Should all stories get told? Tell yours, they said. We all do, they said.
I know, I smiled. I’ve read your stories.
I’ve heard you tell the tales of sunshine that slants just so, and smiled. For I had sunshine too.
And showers. And clouds. Literally.
I have had days when all I could do was count the dust motes in the bright shaft of sunlight that came into my room. And other days when we drove across the autobahn, with no speed limits in the middle of a cloud – as it burst. At night. Our only guide the dim red light of the car ahead of us – we hoped it was a car, there was no way of telling. There was no way of telling whether there was a road beneath us except the fact that we had not fallen through yet. There was nothing to our left or right but grey cloud. We were young, our child strapped in his seat behind us in the car, our cycles strapped on high above the car. Raising the centre of gravity, making us more unstable. Buffeted to and fro, the wind, the water and us. We live intensely in these moments – just us, the task and survival.
We survived. I am here to tell the tale.
Been there, done that. I have lived a rich life. Been through much. The ceiling dripping over my perfect Christmas party laid out for forty. The roof – mid repair- being torn apart in a storm, the rain water causing the bulb over my bed to explode. Unpeeling myself as I held it all together. We held. We all did. Is that a story to be told?
Or is the story about what we have gathered? Though they say a rolling stone gathers none. Should I tell of how that was done?
Should I tell the tale of my beautiful lake and how she spoke to me? No, not literally this time. But each lake carries its own depths, its own reflections – and when I add mine to the ones I have visited, we make a story of our own. There were those that were said to have monsters in them, but to me, they were friends to picnic by… Climbing down a little slope, we found our own little ledge. There was a tree nearby that gave no shade – it was in full bloom with pretty blushing flowers, not a leaf in sight. We needed no shade by that cold bright lake as it lit up our faces with the reflected sun. No riches can be greater than that moment when we sat together upon that ledge. Shall I tell you what we said, and how profound it was?
Maybe another day, maybe never. It may spin a good tale, but it is mine to have and hold for now.
I could tell you of the apple and cheese picnics that became a ritual as we drove across continents – stopping by a lush waterfall – ignored, for there were greater beauties around. On a grassy knoll next to a little bridge that let the rivers chose their path and arrive at the greatness they deserved.
These rivers were another story, finding each other across gentle slopes and holding hands till they became one, and then again, finding another and another. We sat between them, those that had found their friends, and those that were just about to. We could see them as we sat in a soft, cozy spot between the streams. Our apple, cheese and bread often thrown to the fish we could see through the clear cool waters. We would drink the same waters soon.
We follow rivers, often. From their clear mountain birth, drop by drop, from snowmelt to salty sea. We walk by them, we drive, we cycle. We love them, and they gurgle lovingly to us. From these rivers come our stories, our poems, our strengths. We watch them – shiny, foamy, intense. Calm, deep, persevering. Strong, fast, purposeful. They change colour with the land around them, some reflecting the stone around them, some the metal and some the woods. They take them all in their stride, accepting them as circumstance when they must. Yet we remember the river, not its colours along the way. She bears her twists and turns with forbearance, her moods known only to those who love her. To the rest she is cool, distant.
Hungry often, she has stories to tell too – stories of young sailors she gobbled up along a bend in revenge for a lover lost. You can see that spot marked by a rock in the middle of one of the largest rivers in the world. No young handsome sailor was spared, they said. For the beauteous girl had been denied her man. She died at that spot in grief and sorrow – and now none may pass. The currents are strong, dear one. The rivers, they carry their own strength within them.
Shall I tell you their stories in simple syllables meant for all? Or would that be betraying their trust?
Yes, I have tales of mountains to tell, and of glaciers walked and oceans swum (fine, others dived, I paddled; and I only took a few steps on the glacier). Of dolphins seen in cold north seas, and cold south seas – and then in a river when they said I would not. They played with us in captivity but they played for us when they were free. The whales that spoke, the sharks that we skirted. Yes, literally.
I have stories from around the world, but not all of it – there are more I will gather as I go along. Some stories from my backyard, and some from the backyard of giant mountains. Tales that came from dust in my bright house, and then some from desert sands traveled over by camel and machine. We sang songs of fire and ice with the gypsies in Moorish mountains, saw underground rivers cross with scant regard to borders. We danced with bright scarves and black skirts. Across lands their beats matched those of our heart. We danced as sisters do, knowing we would never see a sunrise together. Sisters in beat, in breath. But no more, except in memory.
Memories we made as mothers too, watching over each other’s children like our own. Strangers in supermarkets who became friends, telling us off for our anxieties for they had known them too. Home making years, when the back yard was a forest, and the house a dump. Transformed magically to a homestead when the others were all at work. I could tell you stories of being the aunt, the sister in law to a generation, handing over to them when they were ready. Of cakes baked to moist perfection, of the natter that seemed to have no reason but comfort. Of worlds of crisp linen and soft bedsheets, the gracious hostess creating an oasis for world weary travellers. They used to write poems about women like that, of comfort, of love, of homecoming. Of strawberries and cream, of trifles.
Are trifles tales? All stories lie in trifles. Layers, like life. The sudden juicy sweetness exploding in your mouth, filling your life like nothing else. The surprising sour that you strive to accept with grace, wincing quietly to your insides. Perfectly positioned in glass bowls that could crash and shatter at any time, taking all the work with it. Making a mess for mother to clear.
We mothers, we had stories to tell. And long years to tell them. To all the others with the same stories. Of love and soft hugs. Eyes that looked at us in trust. Of soft skin that was one with our own skin, we had made it from within. We had stories of breaths that merged in happy laughter at the wisdom of the tots, and then merged again as we wept together, hot and wet tears melding, finding comfort when our hearts met, the beats becoming one again.
Still moments, when I sang to the baby and the world stopped for us. When we danced together, till we fell. And picnicked by the brook, or on the green. Everyday an adventure, at every turn, we grew – gathering stories along the way. Yes, caught some nettles too, but there were plenty of petal strewn paths. And kings and queens, and castles – some they built and destroyed, some we did.
Past mountains, oceans and lakes; past deserts, valleys and rivers; through glaciers and cathedral towns; with animals wild and tamed, we traveled. Homes grand and small; food recommended by the stars of Michelin or the stars that led us to the hovel by the road; toilets where attendants waited on us with soft white towels – hot and cold, or those where the branches above were our only shelter – we traveled. We traveled with those who had come from us; with those that brought us here, and then with those we found. And Loved. And in each breath, each curve of smiling lip, in each wave of a hand lit by sunshine, or eyes lit by the grand visions they saw – there were stories.
Did I even tell you of climbing a volcano, tripping on the dry ash it had left behind? Or leaning in over a cliff, almost pushed over by a gust of wind into the cold green wet cauldron below? Did I tell you of how we swam with the horses in the sea, climbing over rocks that told of battles old to dry ourselves over hidden caves? Or of ghostly fireflies that chased us as we found ourselves at the end of the road at a haunted fort – the map said there was a road, we saw but shadows, and fled. How do I tell you of the ghosts we chase, of the ones we left behind? There are some I keep, for they are mine.
Did you say, tell me a story?
I would tell you, but they are mine.