Friday 31 May 2013


My mother and I can never agree on which year we travelled to Madeira. But I have journals for every year, and so I have checked. It was 2004. At the airport, we were unable to resist buying a Bird of Paradise bulb. It held promise, and we were prepared to be patient. We waited and watched over the plant as it grew and grew, green, leafy, tall. But we were really waiting for the flash of orange beak and blue headdress. It has taken nine years for the first flower to grace us with her presence. NINE! I feel anticipation of something special heralded and, at the same time, desperate - imagine waiting on a flower!
The sun is shining today, and I am twice returned: once from a flying visit to Ireland again, to attend the first public reading Marian Keyes has done in four years, since the axis of her world shifted into the worst of the horrors. Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin last night witnessed many transformations in her audience, from raucous, joyous laughter to the raw ache of mirroring each others' human suffering. Yes, we wanted to cry out to her, yes! Just exactly that. The soul laid bare quivers, pulls itself taut, appears impenetrable, hard as bone, and as easily shattered as bone.
I breathe. 2004 turns to 2005 and the dissolution of my own mind, cracked wide open by unbearable pain of optic nerve damage, of corneal ulcers, of catatonia until sunset when the painkillers had numbed me enough to descend the stairs and make a cup of tea for my father and myself to discuss death with biscuits. Chocolate cake might mysteriously appear if it had been a particularly brutal day. It took years for the edge to begin to soften.  That's what I call it. The Edge. I can taste it against my teeth. I fear it. And I try not to fear it. My surgeon saw it all and continues to infuse me with optimism inspite of some bleak realities, but my eyes are unpredictable. Which is why, sitting opposite him today, having a relatively gentle procedure felt like small waves of torment. My eye wept for itself, pooling a little river by my chin like the Walrus in Alice in Wonderland ('I weep for you,' the Walrus said, I deeply sympathise... Holding his pocket-handkerchief before his streaming eyes'). 'It's been a while since you've made me cry,' I snarked at Blue Eyes, which actually made me feel much better, because it has been a while. And I have come leagues and travelled miles, and been blessed with new friends, new horizons, glorious humour and extraordinary kindness. And leprechauns. Shur, how can I forget the leprechauns?
We move forwards, ever conscious of the road ahead, gripping on for dear life to any vine of light. We want life.

E. M. Forster teaches us the way forward when he begins Howard's End: 
'Only Connect'.


Ruth said...

You have been on my mind and heart. Thank you for this report. While it is full of pain, it is also (always) full of love and optimism. I hold you in my heart.

Mahesh said...

What beautiful words, Shai. Your spirit is inspirational and awesome!

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

It's always a appreciated hearing from you, whether about the pain filled journey you're traveling or the little moments of joy. You are an inspiration to me. A reminder of how fortunate I am in spite of my small trials in my journey.

Gracias for taking time to share with us.

What a beautiful flower that has bloomed.

Cro Magnon said...

Gtong len is winging its way to you from France. Cro x

Andie said...

Wonderful as always. Much love.

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