Gypsy Soul

I always had a strange relationship with my hometown. A lover’s quarrel. The winding streets, the concrete, the faces warm and familiar like the wrinkles that make up the valleys and mountains of your palms. It holds inside of it every inch of this earth that I know to be my own. My entire history has been lived out under those slanted rooves. Every time I left I knew it was only for a little while, and that I was coming back sooner than I wanted to believe. I constantly complained about the way it was comprised of bubbles, a boiling pot of people bound together by the communal place they chose as a stage for all their unravellings. I thought I hated it. But despite myself, I loved it. So now, reduced to the letters of my name, I walk through the big cities of the world. I pave new paths like every modern girl does when she’s flat out of luck and new ideas. I’m not quite sure what I’m gaining. Maybe passport stamps and ‘life experience’ are some sort of badge you must earn before taking your place among the spirited and found. Double-decker buses push past me with purpose and places to go. A handful of people in this entire country know my name, and I am strung between days, sleeping on floors, only able to offer a smile and good conversation in return for a mug of instant coffee in the morning. I’m scared my time will be up before I’ve begun to let myself soak it all in.

And there really is so much to see. The mother of the family I work for is an artist, and she always says that the light over here is different. As I write this now, I look out of my window and see trees, the church tower next door, the way a piece of gauze seems to have settled upon everything and softened all potential brightness. Taming an otherwise untameable wilderness. The grey you see in Adelaide is a filter of drooping heat and exhaust fumes. The grey you see here is mother nature’s gentleness, a blank canvas sky dripping with faded watercolour blues. A cup of tea not quite gone cold. There is just as much beauty and life in subtlety as there is in chaos, though the latter tends to be more sought after. In the month that I’ve been here I’ve found both.

Quietness is my little room on the third floor. It is running hot baths that overflow with bubbles and thumbing my way through books, it is filling up my beautiful leather notebook (a gift from an even more beautiful friend) with the slow curl of rusty handwriting. It is taking long, muddy walks through the fields surrounding me, sometimes beaming, other times with heaving shoulders and hot, salty eyes. It is the daily withdrawal of meditation. Chaos fits in between all that, sparingly. It comes without warning, impeccably timed, making sure I don’t get too comfortable. Things like getting off the underground and stepping for the first time into London streets, gasping at the lights, the shopping centre mountains all illuminated in the night. Grabbing at my friend’s arm instead of words. Walking for hours without any real awareness of moving. Forgetting that I gave my body permission to run on autopilot until I look back days later and remember all the things that I saw with these eyes, touched with these hands. My mind is all flushed and hazy, but luckily we can always find a way to hold onto our histories. It’s written in the cartography of our skin. Bruises are anecdotes, freckles are punctuation, veins flow and ramble like prose. That’s why each human is a walking map of all the things that made them.

I’ve always been bitterly disappointed with my lack of a gypsy soul. My mind wants to revel in endless possibilities, and in the soft matter of my brain I live a nomadic life on various couches and corner café tables. I live on art and love and sometimes forget to breathe. And it doesn’t matter. Not at all. However, the trouble with all this horror and whimsy is that my heart cannot bring herself to keep up. She wants a room with a fresh coat of paint. Possessions, an address, the people we both love dearly. Tonight in a big old grandiose house in England she is grizzly and unsettled. I cannot calm her for the life of me. What have you done, she whispers from the dark. You were supposed to set me afloat but you’ve only filled me up with pebbles. I just smile and shake my head. A healthy dose of hopelessness every now and then shocks us into existence, sends us trudging forwards down unfamiliar roads in the hope that the next bend will give us something we can call our own again. Keeping our feet in perpetual motion, you know? Reminding us that we have feet at all.

a beautiful bar in London 

coffee and Katharine Clinton

my little village

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