I always need time to process – especially for sudden events. At the time of the event, I will coolly accept, plan, go on, but in fact the processing part of my brain glides into a semi-state of suspended animation. From there it takes its own sweet time to unfreeze and for the effect of events to fully impact.

Because of the pandemic, where it seems the only completely safe place would be outer space, there is in place a universal state of emergency, one which the whole planet is struggling to deal with.

My present preoccupations could well be likened to the process John describes in his Tumblestone blog of gaseous volcanic material cooling and compressing to form rock, which in turn, through rivers, ocean movement and weather, eventually end up as beach pebbles.

I feel I need to compress all the reactions, thoughts and impressions resulting from the universal upheaval caused by disease, down to the small, the personal and the manageable. However, unlike geological processes, I do not have the luxury of billions of years in which to come to a satisfying conclusion.

What I have figured out though, is that my brain is getting me to start from the outside – the sky, the stars, the ocean, the birds – and from there, work my way in to where (hopefully) a kind of logic and reason wait to help me through. I trust that once the process is complete, I will have something tangible to go on with. Gems I can pocket.

The poem below is an attempt to describe something of this experience.

A gem of a calendar – a kind gift from John of the Tumblestone blog

from the outside in

From birds on power lines, to calendar pages
featuring polished pebbles,
close up, landscapes on their skins
formed by compression
of volcanic gases.
Looking down at a weak sunflower
and a small gardener
as she fills plastic planters with clay clods
near a lawn with a paddling pool
as compensation
for lack of access to the beach,

back to where I stand
safe for now, behind glass looking
from the inside out,
hearing a neighbour’s chainsaw
while listening
to Spotify on Bluetooth. From the black-and-white
crown of thorns crossword grid
on an outside, wooden table bathed blond
by light as harsh as a picket fence,
back to a keyboard and screen
in a room half-blinded by the day’s light.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

One thought on “Processing

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