Love Letter to a Home that Never was

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The warm sun on my skin, the stillness of an evening
When the light’s just right, from my balcony
Your rustling grasses, your papery leaves
The thick dense bark, the shiny bark-free

Following the line of often invisible watercourses, the stands of trees
Ochre stoned ground, cascading hills
The twist of a mountain road, the asphalt of a modern highway
Groves across the hills, farms in the valleys

The never-ending whine of the two-wheeled
An impromptu concert of horns
Distant cars on the highway in the warm darkness
The bray of a steadfast donkey

The sun-baked goods of your fields
The bleach and echo of your fish market
The rhythms of your days, the rhythms of your voices
A twang of wire echoing over wood

The colours of your walls, the cool whiteness of your buildings
The rise and fall of tiled roofs, ornately barred windows
Shaded courtyards, splash of flowers, yet more metalwork
The mustiness of an unloved place

Your bumps in the road of history, the poverty
The tangled, narrow streets of your older districts
The ever-taller tower blocks, the houses sprawling out into the once countryside
The boom, the bust

I still love you, in the flashes of memories and in the achings of the night
I still love you, be you dream or fantasy or mere illusion
I will love you, forever and wherever

(written September 2015)

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A Picture Metaphor of Depression

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A Colour Image of a Sunshiney Day on a Beach with a Black and White Person - A Visual Metaphor for Depression

I opened up this file and had a strong feeling of how I wanted to process the image.  At the time, I didn’t know why, just that it would be a lot of work and concentration for my shaky fingers and foggy brain.  As I worked away, slowly rubbing away the colour from the figure in the centre of the photo, what this image represented to me became clear.

This is what Depression feels like from the Inside.  The world can be beautiful, full of figurative and physical sunshine and yet you are numb, distant, Outside of all of it.  There is the World and there is You.  You belong neither in the World or even really in You.

Perhaps if you see this picture, either the image above or in real life, it’s easy to see the World and it’s easy to see a Person.  But you on the Outside, do you see how Depression is?

Perhaps you cannot understand how it feels to be miserable, to be numb, to feel completely alienated from the Outside.  You see the sunshine, you see the sand, you see the sea and you feel happy.  Perhaps you cannot understand how it is possible to not feel happiness in such a beautiful place, on such a beautiful day.

I don’t understand either, I have to admit, but this image, to me, represents what Depression feels like, how Depression can look like.  Just as it is hard to recognise or understand the Outside, especially a true or real Outside when you suffer with Depression, perhaps it is also hard to understand the Darkness from the Outside.

Submitted to WordPress’ Daily Prompt:The Outsiders

Finding Words – Or Trying to

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A Word Cloud of How Depression Can Feel

Howl

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My heart howls
It weeps for lost things
It sighs for past things
It beats, it loves

My heart howls
I’m not a Braveheart, a Lionheart
I’m just an everyday heart
I beat, I love

My heart howls
It clocks the shortening nights
And wants to set everything to rights
It beats, it loves

My heart howls
I’m not strong enough for this pain
It’s just too much strain
I beat, I love

My heart howls
It is powerless against the darkening
Yet it keeps on pretending
It beats, it loves

Defences

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Yellow Jelly Heart Sweet

Our hearts are delicate, intricate organs, psychologically as well as physically.  We connect the heart with emotions and perhaps that is why it means so much to us; it’s probably the first organ that we learnt to draw and likely the only one that we still do.  Our hearts connect with every part of the body, perhaps more obviously and visually than the brain and its nerve connections, and that internal flow perhaps also best represents the connectedness of our inner being; the state of our physical and psychological hearts affect every fibre of our being.

Heart health, with increased awareness and rising risks, has become a huge issue in modern life, almost a ‘buzz’ word in its own right.  Perhaps you consciously adopt various strategies, whether through exercise or diet, that will keep your heart healthier, stronger and for longer.  But what about your psychological heart?

Despite scientific knowledge shedding greater light and understanding on the psychological, on our innermost, deepest and most mysterious workings, we perhaps have moved no further forward in appreciation.  In fact, it could be argued that, despite modern knowledge, modern lifestyles actually are at greatest conflict with our psychological health than at any other more backwards, more primitive point in history.  What do you think?

However, we do intuitively protect our psychological hearts and sometimes we adopt some rather odd strategies to do so.  These strategies can be difficult to comprehend; in fact they can give a misleading, if not totally erroneous, impression.  I watch a friend do this and at times, I have to defend her attitude to others.  I know why she says and acts the way she does because I do it too.

Our hearts are delicate but they have so much work to do, it never stops and can’t, but sometimes that can become too much, too much pressure and it hurts.  How do you deal with heart pain?  Do you have a tried and tested strategy or perhaps have you even found a cure?

I haven’t.

But I know that some people turn to medicating, they find things that they hope will at least distract or block out the pain so they can go coping, pretending that their hearts aren’t as sore as they really are, that their hearts aren’t as overworked as they really are.  Maybe they use physical things like alcohol or maybe they trust in a psychological cure for their psychological hearts, seeking out good times and thrills and pleasures so that they can pretend that their heart is feeling all that too.

Sometimes we try putting up walls around our hearts, not letting people in, not letting them poke at our sore, damaged little hearts.  It’s hard to build a wall, a physical line of defence around an organ, physically or psychologically.  It’s not very effective, it’s not easy to maintain.  We tend to avoid things, or people, instead.  Perhaps we follow the heart health advice of ‘taking it easy’, avoiding the thrills or triggers that might just be too much.

The problem also with those walls is that we can give the impression that we don’t care, that we are mean or unloving or that we are callous.  We forget what ‘calloused’ really means, it’s not always a conscious choice or decision but a process.  Hearts became calloused, or at least give the impression of being calloused, because they have been damaged.  Calloused is the scar tissue, the burn, the damage.  Calloused doesn’t really mean a heart that doesn’t care but it’s a heart that has cared too much for too long.

Don’t judge people by what they say.  Look beyond the words and remember the stories of their hearts.  Often those who claim or pretend not to care are those who care most but their hearts are worn out, damaged, broken.  They are doing their best to be responsible, to stay alive and protect their heart from any further damage.  It’s not easy and the words, the attitude can be something like bravado; it is ourselves that we are trying to convince, we are trying to distance ourselves.  But we never chose to care in the first place, it is our deepest instinct and it’s not one that is silenced easily, if at all.

And It All Ends in Tears

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I feel so guilty that I’ve struggled to write this update, it feels as if I’m admitting my criminal irresponsibility and negligence to the world.  And you know where to find me.  Did you know that it is a criminal offence to release either a hand reared or a casualty animal when it doesn’t have as equal a chance as it’s (naturally raised, non intervened) peers?  Puts quite an edge on it.

We checked the weather forecast before starting our release, rain but that’s nothing new in this country, and we had to balance it with the itching need of these fledglings to get out.  We’d had to shut the curtains to stop them crashing into the glass and they kept bonking their heads on the ceiling.  It was definitely their time for more space.  Rain is not unusual and even more unfortunately, it’s unlikely to go away completely.  That’s real freak weather conditions otherwise.  Besides, the door would remain open and food provided.  They could always shelter here too.  That’s more than other fledglings would have.

That’s what we told ourselves.  Maybe we were irresponsible, maybe we were inexperienced, maybe we were impatient, maybe we were stupid.  I don’t know.  Do birdy parents check the forecast before allowing their babies out of the nest?

Hindsight is a great thing to torture yourself with.

Wednesday evening we had all four back in then one went back out.  He didn’t come home to roost at bedtime so we had to hope that he had found a safe roost elsewhere.  It was dry at the time too.  And really, that’s kind of what you want them to do.

Thursday morning was still dry, overcast with a threat of rain.  The forecast said rain again.  I tell myself now that I should have read through the news, maybe there would have been an article about the weather already hitting the furthest point of the peninsula, two counties south.  I don’t know.  I tell myself that I should have done something different.  I tell myself that I should have kept the door shut that morning and not have let the other three fly free like they did.

The storm came in like I don’t what.  It was the kind of storm that would have taken you by surprise in October.  Three months on when the fledglings would have been bigger and stronger, more savvy too.  I can’t remember one like it.  Especially not in June.

To give you an idea of how bad it was and to torture myself a little more over my negligence, we have an enclosed balcony which keeps fairly dry.  To have the rain splash the bedroom window three feet inside, the wind has to be coming from a certain angle and be pretty hard.  It doesn’t happen much.  Yesterday the rain was lashing against the window and the balcony floor was awash.

We kept the door open, the rain driving into the sitting room, hoping against hope.

Maybe they found somewhere to roost.

But now the biggest threat to our babies is exposure.

I feel so terribly.  I took my eye off the ball, I lost focus.  I should have checked the news or the forecast better.  I should have done something, done something differently, anything.  Because it is my responsibility.

I failed our babies.

 

Parenting Issues

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I think we have teenagers in the house.  You can recognise the signs.  Teenagers come in various distinctive forms but teenagers they are.  There are the ones who pull their hair across their faces, who skulk in the corners and deep recesses of life and who are awkward in their shyness.  That’s Rocky.  Dependent but slightly aloof, shying away from contact, choosing quiet hiding places.   Another type of teenager is food motivated, comfort eating or just powering their growth rate.  That’s Birdie.  Yet another is always in your face, wanting something, wanting you to do something, incessant in their claims.  That’s both Birdie and Sneaky.  Others are slightly clumsy, not quite keeping up with their peers in growth and maturity, unsure of who they should be hanging with and how they should present themselves.  That’s Feisty.  Teenagers keep their own hours, contact is definitely only their terms.

They’ve grown so much even if it’s not readily apparent from their size. 2 g is hardly anything; bakers wouldn’t quibble about that difference.  But they have filled out; when they first arrived they were still that naked, foetal baby bird under the early feathers.  There’s something grotesque about that baby bird look.  Vulnerable and not yet ready for the world.  Then there’s all the clever stuff that they’ve learnt to do in just a week: the big four are flying with various levels of confidence (a skill that I much admire) and self-feeding.  In just a week.  So very different from human children!

But the issues are curiously similar.  I don’t envy parents of multiples, with one you can focus and give them your undivided attention and energy.  With more than one it’s just about trying to balance all the constant demands that they put on you.  It’s easier to form a relationship one-to-one, the little quirks are endearing.  But remembering the preferences of five is just too big a challenge.  You have to average yourself out, average out the demands, there’s less catering to the individual.  I guess it doesn’t matter so much when your brood is blue tits but I imagine that for parents of human multiples that raises a lot of issues and questions.

It was nice to have Manky on his own for a bit, less demanding, especially now that the others are so independent.  They’re self-feeding and out all day and night now.  Our sitting room has become one giant aviary with that very distinctive aviary smell.  A little bit like pet shop but not so overwhelming, drier somehow too.  We could give him his feeds easier and just spend some time with him, laughing at his open-mouthed greediness and admiring his growing strength.

He is a lot stronger today.  We’re trying to get him back on solids as he only had baby food yesterday.  It’s his favourite as well as being a lot easier to get down.  But it’s not good for him to have just that, for starters it makes their poop incredibly runny.  Not good.  He spent most of morning wandering up and down the bed, demanding his feed at regular intervals and with noisy insistence.  I sat in there with the laptop for a while to keep him company and he joined me at the keyboard (three at the same time on the keyboard is irritatingly challenging) then when he tried to filch my lunch then we decided he was definitely on the mend.  He’s making bigger and stronger jumps with flaps too, he launched himself off a bookshelf this afternoon, still a definite fall but calculated.

He was returned to the sitting room and his siblings this afternoon.  Sometimes when he was being very noisy in the bedroom, the four in the sitting room would go quiet and listen.  When we walked him up to the sitting room door, it was his turn to go quiet and listen.  We were worried that he would be overwhelmed by them; they’re so much more developed than him now.  But they welcomed him back by telling him that he was a right mess and that he needed to do some preening.

Preening is an important part of learning to fly.  And of keeping their feathers in tip-top flying condition.

This evening we had watermelon so we decided to share some with the babies, not that they are ‘babies’ really anymore!  They loved it.  If you have watermelon this summer and scorching weather, maybe think to share it with your garden birds.  It’s so quenching.  Hydration is important for everyone (even this human camel needs some water every now and then).  Even if it’s just the rinds, they love pecking at those.  Birdie of course was straight in there.  But Manky had his own wee piece too.  Well almost the size of him which is nothing compared to a full size of course!  He picks it up in his mouth, shakes it, drops it and then screams at it.  How this helps we’re not sure.  But he’s been doing it for hours.

We’ve pretty much weaned the biggest four off hand feeding.  Birdie nearly capsized into the jar of mealworms trying to fish one out when I tried hand feeding Manky.   He caught one but then was relocated for his own safety and my patience.  Sneaky had a pretty good go at catching his own spider this morning, a small one but I was surprised at how that instinct just kicked in.  We’re putting the mealworms into the flowerpots so they learn to look for their own food.  I have a funny feeling that Birdie is getting the majority of them.  I think instinct will teach them an awful lot though.

Anyway, back a bit I mentioned the issues that parenting brings.  As they’re teenagers now you start to wonder what will happen to them in the future, the issues that they face and whether they will be safe.  The statistics are pretty grim (you can find them on one of those blue tit link pages).  It’s good that they make it as an egg; it’s good that they make it as a nestling; it’s good that they make it as a fledging; it’s good that they make their first year.  It’s good but not guaranteed.  Or even perhaps likely.  That’s heart-breaking when you’re a human caught up in their story.  Like I said yesterday, we want happy endings even if we know that it isn’t always possible, or probable.

When they fly the nest, which they must do and really is the whole purpose of this exercise, that is the measure of our success or not, they face a very, very big world out there.  A world with all sorts of dangers, there are cats and dogs, other bad birds, stupid humans, roads and cars and all sorts of risks.  And that is reality.  It’d be lovely that they make it and go on to have their own families next year but nature’s reality is that it is something of a miracle that they’ve come so far already.  Maybe that has to be enough sometimes.

And talking of feelings, I wonder how their real parents feel about their disappearance.  Do they understand loss?  Perhaps.  The way that they feel and understand may be different from our own but I think that they do have emotive reactions, even such small creatures as blue tits.   We’re pretty sure that the nest is empty now, there is no sound.  We’re seeing less of the parents too.  I don’t know whether they stay with the nest throughout the year or go and live somewhere else once the babies are gone.  Ornithology has never been my strong point.  How do they feel about their empty nest?  Perhaps to them this year’s nest has been a failure, they have lost all their babies.  They do not know where they are.  That’s sad.  But it inspires me to make a success of these babies, theirs, on their behalf.

For a limited time, you can watch a live blue tit nest webcam from the BBC Springwatch page.  When I wrote this, they were dreaming just like ours do!

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