The bathwater is hot and shallow. The air is cold. her little butt and feet are warm in the water and steam arises around her. She can just see over the edge of the tub. She is alone. There are some towel rails and clothes hooks on the cream wooden walls of the large and fairly empty bathroom at her grandparent’s farm and there is a toilet in the corner.
This delicious sensation of time alone, timeless time, has stayed with her.
As third child of three under three, taking her time was not a usual experience.
Billy doesn’t want to HAVE to do ANYTHING. Her whole life seems to have been mostly having to do things. Her friend cried the other day that her whole life seemed to be earning money at a horrible job to pay for her house. “i’m working for my house!” she wailed.
Billy had cleaned house for a 98 year old woman who was crotchety and irritable. This elder was determined not to be told what to do, and got positively ratty when contradicted. This was to be avoided with much backtracking and apology and agreement that the elder was completely in charge of everything. The elder felt that her whole life had been working for others; in her retirement she had determined she would do ONLY what she wanted to do.
In the Cypress Swamp.
The tall Cypress trees arose above their buttressed trunks with knots from lost branches or dead remnants projecting like alien limbs, at the lower levels, and lightly leaved branches way up high. It was coming on winter and the Cypress were losing their leaves. Shallow water the color of burnt umber flowed in a winding bed between the Cypress mounds and many many Cypress knees projected everywhere around the base of the trees. The Cypress knees looked like people or bodies or hands – they had great personality and attitude. It seemed to Billy that they were spirits, that maybe we become a Cypress knee when we die, and get to express in wooden effigy our favorite moment of being human. Billy thought of this and looked for a knee that might represent her. “But I want to be the TREE”, she realised.
She was not a performer because she had not believed in herself as such.
She was not a writer because she had not disciplined herself to write, in an organized manner.
She liked the expressions – an “artist manque”, or an “artist faute de mieux.” That was what she had become, an artist missing something, or an artist for lack of a better choice. Choice – that was indeed her issue. She knew what she didn’t want – more of the same. It was very hard to see what she did want, and a long long struggle to get it.
She called her life a quality drift. It was certainly a fine looking life in many respects from the outside, but it certainly was a drift, adrift. It was past time for Billy to wake up.
And the best thing that is helping with this is a timer. A yellow plastic timer from the 60’s, with a white flowershaped face and black numbers, a black turn handle and a self winding mechanism that busily ticks off the hour or minutes before ringing loudly. Billy uses it to help her focus and get things done – an hour of this and an hour of that. She is prioritising those things she always wanted to do but never felt there was enough time to do. She is waking up.