Life is full of ups and downs – some days I have energy and ideas running out of me, others I have nothing but this sense of being drained and two-dimensional. At times, the pressure to manage daily life is more than I want to deal with, and often there is a continuing tension between all of the things I want to do – writing, experimenting with my garden, reading – and the things I must do – work (which I do enjoy), housework, shopping, ironing . . . This tension is often so great that even preparing for upcoming pleasurable events – such as trips away, family parties – does not fill me with anticipation. Present tense.
At the same time, I find that in the spaces between places, particularly when I am driving from one place to another, my mind wanders into that writerly mode, in which prose is flooding through my brain, and I find that most of all, I hear a nostalgic voice, one that reflects on past experiences with that peculiarly Welsh sense of hiraedd. This may be more acute at the moment for two reasons. Spring always makes me want to write, as some of my most powerful life events (and memories) happened in this season. Can a season make you more inclined to write? Thinking of poets, I suppose this might be true. The other reason is location. Since moving back to my home valley almost two years ago, every morning brings some kind of reflection, and almost every turn of the road in the first 20 minutes of my morning commute prompts a memory or a feeling. Especially now that the mornings are lighter.
Perhaps it is a combination of these two factors. The palest, washed out blue of the sky above the silhouetted edge of the mountain makes me ache with longing. How would it be to see this dawn from that vantage point? The palest sky and the darkest shadows give way to grey and green shapes, and as I drop down into the river valley, the mist rises like breath from the fields. It makes me long to be able to paint, or to stop and write it all down. The words that arrive to describe this wonder always flee before I reach work, and the mundane world takes over.
But it is the past which haunts me most as I drive through this little valley towards the next. The sleepy hillside streets, mostly dark at that hour, where I played as a child, hold specific memories, which emerge randomly, day after day. Like lying down on the pavement to find out how big the paving slabs are, or the burning cold of the climbing frame in the nursery school playground. Walking in the hot sun to pick blackberries and elderberries with my mother, or running down the road with my friends, smelling dust and car exhaust and mown grass.
All of these are the stuff of a writer’s imagination, but they are also the golden-hued days of a past that has been repainted with the brush of affection, of time, of distance, A time of freedom when, little did I know, I was lucky to be concerned only with the petty dramas of childhood and adolescence. Past perfect.