the air



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– photo by Helen




The political air may be foetid and menacing, but on my bike ride this morning it was rich : humid, green; steamy; fragrant with memory. Weeks of rain, swollen skies, sometimes strange and cold, otherwise fungal and clammy, tropical : and yet I go back to twenty four and the melancholy of a particular summer listening to Under The Pink and the soundtrack to The Piano, not knowing what to do with my life but taking solace from the music and the sky; the way clouds drift along so rapidly in England, a particular scent of hedgerows and trees that I nevertheless was just plunged into as I rode past the local forest entrance that leads to Kamakura; before, a little earlier I was immersed in my thoughts about the dangerous and alarming climate the world is foolishly entering into but suddenly I passed into another realm; I was in my maternal grandmother’s garden in summertime; her yellow dress; the fierce smell of roses that I would lie amongst and sunbathe, happy as Larry, the sprinkler on the lawn, her bird baths and gnomes and garden fairies; a kitsch paradise of flowers and natural perfume aerated by cloudless blue; how odd that we don’t consciously conjure these memories with a sought out association but PASS INTO THEM, unknowingly, like chambers (does all of our life still exist within us, rooms to be unlocked, at random?) My heart lifts, I keep pedalling, down past the beginnings of winter oranges growing solemnly in oiled, dark green leaves, flowers whose Japanese, and English names I am unfamiliar with but whose scent reminds me of now; and the LILIES, wild, flowering from gardens, in the mountains, by the side of the road… perfumed, insane, oblivious …….


Filed under Flowers

15 responses to “the air

  1. Phyllis Ann Iervello

    What a beautiful and melancholy post. I love what you said about our memories. I for one know I do compartmentalize things…especially the bad ones, however, sometimes I do unlock them, even if only to myself but I am not sure that is a good thing either. Thanks so much for your meaningful post. I will sleep well tonight.

  2. Robin

    Thank you for this beautiful piece of reminiscence.

    • Thanks for reading. I was just struck today in particular by how unbelievably intense and powerful our brain and nasal receptors are : also, that although my memories were based in England, their precise Japanese equivalents also exist : it was almost uncanny, like passing through air into another time zone and then out again…, and even just a few seconds of it is enough to really boost your entire mood. And all that just from some plants by the roadside

  3. ‘does all our life still live within us….’ – yes! as I have got older I feel like I live in my whole life, not just the present. It’s a rich and amazing feeling, that it’s all with me, the good and the bad, all the times and the people – like there is no past but all present. So hard to describe! I have come across this feeling written about by others as well, and am convinced that it’s one of the wonderful things about getting older. Or maybe just for some…

    • I agree that it is definitely one of the good things about getting older; all that temporal space held within is absolutely fascinating. And it is strange that the happy and sad memories were almost equally enjoyable to re-experience ….

      • emmawoolf

        Interesting. I thought this might just be me. I feel like this a lot of the time, and thought it was a sign of impending dementia. I find that the young me – the 18-25-year-old, is with me quite a lot of the time, and those years and experiences of my formative years. But the 30s me: I can hardly remember it at all. Perhaps that’s what childbearing and early parenthood does to the brain. Am not sure. For you?

      • Childbirth and the long labor for me definitely impacted my memory

      • No but seriously, I can’t even imagine what that must be like : amazing and beautiful in ways I will never know but also completely overwhelming. Perhaps the brain system suppresses itself in a way for the sake of being a Mother

  4. emmawoolf

    I love this. Beautiful and sad. It makes me ache a bit.

    • I know what you mean. I just came in from the bike ride sat down on the sofa and wrote it and felt somehow churned, but ultimately I think this is a happy and positive paragraph because I really felt an almost joyous feeling of SENTIENCE, if you know what I mean : a real delight in being able to be so swayed by my senses that allows us to escape from the shit of the world.

  5. Tara C

    This is so true – our whole lives are hidden in our memory banks and can be called up at any time, triggered by a thought, a sight, a smell. Just last night I was thinking of a sad memory that still causes me pain and shame; something I did 42 years ago. I wish the bad memories would go away, but you have to take the bad with the good unfortunately.

    • You do. Imagine, though, if we didn’t have such pungent access, but were forced to just trudge onwards, watching fascist dictators like T on TV. Thank god for the senses as an escape !

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