‘Now I tie my pyjamas loosely round me, and lie under this thin sheet afloat in the shallow light which is like a film of water drawn over my eyes by a wave.’
A hard and remote milky blue ceiling of sky over the field; cold tears standing behind my eyes.
It’s dark but the sky is coming up, peach grey, worm, and alizarin. And as far as Longforgan, and then nothing; a slow-moving cord of haar from floor to ceiling, a thick wall of water seeping deep into the cup of the hills, and it’s cold, and heavy and grey, while the smell of the fields is cold and heavy and astringent; humid and clean. Earth. Earth; stubble and a rotting mustard crop on one side of the lane, gouged ground on the other; wet, heavy earth, turned tidal into deep black welts. A blackbird sings over everything. (Wednesday 15 February)
‘But I will stretch my toes so that they touch the rail at the end of the bed; I will assure myself, touching the rail, of something hard. Now I cannot sink; cannot altogether fall through the thin sheet now. Now I spread my body on this frail mattress and hang suspended. I am above the earth now. I am no longer upright, to be knocked against and damaged.’
Now for the wet and the cloud. The field all-silent, as if offered from another world. Only birds and a bitter cold wind – against the wars and famines, the expulsions and forced migrations—A heartless and perfect beauty: the snowdrops ruby red; soft; silky to the touch, their green stems like veins outside a body; snowdrops on the graves; the field orange and tan; and the pure disembodied silence—In my life—nothing urgent, nothing pressing; only this soft sky above the village, all painted, and looking very near; running deer tracks in Kirkton Wood. Reading Carson – a woodpecker at the sardine tins. (Wednesday 22 February)
‘Let me pull myself out of these waters. But they heap themselves on me; they sweep me between their great shoulders; I am turned; I am tumbled; I am stretched, among these long lights, these long waves, these endless paths, with people pursuing, pursuing.’
Doris moves east from Ireland – a great storm; wet snow on the garden; slabs of thick white slush; air cleanliness, not a soap and water one. Oddly enough I woke up thinking of D.’s redhead hair; Pre-Raphaelites; the cramped room in Ballyfermot and the small farm in Kilkenny—the overflow pipe continues its metronomic dripping onto the shed roof; dot … dot … dot … Last night I made a start on an essay – in mind since October last year – with the line: ‘This essay is written – facing the wall – in the cramped tunnel beyond these dots; in the darkness that followed their creation.’ (The dots in question are The Six Red Dots found at the furthermost reaches of the Lascaux caves in France.) Now straight unbroken sleet. Trees red spotted with rowanberries – only just visible in the grey downpour. (Thursday 23 February)
What I give is fallen.
Spurs – visions of truth yield nothing but by occasion – the sempiternal façade of continuity to our selves; makes much of each flat and holy shadow, as of all our shadows.
Umber – raw sienna, orange, but it’s tubes of ‘dead pharaoh’ – ‘Mummy brown,’ that make the ploughed field; the voices of children like birds.
‘The day is stark and stiff as a linen shroud. But it will soften; it will warm. At this hour, this still early hour, I think I am the field, I am the barn, I am the trees; mine are the flocks of birds, and this young hare who leaps, at the last moment when I step almost on him. Mine is heron that stretches its vast wings lazily; and the cow that creaks as it pushes one foot before another munching; and the wild, swooping swallow; and the faint red in the sky, and the green when the red fades; the silence and the bell; the call of the man fetching cart-horses from the fields—all are mine.’
‘All that lies over the water in the brain of that ridiculous little man. Why ridiculous? Because none of it fits. Encloses no reality. Death & war & darkness representing nothing that any human being from the Pork butcher to the Prime Minister cares one straw about. Not liberty, not life … merely a housemaids dream. And we woke from that dream & have the Cenotaph to remind us of the fruits.’ (Monday 5 September 1938)
Roy Batty| back in the real world| Pygmalion| Vapour trails
‘Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of a candle … I think sometimes (I am not twenty yet) I am not a woman, but the light that falls on this gate, on this ground. I am the seasons, I think sometimes, January, May, November; the mud, the mist, the dawn.’
‘L. is doing the rhododendrons …’ (Monday 24 March 1941)
Grey day. Overslept, and not well. Read Brockington – on Bell. Set the fire; read over the fire; stayed in all day except to fill the pale with coal – dirty-yellow pale, black coal; straight unbroken rain; clay-coloured sky, the colour of ash over the field. The pillowcase a shade of blue that reminded me of Franz Marc’s Large Blue Horses – a welcome thought on a featureless, grey and wintery day, Bell’s paintings the exception. (Sunday 26 February)
The wasp byke, close up and out of focus—like the screen of a confessional; Moorish window architecture; Fellini’s 8 1/2; Abraham’s Motional—bits of desiccated wasp, near powder; brushed to the floor with a bookmark in the way that a cat pushes a pen or a clothes peg over the edge of a table. There have been no cumulus for a long time, only clear blue sky or grey impenetrable stratus … sky a dirty shade of wall pitted with a mould, pin holed to another universe where a painter pricks a charcoal cartoon for a late settlement of piety having received confirmation of Saint Helena’s vision of the true cross; Courbet’s Red Apples. (Monday 27 February)
‘When you are silent you are again beautiful. I shall never have anything but natural happiness. It will almost content me. I shall go to bed tired. I shall lie like a field bearing crops in rotation; in the summer heat will dance over me; in the winter I shall be cracked with the cold. But heat and cold will follow each other naturally without my willing or unwilling.’