I’m walking through a drab suburb to the school and a shift I’m not in the mood for.
The few of us who just got off the bus trudge along in single file and mp3 privacy. The pavement is an ill-considered reddish colour that meanders alongside a concrete cycle path and descends into the housing development where the school is. The adjacent gutter is strewn with the debris of the careless. I pass empty drink cartons, what look like the innards of a TV, dead batteries, dog do, discarded packets and wrappers – dietary supplements and low fat milk substitutes.
I will get to the school and instead of sitting outside and enjoying an hour of sunshine before work starts I will sit at a net book in the cool, concrete and fluorescent-lit classroom trying to do too much in the time available. When the children arrive I will leave it believing that I have done nothing; that I have messed up.
As I walk I’m feeling – and I’m sorry to say it in a world of “15 Ways to Release Your Inner Marvellousness”, “Shake Those Shackles!” and “You’re unique! (and so is everybody else!)” – somewhat less than effervescent. Not so great, in fact. A little bit shitty, to tell you the truth. Like a loser, you might say.
Like a failure.
I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what to do with myself. For the best. The year has been a sugar rush and I think I might be crashing now. We’ve done well. I’ve done well; but can I sustain it? How to sustain it? How to become something else? To make a new …
…my thoughts fuss. All the time. I am a compendium of rehearsed argument, an anthology of the raging scenario on legs; I’m spoiling for a fight. I am anxious about everything. I want to be heard and I express the wish in utter, interior silence. I hurt myself with it. Sabotage; the old habit – the one I really have to kick…
…more money how don’t know to write what to chase what more time no time don’t know what to do with the time I have writing photography thinking teaching writing thinking photography teaching write what for who money need more must learn Spanish not speaking enough thinking too much must learn Spain must learn K must learn me must learn must learn must earn must earn more money how…
…I’m approaching the roundabout where I take a right and scurry across the road to rejoin the path that goes down to the school and I notice a big bird flying low over the patch of sloped wasteland to my left.
It’s a vulture. Odd to see one alone and now that I look I see that it isn’t; there are two of them. No, three….no, five….seven…..twelve. It’s not yet a sight I’m so accustomed to it doesn’t stop me in my tracks, head back at a foolish angle. I’m frozen – bird-watching – while others step around me and the street melts away.
They come in over the hilltop in a line guiding one another – leading, following. These birds are carrion eaters but they do hunt – for hot air; they fly from thermal to thermal in search of height and perspective. They would be awkward, cumbersome creatures without lift but it doesn’t seem to worry them as they glide between the pillars of it that they depend on.
Assured and untroubled; like scoops through thick ice cream their wings cut the air soundlessly. This committee is unresolved; still seeking that next column – a bit of flapping required now and then, a bit of effort.
With my head up I see the suburb for what it is – an unfortunate splat on what is otherwise pristine natural habitat. I am in a valley here that descends to the sea from the sierra; seen as a whole like this it dwarfs the houses, the cars, the people. To my left the clouds are high altitude cotton candy wisps; to my right they roll lowly in over the hills as I near the school and throw a look back over my shoulder.
They have found their thermal and rise on it effortlessly, circling and ascending – spiralling upwards against the deepest of blue skies.
Why hadn’t I noticed how blue it was?