I think of death and it reminds me to consider how to live. I contemplate the brevity of a lifespan and know that choices are important. I am not ready to die, nor possibly will ever feel so, but I am ready to consider what I want to pass on.
As Hamlet replies to Polonius , when questioned on what the matter is that he is reading …’Words, words, words.’
Language is the river we swim in daily, the route to communication, miscommunication, love and hatred. It is paradoxically the most powerful of medium and the least effective.
There is a radio programme on a Saturday morning that delivers inheritance tracks – those pieces of music that the particular contributor wants most to pass down to their loved ones – in a similar manner I give you my inheritance tracks – written ones.
I begin with Margaret Atwood, a writer who always has something of note to say and always with style. I love her novels, but this is a short poem that for me describes the atmosphere of a new relationship perfectly.
Habitation — Margaret Atwood
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
Source: Atwood, M 1970, Procedures for Underground, Little, Brown.
The line ‘it is before that, and colder:’ has the perfection of a musical note precisely measured – with just the right element of surprise to quicken the curiosity.
I chose this poem because the five boys that I have the privilege of loving – two my own sons, three from my husbands first marriage, are all embarking on long term relationships. It is this fundamental relationship with a partner that has been the central impetus to my own life – I am introverted and have little need for a wide circle of friendship, but without the anchor of a committed loving relationship I feel adrift and anxious. And I like fire.