Peace and distance

On the day Bowie died, I drove from Stratford to a small town where I met Tish Farrell, a blogger friend. She made lunch and we talked about writing and traveling, and then I said goodbye and drove back down to Stratford, Shakespeare’s town. It was the first two weeks of a dry January, the pristine town of Stratford-upon-Avon, feeling cleansed by Shakespeare, a kind of god (or priest, at least). When we asked the guy who ran our flat, which way to the shops?—he pointed, through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden. And it felt like a portal to a place that’s very far away.

I went to bed early each night and woke before the sun, writing by candle, taking long walks at dawn. When it was time to go, we dropped our keys in the box and headed south to London.

We’d been on the road since late October, driving from Germany to Amsterdam by way of France to see friends—a month in Scotland, another in Ireland, the last, in England—exiting late January through France again, back to my mom’s small town in southern Germany.

With all the stuff in our used German car (two kids, a guitar, a Le Creuset Dutch oven, Legos…) and many kilometers to go, how badly we needed our space when we sprung out of the car, and into our rental—and withdrew to our separate corners, for peace and distance.

From London we drove to Bath for a final week, the light noticeably later in the day, a muddy path across the road from our cottage, birds in the morning again.

A final night in Canterbury at a strange hotel before we took the ferry from Dover to France, a last night before the drive home to my mom’s the next day.

Early February in the south of Germany, Dawn and I made plans for Berlin: and with three months left on a nine-month stay, the weeks filled up with plans as winter conceded to spring, and I milked the mornings for long walks in the woods, with scant views of the Black Forest south, windmills and farms, golden fields.

Mom wrote me at work to talk about the weather: wet snow on the rooftops, but not enough to shovel, or salt the walkways.

And I remembered that one day on the train from Stuttgart home, when it turned from rain to snow, and we climbed the road from the train station and made fresh prints along the way.

I played the last Bowie album and sat in the den with a cup of tea thinking, I love January if only for the light, for the returning birds and strange flowers that bloom on the shrubs out back, that bring us hope, and reawaken our senses. I love the months, each one: and there’s some peace in that.


Categories: Memoir, travel, writing

Tags: , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Bowie is in the air. This morning I read a short story in VQR by Ted Thompson called “Lou Reed was a Typist” and Bowie made an appearance. I had to laugh because I could relate to the main character. “Johnson had never gotten into Bowie, with his weird space anthems and his glittery costumes, but he knew he was a big deal…”
    And when I was in Stratford-upon-Avon, I spent all my time taking pictures of the perennial gardens. If there is a way for someone to completely miss cultural zeitgeist or significance, I’m the one to find it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the ring of that, “Bowie is in the air.” He always was, and I get the impression from the sound of that last album he’s taking the perspective that he’s singing to us from the after-life. Seriously! I don’t think it’s fair to go after artists like Lou Reed, like that. They’re easy bait, when they try to swim in that literary space. I heard that Bowie used to picture his albums as theatrical productions: isn’t it neat to think his visual ‘vision’ may have driven the sound that backed it? What an odd creature, that Bowie. And Lou Reed. Sigh. I feel so small, in my designer trekking pants and cable-knit sweater.
      Cheers to you and yours Michelle, and to our memories of Stratford and Germa-line. 🙂


  2. Nice tranquil feeling, and “he pointed, ‘through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden’…” is pretty darn cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I probably mentioned before that I met a woman in London back in ’78 who claimed to have been Bowie’s girlfriend for a while. And I was so stupid I thought at the time, “Isn’t he washed up by now?”

    Uh, no.

    I just noticed last night, as a matter of fact, that he had one dilated pupil all the time, and his eyes seem to be different colors. Pretty far out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. he was clearly of another world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Doing any writing, but especially by candle, in Shakespeare’s town is pretty ballsy. I like yer style, dude.


  6. What is it like to meet up with people you know through your blog? I’ve wondered if I want to do this. I’m not social and I’m awkward with conversation and I feel like many of my blogging relationships are among my best. But also I think that those who read my blog must know me better than anyone. You’re the second person this week to write about a flesh and blood encounter with another blogger. Wonder if there’s something to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, that’s neat you ask. It is a bit strange but gratifying (to me at least). And then when you interact with that person after meeting them, naturally there’s more of a connection. I like it, makes it real. Though a bit awkward to be fair. Life is like that, right (awkward)? Social media makes it less awkward but it’s still awkward I think. Go for it.

      Liked by 1 person

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