Saturday, 6 August 2016

Cloud catching

The sky was beautiful tonight. If you'd seen it, you would have captured it with your lens. Maybe you did see it. Maybe you made it especially for us. My daughter saw it, came bursting into the room saying, 'come quickly. You've got to come outside and see the sky. It is so beautiful. Can I borrow your camera. I have to take a photo.' She was right. Cracks of light shimmered like gold between the clouds and seams of sunlight jagged across the sky like lightning bolts. But when we looked through the camera, the tracks of gold disappeared. We couldn't capture them on film. Instead we stood and marvelled at them, checking with each other to make sure we weren't imagining these seams of light extending upwards in the dusk. We took some pretty pictures of the clouds anyway, running this way and that, looking from all angles, trying to catch the clouds: puffy ones, fluffy ones, clouds like feathers and angel wings.  'We should write a book called 'Cloud Catchers' she said.

Like all of us now, she thinks of you when she looks at clouds. I told her again about our last conversation, about the poem I sent and your photographic reply and your words to me: 'I love the poem, I love clouds and I love you.' She smiled and held my hand and I felt a seam of light and goodness between us, between you and me and her - the girl you never really knew but knew so much about, the girl who only really met you once, the week you died, who rushed from the room to whisper to me, 'I really like Paul. Can he stay?'

Tomorrow we're catching a plane to France for our first foreign holiday in five years. I've never taken the children on a plane on my own and I'm worried that my grief-addled brain won't get us there. I'm sad too, to be flying off to the sunshine when you are no longer living, scared almost to leave you behind, scared to leave my laptop too. But then I realise that you are no longer tethered here and of course I will take you with us. And I think about the flight and how close you will feel when I look out of the window and see those clouds around us and below us. Thinking about the flight reminds me of the poem that I wrote the day before you died, the poem that you loved and I remember that, really, it was a poem about the rollercoaster of grief, written following the death of my mum. I haven't shared it here yet, so I post it as my goodbye to Sheffield and my last blog post for a week, as we go off to catch the sun. Today I feel we are heading towards the light but I know that the clouds will come and go. A few days ago I couldn't move for grief, couldn't stop crying. Today has been the first day I haven't cried at all. I'm learning to go with the flow of this grief, enjoying the moments of respite, before the clouds roll in again, engulfing me in blackness, spilling tears like raindrops.


I collect raindrops like tears

store them up for years,
in a muffling grey blanket,
protection from the searing
rays of the sun.

And it has begun.
We break through, nose first,
hold tight as stomachs lurch
and then the bright blue glide.

Glad to be alive,
all below is candyfloss and cottonwool
and we long to be released,
to bounce on tiptoe,
light as fairies or feathers
in a pillowfight,

a delight of primary colours.
But we land in gloom
and the earth is a dirty smudge
beneath a grey-white ceiling.

There is no meaning,
no shapes, nor symbols, nor metaphors.
So bleak we cannot even see the clouds
for the sky.

Time passes by.
Rain falls and the ceiling breaks apart,
shafts of sunlight warm the skin,

illuminating everything.
Wind blows, clouds scud
like surf across the blue.

If only we knew
that it was there all along.
Clouds forming, moving, breaking


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