Fire and Ice (love, loss, & covid-19)

It’s been a long time, I know. Since I last wrote here I performed in another play, I hosted a ‘Dream Setting’ evening at home, I made an application to Arts Council England to fund the promise I made in 2016: to travel and write.

I got it. I got it. They have funded my two month journey across the seas. An adventure that has lived in my cells, and glided gently across my diaries pages for years. But now the skies are as clear as the coast. The planes have stopped, the people on curfew and the islands have locked their doors. Something is outside, we don’t know what. All I know is that this ghost-like disease has stretched its cool long claws into every corner of our lives. Futures snatched from fingertips, dreams almost in our reach float back like balloons to other peoples ceilings. People gone today that were wrapped tightly in yesterdays arms.

COVID-19 is brutal. It has me video call students to teach, it has people locked up home in quarantine, permitted to go out once a day. People have lost work, money, hope. People are side-eyeing strangers coughing, sneezing, moving, running when they get too close, the space between them the space between freedom and fines, death and life, lungs are echoing the Amazon’s call and we are pulverised.

I am at home, alone, as I have been for four weeks. Still trembling when I pick up my pen, still wringing words from my wrists like ribbons, building cities of ink.

Something about quarantine seems serene. There is a safety in slowing down, in the country on its knees, the world has stopped so the earth can breathe. My life unfurls before me and I am breathing it back into my blessings.

This crises has me thinking about change, about the things that end beneath smokey skies. About loneliness and grief; these translucent vines that curl around my thighs, slither up my arms, down and around my chest and neck, squeezing like a vice, tightening, loosening. Year out, year in.

So much of who I am has been interlaced within the lives of other women. The 20’s has a way of quietly picking these laces. Friendships bloom, wound, wilt, they end how coronavirus started: with no distinct catalyst.

Some end in an instant. We feel the cracks. Years drop like weights onto hurts that shake foundations, the cracks grow deeper and wider. One small match is one day lit in a corner of our delicately built castle and flickers to flame, flames to flare. The flare becomes a furious blaze and we lose all in the scorching inferno.

But some bonds grow cool. Sometimes whatever we are chasing out there is bigger, and more important than the soft silver moon we hold in our palms. Distance becomes our dance, replies spread over days, birthdays half-assed or forgotten completely, and unshared thoughts get lost in their icy spirals. Memories, like glaciers, melt in moments of light, painful as they go, but soothing to look back at.

I am aware I play a role in every ending. With men I have a fear of being shortchanged. I fear that I they will squeeze me of all my juice and honey, that I will build and buy and birth, while they give slivers of themselves in return. But men are not inherently abusive. With women I have a fear of exposure. I fear that if I lay out my sharp edges and dark corners before them, that if I am truly honest about the things that hurt me, I will set myself up for attack. I retreat with my shield and my muzzle. But not all women crucify.

We are each the centre of our own intricate systems, gripped by the wars in our hearts. Sometimes when we come together we are not alchemists; we are cruel and chaotic. Sometimes our timelines knot and loop in curious and peculiar new rhythms and some love ends where new love begins. A tribe is a beautiful thing but it is allowed to change. People are allowed to walk their paths and I am allowed to fill the space that they left.

Hero’s Journeys are depicted as thrilling adventures that span oceans, but maybe the real journey is an inward passage. Maybe it is being still, at home, allowing myself to ache. Maybe it is knowing trust in the time of covid-19, and cherishing the love that blooms and butterflies. Knowing that a loss is a spirit changed, that the butterflies have gifted me questions and wounds that guide me towards roads I would otherwise never brave, and through the fire, beneath the ice, there is me. Ready to meet myself for the first time.

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