Finnuala Brett: ‘Notes From Quiet Summertime: A Chronology’
My name is Finnuala Brett and I am studying Liberal Arts at Bristol University. This piece is a refined amalgamation of diary entries that I wrote over the summer just gone. Journaling has recently become transformative for me as an opportunity for deep reflection and a way to grapple with feeling and experience.
An introspective diary that is intended to be neither wise nor intelligent; it is not anything other than itself and me.
I saw a dead bird today. Bike keys dangling between fingers, my cheeks were flushed from riding, and then there it lay, on concrete slabs, covered in dust and grit and fragments of brown leaf. I stopped right outside the door to my flat, and we stared at each other.
Soft down twitched in the air, eyes black and blankly open. Young, half-alive it looked. The head was so small, wings skewed open. A fly buzzed closer and I suddenly hated it, for why did this still-warm, broken creature deserve such crude attention?
Cardboard pieces and sticks in my hands, a gentle prod and awkward carrying. I laid it down, resting in a crook of the roots of that old tree, hidden, buried by leaves and away from eyes of the unfeeling. It feels wrong, that something so alive should now be so dead and gone.
The air has settled onto me and this broken bird, grown stagnant and thick and smelling of warm musty June. A car engine, out of sight, starts up. Then the sound grows smaller and smaller until it is quiet again.
From this windowsill the streets flatten and turn grey. A cat sits outside, unbothered and silent, next to the car, corrugated fence, old mattress propped up, cigarette butts scattered. It’s been a long time since I last saw a cat.
It pokes its head under that rusty fence, looks up at me with bright green eyes, then disappears.
I sit alone on this wide, vast beach. The scale of it drowns me in sand and great hills and echoes of waves. To feel the warmth on my skin here is to have transcended, separated from mortal living, reached a quiet unreality beyond.
Sky is painted, in streaks, into dimples in the sand; here, great brush strokes of greenery up a hill; there, low outlines of distant purple headlands freckling the horizon.
The beauty loosens the thoughts and opens the mind. This place is saturated, heavy with feeling and pleasure.
Now, I lie in the hills, burrowed down next to a river creek that sings all night. Few sounds reach my tent but the rain and wet grass underfoot.
The greens of the slopes draw the eyes, magnetise shades and hues and tones into velvet, alive and breathing soft words that materialise in purple heather and the diagonals that cut the hills. There are no solids, no harsh things. The slops pull softly down, descend into cracks in the mosses and ferns and where the sounds of running water trickles across the fields.
And now the tarmac lies patched, winding around the corners ahead and through gaps in the trees. Daylight paints us brighter than damp shadows on the floor.
My eyes find the tops of spires and small birds clinging to telephone wires. It is this space of fields and blurred edges and low skies that quietens my thoughts and sets the temperament at painful ease.
A slow circle of the head, dreamlike, in a haze of warm grasses and summer. Listen: the knocking of time on a window, open to let the sun in.
I am home. The garden has transformed into a meadow that swallows me in grasses and hazy sunlight. Greens are alive and ache, glow from below and above: close your eyes and they seep under heavy eyelids.
Being here is simple and without narrative. Punctuated by nothing but a gentle counting down of days, I find myself instead in an ambience of time.
Do nothing, say even less. These are my instructions to myself: sever mortal senses from this bed of grass blades, lie quietly and in complete openness. Let nothing separate my mind from the slowness of these days of fresh, warm air. Breathe and fill my lungs with it.
I will stay and swim in limbo, detached completely, in a floating expanse of blue. Between sea and horizon I am strung. I am breathless, surrounded, drowned in beauty that tugs at strands of my hair, splayed out while limbs break the green glass hills.
Visions project themselves in the endless sky, and sing to me.
I burned my legs in the sun today.
They are gold and the hairs bleached almost white. My birthmark is darker now, on my right thigh; purples bruise my shins, under dried salt and a sandal tan.
Dark blue night, this music has become, low and so soft it resonates in my bones. Words form in warm breaths against the skin of my cheeks. The fuzz of sun-bleached hairs hardly moves. I am awash in velvets.
A star-full sky glows against my pale body, pale now, alive, laid out bare and truthful.
My mind has cracked today, and the white of my bone darkened by the beginning of moss.
A sliver of sea, I have found, from where I place myself in careful purpose and gentle regard, and it captures my breath and eyes at first small sight. What a beautiful leaking of silver calm into my skull, so fractured and distressed at itself! God – or the God I wish for – has laid down his kind hand and spilled forth this wonderful sight for myself, and myself alone.
A path cut from gentle meadow softens the walk home and follows a row of sunflowers that grow tall along the bank. I will live here in my mind during the worse days.
The metal of this chair is cold through my shirt and presses my belt against the spines of my back.
Sometimes I cast my mind back, foolishly, to the expanses of air between the mountains and the fields that I have spent my summer in. And then, of course, my heart starts to hurt, and the air grows colder and cramped and trickles down my neck and up the sleeves of my jumper.
Maybe my words will fail. It might be that nowords can summon the rush of feeling or wrap themselves like skin around a thought. Maybe all that can be said is silence: and I must brood not, but put ink down, and fall from this ambivalent height, in ceaseless movement and furious desire to simply be.