I discovered an interesting thing about myself while I was away. Maybe I knew it along.
Have you ever worked in an old fashioned darkroom. With film, good old fashioned honest film. You expose your image with a light projector through the negative and onto the photo paper, then in your dark room you slide that blank paper into the developer, it is like water in a tray and gently you rock the developer tray up and down, up and down with the paper moving gently in the fluid until the image, like slow magic, begins to appear on the paper, it is distant and faded at first but soon it becomes clear and sharp. Soon you see exactly what you have and all the things you did not mean to have. Largely Un-edited. Complete.
Then you wash it through a tray full of water, working your way down your counter and then into another tray that holds the fixer. The fixer solution seals the image to the paper. Then you wash your finished photograph in water again, and dry it. Then you look at it and think about it.
Sometimes my thoughts are like this. I have to rock them for a while in the solution – letting the image slowly form then move these thoughts through all the steps until they are crystal clear and allowed out into the light to dry. And be considered.
I learnt that I am no longer afraid of being alone. In fact after days of normal family life this last week, I found myself floundering sightly. Unable to find the words. Resorting to the kitchen for my expression.
I almost always say the wrong thing. After years and years of saying the first thing that came into my head, I find myself choosing my words more carefully now that I live in a foreign country. Then slowly my words sigh back into the silence. I listen more. Wait. Nod. Watch.
I find I have lost the ability to join conversations. After the long hours of silence that accompanies my days I find that I need to search for a word. They will trip off my fingers but not my tongue.
I have become solitary. Or at least my ability to be solitary is clear now. It is something I am good at.
I think many old fashioned farmers are like this. We move our cows, calling them through the gates, we walk about the sheep feeling their cool noses and watching them walk, we watch the pigs leaning on the fences saying good piggy, good fat piggy.
Except when the biggest fat piggie breaks into the chook-house. You forgot to put the barrier thingy back up, miss c. Hmm. Did you eat all the eggs Sheila? I ask. Never, says Sheila. Big, fat, liar piggie.
See you can’t talk to people like that – especially with an accent. But I can do it all day long with the animals because they don’t care what my words are they only listen to my tone. When they hear the laughter tone in the words – that is what they feel – laughter.
There is an etiquette for talking to people. I missed that page.I was absent that day. My gaze is just a little too direct. My answers just a little too considered. My articulation a little too precise as I feel about with my tongue for the word that would make sense. My silences just a little too telling. I take what people say at face value. My sense of smell is so precise that I have trouble controlling the flare of my nostrils and that little lift of my chin as I follow a scent. My hands are too busy. There is no delete button for my mouth. So I am careful with it.
This is why I am better out here on the prairies. This is why farmers like us have hair that sticks up all over, nothing but chapstick on our lips, we tie up our pants with baling twine, and wear odd socks and slop about in boots.. not fancy cowboy boots but mucky gumboots. Farm life is judgement free. Cows don’t care.
I have discovered that I have come a long way from my High Street life. And I am realising that I may never be able to go back. One thing I know for sure.. I eat well. But quietly. Lucky Our John is the Silent One. Lucky for me that I have you. When we write we can make sure our words are what we mean.
Left to myself.. would I become a recluse?
Have a lovely day. I will. I do.
your friend on the farmy,