Thursday, June 28, 2007

The playground, the plaits, the policeman

There is a playground nestling in the near corner of the woods known as Keskuspuisto, the central park, although it is not really a park at all. It is woodland, and it stretches out and joins other woods and eventually becomes the taiga forest that continues until Lapland, until the latitudes where trees give up, finally leaving behind just ankle-high, twisted, die-hard brothers of the silver birch. The playground is on dry pinewood moorland, the pines are tall and straight and beautiful with their red trunks, all bathed in the faded golden of light of summers long ago.

A is very young, perhaps three years old.

As in all her memories, she is both the rememberer and the remembered, but in this one, very strongly so. She is three years old, let's say, because it is as close as needs to be. Three years old, and it is golden summer.

She is little, she knows this. She is little but as yet somehow invincible, sprung like a bow and arrow, simultaneously arching, aiming, firing, and hitting life. She knows the world was put there for her. She knows her cousin is there to look after her and be with her while her mother works on her studies - her "gradu", graduation piece, so central a word in the daily vocabulary of her world she too works on her own "gladu". Her r's don't roll yet, but as yet, she knows this doesn't matter. Her mother gives her the cardboard backing from one of her graphed notepads, and she folds it in half and writes her gladu on it in yellow crayon. She is still very little, she the rememberer knows this, because at four she began writing stories others could read too, and her gladu is just yellow zig-zag.

Yellow zig-zag across the pages of her gladu, line after line. She the remembered looks at her gladu and feels a dawning understanding of it being just yellow zig-zag. There is an unsettlingness in this understanding, the precursor to the desperation she will learn to experience later.

There is a golden day out in the playground by the woods. The most fascinating of the playground toys is an assortment of wooden blocks, painted in chipped and faded green, or yellow, or red, the size of bricks, stored in a big lockable playground toy box. The big boys stand them up, one after another, making winding, snakey rows of them, finally knocking the last one over and setting them all tumbling down, domino-like. A longs to play this, too, but there is no possibility of ever joining in. It is what the big boys do, and she is three years old, and a girl, with plaits long enough to sit on. A and her big cousin, fourteen years old, play and talk. A worships her cousin. She is not a grown-up, but neither is she a child, yet she plays and talks with A and doesn't laugh at what she says.

How it comes about is lost to she the rememberer, and she the remembered cannot tell. One of A's plaits comes undone - the ribbons of the late sixties come loose easily, especially from sleek, slippery hair on lively heads. There is a policeman at the playground - why, she the remembered doesn't ask, and she the rememberer doesn't know - mere coincidence, no doubt, yet it is this coincidence which creates the memory, ensuring the golden day on the playground doesn't disappear and melt into and become one with other golden days on other playgrounds. A and her cousin approach the policeman and ask him for help. The colours are faded in the beautiful manner of sixties-seventies colour photographs, when the policeman plaits A's hair in the playground by the woods. A sees his blue uniform jacket and bright buttons. She knows the world was put there for her, with policemen to plait her hair at playgrounds.


montag said...

Hi, Anna.
I have been (1) unbelievably occupied, and (2) unbelievably lazy.

I could not follow through on the process initiated in March: being "it" ,
because no one likes me and I have no friends.
Now I feel a bit depressed about it.
Anyhow I addressed the problem in a post "Here, Cymbalta! Sit, Zoloft!"

Sorry, I let you down.
However, in my defense I can only say that I'd probably do it again.


(Now that I am here, it must be said that your writing is rather wonderful...speaking as it does about the important things of life.)

Anna MR said...

Hei Montag,

What an absolute delight to see you here - welcome to my bloggy. I must confess to having felt a mite dorky about tagging you with being "it" back in March - these blog tag things are just a bit of silly fun, really, and I don't really have you down as a silly. But there you are - should anybody else tag you at any point, you can rest assured that you have at least me to tag back, ok?

I shall go and find the post you refer to.

And thank you kindly for complimenting my writing - am blushing here now.

Again - it was good to see you here. Welcome again, whenever you feel like popping over.

A xx

The Moon Topples said...

This is a lovely post, Anna.

Anna MR said...

Maht, my friend, thank you, I am glad you like it. It took me ten days to write - not continuously, of course, but stewing on the back boiler, so to speak - and many things squeezed their way into it that weren't originally intended to be there.

Remember when we talked about writing fiction? I don't have fiction inside me, I just have my own life.


LottieP said...

This is lovely. You describe colours as though they were photographs.

Merkin said...

Nicely done, Mister Anna.

Anna MR said...

Thank you, both LottieP and Merkin.

My memories mostly come in visual clips - and this one, Lottie, is faded in the exact fashion of old cine films. Odd, that.


Merkin said...

Just to cheer you up further, you have missed the fun at the bottom of the comments section of MY last posting (the one where even you were, somewhat unusually, lost for words).

Anna MR said...

"Cheer me up further", Merkin? Why the assumption I am somehow miserable?

I am a thoughtful person, by nature. But shall nip in for a look, regardless, as things carnivalistic appeal to me too.

Merkin said...

I apologise, Dearest Mr Anna.

Indeed, I did make an assumption, but not the one you were thinking.
No, my assumption was - seeing as you appear to be female from the photo - that your spirits must inevitably have been richly raised by that earlier word of praise from my goodself.
Simply, inevitable.

It's a cross I have had to bear since puberty.
And that cross does not seem to be getting any lighter with age.

Ho, hum.

Anna MR said...

We all have our crosses to bear, Merkin...

Reading the Signs said...

I am trying to locate the "Austerly mind" in this lovely post, dear anna.

Anna MR said...

Ah, the "Austerly mind". If you click that label, you'll find the first post where I did this thing of writing about myself in the third person and calling myself A. This is nabbed straight from P. Auster, from his book - shit - I do believe I've forgotten the name of the sodding book. Oh! The Book of Memory - I'm pretty sure of that.

(Shite - honestly - this was not done as a silly, my mind did just blank then.)

So, because it is a stolen gimmick, I feel the need to confess my theft (being a mediocre artist only, see comment to Kurt in the more recent post).

Incidentally, I liked the aforementioned Auster so much I thought I'd die of it, and thus encouraged went and read another one, a "proper" novel rather than an autobiographical one - Brooklyn Follies, I think it was called. But oh dear - it was a disappointment - more like intelligent entertainment than literature. (I am a real hard-boiled literary snob. I know and admit to this, without any shame whatsoever.) Incidentally, I have of late developed a real fondness for autobiographical novels, it seems - and I don't mean autobiographies, but people writing about life actually lived in a literary style. You do know what I mean, Signs, don't you - the Proust area, if you like.

(God, I have missed you, it seems - my keyboard diarrhoea knows no bounds.)


Reading the Signs said...

Righto, I've got to read that. I love Paul Auster even though the
nihilism sometimes overwhelms me. But it draws me too - so much so
that I find myself fantasising about disappearing into the bowels of somewhere completely given over to banality just to see what it would be like.

I appreciate having been missed by you x

fhkmotj - which doesn't bear too much scrutiny but does kind of
suggest (to a warped mind) "fuck my old torn jeans". Now you're even
more x-rated.

Anna MR said...

You need to know I was just talking with you somewhere completely different, on the worthy topic of love (what else?) and its relationship to and with Marmite sandwiches.

Read The Book of Memory (shit, I do need to go and check this title thing. Back in a minute) RIGHT THEN information gathered: it is indeed The Book of Memory, but it is published together with another short novella, under the joint title of The Invention of Solitude. Phew.

So, do read it,Signs my friend, and make sure to come back here and tell me what you thought. I have heard other people mention the nihilism of Auster, but what I've read is hardly a representative sample of his body of work, and can't say I've been made aware of this quality in the books of his I have read. The Brooklyn Follies (man, I hope that was indeed the book of his I read - I know it is one of his, but whether it was the one I read I just don't know for sure) was alright (having just called it a disappointment) - it was a coming-of-age-in-your-old-age-come-love-story that was pleasant enough to read, and I was glad he gave his characters the happiness that had so eluded them, but it wasn't a Great Piece of Literature. Take it from me, Signs, I know these things - I'm just made that way (I know, I know, it's supposed to be classified, but Stockholm rings me up every year - for advice, you understand).

Christ almighty - see what I mean about the diarrhoea? Very happy to see you here so soon, incidentally.