Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My Emily Dickinson Day

It might be because of the rain, or the Monday that feels like Sunday...whatever the reason, it's an Emily Dickinson day for me.

     One of my favourite poems by her starts "There's a certain slant of light/Winter afternoons/that oppresses(...)". It's not winter here, and I'm not sure about the slant of light, but it's a strange time of the year.
Summer's almost here, and we're all supposed to be looking forward to days on the beach, or sunbathing, travelling, chilling out...And this year I just can't chill out that easily. I am in a melancholy mood -again, perhaps because it's been raining for a couple of days now, perhaps because I look back to the year that's about to end and, although on balance it's been well positive, I just can't shake off that easily certain things that happened -certain connections that came about and sometimes failed.

    And so it's an Emily Dickinson day...and I remembered something I wrote a few years ago and thought I'd share it with you.
     Because it might also be what growing up feels like; words you know you want to say but keep to yourself because you're not sure how they will affect someone you care for, words you want to shout but know better, looks and gestures that you now understand more fully, and are not quite sure how to handle, what to do with them...

It's Monday -and it's been raining. And here's a somewhat more articulate way of expressing my feelings:

Rainy days and Mondays

“Rain, rain, go away
come again another day”
(Trad. Song)

“There’s a certain Slant of light,
 Winter afternoons--
 That oppresses, like the Heft
 Of Cathedral Tunes--”
 (E.Dickinson,258,Harvard edition)

I can picture my mother –ages ago, when I was still far from existing- sitting by the window enduring the particular slant of light of a Sunday afternoon. I know it moved her deeply –she has told me- and that the Sunday twilight always used to make her uneasy. She was young and new to a bigger city and perhaps she felt lonely. Then again, this anxiety, this uneasiness may have also had to do with the fact that the weekend was ending, and a new week was stretching out before her. At the time she held two jobs and carried out studies at University, so resuming her routine on Mondays can’t have been easy. I imagine she wouldn’t just slip into it like into an old, tattered -but cosy- slipper. There was some effort involved. Some breaking in of a new week, like the one you need to do with a new pair of pointe shoes.

It took me years to understand and share that feeling. My own restlessness begins on Sunday evening and worsens with the colours of dawn. At night I toss and turn, going in my mind through all the errands and usual activities of Mondays. At 6.30 I wake up and a little later, when daybreak begins, and I can see all the pinks and pale blues of the sky, my heart sinks. Mondays are oppressive, endless –or so it seems at that hour.

It was different as a child. Mondays were a source of joy; on waking up, there were visions of school breaks, of friends, of learning. I looked forward to Monday activities, to all the running around and having fun. There were, alas, no anxious thoughts or wishing that the week would come to an end as fast as possible. Carpe diem; unconsciously, we took it day by day. Starting by Monday.

Rainy days were a celebration then, too. Against every adult’s advice we children would skip puddles, reject umbrellas and let the rain run down our faces and the wind mess with our hair. We tend to lose that as we grow old. We become wary of ruining a good pair of shoes or a hair-do, of getting racoon eyes from non-waterproof mascara. We run for cover if we’re outdoors and caught off-guard. We miss our umbrellas and improvise, covering our heads and faces with arms and hands and newspapers.

When do we start to change? How and why do we just let go of all that carefree joy? Is that what becoming an adult really is about? Grim Mondays and scurrying in the rain? I can still enjoy a rainy day, but only indoors. I can sit by the window and watch little drops fall on the glass and then look out on the street as if through a kaleidoscope. I take delight in hearing the pitter patter on a rugged tin roof. But something’s missing. Something has been forever lost. I can’t find a name for it. As Dickinson put it, I can find no “scar,/ But internal difference,/ Where the Meanings, are--”.

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