I am standing with my toes at the edge of a cliff. There is fire in the sky, sweeping around me. Black sky filled with orange light. I am on the dividing line between here and gone, I stand touching disappearance, in my head, chasing it through hedgerows and bracken. I'm standing alone on this edge, but at the same time I am with mum. I am with her and I am not, I am by her bedside I am stroking her hair, I am calling her softly, I am riding the waves with her to other lands, I am journeying to places with her I cannot really go.
Then I am back here, facing the dark sky.
She is here and she is not. We are equal in life and death. We are two sides of a coin that could flip as easily, and my body's movement is a temporary gift, my speech is something I was granted for a period of time. Eventually it's all going back. I'll have to give it all back, every part of me, every nook and cranny, every stray thought, every tiny whisper, all goes back. The curve of my arm, the turn of my neck, the drop of my hair, my toes, my blood, my dreams, my longings, everything my eyes see, all must go back into the mud and the ether and dust. My breath goes back to where it came from.
It's hard to think we are all only on loan - we think we belong to ourselves and are our own universes. But we belong to life itself, born of it, dying back into it. Big bang, shooting star, apple tree. And I'll tell you who my friends are this moment. It is the waving tree outside my window with its branches that murmur. It is the sound of the cuckoo, calling me to attention like a Zen monk in the distance. It is the weather, bringing solace and hands of knowing (it says: I change, I am forever, calling & gone, shaking and foreign, rapturous song and devastating calm in the midst of summer, I am escaped touch, I am rain shower, descending cloud, air travelling upward and higher). It is the bumps on the ground, anthills and the edge of the lawn where the soil churns up fresh and sweet. It is green and orange, black and blue and red, red, red. White. Always white.
Today, the sun has escaped the sky and grey clouds have lowered. It looks like rain. And I am surrounded by what is beautiful, everywhere I look is a storm of living and passing and breathing and returning. But I am also alone like a stone on a beach, surrounded by others. I perch at my window, listening to the soundless calling, there is no more time now for wishing or hoping, only loving and realising, only my own small voice, only her soft unmoving hand, only a life ebbing and flowing before my eyes, only a body breaking, only a bond that I can keep, that never goes away, doesn't matter how far she travels or if she doesn't come back again. Only this. Only that. Only here. Only there. Only gone. Only arriving.
Love does go beyond living and dying. I know this. And I am only flesh. The blood in me that is constantly rising will fail; dry up to nothing. The world sends me home in a box. We all walk the knife edge. A wonder becomes a little heartbreak. A little heartbreak becomes a wonder.
I take my mum buttercups in a vase she may never see, that have come from a hillside by a stream the colour of rust, wild garlic growing beside it. Where I dipped in my toe the other day and felt its coolness. Where I spent years growing up, playing beside the water. Where my sister fell in a cowpat and I laughed. Where I had my first kiss up in the long grass. And in the ruins of the nearby castle that you can climb up to the top and see all the way to Liverpool, I made love with my first boyfriend when I was sixteen, and the thunder and lightning crashed all around us and I bellowed with it. The rain wouldn't stop falling and I was in love for the first time. Where I have walked the gravelled path with mum so many times, trawled the woods with her and our dog Daisy. And where I sat under the old oak tree the other day, its roots as big as a person, lovers names carved into its trunk. I sat staring down the hillside, watching the woods below, feeling its hardness and its strength behind me.
All my life we have put those yellow shiny flowers under our chins to test if we like butter. That day I wanted to do that to mum, but I couldn't, I just tried to show them to her, and put them on the table. And so another piece of heart chips off. But that trail is within us, and never far away. I still share the hillside with her.
I need to eat some breakfast. My sister is digging the flowerbed outside. We'll put up curtain poles today, get the bus into town, pick up a cup of tea in the hospital canteen, maybe a jam scone ( I am trying to lay off them but it's hard when there's so much cream inside). Another day passes into who knows what. Who knows where. But for now it's time to eat and I must go.