Discombobulated


  1. The light is doing strange things today. There are no clouds, just a haze that hangs in the sky like a gauzy curtain. When the weather is cool or unpredictable I walk. Up to the farm or    through the forest, sometimes to where people with guns come to shoot    birds and deer for sport. But today I have returned to my nest in the    long grass on the side of the hill. From the main path at the bottom  you   can just see where my feet have made a faint beaten track that  snakes   up the slope through the long stalks and flowers. Turn and  follow it.   Walk slowly and touch the spiked, purple heads of the  thistles as you   pass, stroke the sprays of tall white daisies that  sway and leave trails   of yellow pollen against your thighs. Run your  fingers through the   graceful nodding tails of the grasses, let their  silk play between your   fingers.Pretty soon you will come to a  small open patch where   the plants have been trodden down to form a  hollow. This is my nest. I   can be away for over a week and return and  there is the impression of my   body still in the grass, an oblong that  fits me perfectly. No one can   see you from the path, only the bees and  the  crickets will know you  are  here.
In a few months I will be gone from this place for good and my nest    will disappear. The grass will spring back and other plants will lean  in   and grow tall. It won’t take long for there to be no sign that I  was   ever here.  But now you have found me here, lying sprawled on  my  back  watching the sky, legs crossed at the ankles, my arms flung out   at my  sides, a grass stalk in my mouth, thinking certain thoughts, not    thinking certain others. One   brave cricket has decided to  hang around a little longer today. He has  sprung  from the grassy wall  of my hide and landed - ping! - on one of  my bare  knees. He tickles  but I keep still. I say hello. He doesn’t.  Instead he  rubs his tiny  hands together then strokes his antennae, one  then the  other, over and  over. He steadies himself and starts a  rasping, circular  song,  serenading me with his tiny, broken violin. A  thousand others,  hidden  in the grass, begin too and suddenly I am  surrounded by wave upon  wave  of cricket calls, insistent and constant  and pulsing deep within  me.I  whisper things to the creature as he  plays. I talk to him and tell him  secrets. Insects are good at keeping  secrets, mainly because they are  bad listeners and never remember what you’ve told them. But I whisper to  him anyway and he plays his broken violin  and the sun  comes out and  warms my legs.
A bi-plane drones overhead. I shield  my eyes with my hand and watch  its progress, which is so slow that I don’t know  how it stays in the  air (I can explain the principles of aeronautics and aerodynamics in  minute detail, with explanatory diagrams and sounds (the sound effects  are vital) as a result of my fight against my severe fear of flying. It  hasn’t helped the terror, but the wingtip vortex noise I can make is  pretty great.) The old machine potters around in the sky like a happy,  fat dragonfly and then starts to climb. It rises through air that seems  thick as honey until it is upside down, then loops backwards and over  and comes horizontal again. I half expect it to shake itself like a wet  dog after its exertions, and it meanders on until it is out of sight.
I look down and the cricket is gone. No  warning, no slight shift in  weight, no soft  spreading of wings in  preparation. One moment he is  there, rubbing his  hind legs together and  watching the world through  his bulbous eyes, the  next he is not.
I  smile and stroke the  skin on my knee where  he sat. It is marked still by old faint scars  from childhood falls and warm from  the new sunshine. A line from a  Philip Larkin  poem comes into my mind.  It’s just a scrap, a final  sentence, and I  don’t know why these words  are suddenly in my head,  words that the poet so desperately wanted to believe were irrefutable, rather than the “almost-instinct almost true" of the penultimate line. These words, this simple thing, this poem’s end:“What will survive of us is love.”I    look up and across the valley to where clouds are massing on the    horizon, an army of them all seated on their heavy, snorting warhorses,    preparing for battle, readying for the charge. They will be here soon   dragging the wind behind them,  battering this grass with their cloaks   of rain, galloping in  chaos about the dark skies and rattling their   shards of lightning  against the trees. But right now I am here,   safe and warm, lying heavy and soft against this earth that I love so   much, watching planes play in the sky, listening to an insect  orchestra, thinking about Larkin’s medieval knight and his lady frozen  in stone and in love, the grass stroking my cheek, the flowers nodding  sleepily against  my hair and this is happiness, these simple moments,  these tiny details, this is all it takes, truly, and I believe Larkin’s  words. I believe them whether the old bugger meant  them or not.

    The light is doing strange things today. There are no clouds, just a haze that hangs in the sky like a gauzy curtain.

    When the weather is cool or unpredictable I walk. Up to the farm or through the forest, sometimes to where people with guns come to shoot birds and deer for sport. But today I have returned to my nest in the long grass on the side of the hill. From the main path at the bottom you can just see where my feet have made a faint beaten track that snakes up the slope through the long stalks and flowers. Turn and follow it. Walk slowly and touch the spiked, purple heads of the thistles as you pass, stroke the sprays of tall white daisies that sway and leave trails of yellow pollen against your thighs. Run your fingers through the graceful nodding tails of the grasses, let their silk play between your fingers.

    Pretty soon you will come to a small open patch where the plants have been trodden down to form a hollow. This is my nest. I can be away for over a week and return and there is the impression of my body still in the grass, an oblong that fits me perfectly. No one can see you from the path, only the bees and the crickets will know you are here.

    In a few months I will be gone from this place for good and my nest will disappear. The grass will spring back and other plants will lean in and grow tall. It won’t take long for there to be no sign that I was ever here.  But now you have found me here, lying sprawled on my back watching the sky, legs crossed at the ankles, my arms flung out at my sides, a grass stalk in my mouth, thinking certain thoughts, not thinking certain others.

    One brave cricket has decided to hang around a little longer today. He has sprung from the grassy wall of my hide and landed - ping! - on one of my bare knees. He tickles but I keep still. I say hello. He doesn’t. Instead he rubs his tiny hands together then strokes his antennae, one then the other, over and over. He steadies himself and starts a rasping, circular song, serenading me with his tiny, broken violin. A thousand others, hidden in the grass, begin too and suddenly I am surrounded by wave upon wave of cricket calls, insistent and constant and pulsing deep within me.

    I whisper things to the creature as he plays. I talk to him and tell him secrets. Insects are good at keeping secrets, mainly because they are bad listeners and never remember what you’ve told them. But I whisper to him anyway and he plays his broken violin and the sun comes out and warms my legs.

    A bi-plane drones overhead. I shield my eyes with my hand and watch its progress, which is so slow that I don’t know how it stays in the air (I can explain the principles of aeronautics and aerodynamics in minute detail, with explanatory diagrams and sounds (the sound effects are vital) as a result of my fight against my severe fear of flying. It hasn’t helped the terror, but the wingtip vortex noise I can make is pretty great.) The old machine potters around in the sky like a happy, fat dragonfly and then starts to climb. It rises through air that seems thick as honey until it is upside down, then loops backwards and over and comes horizontal again. I half expect it to shake itself like a wet dog after its exertions, and it meanders on until it is out of sight.

    I look down and the cricket is gone. No warning, no slight shift in weight, no soft spreading of wings in preparation. One moment he is there, rubbing his hind legs together and watching the world through his bulbous eyes, the next he is not.

    I smile and stroke the skin on my knee where he sat. It is marked still by old faint scars from childhood falls and warm from the new sunshine. A line from a Philip Larkin poem comes into my mind. It’s just a scrap, a final sentence, and I don’t know why these words are suddenly in my head, words that the poet so desperately wanted to believe were irrefutable, rather than the “almost-instinct almost true" of the penultimate line. These words, this simple thing, this poem’s end:

    “What will survive of us is love.”

    I look up and across the valley to where clouds are massing on the horizon, an army of them all seated on their heavy, snorting warhorses, preparing for battle, readying for the charge. They will be here soon dragging the wind behind them, battering this grass with their cloaks of rain, galloping in chaos about the dark skies and rattling their shards of lightning against the trees.

    But right now I am here, safe and warm, lying heavy and soft against this earth that I love so much, watching planes play in the sky, listening to an insect orchestra, thinking about Larkin’s medieval knight and his lady frozen in stone and in love, the grass stroking my cheek, the flowers nodding sleepily against my hair and this is happiness, these simple moments, these tiny details, this is all it takes, truly, and I believe Larkin’s words. I believe them whether the old bugger meant them or not.