Some days start off this way. Perhaps after deep and unsettling dreams. Or after a night of heavy drinking, prescription painkillers or tranquillisers. It’s a familiar feeling but one which is always startling and profound. That moment when you first wake up and remember that you are alive, and that you are who you are, and exist in the world as a conscious being. And simultaneously, that one day you will no longer exist and will never wake again. In that fleeting moment of conscious awakening, the joy and the agony of life seem fused together in an indivisible unit, and we dimly recognise the mystery of existence and acknowledge the strange hinterland that we sometimes inhabit between being and nothingness.
What a beguiling spectacle to behold. Such precise and elaborate movements. The dance, not performed for an audience, but for it’s own sake, with dignity and with joy. The flexing of the wings. The stretching of the body. Up on the hind legs at full tilt. Cleaning the face with the front legs. A rite of purification before the dance begins. Then dancing in circles. First one way then the other, zigzagging across the plain. Life imitating art. Then suddenly an unexpected gust of wind whips the small body 50 feet, 100 feet, 1000 feet in the air and away for ever.
A stunned silence follows. Was it a dance of death or a dance of life? Do any of us know that this will be our last day? Our last hour? Our last minute on earth?
Someone has left their slippers neatly lined up under a tree by a low wall in the orange grove. As if they walked right out of one life in search of another and vanished without a trace. Not even a footprint or a forwarding address. Perhaps they are still out there somewhere in the surrounding fields, partially visible for an instant between the leaves and the branches. Trapped somewhere on the other side. Able to see us but unable to be seen. Except out of the corner of your eye, or under the silvery light of a sad moon.
I am lying on the bed watching you in front of the mirror, putting on your earrings and fixing up your hair.
Where did your hairbrush go my love? I cannot find it anywhere.
What happened to your hair?
What became of your face and your lovely smile? Your eyebrows and eyelashes?
William the I of England, better known as William the Conqueror, and sometimes also as William the Bastard was a vicious thug, a paranoid maniac and a homicidal despot. Slaughter, mayhem and tyranny were the tools of his trade and his greed and cruelty were legendary.