petal snow the garden
covering delicate
pink tinging white
amid the final cowslips,
forget-me-nots and bluebells,
deepening shade enfolding all,
summer slowly emerging
in the longer sun.

Robins, blue tits,
blackbirds, magpies
swoop though the last
relinquishing blossom,
little wings beating
to their own unheard
internal rhythms,
vanishing and disappearing
in swift movements darting.

Summer,
now that May has had her day,
greens grow darker
working harder,
fruit setting,
light extending
bees alighting,
all the while hour by hour
life meets its challenge
and gifts to us,
all undeserving,
beauty, wonder and delight.