Monday is my new writing day, and naturally, I've spent the morning making pea soup, washing-up, re-vamping blogs, going to the doctors... anything but writing. Even writing here is a bit of a cheat, but I'm telling myself it's a way of easing myself into the avalanche of imagery that's waiting in the backseat of my mind, and that on some level, I do not want to face.
Often I feel caught somewhere in between childhood and here. There are days when a rose's scent or the dark green of a climbing ivy is enough to make me ten years old again. When sunlight on glass makes time spin. As I grow older this seems to happen more and more. As I reach an age where there's no doubt that I'm clear of the boundary of youth, I increasingly feel as I did before I even knew what puberty was.
I want to go home. Of course, I know that home doesn't exist any more - the home I remember is now occupied by strangers, a couple of kids, cars I don't recognise and pets I don't know about. It is re-vamped and re-constituted; lawns mown in straight lines, fences properly put up, the house walls now a yellowy white. Of course I hate it, this sanitisation of our rambling family home. The pruning of its madness. The killing of its dreams.
But more than this, I realise that where I want to return to exists mainly in those same parts of my brain that it always did, not simply out there, with the grass and the beetles, but in the home of my imagination. When I remember childhood, it isn't the real conversations I did or didn't have with my mother. It isn't how I felt when my father walked in a room. It's in how I hid under the cherry tree to feel protected. It's how I ran in a frail white nightie, rain on my reddening cheeks - around clumps of lavender, over wilting delphiniums. It's the crumbling grey brick of the convent wall as I crept unseen against it, chalk on my t-shirt, shielded by dark hedges. It's sunshine through poplar branches. The rooks lining up on a cold winter's evening. It's the crackle of crusty leaves around my ankles as I ran up our drive from school. It's the call of the wood pigeon, ever-etched in my synapses. When I awake to the memory of back then, it's a garden I always go back to.
And this garden is as alive for me today as it was back then. It's an Eden in my eyes. I feel its leaves against my skin, the grass between my fingers, the chill of evening air drawing in. Growing up took me out of the garden and into the world, it eroded the pathways leading back to the home of being. As an adult, I know I can't quite see what I saw in the veins of a dying leaf when I was nine years old. How that leaf glowed with it's own essence before me as I turned it over in my palm.
But writing takes me home. Perhaps that's why I do it. It takes me by the hand and leads me back through the shrubbery, up the winding tracks, over the wall to a vegetable patch and to toes peeping from under rough brown cloth; to next door at the Convent, where the nuns are singing, blue eyes to heaven. My hand is small, my fingers long; my shoes are wet and muddy. I rub my eyes and I can see again.