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mindful writing 2014

It's about noticing things and writing them down. That's what I plan to do every day for this first month of 2014. They may or may not be haiku or haibun. Mostly not, I imagine. But the notes may feed into finished haiku writing at a later date. They always have in the past. I could write them down in a book, a diary. But I often lose track of words that way: pages turned, notebooks finished or swapped. Here I can keep them all on one page.

Click to read about this challenge set up by Satya Robyn and Kaspalita Thompson of Writing Your Way Home.

I've got my bonnet up, Tony repeats for the third time on the phone to the guy from Triple A who's on his way to charge the flat battery on the Cadillac. Hood, I'm shouting from the other room. It's a hood here in the US. But by now he's hung up leaving the guy imagining an Englishman in a bonnet waving to him from the roadside as he pulls in off Bayview Drive. And a trunk, I say. Please don't ask him to look in your boot.

There is a point when the sound of the plane through the cloud locked sky ceases to exist. But only for me. Someone further north is listening to it now, might look up to see if there's a break in the mottled grey. It makes me think of you, my friend, your passing beyond the reach of the people you loved, who loved you. But someone somewhere is meeting you for the first time, hearing your voice between the pages of a book, running a finger along a line about the 'laughter of dogs way across the snow' and knowing exactly what you mean. 

water on all sides of us surround
sound rain the waterway
a shivering skin a sky pressing
down like a memory of
regret we try not to speak

I want the news of your death to be greatly exaggerated. I want you to be Lazarus. The unbelievable. The black joke leaping from beneath a covered sheet and laughing at the stricken faces. I want to hear your laughter, the boom of joy that could fill a room. All this for me. For you I want this absence of pain, the last breath, the release, the silence on this date I mark after your name.

how the heron lifts a foot
suspends it in the air waiting
for the smallest movement in the grass
the moment between life and death
I hold my breath

A friend is dying and I am watching the sunrise over the Atlantic, 5000 miles away. I want his pain to stop. I want to share a bottle of red with him on a raised wooden deck next to the woods in a small village in North Wales. I want to hear him laugh. And there is nothing I can do to change all this. The dying and the wanting. Tomorrow another sunrise. The living, the dying. More wanting and not wanting.

I am trying to understand concentric circles from a stone dropped in water, or a fish leaping into the air and returning home. No matter what the object, what shape and weight, still circles, the energy from the downward motion becoming the energy pushing outward from the centre, equally, in all directions, waves, ripples. One element responding to another. The stone has sunk. The fish has swum away. The water calms its skin.

yesterday a milky slip between the grey
today an orchestra of clouds on fire 
so many mornings I miss the light
rise over the curve of our earth
go about my daily tasks in ignorance

22 & 23
They could kill me, these men in the front of the car, laughing uproariously at their own jokes, tagging each other like children as the car swerves into the middle of the road into the path of a big black 4x4 and I yell, Joe!, slapping the back of his head, pulling his hair. And it's even less funny when he twists around and spills black-jack sized slices of pineapple and garlic into my hand so I can, their laughter louder now, make little stacked sandwiches with them and I throw them back at him and realise he's naked. I suppose it's inevitable that I'll offer to drive after they stop for brandies at a hotel that only exists in my conscious memory but I'm unfamiliar with an automatic and the accelerator pedal feels so much like the brake until I slip the gear stick into park and the car spins at a 90 degree angle and stops just before the traffic lights. So it's perhaps appropriate that I walk home along Hospital Road, after all I have saved myself, but I'm unprepared for my mother's kitchen where Tony is crisping the skin of a side of salmon in a pan as big as a wheel trim and searing a 6lb chicken breast in another. Delicious, he says, spooning spices and oil over the sizzling flesh, and things have worked out well in the end. And I am home and there's food to eat. But I still don't know whether I should take the train to London tonight or in the morning. How much time do I really have?

after a sunrise of blood orange and teal the clouds slump like wet wool above the trees a voiceless rain dimples the waterway cooler now the air through the gap in the sliding doors a plane drones north east a faraway dog barks in a muffled world

The man who lives in the pale pink, patio screened house on the other side of the waterway runs a drug cartel. Every morning at 9.15 he walks around the side of the house to the dock: short, rotund, dressed in pale pants and a dark jacket snug around his hips, his head dipped down. Then he walks back. The only time all day I see him. Or maybe he's part of a witness protection program. Or a retired business-man, someone who made his money in timber. Or roofing. He doesn't look the type to have sat at a desk the whole of his life, speaking into a phone, staring out of a window across a page of figures that refused to add up. All day the house remains anonymous: no lights, no cushions on the patio table and chairs next to the pool. Not even an ashtray, or a towel. No coffee cup. Just his measured trip from the south of the house to the north, from the sun to the shade each morning. And back again.

18 & 19
Just me and singularly blue sky and half a dozen ospreys criss-crossing each others' paths, an invisible weave, their white bellies silvered by the sun as as they tip and rise. And now a plane, no larger than the wingspan of a bird, heading north. I watch until they all disappear from my line of sight, the sky an empty canvas now. 


This morning the sky is scattered with the bones and scales of fish. Later, the vapoured vertebrae of some sea-monster towers overhead. At midday the horizon's a broken quilt of cloud as precise as yesterday's sunlight on water. Air, water: the membrane between them so slight we feel we could swim in one and breathe in the other. No boundaries, nothing forbidden.

sunlight on water
At home we have the stars if the night sky is clear but here the light begins beneath the rippling surface of the pool rises to the deck lights of the single story houses on the opposite bank of the waterway then higher still over the canopy of palm trees to the two wedding-cake-like pink apartment blocks on the ocean and the lights of their late night TV watchers or insomniacs all the way up to the cherry red lights that crown their peaks. I've yet to see the stars.

the weather forecast threatens rain
but the clouds stop short - pale bruises - as if
they cannot bear the thought of all that weight
the letting go
the absence

a bright green iguana with long toes
a small lizard with a curled tail that somersaults and catches a bee
ants the size of specks of dust invisibly gnawing at my apple core

It always surprises me how time and age do not smooth away our sharp edges, ragged corners that graze our feelings. You'd think that by now we could brush away the splinters before they pierce. But here we are again, one of us, or the other, wincing or the cause of a wince. The smallest of unsatisfactory moments growing to a cactus-like hiatus. You'd think by now it would be easier to let things go. Not be a spear-wielding inhabitant of our own precious territory, prodding and poking a perceived intruder. Look over his shoulder. Look at the clear horizon.

side by side on my bedside table
a laughing Buddha and a glass dolphin
I can laugh at myself
I can swim away

the treeline echoed exactly by a fringe of clouds I'm sure when I first open my eyes

Our neighbours are wrapping their used Christmas tree like an enormous baby, swaddling it in an old soft cotton sheet stretched between them on the lawn in front of their apartment, tucking and tightening the cloth until all its precious needles are contained. They lift it, tread gently over the terrace and through the sliding doors. It swings like a lullaby.

I don't know why the face of the man in Aisle 5 in Publix reminds me of a baby bear. He has skin as smooth as a pebble and the colour of pale gold. But he has bright eyes, Though bears don't smile and his smile travels with us to Aisle 2 to find the British section and Ginger Preserve. Not honey, something a baby bear might smile about.

as if the light refuses to be drawn into the day at 8am the sky still stubbornly grey the fat ripples in the waterway the colour of mud

the things I do not expect lead to other things

hot sweet tea in bed
the surprising voice of a boy called Jack between the pages of a book
how the wind lifts and shivers through the palms

a dream of a lost cat, a dead child, the tears on my face real enough when I wake in the dark, the two tall apartment blocks on the coast trimmed with light


sunrise over the Atlantic I paint my toenails pink

15 hours of motorways, a terminal, an ocean, another terminal, an interstate road, from a closed door to an open door, a welcome that wraps us like the South Florida heat. We fall asleep to the hum of a ceiling fan, water lapping against the boat dock below our window.

The cat's luggage: 36 tins of Gourmet Slow Cooked Beef in Tomato, 3 large bags of Purina One for Sterilised Cats, 1 tube of organic chicken snacks, 1 packet of cheese Dreamies, 2 knitted throws, 2 cushions, 1 pink carry basket. Saying goodbye to a cat for a month should be easier than this. Her big black eyes follow me back to the car.

each time I stretch the memory of a scar

three things this morning:
the cat wakes me up by rolling a pen across the shelf above my head
a fringe of sunlight around the edges of the new orchard
a boiled egg with a bright orange yolk

three things this afternoon:
two fat pigeons perched on the 'unsuitable for heavy vehicles' road sign
a field of corn stalks and sunlight on puddles
a peacock and a yard full of bristly pigs

The new year begins with rain that slaps against the velux window, heavy rain, unforgiving rain that eases by dawn. That grows dumb by the time I am awake enough to look up through the glass to a single shroud of grey. Or that is what it seems to be until I look again and notice the variations in light. Clouds shifting like the un-stitched fragments of a quilt. Look again.

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