Here’s One I Wrote Earlier

Diary Entry February 2016

I wake as daylight begins. The dogs are still asleep, Alice snoring gently in a reassuring rhythm, Rowan curled into a tight black, brown and white ball. Lazy pair, I think, as I stumble over to the bathroom, climbing into nightgown and slippers as I go. I register the temperature of the air. Yes, colder than yesterday. I hear the rush of a sharp gust of wind as it rips its way through the tree at the end of my garden. Then the sound of a tin can being blown down the street. Reaching over the now-waking Rowan, I peer through the curtains to see what today has to offer. It’s grey but there’s a brightness to it. A sharper clarity to the view than yesterday’s mists and fogginess allowed. Today’s rain is washing the street clean, polishing up the cars and roofs, brightening the colours. Rowan licks my left knee with a warm, affectionate tongue.

I make my way downstairs, wrapped in my thick purple dressing gown, its soft fleeciness providing a reassuring comfort in the gloom. I reach for the kettle, refill the water jug and trip over the cat. Minginish glares at me, silently demanding breakfast. “Good morning to you, too,” I say, pulling open the back door, which today releases after only five tugs on the handle. The storms before Christmas have seriously warped it. Strangely, it now opens more easily when it rains.

I breathe in the soggy, cool air. The mingled scents of wet greenery and damp, rotting leaves greet me. The rain has stopped and a steady flow of grey and white clouds chase each other overhead, blowing in from the south. The wind is vehement. The noise it’s making as it travels through the estate is loud and powerful, like a lion’s roar. A crow is hanging onto a high leafless branch, sitting into the wind as it is blown this way and that, until it gives up the fight and takes off, allowing the gusts to take it, going with the flow.

The kettle boils behind me and, closing the door again, I pour the water with a satisfying hiss onto the waiting teabag, then grab a cloth to dry the crockery sitting on the draining board while it brews. There’s a pleasant ritual-like quality to replacing each item in its correct position, to begin the day anew. With the cleared space left behind, I can set up today’s food.

I feed Minginish first, before he can start complaining. His grating whine will quickly irritate me, as I realise I’m still cross about the form-filling and hurdle-jumping from last night’s writing class. Don’t these people know that’s the quickest way to kill creativity? By trying to control it. I feel the sense of constriction it imposes, as I begin to fill the plastic container in my hands with frozen chicken wings for the dogs’ tea. Their icey rigidity will thaw as the day progresses.

I fetch the milk from the doorstep, pick up the sodden towel which Minginish – grumpy old man that he is – insists is the only thing he can pee on successfully in winter, and place it in the washing machine. It stinks of fish.

I lift Oriah’s book* from the shelf and open it at random. Mug of tea in hand, I sit down to read. She’s writing about letting go of her finished books, about the contradictions within success and creativity, about the attachment writers feel to their work and how easy it is to over-identify with what we’ve created, so we become vulnerable to rejection, focusing on the end-product instead of the joy of the process.

I feel my heart warming. I look up to see the sparrows have arrived for breakfast on my bird table, hanging on precariously to the swaying feeders being blown unceremoniously from side to side. They are joined briefly by a darting coal-tit before they all rush away, disappearing into thin air.

I turn back to the book. She’s quoting from an interview she’s seen with Martin Sheen. “I’m not asked to be successful,” he says. “I’m asked to be faithful … to myself.” Now I feel ready to begin my day. I pick up my pen and start to write.

*What We Ache For by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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