The human heart in conflict with itself

There is a corner in my study which reminds me of Africa. Perhaps it is the mock African mask one of my daughters made when she was young. She took a plaster cast of her face and attached sparkles and feathers.

My bookcase, too. From time to time I look at it. My books are like disassembled islands from across the world. There in the top left hand corner I have collected my dictionaries, the French, the German, the Latin and Dutch. The words in these books take me elsewhere.

When I wake in the morning and look out through my window I see into the side of an English country garden. The roses over the side fence cascade down to the overgrown arum lilies that populate my garden beds.

The rug in my writing room is Turkish, not an authentic artefact, an imitation, a copy. I could not bear to have an original in my room. All that expense, but I duplicate the image. All those gnarled fingers weaving threads through looms to create symbols of their culture.

I have a book in my bookshelf, bought at half price from a second hand booksellers, Honour the Shadow. It tells the story of death in photographs. Dead bodies dressed up as though still alive.

When I look at the photo of my mother’s dead baby, I see her white skin, her dark hair, the line of her eyelashes over her cheeks like the fringe of a shawl, almost moving but still.

She is there, this dead baby sister, in my album, along my bookshelf and whenever I see her image afresh I travel once more in my mind to her grave in Heilo in Holland. They buried here there in this tiny village where she died at five months of age, far from home. The war, no food. My mother travelled on foot to the outlying towns to get milk but she was too late.

Why not me? Why not the rest of us, her babies? Why not now?
Endless questions I write as I travel through the rooms of my house on my journey of exploration through the world of my memory and imagination.

Forgive me. I am not geographically bounded. I slip from one country to another. In the kitchen I travel to Mexico in my cookbooks and to South America. China is my Buddha and the lucky money chain that hangs above the glass cabinet. I bought it in Warburton and hung it there ten years ago . I touch the red webbing that forms the lanyard holding it in place and wish for luck, luck and wealth and prosperity.

We keep a stone Ganesha on the mantel piece for the same reason. A gift from a friend who travels through Asia, he bought the elephant god to encourage success. I stroke the sandstone back of this statue in honour of my journey, and for luck.

Luck is everywhere. It lies in the droppings of a small bird that lands on you by accident. Did you know that? A piece of bird mess is an auspicious sign. A misfortune that becomes a sign of success. Of all the places in the world, of all the people in the world on which the bird might leave its trace, it choses you. You are the chosen one.

You are such a Pollyanna, always playing the glad game. But I do not know who I am. I will not know until I die when I will become a finality. All will be concluded then and I can get to the end of my journeying.

They say as you get older you become less acquisitive. You give things away. My friends talk of getting rid of their books. Books take up too much space. Besides you can read them online, keep them on memory sticks, on e-books. No need for all that paper.

But I am not ready to give up my books yet.

The jigsaw puzzle of my world the world through which I travel in my mind is fractured, lop sided, in pieces. I cannot hold a thought together. The smell of musk that rises through the cracked paint work in my house calls forth the ghosts of another time, of other times, other journeys. And mine becomes ‘the human heart in conflict with itself’, on journeys too open ended to frame.