Kicking off the Christmas Silly Season and a difficult conversation of sorts

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Over the past few weeks, temperatures have slowly crept lower and lower, dipping below zero on occasion and leaving the city centre sidewalks crunchy and slippery underfoot at times. The leaves that the trees – once leafy and full but now stark against the light of the reluctant mornings – shed haven’t helped the state of affairs, trapping moisture which turns into treacherous ice once the temperatures dip below zero. All of that, and being this side of Halloween, means that it is the beginning of the Christmas Party silly season.  This year, I have just the two to attend, a far cry from the halcyon days of $100 oil. I suppose this belt-tightening regime can only be a good thing, given it underscores a more prudent, sustainability-focused outlook for the industry. Tight belts or not, there is a certain bluntness which alcohol engenders, that is one of the things I am looking forward to witnessing.

Speaking of uninhibited truth-telling, I had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of sitting next to a somewhat inebriated gentleman a few days ago on one of my recent flights down south. Very clearly in the mood for a natter – in spite of the fact I had headphones on and had a book in hand – he proceeded to interrogate me for most of the flight, all whilst being apologetic about intruding on me. Questions about where my parents were originally from ( I am visibly black), if I had been subjected to racism in the past, Brexit and what I did for work were a few of the potential banana skins our conversation navigated. A few years ago, I might have taken umbrage at his line of conversation but I am learning that context is everything. In this case, it turned out that his wife is a black South African.  It also turned out that the book I had in hand, Bassey Ikpi’s I’m telling the truth but I’m lying, had played a part in encouraging him to engage, particularly the essay I was on provocatively titled ‘Becoming A Liar’. Slippery grounds apart, our conversation eventually turned to mental illness, which is part of the focus of the book. Given the stigma around mental health issues, particularly amongst men, I suppose anything that prompts conversations about it is a good thing. Silver linings then I guess.

Of Cross roads…

Image Source:  Lachlan Donald on Unsplash

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about crossroads  – the metaphorical kind of course – points in one’s life where decisions with the potential to change the trajectory of one’s life are foisted upon one.  The triggers for this latest bout of thinking are varied but the one common thread is a sense of dissatisfaction which has simmered below the surface for most of the year. Turning forty is certainly part of that, particularly as in its immediate aftermath, it felt like I had reached the top of a mountain only to find there was nothing to be seen there. There is also the desire to head down south for good for family reasons, which perhaps has declared open season on everything I have done for work over the past fifteen-ish years. In the rarefied atmosphere in which my thought experiments exist,  everything is an option: from a complete pivot away from oil and gas into something more tech-related, through a less severe move away from being the (siloed) technical specialist I have spent the past few years evolving into becoming more of a generalist to a gap year, travelling the world.

10 years ago if you asked me, I would have sworn off getting into the world of managing people and the (in my opinion) the murky world of office politics but I am finding my revulsion for that less iron-clad than it once was. Truth is when it all comes down to the brass tacks, the things which drive my decisions are the things which drive us all: family, financial security, flexibility and opportunities to get ahead not some rose-tinted version of reality.

Of course, desires are one thing, but they only materialise when desire meets real-world opportunity. Time is also a factor, which is where I find myself now with irons in the fire taking however long they will take whilst I ponder what viable options remain.  The option to cut ties and sail off into a different vista is one my friends M and O have taken over the past few months, as have a steady stream of people in my wider cycle. If all goes to plan, I may not be far behind them. Fingers crossed.

Missing Parts

For the Sunday Muse prompt #80 and Wordle 428. Image source.

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I carry a heavy silence
in my missing parts, each breath
a prayer for resolve to fight
the desire to resign myself
to the ache of a festering disgust
spawned by the echoes of a lie
borne up on the winds from the hills
into the valley’s depths.

Outside a crisis looms –
our house of cards built
up brick by brick with the things
we want to believe slowly yields
to the probing of the truth,
until in the way things really are
I find myself covered, whole again.

Together…

For The Sunday Muse prompt #79 and Wordle 472

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Sometimes beautiful things
can dance in the light –
the dainty and the dense
chiming together, their hum
heavy with intent as it probes
the edge between the steady
and the sublime.
In washing the raw hide of
of a dead gazelle with salt
there is a saving from its struggle
with putrefaction, a prayer
for forgiveness, for absolution
for the crime of taking by brute force.
Here on the edge
of the things we think we know
the dainty and the dense become as one,
both reduced to subsisting
at the mercy of the things which hold
everything together.

Shelter

For The Sunday Muse prompt #78. Image copyright Erik Johansson.

***
Stroke by stroke these
words, hewn by force, as though from
resistant rock are building a shelter,
each one a link to a thought and then
a world beating back the clouds which loom,
a slowly growing splash of colour
holding out against the ashen night without.
These words are calling the trees,
to stand in defiance against the howling wind
and the ground, now covered with frost, to cling
to life, through the night, because
tomorrow comes, and with beginning again.

Yellow Dream

For The Sunday Muse Prompt #75. Image Source.

***
A yellow orb,tethered
to the earth by slender strings
descends, its yellow light
a hue cast over this dream
in which I find myself looking
at my selves; the past and the future
holding the hands of the present,
tiny figures scurrying up
ladders which seem to reach
for the sky, reinventing
what is seen. Darkness lingers
in the corners of this vista
but stroke by stroke
pixel by pixel, the dream
and reality are slowly
melding into one.

Remembering

seasgull prompt
Image source, for The Sunday Muse prompt #74

***
Like the slowly louder clunks
a train’s wheels send ahead,
as it wends its way along ancient tracks,
the old man’s memories float
slowly to the fore, the streaks
of dappled light dancing
on the walls behind his face
a spotlight, falling on him
the same way it falls on
a minstrel at a cabaret, drawing a hush
out of the muted mumblings of the gathered.
Though his wrinkled skin, once soft
now lies wrinkled, warped and folded
and his fingers once supple now lack dexterity,
like a seagull resplendent in its freedom
the memories of past songs return,
the track and the piano fusing in
a crescendo refusing to be silenced.