City Dreams

Saturday morning sunshine woke me.  But I wish I’d blocked out the light.  I DID NOT WANT to wake up.

In my dream just before I woke up and rolled over on the softest bed ever, somewhere in New York City.  There was a duvet and loads of pillows covered in white cotton sheets.  The light was filtering in through a balcony door somewhere – I couldn’t see it from my nest but I knew it was there.  This was my room.  And I was not alone.  Through one half-opened eye I could see to my right, asleep on his stomach, was my life partner.  A well-built man with back muscles relaxed under tightly stretched nut-brown skin, he promised to be at least two inches over six feet tall standing.  I got the sense of comfort, security, belonging and strength from the moment.  And then there was a knock on the door.

In came our housekeeper to give him something important to sign.  “Come in” he grumbled from his position, head in pillow.  “We’re not doin’ anything.”  That one made me smile inside but I was too sleepy to laugh.  But I did draw the blankets up around my chin, snuggling deeper down.  She came in, gave him a pen and a piece of paper, he signed and she left as quietly as she’d come.  When she was on her way back to the door he turned to me and drew me into his space and we both went back to sleep.

And I woke up.

That day I decided it was ok to dream of love.  There is no shame in it and nothing dirty about it.

The dream followed me for days until I met its equal.

I woke up this morning to Lola licking my hand hanging off the side of the bed.  She spent some time on my fingers and started pulling at my whole hand with her two front paws.  My dog loves her hind legs so much I think she thinks she’s human.  She follows my every move when I put on my makeup and brush my teeth so that I’m sure if she tried she could do it herself.  Next she’ll want me to teach her to drive!  And so she took my hand in her two hands and tried to coax me off the bed.

But I didn’t want to wake up.

I had just walked into my Aunty’s house in London to tell her that I had found the perfect house!  Before that moment of waking, I had trecked all of the South East’s suburbs looking for a home for me and my two dogs.  It needed to be reasonably near to the train station, reasonably near to a park or a nice walking route, and reasonably near to my Aunty.  I had found the perfect flat for the three of us to live in and was going to take my photos to Aunty for her opinion.  And then Lola woke me up.  To reality again.

I am dreaming at night of a new life, travelling to new cities in my sleep.  There is a growing itch spreading past my toes and my ankles, telling me it’s time to get on a flight.  And so this morning I booked my flight to New York.

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Winter Baby

Winter has begun at home.  Many northern readers will scoff at my calling it a winter but it is true.  Winter has come to the Caribbean.

It means that the sun rises more lazily and with less malice and the cool air on my morning walks will dance goosebumps awake between the short strands of hair on my arms.  It means that ten o’clock doesn’t feel like visit to the sun, the sea takes on a personality of frothy whitecaps, and the evening light falls yellow through the blossom-heavy poinciana trees.  Winter light is different.  It is softer and makes paradise more picturesque.  My mother pointed this out to me as a child and when the light begins to change I think of other winters spent wrapped in the love of my family.  Lullabies in hammocks hung between tamarind trees with stars peeking down between the leaves.  Fishing off a rocky outcrop with my grandmother calling “Duck!” every time she went to cast a line.  “Don’t want dat hook to ketch yu ear now!”  The early morning static crackle of wind and the radio as my daddy and I would chase the dawn with the top down and hair flying in search of car parts and oily garages.

Many and fond are my winter memories.

More recently was my first sighting of snow in my first year of college standing at the window with my first boyfriend and watching it drift dreamy to cover the tennis court in white.  My first snowball fight with my friends from Singapore.  It had been their first one too.  The sight of Durham Cathedral squinted at over the folds of my scarf from St. Aidan’s steps with misleading sunbeams dressing her turrets flung high into the winter sky.  My twentieth birthday when I lost my gold stilettos and had to be carried laughing and just a little tipsy over icy streets on the backs of two friends to the taxi stand.  Frozen mornings running late to lectures past C.S. Lewis’ lampost and over Prebends Bridge.

Winter is where I was born.  Winter is where I found myself; my faith, my dreams, my fears and my melancholies.

This winter I might miss the snow.  I may not get to London in time to see it in all its maddening wildness as it grips the belligerent and defiantly unprepared city.  I am looking forward, nevertheless, to scones and mulled wine, crumpets and marmite, a flaky chocolate crepe after standing shivering in the long street line in Hampstead, and a fantasy-like trudge through the Heath.

But today, at home here in the Caribbean I welcome with thanksgiving the cool reprieve of our very own Winter.

Prebends Bridge, my winter route to lectures. (davidwebb-landscapephotography.co.uk)

Secret of the Orchids

Cattleya from a cousin's garden in St. Elizabeth

I found myself empty handed at London Bridge tube station.  It was my first year in college and I was visiting Aunty.  Empty handed.

It isn’t done.  Not in my family.  Travelling from one relative to the other gifts would be exchanged and produce from their farms and gardens would fill your car trunk for distribution with other relatives further down your journey.  Scallions, tomatoes, oranges, juice, bammy, johnycakes, the first bunch of grapes for the season, flowers.

On this day, annoyed with myself for not having thought of it earlier, I popped into the flower stall and bought the first orchid.  Holding it to my chest I ran for the train.  It was a dendrobium.

That night Aunty would tell me off for spending my money on her, scold me for buying an orchid that she would never be able to keep alive, and smile brightly at the shocking pink sprig of blooms.  On my way back to college she would stick a fifty pound note into my jacket pocket that I would find half-way to Scotland and long after I could object.

Before going to bed that night I would sit in the kitchen with Aunty as the kettle sang and wait for the hot water bottle she insisted I needed.  And the cup of tea.  It was always in this kitchen that I would learn the secrets of the family, and most of all my grandmother.  She died when Daddy Bushlings was two years old and he struggles with the few cherished memories.  He too has sat on this old wooden stool in the kitchen and peppered Aunty with questions of who he is and who she was.  But on this night Aunty would share the secret of the sisters.

There were six of them and they were widely spaced in age as they are now in geography.  As they filled our car trunk when we would travel through Jamaica with gifts for each other, there were always flowers.  Lilies, birds of paradise, orchids, hibiscus.  The colours of their secret language of sisterly love.  My grandma, the first to leave the sisterhood, always brought orchids.

This morning I found four flower stalks on my own dendrobiums.  They hang outside my porch in a little tree where they catch the rain and are guarded from the sun.  Excited to see new life and the promise of living colour, my thoughts turn to Aunty and her speedy recovery.

From that night, what had started by accident became a tradition.  Every trip I made to Aunty, as long as I could squeeze it into the student budget, I went with an orchid in hand.  Now, long distance, I still go through London Bridge and make the treck to her by train carrying a phalaenopsis, dendrobium, odontoglossum or a slipper orchid.  They arrive, get fussed over, I get told off for spending on her, and then they are put on the mantlepiece to be smothered to death by Aunty’s love.  With each purchase I think of my grandmother long gone and the love of her sisters.  And how fortunate I am to be loved by my Aunty.