I see dead people

Once as a joke, when urged in an ice breaker at a writing group to share something special and having nothing to match the others’ revelations I said, ‘I see dead people.’ It was a good rendition of the little boy, Haley Joel Osment  in the film, The Sixth Sense, and was accepted as a joke, but I was only half joking.
Those faces that are to be seen in the clouds, on gnarled tree trunks, amid foliage are the dead people I see. They are also to be found on floor tiles, wallpapers, book covers, paintings. I could go on.  For a writer they are a fabulous resource. Characters. Whole lives, histories, with sadnesses and triumphs to be discerned in the static, often heroic features.

Could these grotesques, beauties, young and old, male and female, peasant and aristocrat that peopled the inanimate world around have once been real? Could they be the last earthly expression, the lingering sigh of an actual person? And if so, why these faces and not others, or all?  And what say, happened to the bust of the Roman emperor complete with laurels and toga who inhabited a cork tile in the bathroom when the cork tiles were consigned to the tip and replaced with stone?

It led again to Thornton Wilder and the Bridge of San Louis Rey, a book that has haunted over the years for the beauty of the prose and its meditation on the seeming randomness of life, love and death. Perhaps in order for a face to appear in this great pantheon of the sky their must have been love. Not necessarily the all consuming, self destructive passion of Mimi or Anna Karenina, more a love for humanity.

This passage resonated: ‘for those who had no capacity for love (or rather for suffering in love) could not be said to be alive,and certainly would not live again after their death. They were a kind of straw population, filling the world with their meaningless laughter and tears and chatter and disappearing still lovable and vain into thin air.’

And finally, ‘There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’

What the bees know

A swarm of wild bees has taken up residence in the roof over our bedroom. They hum uncontrollably, their energy is frenetic. Nothing can be done, unless we want to kill them which we don’t and even if we did it might effect our own more sedate bees located at the bottom of the garden. Casting about for a reason why they’ve chosen our roof, apart from a gap in the tiles, I decide they are an omen. 

Their arrival coincides with the Boxer’s bad day, the day she did not get up. ‘I’m not getting up,’ she was adamant when I offered to wash her hair. She slept. Every time I looked in she would open her eyes and we would chat a little, though I’m not sure she was awake even then. I did odd jobs, read the paper, ate ice cream from the freezer but still she slept, so eventually about nine in the evening I left her.

 Not so fortunate in the sleep department sadly, all night long I fretted. I wasn’t worried but I thought surely at 95, one day this will be it. If the Boxer just went to sleep and did not wake up, wouldn’t that be a blessing?   Anyone’s old age is not for the faint hearted. I made escape plans that danced so vibrantly under my sleepless lids with an enormouse sense of relief- to walk the Via Francigena to Rome (and back) to buy the camper van and use it, life was exciting.

The Boxer is better. The grandiose dreams of freedom have faded like fairy gifts  – but not the guilt. 

The bees will be with us a while yet, till they decide to go.   I think they could be guardians of my conscience.