My daughter sits on my unmade bed, cross-legged, and asks me to test her A-level Geography. This is the third week of exams, the somewhat hellish and rigorous academic process on which access to university is granted, or denied. A future dangled, but not delivered, unless she can recount every type and characteristic of volcanic lava, should it be required. The maddening need to learn everything just in case something comes up in the exam. We cover tectonic plates and I think of a place deep, deep down, envisaging a hinterworld of this earth, dark and mysterious.
My own tectonic plates have shifted, and that accounts for my absence from writing for a couple of months. The tremors that threatened at Christmas eventually featured on our own personal Richter scale, and life shifted into something alternate. It’s only now that I am surfacing.
Sleep eludes me, and I lie awake listening for the dawn chorus. Early summer, and the birds are vocal as light threatens, a lone car passes and I wonder who is driving anywhere at 4.02am? I pad downstairs and see the two shady Adirondack chairs in the garden – twinning – they look back at me, at the house, reproachfully.
In recent months I’ve taken to the water, in a way that makes sense, given my coastal proximity. So drawn to it that I make a daily pilgrimage there, to walk and watch the tides. It’s an age-old salve. I am learning to sail, I’ve kayaked and yesterday, paddle-boarded, all with friends who offer me their equipment and their time. As I stood on the grainy board, toes clenched, calves shivering with balance, I looked under the water at the seaweed fanned out, just beneath, and willed myself not to fall in. My love for the water is all very well, but I don’t want to be strangled in green weed. Afterwards, my hips ache and bruise from carrying the paddle board, my protective layer of fat gone.
My children look at me sidewards, and raise an eyebrow. Dinner is late. The house disordered. Certain songs are off-limits and we now have sanctioned playlists. Life goes on.
The thing with tectonic plates is that we imagine they are static; that they’ll hold, as they’ve been there so damn long, surely they won’t move? But they do, sometimes imperceptibly and sometimes with force. Nature asserting itself. And the landscape changes, and we get used to the new normal, wondering if the old normal ever really existed after all.
I find myself in coffee shop queues, making friends with strangers. Human life takes on new possibilities when continents collide. But yet, everyone is still here, the days keep coming, and as I tell my daughter as she stands poised at the door of her own future; ‘the world will keep on spinning, no matter what happens.’ The same applies to me.
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