When I was 17, my mother went to our favourite bookstore and handed the owner my list of birthday requests. I only remember Tender Buttons and a very dry Susan Sontag essay collection being on there, and that they didn’t have either, but the staff we’re impressed. Later, I’d kiss a boy who worked there; once or twice, but meaningfully, and he used to bring me Italian Vogues with the covers ripped off, which I enjoyed the high/low glamour of a great deal the summer I was 19.
There’s this Gertrude Stein quote; “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
I’ve lived that quote in different ways as its meaning has evolved for me. What I see in it now is that it takes time; allowing your head, or your heart, or your soul – which ever is the loudest in you, to make itself heard. It takes time to know yourself. Whenever you get there, there is no there.
There’s so much push to bring what you want to spend your life on into focus. But remember what you want to waste it on too. The internet sucks your creativity. We’re all on the internet looking for ideas instead of giving ourselves space to have them. Waste your time on something that restores you. Sometimes you just have to sit in the sun in as much luxury as you can muster and read things you don’t understand. One day you will.
Look at people that you love; a lot of success comes from being who you are, from that thing you love in your own quiet. What it draws out of you. It helps to only do things you believe in. That you believe that there’s a future for. And to slow down. Slowing down allows for perspective, in real time. Put trust in the things that you love; that they’ll love you back. And let them when they do.
Theo. I live in the love I have for you. You took who I was, at one time, and where I was going, which was nowhere, and drew the map. Some days you are an island, and I am the ocean. Trying to stay calm; to be still enough that you can see your own reflection in me, immovable and at the center of something I can only look into though I surround you. I would walk out of this water to be with you. I’d be the fish that wished for legs and willed them true. Sometimes you cast your line out for me only to draw it in at the first sign of struggle. Sometimes you catch me just to burn me before I can nourish you. Sometimes we swim together. We are happiest then. When everything is cool and clear.
Some days you are the ocean and I am the island. Trying to defend myself from your relentlessness. Knowing only that the tide will rise and fall. Standing in the shallows, where we are equal. All the days spent trying to find where you stop and I begin. Staring out at your changeable beauty. Needing to build my own fires, away from you, to keep something in me alight. So that I can remember all of my elements. Not only the one that makes up who I am for you.
Mabel. I am holding life open for you, my feet on the earth and my hands in the stars. Making space so you can take shape; become whoever you decide you want to be, once you are ready. Until then, and after, casting a protective circle around you. Some truths brought into existence must find further ways to be true; a once literal thing now delivered some other way. Your mother the force field. Holding the world up. Holding it back. Making better what I can, bringing it to you, explaining its parts and how they can work. I am trying to help the world work for you. I am trying to help you work the world.
There’s this Kendrick Lamar track where the fade out is, “You ain’t gotta tell me I’m the one”. Repeated, repeated, repeated. I’m the one, standing in the full gale of you. I always have been. I have grown roots here. A Winter in between Stein and Vogue came my grandfathers funeral, which was a whole and living thing, a celebration. My mother can do that. You always need someone who can throw a hooley. Who can push the boat out. Who knows the words to the songs that need singing. Who can build a fire and dance in the flames. A man rose and filled the room, and when he spoke our hearts stood at attention. He told us how my grandfather was a mighty Totara. How he had the heart of a chief. I come from the forest. I know what it is to be cut down to be made into something useful.
My love is the acorn that will grow you an oak,