light across the water

It’s funny (or maybe not so funny) that in reading you run across passages so puzzlingly apropos of your own immediate experience, generally when you least expect it.

From Jeanette Winterson’s Lighthousekeeping:

I wish I could be clearer. I wish I could say, “My life had no light. My life was eating me alive.” I wish I could say, “I was having a mental breakdown, so I stole a bird.” Strictly speaking that would be true, and it is why the police let me go, instead of charging me with the theft of a much-beloved macaw. The Italian doctor put me on Prozac and sent me for a series of appointments at the Tavistock Clinic in London. The woman whose bird it had been, and was again, felt sorry for me; after all, she might have lost a parrot but she was not cuckoo. She gave me a pile of old National Geographic magazines to read in the loony bin, which is where the nice man at the pizza place told her I would be spending the rest of my life.

The rest of my life. I have never rested, always run, run so fast that the sun can’t make a shadow. Well, here I am — mid way, lost in a dark wood — this selva oscura, without a torch, a guide, or even a bird.

The psychiatrist was a gentle, intelligent man with very clean fingernails. He asked me why I had not sought help sooner.

“I don’t need help — not this kind anyway. I can dress myself, make toast, make love, make money, make sense.”

“Why did you steal the bird?”

“I love the stories of Talking Birds, especially Siegfried, who is led out of the forest and into the treasure by the Woodbird. Siegfried is stupid enough to listen to birds, and I thought that the peck, peck, peck, pecking at the pane of my life might mean that I should listen too.”

“You thought the bird was talking to you?”

“Yes, I know the bird was talking to me.”

“Was there no human being you could have talked to instead?”

“I wasn’t talking to the bird. The bird was talking to me.”

There was a long pause. There are some things that shouldn’t be said in company. See above.

I tried to put right the damage.

“I went to a therapist once, and she gave me  a copy of a book called The Web Not Woven. Frankly, I would rather listen to the bird.”

Now I had made things much worse for myself.

“Would you like another bird?”

“It wasn’t just any old bird; it was a bird that knew my name.”


~ by A Mundi on October 3, 2009.

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