Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

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Early one morning last December my children and I were out walking our usual well-beaten path when we were surprised to see billowing smoke rising in the air not too far ahead of us. As we drew closer to the apparent source of it we were suddenly  greeted with a loud noise, which we couldn’t identify at first but after a moment discerned to be a steam-train, setting out from our local station. Although we couldn’t see the train itself from our vantage point we stopped and stood watching the tell-tale smoke-trail; turning to follow it with our eyes as it passed the length of the promenade before rounding the headland, South-bound and out of sight.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

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This place that I know intimately remains mysterious.
Sea air and gull cries, stone and salt breeze, sunset and sunrise…
if not here then where can I be at ease?

This place I can’t disentangle my spirit from…
that I long to escape…
remains dear to me,
bound to it by my history, nostalgically.
Pebble beach and grey sand

A sense of bodilessness…
Anchorless and unmoored,
yearning for a place of rest… and for reprieve…
from my restive soul’s badgering,
from thinking and thoughts clamouring,
from the ‘making-sense-of’
and the constant heart’s-hammering
and the considering… which way to turn.

If not here, which place could possibly hold me;
subdue my restlessness;
quell my disquietude;
enfold me and console me?

My sanctuary,
a retreat,
and a reference point for my soul.
My shelter and my bolt-hole,
the perfect layover…
on my way home.

Silhouette of rock, black in the fast-fading light… jutting out into the sea, turned silver by the approaching twilight. Lights twinkle on the distant headland, which lies against a backdrop of burnt orange sky.

A sleek body breaks the surface of the water, turns, still submerged, and disappears again. It retains its anonymity and, for all my eyes strain on the spot, the only perceivable sign of its presence are a few faint, receding, ripples… Allahu alam where it’s gone; melted back into its watery domain.

I remain seated on the stones, drinking in the evening air and sea sounds. I cast glances at my children throwing pebbles into the darkening waves, growing ever-more quiet on the damp shore; racing one another half-heartedly; content despite the death-knell to summer that the cool air sounds.

I sit here dreaming dreams and forming plans for a future I may never witness but would love to see. The water awakens and thrills me; inspires and rejuvenates me; soothes me, heart, soul and mind… I struggle to tear myself away from its majesty.

I’ll sit for one more moment and soak in its perfection… and the perfection of this moment… before we return once more to the place we call home… to sleep and dream of the sea.

25.08.2016

Open Road

The deserted road, like the weeks ahead, stretches out before us and the wind tosses our hair as shadows lengthen and evening approaches. Against the distant skyline stand the mountains… our destination and the unknown. We’ll reach our journey’s end under cover of darkness and watch the sun reappear from a new and unfamiliar vantage point in sha Allah. Life calls, adventure awaits and my two young companions are high on anticipation, alternating between the chatter of plans-in-the-making and the quietude of drinking it all in. I am filled with joyful contentment, and love… I could stay like this with them, in this moment, on this road, forever. My heart swells with gratitude to Allah… for these children, for this feeling, for bringing me to this through the years of pain, anguish and overwhelm… for supporting me even when I deserved His rebuke, for spurring me on when I had no more strength, for making me strong again through Him… for His guidance, His mercy… for stripping me of my attachment to this life, in order that I could learn to attach myself to Him and become whole, for this open road, for it all… my emotions rise as the sun starts to set and slip from view and I thank Him from my deepest core, from the depths of my bruised but happy heart.

19/08/2016

Rotten Apples

The words evoke a pungent smell of dank leaves and windfalls… memories of an orchard years before… a childhood recollection long forgotten but suddenly reawakened from the depths of my consciousness, where it has lain dormant, buried beneath the decades and the layers of debris that have settled. Unexpectedly unearthed now the sweet, heavy scent of rotten apples rises in my nostrils for a moment and scenes flit soundlessly across my mind’s eye; dappled sunshine on leaf-strewn grass, standing self-consciously amongst the trees with the neighbours’ children as their father speaks with the farmer, more fruit than we can carry gathered in our jumpers, piling into the back of their beat-up car to return home with bags of green and rubied treasures.

26.08.2016

Little girl

Baby child with eyes indescribable, how should I love you? I love you to the point of heartbreak, your impossibly sweet face, defiance and tight braid… or silky cascade… one moment loving arms and adventure; gurgling laugh belying the carefree innocence of your age… the next tornado-like and bristling with unchecked rage… flashing gaze… catching me unawares and leaving me afraid… How do I rear you? I who am fractured, perhaps beyond hope of effective repair… how can I nurture your wildflower soul and your fearsome bright spirit without curbing or caging you?

You are breathtakingly, utterly, painfully beautiful. From the very first day indomitable. I fought for you… terror struck at the thoughts of losing you, so tiny, so perfect, and so brand new… so vulnerable…my daughter. You resemble me… with an essence of him… yet you’re just all your own… unlike anyone I’ve ever known. I’m in awe of you, humbled beyond comprehension that Allah chose me for you… overwhelmed by the sense that I don’t know what to do… fiercely protective, convinced that I’m failing, unsure how to guard you from the world seeking to tame you.  Continue reading

It took two years of counselling, with a trauma specialist, and a further two-and-a-half years of mediation, six years, all told, of separation, for me to finally start to let go. It hasn’t been easy; I cope by not thinking about it where possible; it has occupied enough of my time and heart and intruded upon me long enough.

When it does encroach upon me, every now and then, I make dua and endeavour to re-center myself, in the moment. Allahu alam what the future holds… I never thought I would be here and who knows in six more years where any of us will be. This day, this breath as it leaves my body and my Iman are all that I have; I let that anchor me. Alhamdulillah.

Sometimes I’m shut off and I all but forget and sometimes I suddenly remember and my blood runs cold and I catch my breath. The knowledge that I will never see him again brings both panic and relief… not always in equal measure. As my daughter lies tossing and turning in the cot-bed she’s fast out-growing I sit in the fading light fighting the urge to dwell on the thoughts of him that writing has stirred.  Continue reading

Should have known

I loved him even though I should have known better.
I should have known because he told me from the outset.
Told me he was damaged beyond repair.
He laughed about it.

I should have known because the writing was on the wall that he pinned me against.
I should have known.
I should be able to let go.

But I lie here with our daughter’s small warm feet nestled against my own
and my head fit to implode
at his remembrance
and the magnitude of the warped reality
that my mind can’t quite hold

27.04.2016

I came to Islam after a lifetime of instability, uncertainty and ‘searching’… sometimes my searching was conscious, if not active or decided, and sometimes it was nothing more than a longing for connection; leading me in all but the desirable direction.

I wandered and strayed, had adventures and made mistakes. I experienced the exhilaration of reckless abandon; and the consequences of it. I tasted betrayal and abandonment, all manner of pain and confusion and resiliently ‘bounced back’ each time, seemingly no closer to the truth

As the flutters quickened within I became more certain in my being than I had ever been that there was an Originator… a Creator… this ‘happening’… this miracle unfolding… was too incredible to all have been by chance… all credit, as due, I attributed to One beyond my comprehension… suffice to say I was convinced of ‘something’, yet I didn’t truly seek to understand.

Continue reading

Black Swan

A black swan cuts a singular path through the blue air… I turn my eyes upward for just a moment, surveying the apparent dome of the summer sky. Unusual cloud formations, seemingly motionless despite the welcome breeze, give the scene a surreal sense of pause… turning back the swan has disappeared from sight. A lone gull crosses my field of vision, black-tipped wings rising and falling rhythmically and unhurried; sun glinting on its pure-white body.

A yacht moves out into the bay, so slowly it could be imagined to be drifting, or even shrinking. Departing at a diagonal from me, its sail has already risen above the horizon, where fifteen minutes ago it had looked close enough to touch… now its mast is barely perceptible where sea meets sky; cobalt touching pale-blue serenity. Continue reading