Today, I feel I have everything that I want and need. It is blowing a gale outside, it is raining heavily and there is no sign of the storm abating. I have things to do – shopping for example. I have a language class to go to later and I have written a piece to bring and share and I have had a stab at translation.
I am barely competent at the most basic French – I can order food and get a drink. I can ask for directions to the post office….. but I can’t understand the answers I am given. Instead, I follow the body language and I repeat my question every fifty meters or so, and bit by bit I get to where it is I wanted to go gradually navigating the way and landing like a homing pigeon. It is a triumph to be able to ask for my stamps in French and to be able to conduct the whole transaction in French.
Other things don’t work quite so well. As I reached over to weigh a card, my bag dunted a small child on the head. I had no words to tell her how sorry I was and that I had not meant to hurt her. She was just little. I am hoping that body language, and the nuances of tone and consolation, translated to her.
This is time to reflect – to ‘travel deeply and gently with myself’ as my most loved guide and mentor John Nkum has told me. I am reading, writing, meditating, thinking, walking. I cook. I shop for food daily. Reflection is a good place to go.
The phone has stopped ringing. No emails come that are not mindless circulars and e-shots. They are easily dismissible. No texts come. I feel far away from everyone – but closer to my self and welcome the solitude that I have craved for so long.
I write letters to anyone who has responded to my offer that I would write to them if they wanted me to. The letters have a function at several levels. They are a personal communication between me and another. They are tangible, they are physical – something I have held in my hands, made my marks on and let go from me – something that actually travels the distance from me to someone else – that has it’s own odyssey, a magical mystery tour and pops in through someone else’s letter box, thousands of miles from here, with my words carrying the stories and the messages I have for them – that person, that individual…… no one else – a specific person.
As I write the letters I reflect on where I am, what it is is happening in the here and now, but I am also aware the letters are a response to the person I am writing to – bringing news or messages I have for them. I notice that the responses differ depending on how well I know the other, the relationship we have, the context of the connection -it is a space within which to be slow, deliberate, curious and to focus on what is most everyday, ordinary, minute
In writing, I get to travel inwards to myself as I simultaneously reach out to another. Hand-writing is as personal as a thumbprint or the retina of one’s eye. It’s personal. Today’s handwriting is tomorrow’s hieroglyphics. Hand-writing is, in itself a unique work of art – the sum of aptitude, motor processing, education, habit, patterning, mood, available time, – the ‘weather’ of the state of each individual relationship.
The physical act of hand-writing is such a different experience from typing, texting- all electronic media. There is an immediacy and an intimacy to the communication. it needs no breath under the words – something else is at work…. writing becomes a conversation – inner me, to inner you.
Last week alone, I wrote about forty personal letters. I have more requests now. I have gotten some short messages to let me know that the letters themselves are landing – a confetti, from Antibes to Belfast, Amsterdam, Coalisland, Devon, Newcastle Co. Down and Newcastle-on -Tyne, to Fermanagh, and Galway, Dublin, Austria, Skibbereen, Stockholm, Downpatrick, Portaferry, Ballycastle, Trim, Limerick, Dungannon, Belleek, Ferring, Cookstown, Claddaghduff, Newtwonards, Glasgow, Forkhill, Northumberland, Newtownbutler, Canada, San Francisco and Connemara.
The paradox of staying still, is reaching a long way; is travelling.