Flick. Skim. Flick. That was me, last Sunday, with the newspaper. Jaded with news, jaded with the world.
Then an opinion piece caught my eye. About ‘the song of the selfie siren’. And the deaths that result from pursuing the ultimate shot.
Towards the end, author, Eva Wiseman, wrote:
There is a way to prevent more deaths by selfie, except it involves reducing the power of the selfie itself. Part of that is promising to believe that a person once saw a fast coming train, or stood on a very tall cliff, without expecting time-stamped proof. Another part is learning how to tell better stories, without the use of pictures.
Then she added, by way of example:
“The light was the colour of custard,and it reminded me of being six”
With that one sentence my confidence toppled.
It was still on the floor, next morning, when the first rejection arrived. And trampled it, while it was down.
Many thanks for getting in touch, but your project is not for us and I wish you all the best elsewhere.
One sentence – just the one – for the thousands I’d gambled in the harsh game of authors’ submissions.
After the hollow feeling had begun to subside (via toast with blackcurrant jam), I took myself off for a trip.
Just a few miles.
First to an old, worn branch of my favourite, family-owned supermarket, Booths.
The velvet slipper of the supermarket world.
There I bought food we didn’t need. And afterwards went for a walk.
A walk to let the light in.
And I thought of Eva’s words. About telling better stories without using pictures.
So I put my phone in my bag, with my camera. And I tromped.
Everywhere I looked, I saw green.
A kissing gate (but no-one to kiss). Its blonde wood pale with the green of late, damp winter.
A path between trees of many types and ages. Their trunks lime-green in the sun.
Over some, ivy ran rampant, with berries black as sin. Its heart-shaped leaves a glossy, dark, blue-green. Like shiny shadows on the neon green of the trunks they were busy smothering.
A hawthorn’s snaggle-jagged branches tipped with pinches of juicy green. Bright frothy leaves, tentatively unfurling.
On the ground, clumps of sharp green daggers waited for bluebells to emerge.
Primroses, milky-yellow on sallow-green leaves, clustered on muddy-green banks.
Above, pretty against a sky-blue sky, frail white blossoms fluttered, shielding tiny dark stamens. The would-be leaves barely pinpricks of green on the twigs and branches holding them aloft.
In the dappled shade of marsh and swampy pond, almost-felled trees lived on. Still rooted, parallel with the dark water, clothed in lush moss. Velvet green, like a dinner jacket for a frog that should be a prince.
Frailer trees, with slender trunks and branches, wriggled over marshy mud. Their limbs, too, dressed in moss. But a fleecy gym-clothes moss, not the royalty-appropriate kind.
And on the damp margins of swamp and pond, tall bright spears thrust upwards, readying themselves for the glamour of soon-to-be irises.
Elsewhere, whip-thin stems of sappy trees rose, straight and vertical, from old stumps coppiced long ago. Ripe for basket making. But not around here, as far as I know.
Another lonely kissing gate, a country lane to cross.
Puddles, where the path sloped down, attracting two wellington-booted toddlers, wielding sticks.
Not stomping and splashing, but beating the puddles like an old, folk ritual of spring.
Well, it was the equinox. So perhaps a natural urge was buried in their genes. Innocent, toddling, carriers of our adult superstitions.
Here and there I passed men walking, women walking.
And dogs tugging. Herding, leading, sniffing. Relishing mud and water, the dirty, smelly patches their humans would rather avoid.
Below the path the reed pond was stagnant, the water scummy surfaced. Like dull raw silk, the colour of chip-shop mushy peas.
The reed maces still stood guard, but their bold brown drums were turning now to fairies – or tinder for survivalist fires.
I reached the end of the path and had to retrace my footsteps.
Ducks quacking – in pairs, because it was spring.
Geese honking. Seagulls squawking and wheeling, somewhere, way up where.
While nearer the ground, red-breasted robins hopped from tree to tree.
Silver-grey, fuzzy-tailed squirrels, fur spiced with a touch of rusty orange, scurried for height at the heavy approach of a human step.
And the sky-scraping poplar, its delicate, almost-white branchery dazzling in the sun, screamed, ‘look at me, I’m different’.
Bright as an omen, in a world that was mostly green.
A verdant, promising, budding, germinating, growing world.
And all this to the accompaniment of piccolos – birds, being birds, in springtime.
One last touch of nature awaited in the car park.
I ran my fingers over moss on the fence. Felt its springiness. And spring-ness.
Up close, it looked like tiny ferns – for elves or pixies or will-o-the-wisps
Back in the car I ate a tuna sandwich.
And on the way home the world darkened.
By the time I reached the coast, the coal-dust sky was striped with fat, crude, yellow brush-strokes.
Rain poured, out at sea. Sneaking, slowly, inland. To descend, of course, upon me.
In an ordinary supermarket, I bought ingredients for dinner, on that green, grey, rejected day.
I also bought sparkly jelly.
And it rained.
Those careless brushstrokes of lemon-icing-yellow – not custardy yellow, note – had found me.
Six. Or maybe seven, years old. With a packet of sparkly jelly.
Can you picture that?