It has passed midnight. I am lying on the bed in the cubicle with my husband’s cap over my face. The nurse is trying to find a vein but failing miserably. Tell her I want to stop, I say to my husband. It is painful and I am very, very tired. It’s not a woman, he whispers. It’s a man.
The night before I dream of this place or this place thereabouts. I dream I am in Archway, north London. I am taken into a large Victorian house with deep rich colourful walls. There is a man with his mother and two sisters. They lead me to a room. It is full of radiant light. My awareness slips in and I feel immense peace. There have brought me here to heal.
It turns out I have meningitis. Viral. I am given drugs, later to discover they are known as legal crack. They are good drugs. I am high, blissed out. Headache? I say. What headache! Two weeks later, as I wean myself off the medication, I lie in bed believing I am going to die of cancer. I believe no one loves me. But that is for then, not for now. For now, the crippling head pain that I spent the day trying to nurse with my buoyant two year-old bubbling beside me, appears something of the past. I’m simply digging the opiates. All is well. Sensationally well.
And then there is the needle. This needle, the one that I am passing through so effortlessly, even makes the crucifying agony of the one that is pierced into my spine, once, twice, fucking three times and still no joy, seem to hang within the picture of this plugging into my being, relatively pleasant. In real terms, it was not. I lay curled in fetal, clasping the hand of one pregnant nurse, another behind me trying to curve my vertebrae as architecturally as possible, a third punctuating shot after shot to try retrieve a smidgen of precious spinal fluid. Unsuccessful each time, I wait on a tear-stained bed for a fourth attempt several hours later with a more experienced doctor to try her skilful hands at this unbearable procedure.
Nonetheless, as I have said already, in the whole story it seemed merely a wee blip in my passing through the eye of the needle. For some bizarre unbeknown reason I seemed to dance my way like Tinkerbell through this illness. What stayed however, from these days with meningitis, left me reaching to dim most light switches in most rooms ever since.
It is 6pm. We’re are nearing mid-winter and nightfall has already settled upon us. We are lead from the hall out into the grounds of Dartington College. There is a request for single file and another for silence. How yummy, I think to myself as we step outside into the rain and along the path to the first performance. Night lights in jam jars alight our walkway.
Someone with antlers mounted on his head reads first. We gather around him. It is hard to hear. They name this later in the evening as a quasi-ritual and I think to myself, Why the fuck quasi? Ditch that and give us the meat. Make it raw. Make it dirty. Kindly bring me to my knees. Don’t dilly-dally with this pretence. But that’s just me and, despite my displeasure and judgement, from this stomp through the semi-dark, an awakening occurred.
Yes. Yes, as my footsteps wobbled over slippery cobbles, I realised the pollution of light I carry inside. Not in a, Oh, I’m so enlightened, know it all kind of way. No. More how my being has absorbed too much of this stuff. How my system is overloaded with something not of it’s own. External and alien and very much not of nature. And it’s making it hard to do anything. More to the fact, it’s disabling my ability.
Yes. Over the challenging passage of a troublesome year, I have entered these winter months with a longing. A fuck-off cell-rumbling yearning. I want it dark. No. Actually I mean, as Leonard bequeathed to us, I want it DARKER. Much, much darker. Can I make these words louder, bolder, shout them at the top of my voice more? No. No, I can’t. This craving from my soul is like the howl of a crack-addict. Not for opiates. Not for seeking the slither in which the light enters, but instead in instant pursuit of those which are deeply, deeply inkjet black.
And, as luck would have it, this marries well with my learnings these last months. As summer anxiety eased and lessened I saw beneath it depression. And as I listened into this depression I felt the universe pressing into me with her deep pressure. She was insisting, Soph my darling, FEEL. Feel this all. Feel the irksome. The worry. The fret. The sadness. Crawl into your sorrow and sit. And then there is a gap.
I am digesting. Maybe it’s the place where words stop speaking. Maybe it’s the space where I had to find this deep sleep. Because, yes thoughts and stories rambled through my mind whilst September bled into December, quite at a pace at times, but mostly sentences got lost. There was an unhinging over autumn. Which lead me, as you might imagine, to now.
Hello Solstice my beautiful friend. Hello lone four-hour drive homewards. Hello night.
And so, within this dawning of how over-laden, over-burdened with light I am, intoxicated we might say, how we all are I’m guessing, I had a glorious opportunity to collect a hugely long-awaited hound on the eve of this year’s shortest day. My journey home, through Surrey, Wiltshire, Somerset and back to Devon, along the magic and gallant A303, gave me a huge bellyful of darkness to linger in. And maybe, just possibly, Stonehenge had some stoic bearing upon all of this or simply blew me a kiss as I headed through the blackness and into the small hours.
As I spoke to Bowie, our new-family member aka an English Setter rescue found on a beach in Greece with one brown eye, the other blue, lying in the back behind me, I also conversed with other fair comrades over the course of my adventure.
Mr Cohen, dear Mr Cohen. Len. I have loved you for a long, long time. And too what you and Rumi knew about those cracks that make scaffolding look like matchsticks made of air. I have loved free-diving to the depths, long you know. But this wild, motherfucking soul calling for complete immersion in the dark, that’s cried, Bury me, BURY ME here, these last few months, has taught me this. In these times we live, WE NEED THE DARKNESS. We need to sit in the dirge of it. We need to be enveloped here. We need to drop the fear and the menace and learn to dwell well. For dear Leonard, only in its embrace, are we able to really experience our flickering flame. In all it’s dimness. In all it’s bright. But I guess that’s what you’ve been telling us all along.
Today is 22nd December. I know there are many, one of whom used to be me, that are starting to jump with glee now the darkest day is behind us. That there are bulbs that will soon be sprouting. That there will be bunnies and birds so a-frolicking. That summer nights are simply a stone’s throw away now. But this year I won’t be gallivanting forward. Fuck no. I want to be consumed. Utterly. I want to stay here for as long and as long as I possibly can.
The light switches that I have needed to turn off since my nights at Archway’s Wittington Hospital almost seven years ago, I think were gently directing my soul to its replenishment. Darker, their medicine shouted. Woman, you must to go to DEEP REST. You need the darkness my dearest. Go fuel your inner-hearth. Go relish in your most creative ground. And only arise once you are well and truly sated.
This will, I suspect, be for some time to come.
For now, dear friends, whilst I send a two fingered salute to our cultural obsession with the light and make merry with my photo-phobia, rest well!
Image: Source unknown