Monday, 26 December 2016

The alchemy of love

I never discussed the science or philosophy of alchemy with you and I don't need to. I already know that the very word 'alchemy' would have made your heart sing and if you could play it on a Triple Word Score, all the better. Alchemy encapsulates the realms of physics and metaphysics and, at its simplest level, metallurgy. It epitomises for me the man you were: a giant who had his feet firmly planted in the ground of reality and his head so far into the clouds that he could touch the stars. Historically, alchemists sought to transmute base metals into gold, to cure disease and to discover a way to prolong life but, metaphorically speaking, alchemy is, according to Merriam Webster, 'a power or process of transforming something common into something special'. Alchemy is akin to magic and there was always something of the wizard about you. It was there from the first day we spent together, transforming old iron into the poker that looked like Ginny Weasley's wand. 'Magical thinking', you said, with a nod to my ex, the rationalist. There was magic in the air from the moment we connected. When we first went for a walk together at Redmires, you took photos and I wrote you a poem: 'the perfect way to remember a magical day,' you said. And it really was. 

In February, we walked further afield, along the river to Pateley Bridge and stopped off in the workshops of some makers. We admired some jewellery and I admired you as you chatted to the jeweller about the mysteries of titanium and about the placing of rivets. I asked you if you'd ever thought of making jewellery and you told me that you had a coffee pot of silver somewhere in your house and that you were thinking of trying to make me something. Your words amused me so much that I wrote them down. Who else would have a coffee pot of silver?

A few months ago, I walked that path again, this time with the silver decanted into a plastic bag. Your family had found it in the junk shop that was your house and kindly agreed to let me take it to the jeweller. It was like something from a fairy tale, walking along the river with thirty pieces of silver, hoping that she could make a permanent reminder of our love.

We emptied the bag onto the counter and looked through the pile of common objects. Something about this mish-mash of the precious with the mundane was so very you. We found the innards of mobile phones, bottle tops and crucifixes, such an odd assortment, but all of it silver, all of it usable. You knew what you were doing when you stored it for some future date that never arrived, although, in the end it did arrive, just not the way you planned it. I cried, of course, as I told her again about you and about our story and she promised to make me something, perhaps in time for Christmas.

Today the parcel arrived. I was nervous as I opened the box, scared that I might not like it. I'd given the jeweller some ideas but left it to her to create something that she thought fitting. I gasped like a child opening a magic lid when I peeped inside. It was perfect. From those old scraps of metal she had made something beautiful, special, magical. I put it on and it fit like Cinderella's slipper. It is a treasure trove of clouds and hearts, stars and rivets, intersected by the bark of trees. It is the perfect reminder of our time together, a way to keep you always with me. 

As I sit here now facing Christmas without you, I am surrounded by mementos of our time together. The photo from our first magical day out is blown up as a canvas and sitting in pride of place on my wall, the poker rests by the log-burning stove, the Stardust print that you gave me for my birthday is framed and sitting on my desk and there is a little corner of my shelves which houses your bat in his tin, the collage that you made last new year and the photo that you first sent when you were hoping to capture my heart. And now, on my finger, this ring, a sign of our love. It's not a wedding ring. Death did us part. I can no longer give myself to you, or share my life with you, but with all that I am, I honour you and in all that I go on to do, I will remember you. 

I am grateful, Blacksmith, for all the things that you gave me, the physical and the intangible, all the things that you left me with. You weren't able to prolong your own life or cure your disease but, nevertheless you were an alchemist: every day with you was a day out of the ordinary. You transformed the common into something special. I sit here and know that I am also transformed, by your love and by this grief that has ripped through my life like a tornado. I will never be the same because of you. But I'm so glad to have known the alchemy of your love.

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