There’s a feeling that keeps sweeping over me this week and its like a ghost of a memory and a healing balm, all in one. Its been happening since the hot weather turned back to June’s usual cloud and rain yet the days are still comfortably mild; enough to keep fresh air moving freely through the house in a way that is distinctly “summer”, not least because of the tinge of honeysuckle on the air. With doors flung wide open, the dampness is like a welcome coolant on frayed nerves and I find I can only hold gaze with softened eyes, as though the whiteness of the sky is almost brighter than the constant sunshine they replace. Recently fledged birds chirrup in unison from trees where they take shelter between excitable reconnaissance dives upon the bird feeder yet there’s, otherwise, such a stillness in the air as though the thick cloud cover is made of cotton wool. I find I just want to surrender into cushions, to curl up wrapped around my own torso, to seek out books to read yet to fidget between options, to not fully pay attention, to close eyes, to drift-off, to just be. There is a sense of deep release, of profoundest relief like when a great weight has been suddenly lifted. Even though there are still various things trying to agitate me; family things, life things, mini-dramas that irritate and make inevitable demands, my driving impulse is to keep finding this place and to lose myself to it whenever I can, for as long as I can….and the rest can wait.
It struck me as I returned to it this morning (family gone, doors flung open, house quiet…) that this place in time that I am “remembering” with all my senses is the summer when I was sixteen and had just finished my exams. These were probably the most demanding set of exams I ever undertook, from the sheer breadth of the dozen subjects I had been expected to know in such depth, my life taken up by piles of notes in every corner of my room for months. Crammed – don’t we use that expression; I was crammed full of “stuff” to the point of almost bursting and now…nothing, it was all over. The feeling, I recall, was quite sublime. No set books, no timetable, not even a school anymore, having left ready to move on to college and many of the people I had known for years said goodbye to once and for all (in some cases, another relief). No point in worrying, no need to plan. The soft wave coming in to carry me on its shoulders was one of, yes, sweet relief and I found myself suspended in the kind of void I don’t think I remember ever experiencing before that and have probably never got back to, not fully, since becoming an adult. Really, had it been 33 years since I was last there?
So, I recall in fleeting glimpses, like old sepia photos in my mind (though the feelings coming through are much stronger than the images) how I surrendered to just such a summer as I am being reminded of now. Warm and damp after the intense heat wave that (of course) had burned its way through all my exams; white skies were now the blank-canvas backdrop to a summer-verdant garden. The scent of moist honeysuckle growing up the wall beneath my bedroom window perfumed the air day and night, as though to remind me I had now entered the sacred garden of my own deepest tranquility. The overwhelming contrast of “nothing to be done”, no demands upon my time must have been stark against the weeks of relentless pressure, like nectar to the senses. The jar I had been held-captive in had smashed and I was free to enter the garden of life; that’s what it felt like, and all I wanted to do was to examine each moment like I was breathing in the scent of a flower. I gave myself over to a long summer of reading many novels (deep diving deep into DH Lawrence and Brontës – is that why my recent craving…?), of alternate sleeping – reading – dozing again. I was waking at dawn, eating breakfast long before anyone else got up, going back to my bed, staying up past midnight, lying down on the grass, contemplating abstract thoughts, pursuing transitory ambitions that often “popped” before they developed, letting them go without a care. The scent of sweet rain and hot buttered toast and the ceaseless bird chirrup being enough, being everything, that stimulated the senses.
It’s not the event but the feeling of such a time that is wanting to rise up in me again; to remind me so that it can be experienced anew. For when do we ever let ourselves be like this once we become adults; do we ever? I mean, really surrendering into it, giving up the rhythms of time and allowing that now is all there is? Giving ourselves to it just as it is – void – without seeking to fill it up.
Tuning into your own most-treasured time of “void”, of a feeling you once stored-up for such a day as this, a distant memory of what it truly feels like to have nothing to do and nowhere to go can be such a gift to yourself. Especially if you can allow yourself to accept it as it is, on behalf of who you are right now, not making it about nostalgia as though you are trying to recapture some long-lost essence of your past when “life was better” or “you were more deserving of it”. The biggest challenge is to allow it, to really give yourself over to it and not seek to make it into another project by orchestrating it or making it conditional. How easy do we find it to be in void and not allow the mind to seek something to do, to worry about or a way to make the time more “useful” or “constructive” (as we tend to regard it when we constantly keep ourselves busy)? Yet empty space is anything but lacking in use; and it might be the very thing we are needing most, the refinding of which will be the missing jigsaw piece that makes all else suddenly fit together. Like the hidden portal we couldn’t see for looking, it might be the doorway to exactly where we were trying so hard to get to with our minds…and there it was, all the time. For most of us, memories from childhood are like the eager guides waiting to take us there and I urge you to take whatever opportunity arises when you ask “when did I ever feel like that?” and just see where it takes you. Then, once you have it back, make an honoured place for this state of being in your life and watch it take on a new state of harmony; which is just an outward reflection of a far deeper state of harmony that has just found its space in you.