Thursday, 15 September 2011


There’s this catalogue that’s started turning up at my house.  I didn’t send for it.  It just began to arrive.  I guess I must have overlooked checking a box on an internet order somewhere to say “NO! Do NOT pass my name on to all your associates in the retail business.”

So it’s just started coming through the letter-box (do you say ‘mail-slot' in America?), and it’s called Prelude.

Now it may be the bag you're into, but it looks a bit sinister to me.  I find it disturbing that somebody somewhere thought that I would be just the woman for Prelude.  The ladies in it are warmly dressed in their snug winter coats and their sensible boots and flatties.  Their trousers are either the sort with flared bums or ankle-swingers.  They are smiling bravely, and their hair is tinted to hide the grey.  They have strings of pearls and sturdy handbags with chains.  They are dressed becomingly in teal and grey.  Cripes, look at this lady!

Is this me?  Prelude to what?  A nursing home?  Death?  I thought I had a few years looking like this to go yet.  And, by the way, did you know that this is a villanelle? 

Anyway, it got me thinking.

Last week in a funeral service, someone read this familiar poem by Ezra Pound.

And recently (the last couple of years) I have had the sense of needing to get ready, doing a big overhaul of my being in preparation – sorting out diet and exercise, checking all body systems like you do with a car, eliminating toxins from my liver and the lumen of my gut, from as many cells as can be reached with herbs and clays and body wisdom, abstaining from ‘foods’ that are not in fact food but illnesses waiting to happen, searching through every level to make sure there are no hidden grudges and resentments, no pockets of necrosis in body, mind or soul.  Getting ready, because this is the Prelude. 

I believe it was Victor Hugo who remarked that forty is the old age of youth and fifty is the youth of old age, and I think I agree with him.

Something I notice is the urgent need to just be and think and be and think and be.  No projects, no agendas, no action plan.  A huge irresistible longing and yearning to just be.  It was like this when I was a teenager.  I spent hours just thinking, every day.  Maybe drawing or writing or listening to music or reading, or just spending time in nature and loving the beauty of hills and clouds, falling leaves and stirring wind, brown streamwater eddying in sensuous ripples on its meandering way.   Alive.  Loving being alive, and that being entirely enough.

And now, after the years of raising family and attempting a career of sorts that never really happened, it comes back again with force.

It’s September (I expect you know this already; if not, you are further on than me!), and we are coming up to Michaelmas, which is also a prelude time.  Right here in the Indian summer days stands Michael the Archangel, warrior and guardian, sword in hand, pointing down the year to the days of darkness in which the Infant Light will be born, and urging us to get ready, for winter is coming.  “Prepare!” says the archangel, “Now!  Before the darkness comes and the cold and the days of death!”

Mid-fifties must be around September, I guess, in terms of a life-span; the prelude to its winter, when everything dries up and freezes and falls, and the world becomes monochrome and hushed.

In my early twenties, I came across this translation of Virgil’s words: “Here’s Death, twitching my ear: ‘Live!’ he says, ‘for I’m coming!’”

How glorious the Christian vision of Heaven, and what dread wonder to contemplate entering the presence of the Great Mystery, beholding His incomparable beauty face to face.  But meanwhile sunlight warm and golden bathes the beautiful autumn days, and there are russet apples crisp and sweet straight from the tree, and the joy of seeing my daughters grown women now, wise and kind, and a grandchild still with the purity of the Light World clinging to him.  And the small lanes of England green with moss and fragrant with herbs, and the great tides of the ocean, with white birds riding the windcurrents and screaming their wild cry.  And my husband of only five years, whose handclasp brings comfort and alignment.

The time will come to leave all this behind, and when it does may the day find me ready and alert.  But I have loved my days of blessed and beautiful Earth, loved every blade of grass and evening breeze, loved to bury my face in the living warm flank of a breathing animal, and smell the sweetness of its furry vitality.  Out of the body of God came all this, and I love it so.  The smell of summer dust and the sighing of the wind in great trees, the massing of cloud ships across the valley sky.

In these prelude days, let me take time, let me drink it in, let me really savour the earthy wonder of being alive. 

But the catalogue’s going straight in the bin


Roberta said...

A warm and beautiful prayer.

Ember said...

:0) Hi, Roberta x

Gerry Snape said...

Ember ...proud of your action..not that I know you by face but perhaps a bit by letter and I cannot imagine you in those clothes!....well that is not unless you were having a dressing up day which I must say I'm partial to myself now and again if I can get the grand girls to play along with me! what fun!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful entry!

[Something I notice is the urgent need to just be and think and be and think and be.] The last time I felt like this (I was 38), I resigned my commission in the Army. I have had the overwhelming urge again. This time I long to sell everything and go live in the country. My husband is really not feeling my dream... I am going to have to figure out how to be a verb in my current setting.

I am feeling your wardrobe issues too. I have a "semi-formal" evening to attend in less than three weeks. I do Janis Joplin much better than I do ankle swingers, strings of pearls and purses with chains. I went shopping last week and left the store with nothing. Nothing I liked would be appropriate. The things that were appropriate I wondered where I would wear them again after that evening. I couldn't justify spending a lot of money for a one evening outfit. I will probably end up wearing one of the broom skirts I already own.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Gerry, hi butomysoul!

Yes Gerry - tea at the Ritz, maybe...

butomysoul - eBay is your friend in those circumstances!

Bean said...

Great post! I love you thoughts on what they might mean by Prelude :) I love the last couple of lines you wrote, just before the throwing in the bin bit, because they are oh so true and exactly how I feel.

Julie B. said...

Transporting. xx

Linda said...

butomysoul, I had to buy a black dress for my daughter's deb in May last year. It was in a department store, but not expensive like race wear. I got the stockings, shoes and a bracelet. This year I had to go to a reunion in April. I added an evening bag, vest/shawl thing, hair trim, foundation with free samples of the mascara, perfume, and I bought a lipstick. I am happy with this. Recently though on facebook my friends all seemed to have the same thing, that made them look acceptable. Fringe, no grey, eye liner, lipstick, lots of jewellery. I was so relieved yesterday to find photos of a wedding that had something like what I wore. The only thing they had that I didn't was maybe small earrings and maybe no grey. But Ember's picture of the "hippy" that really captures my other friends who I love and enjoy on fb. The fun ones lol. My Mum said her neighbour got a lovely dress from ebay from a wedding.

I have felt awful from just thinking. Feel proud of my teenage years, so it is great to get encouragement to keep going to get back to that place. Which unfortunately includes the primping. Not sure if I will go that far or not. Not sure if I have to.

I feel seachanging is too much change, to get the feeling, having a settled enviroment butomysoul creates this ability to just be. Think 50s or 60s. I moved here to the country 8 years ago, so much to adjust to. The being I am doing I do at home. I do get to see nice things in nature being here, but that hasn't brought about the teenage thing, it is facebook and my children growing at the same time, and having improvements in health.

Ember said...

Hi Bean, hi Julie F, hi Linda - thanks for your good thoughts :0) Waving!

Donna said...

Oh, the russets! They're so heavenly this year. When all my life is so confusing and stressful, I am finding sanity in apples.

Ember said...

Good, aren't they! x

paula said...

If you have a slot for mail that comes directly into your house, it is indeed a mail slot. If you have a box outside the house, it's a mailbox. I've never had a mail slot, but I understand they drive dogs craazy.

I always thought that someday I was supposed to look like these women in the catalogs. I know a few women who can do it successfully, but I have figured out that they are tall, slim, and use a lot of hairspray. Those of us who try end up looking like Hilda Rumpole instead.

Ember said...

Hi Paula! It's a mail slot then.
I have been described in the past as a woman whose hair looks like a used mop. No point taking offence, as it's so unavoidably and obviously true! :0D