January 9th 10th or 11th, 2014
I am on the wrong bus. I walk the 5 surprise miles sludging a bag filled with quite a lot of crap. Actually. The bag is gilled with my mum’s laundry from the Stroke Rehabilitation Ward East, Woodend Hospital Aberdeen. It is early days for us both. My mind is dizzy with lists and what to feed someone who can swallow naught but puree and is on a hospital food hunger strike. The lists are smudged and look like the endeavor of an ecstatic Pentecostal scribe, looped across the pages in rapid panic, dictator to dictatress. My mum is paralysed on the right side of her body from the stroke, and rendered sort of iron lung speechless. She has been given what they euphemistically call a communication board. She points to double vowels at an increasingly swift and frustrated pace, giving voice to her every late onset OCD, household aspiration, Enigmatic treasure hunt clues are coyly spelled out for the rapt spellbound. Like awaiting a stutter—clairaudience—and I, the court-appointed dowser of documents, I see the communication board for what it actually is, a terrifying Ouija board of infinite channel.
As I walk under crispy starry skies and whooo hoo hoo owls, I consider that it might have been the right bus. I am at what I think of as an alchemical point; that it is all so leaden that transmutative occurrences must must, please, be at a permutative peak. I flip through the file of the cerebral disciplines of there is solace in—the glory of sky, my tiny speckness in scheme of, potential absorption of banshee power as I walk the roads of my origin. Mother Love. Father Love. Mother Earth. Father Sky. You can see the Milky Way; little light pollution out here. I am here, there is a lucky perfection that I am in time for. Kairos not Chronos; divine opportune time, none of those ho hum sequential rhythms. If time is but a direction, then it is also a place. There is no it’s all good or it’s all bad, it all just is. I rail against acceptance and return to the solaces; and all over again.
It is ludicrously early, but I like to cultivate erratic and unusual hours; yes, like a practice. Electricity has been consistently intermittent this Kali Yule, giving me gloam of oil lamp and Inuit-in-the-Tundra dreams. The rural isolation and my sister fecking back to London yield a satisfying sense of abandonment so I am dressed for bed in ski clothes, outfitted (all but the goggles), for The Incredible Journey1. when there is a thump and relocated Scouse in Aberdeenshire holler of ‘It’s only Bob. It’s just me. It’s just Bob it’s only me.’ I would find this intrusive if it were someone else but it is, you know, just Bob. And Bob and Pat Gallagher are people grooving to the beat of kairos; it was Bob’s wife Pat who ambulance-rescued my mum based on a gurgled ‘help’ followed by beep beep beep phone line. The door is one of those wavy glass doors from the early 1970s, prisming and magnifying Bob as he chants his modest liturgy of ‘It’s only me’. He looms, Nordic and heroic. I open the door. Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. Them, they say. Tonight. Visible. We both try a dismissive tone: ahhhh, the auld elusive Haley’s Borealis; visible, like in the sense of observable to the human eye?
Bit like the much-ballyhooed Gulf stream and its mythically balmy flow, past unsightings of the Northern Lights give me a feeling of some injustice wrought, like a birthright promised but never bestowed: up here freezing in the Nethers for nowt. Tetch tetch. I ask Bob if he has ever seen them, and he says yes, happened quite by uniformed chance upon only once upon, about 20 years ago, out on the rigs. Which immediately strikes me like a panel from an oil painting depicting Ragnarok. Catching a glimpse of Goddess Aurora would appear to follow certain traditions of Want, who prefers a surprise entrance, and while not insistent on sacrifice is more likely to be beckoned by, some sea-swept prostrate heave sway and surge. We look to the night sky that is cloudless and calm, unusual conditions for Aberdeenshire for any season. Bob bids me ‘bye’ then he is off to feed his Geese.
It occurs to me, as I slalom down into bed that my mum has seen the Aurora, on the East Coast of the states in Connecticut somewhere, in the 1950s. Once. More than once, she has also seen The Cigar Shaped UFO as a child in Alabama; well, somewhere between more than once and (airily) after a dram of sherry several times. So statistically, genetically, I am more predisposed to experience a UFO sighting than a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, which makes up for just about everything and is a pleasing thought indeed. I have Goose-downy dreams. I float with a musician from Beirut with Phoenician angel eyes and alien tattoos. I wake at some unusual hour, but rested and filled with the sort of anticipation that heralds delight. I wonder if Aurora is here! If it is me this time, my moment with the celestial lightshow. Kairos! There is greenish gloaming rising and falling, pulsating rhythmically from the window. Even better! Wow, aliens are here to space whisk me away in my padded pantaloons. Of course, of course it all makes sense now! Not ski suit, space suit! I can see clearly now. I rustle to the window and look at the exact moment a shooting star arcs across the sky. I am prepared, in my wishful prayers, and I do not miss a nanosecond of its trajectory and I bless bless bless and call love into being and lasting. I remember that I have often suspected that I catch shooting stars at a well above average rate, so I will look for them because, well, they love me, I can see that now.
I can also see that I am a cubist, a surrealist, an impressionist and an illusionist, not a realist. The rising and falling pulsating green gloam that drew me to the window is merely the respiratory bellows of my Macbook sleeping. I can see that now. It’s alright though. There is no tradition of wish fulfillment granted by seeing Aurora Borealis that I know of—a want sought for wants sake—to be admired for the spectacle of its being , a cult of elusiveness. The shooting star seems altogether more reciprocal and giving. And my thing, really. If not mine, then pertaining to me.
(1) The Incredible Journey (1961) by Sheila Burnford (Scottish), is the harrowing tale of three utterly lost defenceless and abandoned pets (two dogs and a Siamese cat) and their brutal and epic journey home across the Canadian Tundra. It was of a sort of genre of horrific class readers that they assumed would prepare us for the future lurches and losses of life beyond primary school. Another such, Tarka the Otter was permanently disturbing for me. Spoiler: Tarka torn to shreds by her nemesis. Tarka =dead. Later, along came Watership Down, which I never actually read having got the gist of the thing by then, knowing it would end in tears and frankly having wearied of literary pet snuff.^
Charissa Glidden: most often in India, often in New York City, New Hampshire and Scotland. When I write, I am the spirit bead in your ceremonial necklace, the flaw where exaltation enters. I am an entelechtual. I am vital to your fulfilment. I am actuality not potentiality: I am stochastic resonance, the errant bead to ideas and serendipities you would otherwise be insulated from. I am Eros from Chaos. When I do not write, I am just a variety of untidy. I am the tangle in your hair only, the snarl that remains.