There is a cat on the stairs, who stands and stares as I slip on the sixth step; my joints as stiff as his smile.
I slip, he topples, dents and bruises bloom; whilst in the downstairs room the TV mutters, masking my tumble .
These darkening days of Winter, that pleat skies with heavy cloud, and breathe river mists over garden walls;
slow all motion.
The numbing cold and damp transforms me into a stumbling creature, graceless and disjointed; swathed in wools and cashmeres to ward off the slowly creeping stiffness that seeps deep into bone and lingers like rust on a gently rotting hull.
This is the witching hour; the time before dawn where a faint glow low on the horizon filters through dark skies, shepherding in a new day.
A time of small songs, when crickets sing oblivious as water dragons wake from sleep, warmed by lamps, eager to eat
This is the time of cats, uncurled from slumber; who pad on soft paws to scratch at doors, demanding to be let free to roam once more along high walls and down amongst the toppled stones of quiet graveyards.
This is my time; with steaming mug in hand and glasses perilously perched on nose; wrapped in words that whirl from thought to page whilst the house breathes quietly on.
Grey day.Steady rain slicks patio paving, and pools in empty planting pots. Cats clamour to go out, then stand beneath scant shelter, fur ruffled by damp droplets, before scrabbling to be let back inside.
Days like these require different rhythms ; long slow breaths and the quiet rustle of turning pages. Time slows to the spatter of rain on window panes and the bubble of soup simmering on the stove......... and we dream the hours away,waiting for a gap between clouds, and a glimpse of the pale winter sun.
Market stall apricots, warmed in August sunshine; blushing pink with ripened promise as they tumble from scales into a waiting paper bag. This is the start of a ritual long remembered from childhood summers, when fruit would fall from bag to table; to be transformed over an afternoon into jewelled jars of apricot jam.
Juice slowly drips from blade to bowl, as each fruit is split ready to slow cook in lidded pot. Scales groan under a weight of sugar, and lemons are squeezed of their juices. This is the science; a fine balance to create the alchemy of sweet amber delight.
Jam making is an art; I merely an apprentice following my mother's calm directions as I assemble ingredients in the pan; feeling sugar, gritty under a stirring spoon, as heat begins to dissolve each granule, whilst apricots slowly slide and bubble.
Now the wait, as thermometer line creeps ever upward, and occasional slow stir keeps thickening juices from sticking. Here is the skill; an ever watchful eye, waiting for that magical moment when fruit, juice and sugar combine into the perfect consistency, to hang from spoon edge; or wrinkle on chilled saucer. This is the revelation, the secret passed from mother to daughter, to finally capture the familiar taste of childhood in a simple glass jar.
The slow dance begins once more;
this time my mother's pas de deux......
weary from past duets,
recall each stumbling step of this strange ballet
crafted from DNA's complex choreography.
From the wings, the poise and elegance
with which she glides across the floor;
So we remain in the shadows
silently awaiting our cue.........
a stalwart corps de ballet.