This weekend, in a rather masochistic mood, I decided to clean out. I mean, The Big Clean, the one I promised myself I would attempt over the summer. These are the things that slip behind while what we call 'life' goes on, right?
You may not know this but in my house I have many wooden trunks. I used to collect them. You may also not know that I moved around quite a lot in the early years (I was even going to say 'self-defining years', but when does one ever finish defining Self; we are all works-in-progress). So, in these many wooden trunks I have been stashing letters, photographs, kids' drawings, unwanted jewellery, beads, more photographs, beady-eyed sculptures, torn diaries, for years and years.
I need a drink before I can open them.
As I began I remembered something that a friend once wrote to me - in a handwritten letter!- that stuck. She spoke about the moment that she was putting out the rubbish and she looked back to the lights of her house, where her family (since split up, re-partnered, split up) had just finished dinner. She said that in that moment, she saw her life, and she realised she was content.
And then, at the bottom of the trunk, face down, I saw love. Oh geez. That knocked me for six. You remember it. You wanted it so hard, you fought for it so hard.
And you lost, by the way.
I wonder. And yet, looking at these innumerable photos, you see moments where it worked, where there was harmony, deep and fundamental harmony or snatches of it.
Years ago, when my kids were young and we had come to live in this house, I used to go outside in the dark with a cup of tea and look up at the bedroom lights glowing. Even then I knew I was holding onto it, that these moments were vast and finite. Now, most of my kids have moved out to study and I rather enjoy walking up to the main road with the rubbish, along the unsealed drive between the vineyard and the green winter wheat, with the dark villa on the rise looking like Arnold Böcklin's Island of the Dead. It isn't a long walk, but it's enough to allow a few thoughts to wriggle loose. On the way down the hill - always - I see the house lit up, less than in years passed, and I think Yes, this is happening now, this is what it is.
Not a bad thought.
In other wild and alluring news from the ranch I spotted a pair of hipsters at my local country supermarket. I began a sneaky pursuit. Were they real hipsters who had moved here to grow cherries? Were they on a visit to some confounded farmer - a family relative? I followed the girl's blue hair and the guy's cropped beard and tattooed neck and rolled-up jeans until they cottoned on to my crooked trolley full of dog food.
It remains a mystery.