letting go: the right time to die

kat-mcdonald-aged-2

i remember, as a child, everything being so tall… perhaps it’s my earliest memory.  i remember everything being above me… the dining room table… what was there?  the kitchen work surfaces… the bathroom sink, where i would struggle on tip-toes to wash my hands… the book case… the ceiling…  the shelves in my bedroom, stacked with toys, all just beyond my reach… and the sky… the Heavens… seemed so far away in both distance and time.

i remember walking through a forest of legs.  i remember my mother’s legs.  i remember holding onto them in places familiar and places new.  i would cling to them when i was scared, unsure or feeling lost amid the voices and conversations i was not yet old enough to comprehend…  lost, amid the cigarette smoke and the laughter and the music;  lost, in another world, an adult world,  a world i couldn’t fully feel at home in, but home it was.  i remember that with one stroke of my mother’s hand upon my head everything would feel better.  and i loved it when she sang to me.

i remember looking up at my mother, admiring her… how pretty i thought she looked with her hair curled and shining; her face smiling down at me with so much love in her eyes. love, tinged with sadness.

oh, i knew that she loved me. i knew that she cherished me because she told me that i was precious.  precious because 10 weeks before i was born, my mother lost a son.  a son called William, he was 18 years old.  he was just a boy. a beautiful young boy.  a boy that my mother said i looked like.

i remember looking up at a particular photograph.  i remember wondering why the boy in the photo made my mother cry and wondered if the reason she often cried when she held me was because of him, or me.  i remember, one day, taking that photograph and stuffing it face-down in a drawer.  i didn’t want my mother to be unhappy any more, and the boy in the photograph seemed to make her unhappy.  all of the time.

she went crazy, tearing open cupboards and drawers… then she found it.  she asked me why i put it ‘there‘…  i told her.  and, again, she cried.  it was then she told me the story of William: the brother i never knew.  the brother who she would, understandably, pine for for all her days.

time, forever the paradox, hushes that memory and that day seems so far away – in both time and distance.

today i went to visit her in hospital.  she is 90.  she is frail.  she is small.

today her eyes are still tinged with sadness, but they still teem with love when i walk in the room.

she is a shadow of her former self.  she is not eating and is barely drinking.  she is not well, neither physically nor mentally.  i wonder if she is just biding her time here with us. i wonder if she is simply tired of the struggle… tired of the pain… the loss and the hopelessness.  has she given in?  has she lost the will to continue on, in this cracked and useless mortal coil?

she tells me she’s done, yet she asks me if i’m happy.

“yes!!” i say… with resounding cheer in my voice.  “i am very happy.  the happiest i have ever been”

… and yet upon hearing the resignation in her voice, i am the saddest girl on Earth.

as i fold my arms around her bony frame, i am reminded of my own mortality and the cruelty of death and loss.  i feel like i am losing her and if i hold her too tightly, she may just disappear from me altogether and leave me in a blind panic.

a panic.  just like a time when i was a little girl, shopping with my mother and father, and losing her amid a strange, deep and dark forest of strangers’ legs and loud voices, and hideously patterned floor.  i remember looking… searching… frantic for my her, for her legs to cling to… for her hands to stroke my head… for her voice… that song in her voice.

i was lost.

at a loss, and lost – as i feel right now.

but today, i am taller.  my mind, still curious, is now awakened to the weird fairtytales that were once adult conversations.  the smoke has cleared and i’ve learned to dance to the music. i have found my voice and i have travelled to the other side of the world.  i no longer search for her legs to cling to and hide behind… oh… but what i wouldn’t give to be able to be a child again… for one day… to be, once again, with my able mother and have her hold me and tell me everything is going to be alright.

because it’s not…

… she isn’t going to get better.  her body is failing and her mind is permanently on vacation; it has a one-way ticket out of here.

i wish I could keep her here, now… or in that memory… but maybe i am not enough… maybe my brothers… her grandchildren… maybe a visit from her other daughter…?  or  maybe… maybe our family is not enough to keep her here.  i mean… how could it be? it’s incomplete.  someone is missing… someone vital… someone who could have sealed the cracks.

tonight, i stood tall and gazed up at the ceiling… there are cracks in the ceiling… some big, some small… many irreparable.  just like those memories of childhood, when i would gaze up in wonder.  the mystery is no longer a mystery.  the cracks no longer hold mystery;  she is no longer a mystery, but yet i marvel at how she managed to go on after such loss.  i know what she wants.  the cracks are beginning to show. they are deepening stress fractures from bearing such a load.  life. loss. death.  death of a son.  death of her parents.  death of her sisters and brother.  death of her husband and my father.  death of friends.  death of her able body.  death of hope.

but her mind is, strangely, liberated.  i take comfort in that.

sitting side by side on her hospital bed, haplessly covered with a stained blue blanket, we talk.  she tells me she’s done.  she tells me she is tired.  she tells me things that only her eyes can convey.

as a grown-up, i now understand. i get it. but oh it is hard to bear.  hard to hear.  hard to accept. but not hard to comprehend.

she is trapped inside ‘this useless body’ – she is imprisoned. imprisoned in ward 3.  imprisoned in her dementia and silent world.  it is no wonder she prefers to escape with sleep.  sleep ‘to pass the time until…’

‘until what, Mum?  elevenses? visiting hours?’ i ask, choking on my own throat.

[the big sle..?]

but her mind is on holiday, she changes direction, and once again i am that little girl lost.

so… should i patch up the ceiling… could i patch it up?  could i patch her up?  if only i could, yet i wonder…  if i should?  i feel as though i am losing her, little by little, crack by crack and splinter.

maybe i should let her go…  or have i lost her already?

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2017

 

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE- Wilderness, stunning debut album, by Pilgrims

a sound born in a storm. this is what happened when a bird fell from the sky and foxes followed us home. this is supernatural, homespun honesty. this is soup, at 4am. this is a map of the stars that trace our fate. this is paprika tea. this is animal instinct. this is our story. our music.

this is the sound that came from a gorge . this is what happened when lovers cut each others hair with a samurai sword. this is inside out and up ‘n’ down. this humble creation from this hibernation. baring and purging. this is defining heroes. this is katsu curry & fermented pears. this could be winter. these are our scars. this is our music.

this is the chaos of living with panthers in a house by the sea, where ravens share their secrets with those who speak their language. this is our allegiance to our ancestors and the salt in our Bourbon. two years of travelling around the sun, we are finally home…

BUY NOW – https://pilgrimsuk.bandcamp.com/album…

CONTACT – wearepilgrimsuk@gmail.com

© all rights reserved


into the wild… the making of ‘Wilderness’

“WILDERNESS” – a collection of 13 songs inspired by animals; animals that have been totemic in the relation between a man (Robert Davidson) and a woman (myself, Kat McDonald).

a sound born in a storm. this is what happened when a bird fell from the sky and foxes followed us home. this is supernatural, homespun honesty. this is soup, at 4am. this is a map of the stars that trace our fate. this is paprika tea. this is animal instinct. this is our story. our music.

this is the sound that came from a gorge . this is what happened when lovers cut each others hair with a samurai sword. this is inside out and up ‘n’ down. this humble creation from this hibernation. baring and purging. this is defining heroes. this is katsu curry & fermented pears. this could be winter. these are our scars. this is our music.

this is the chaos of living with panthers in a house by the sea, where ravens share their secrets with those who speak their language. this is our allegiance to our ancestors and the salt in our Bourbon. two years of travelling the sun, we are finally home.

Source: into the wild… the making of ‘Wilderness’

Listen to WILDERNESS >> HERE <<

the self-hypnotist

third-eye-aye

“…. you are slowly going into a state of deep relaxation. Slowly and surely, your entire body and mind are relaxing, relaxing, relaxing. you are going deeper and deeper and deeper, into a state of deep relaxation. each and every muscle of your body is now relaxing. everything is so peaceful and quiet. now, counting backwards from 10, you will descend a small staircase….  10…. 9…. 8………………..5……………….. …………. ………………..”

the voice of the self-hypnotist tails off into the night. a new night. a new year.  the voice, now distant, fades into obscurity. into oblivion.

i lie in the dim of my chamber with the weight of the night, and gravity of the new year, pressing upon me. my mind is swirling in the crush and chaos, like Betelgeuse, on the verge of explosion.  i can feel the night creep in and saturate the familiarity of my furnishings and turning them into oddities and unrecognisable shapes.  all is quiet. the flickering street light, right outside my window, casts shadows across the walls and ceiling; just as my mind casts aspersions as to what this new year, 2017, will bring.  this new year is barely four hours old and already i am judging her and making assumptions.

[why do we do that?]

it is these early hours of a new year that bring a manic panic and wild sense of urgency.

[calm… focus on that voice, Kathryn…]

 through my open window, i see that the stars are still in their correct places – no need for adjustment; the sea continues to roll in and out just as it did in the old year. another night of constant tides, and glad tidings. the still and almost silent night is punctuated by the odd yelp or peal of laughter from drunks as they stagger home like the walking wounded… or the waking dead.  the last of the NYE party people.  all i can hear now is the gentle of hum of distant traffic, the drone of the self-hypnotist’s voice and the yelp of an urban fox.  the blackness of the sky, like a shark’s eye, is murky in my blindness.  the walls of this chamber are illuminated by that lonely failing street lamp outside, casting sparks like a beacon of hope for the lost, the lonely and the fucked up.

Alf, my cat lies, sprawled by my side, on his back with his furry flank exposed in complete trust.  on occasion, he stretches out his paw and pads gently at my hand. no claws. just a tender acknowledgement of our mutual affection.  i lean in and kiss his stomach. he does not flinch nor fight.  he just sighs, softly.  in this light, he looks as though he may be smiling.

i lay back beneath the blanket of night and close my eyes.

[wtf?!]

there is no colour in the desert. no colour and no sun.  only a clock, where the sun once hung, high in a sky that once was blue.  now everything is monochrome.

with hands on hips, parched lips and bare feet, i look around me. the air is strange.  where am i?  am i still on Earth? the soft, warm breeze whips up a fine salty dust and carries it across the desert valley floor.  the sky is vast and humbling.  large white clouds billow and gather pace.  the breeze sucks them together.  i watch, in awe, as they amass and form a canopy up and beyond me.  why there is no colour is beyond me.  the sky is black.  the clouds continue to change shape and quicken, as if to summon uncertainty.  this reality is in time-lapse.  everything is moving fast, it is only i who remains still.  the clock’s long arms and broken hands spin around and around and around, faster, faster, faster… day becomes night becomes day.  clouds continue to feed my imagination with the flight of dragon-like formations.  what does this mean?   and i am thirsty.  i am so thirsty.

dawn breaks and the clock disappears.  a new sun begins to rise, feverish, in a purple sky.  in time-lapse, shadows lengthen and spread across the desert floor.  i feel the sun warm my skin and realise i am more than thirsty.

for water?

or knowledge?

with this new sun, comes a new dimension.  i look to my right and there is an office. an office with a door but no walls; an office with a desk and chair, a chaise-longue and standard lamp, but no ceiling. on the desk there is an aspidistra, a tall glass of water and a notepad and pencil.  they are placed in position, with near poetic precision, by a wiry and bent old man in a dark grey polyester suit.  his hair is wild; long and grey and his beard is unfurled before him, like a long and winding road.  sensing my presence, he turns to me and fixes himself, pulling down his sleeves, straightening his tie and hurriedly brushing off one or two loose hairs and specks of dandruff from his sloping shoulders.

standing upright,  i see that he is a tall and thin man with a large bony nose and sunken cheekbones.  his round steel-framed spectacles hang off the end of his nose. the lenses are thick yellow and make his eyes look cartoon-like and massively oversized for his gaunt face.  he beckons to me, and gestures to me to recline on the brown chaise-longue.  and so, i do…

the man takes the glass of water and drinks it all down.  my lips are parched and i feel dry.  thirsty.  for water, and for knowledge?  but what of that?

he tells me to look up at the hole in the sky. i relax in the chaise-longue, nestling into its comfort and warmth, and look up at the sky.  he is correct. there is a hole in the sky.  a small puncture wound. i focus on its torn edges as if it were ragged wallpaper and begin to imagine what i would see if i were to continue peeling it away.  what would i expose?  what would i find behind this beautiful illusion.

the man stands over me. he smells like paper.  he then, silently, anoints my forehead with oil, fragrant like turquoise.  i feel myself levitate. his fingers connect with my soul and i feel a stream of information ‘download’ from his fingertips through my pineal gland and down into my solar plexus.

i feel tethered to his knowledge and yet, strangely, free.  suddenly, i am no longer thirsty and i find myself crying at the beauty and simplicity of it all.

he tells me all about the birth of the universe. he explains the many paradoxes and paradigms that have both puzzled and defined us.  he tells me all the secrets: he shows me star maps, new colours, code… he tells me the truth about ‘God’.  he explains the matrices of our existence, and our co-existences in the universes of our past, present and future lives.  he explains why. he explains how.

he instructs me not to tell anyone about what he has shared with me.  there are many forces in existence, he tells me.

he tells me there is much to learn.

he tells me that the human race will not be on this earth in 500 years.

the old man then, taking my hands, leads me into a mirrored-glass pyramid.  inside, he claps his hands, like a flamenco dancer, and a holographic screen appears. immediately, it scrolls through hundreds of names of other human beings, from all over the world.  it is a barrage of information. hundreds of faces flash before my eyes.  instantly i look for familiar faces… my own face, my lover’s face, my mother, my friends…

the old man stands in front of me, commanding my full attention and tells me that in exchange for my newfound knowledge i must make an offering.

as the names of these humans scroll across thin air in front of me, he tells me that i must select 5 human beings to die.

take your time, he says.  choose wisely

the urgency in his voice, stokes my morbid curiosity and i ask him why.

why?  i say, as i scroll through the names and faces of many, many humans. ordinary humans, with ordinary lives.

you will not know any of these people, he says, but choose carefully as these people are all, to some degree, intrinsic to your very own existence.  what fate you decide for them will shape who you are today, tomorrow and who you were yesterday… choose wisely, or you may cease to exist.

 

the human mind is an unfathomable entity but i guess the lesson here, in this dream, is: while it is great to have a thirst for knowledge, know this: with great knowledge comes great responsibility.

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2017

i awoke from this lucid dream wishing i could recall the secrets i was told.  it was all too real, but perhaps i am not ready…  perhaps we humans are not ready to know the absolute truth…

 

 

 

 

Post-Brexit Thoughts from “An Immigrant”

Hello Followers and Casual Readers…

… I have to share this post written by a beautiful soul I have come to know through Social Media and mutual love of art and animals, floof and sweary words! I have not met the girl… YET… but I am working on it and I am confident that our paths will cross one fine day.
It saddens me to read this entry in her blog TetrisandCheesecakes because NOBODY should be made to feel like this. There is so much hatred in this world and we are all too quick to blame other outlets, such as mental health issues, media, peer-pressure blah blah blah… but really… the only person to blame for ignorance in the way we view and treat others is ourselves and our own blinkered ignorance.
I cannot abide racism. I cannot tolerate it and I will not turn a blind eye to it, but when a lovely girl, like Lucie, writes about the HELL that she has been through in her life only to be met with unfeeling and mindlessness by people in her circle of supposed ‘friends’ it is just too much to bear. NOBODY deserves to be treated like this. she is a human being. a wonderful, intelligent and caring human being.
please read this carefully and digest every word. she could be the girl next door, your brother’s girlfriend, your girlfriend, your daughter…. she’s a woman. a human being. being made to feel like an imposition, an inconvenience, an imposter, a freak, a taker, a faker… is completely immoral, unethical, cruel and ignorant.
next time you look at someone of colour, or converse with someone with a non-UK accent, please consider this: what is their backstory? they could be like Lucie. a good person, who fled from fear and certain death and control (something that privileged British white people cannot even begin to imagine) to a supposed better and safer life – only to be met with judgement, hatred and assumptions – is just insane. insane.
wake the fuck up, humans! #evolve

Tetris & (Cheese)cakes

The past few days haven’t been the easiest. I have seen so many stories of an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment, heartbreaking stories of families and schools being targeted by those who misguidedly thought a vote to leave the EU equalled sending all “foreigners” home. I may be unique amongst my friends as I do know people who voted “Leave” for reasons that didn’t include the immigration issue. They made the decision based on their own feelings and histories, and I really don’t want to detract from that. It’s tragic that though their personal reasons were not have racially motivated, their voices have now given credence to the racists and xenophobes in our country, who have taken their numbers as a sign that hate is justified. 52%. I really want to believe that 52% or Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland aren’t racists, and who want people like me to “go…

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Tell Lie Vision

 

tell_lie_vision

i don’t own a television.

and i don’t want one.  people ask me why i don’t have a TV, with an expression of such absurdity you would think i had just asked them if i could shit on their chest.

i take pride in myself for the fact that i don’t own a TV set. and here’s why.

it is all lies.

the mainstream media is one of the biggest liars in the history of all mankind, next to religion.

[but God is good, i hear you say.  yeah?  well if God is so good then why do kids get cancer? oh it’s God’s plan… he has greater things for them…]

FUCK OFF!  tell that to the grieving parent. tell that to the 8 year old with leukaemia writhing in agony.  

TV is full of shit and my head has enough crap in it without being fed more lies and lies by omission; the manipulation of advertisements purporting a better lifestyle – yeah, a lifestyle that feathers the nest-eggs of the ugly big corporations that are borne of greed and profit and don’t really care that they’re spraying our crops with chemicals akin to Agent Orange; poisoning your soft drinks with neuro-toxins; that that burger is to die for (yes, literally!); that those running shoes are something of a ‘miracle’ that you will need to enhance your performance to workout with style (tell that to the 5 year olds working in shit-stinking sweaty conditions for 18 hour days!); that you NEED insurance (another bête-noire of mine) – what a rip-off.  i could go on but…

anger is a negative energy.  holding onto anger will just further embitter the soul and turn it black, and turn me into even more of a misanthrope than i am already.  fuck that!

so – that is the short answer as to why i don’t own, want or need, a fucking TV set.

there have been a few songs written about TV.  and yes, the sun always shines on TV, doesn’t it?  even the epic scenes of war seem sensationalised and glossy.

Bruce Springsteen growled about having 57 channels and nothing on.

[well, turn the fucker off, Brucie and go read a book…. or write another song!]

Dire Straits and Sting wailed about wanting their MTV.  i remember a day when MTV was cool, full of good music and, dare i say it, informative.  now it’s all dating game-shows and reality TV – offering gaudy glimpses into the private lives and homes of artists most of us have never heard of, but who have sold a billion records, apparently, and have their own unrivalled ‘brand’ of bling and trainers (again endorsing the sweatshops of Hell for the poor and purporting a lifestyle of greed of profane proportions).  who needs an 18ct diamond-encrusted toilet?  it’ll fill up with shit just the same as a bog-standard (bad pun, i know!) porcelain one.

the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote a real stinger of a tune: ‘Television, the Drug of the Nation’ – breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.  this song remains poignant today, spouting ‘a child watches over 1500 murders before he’s 12 years old’.

and then there’s Gil Scott-Heron.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  wise words from a legendary poet and performer that needs little or no introduction.  that song is older than me and still holds the same spine-tingly poignancy as it did back in the day it was first released.  today, the Revolution will NOT be Televised, that’s for sure… but it will be on Twitter or Facebook or fucking Snapchat.

i take pride in the fact that i don’t own a TV set and that i don’t subscribe to the mainstream and worship the remote and its digibox disciples.

i find other ways of ‘educating’ myself and ‘entertaining’ myself.  there are 1000s of books to be read. more than i could read in a lifetime but i am prepared to give it a good try…

and there are places to visit. i just love to travel.  travelling offers the BEST education.

there is (too) much going on inside my head that i need to categorise, rationalise and contend with without the distraction and soul-extraction of television.

i have my own reality. i do not need to watch a group of disparate and desperate people stowed away in a houseful of cameras and sensationalism; i do not need (or want) to see ‘celebrities’ in a jungle eating worms; nor do i care for discovering Britain’s talented humans with their dancing dogs (that’s just another deplorable exploitation of animals).  i don’t want to see the cringe-worthy and patronising debacle that is breakfast tv – where two puppets interview the vulnerable and needy; which draws me nicely to the ‘pièce de résistance’ – the Jeremy fucking Kyle Show – another truly remarkable shot at bear-baiting.

is this what advocates TV as ‘entertainment’?  it’s no wonder we are being ‘dumbed-down’.   there is nothing to FEED the imagination!

i’d much rather read a book… or take a long walk along the beach… or play my guitars… or write some poetry or prose… or visit friends and family.  yes, actually visit people and talk with them, walk with them… break bread with them.

i would love to be in a position to ditch my mobile phone and take myself off the grid completely, but i need it for work.  it’s a double-edged sword.

but i’m working on it…

[steps off soap-box]

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soon…

soon

“soon….. x” he wrote.

“soon….. x”

 

[Oh the unquantifiable wait.
the undeniable weight.
oh the irrefutable beauty
of monosyllabic
poetry.

four letters. infinite variables. one critical
sum, happening in my head… quicker than
i can convey verbally
and i can be verbose.

soon = absolute x.

i was good at math
but you know that
don’t you?]

 

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2016

 

 

a psalm for the loveless

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there is comfort in clean sheets and the promise of “a good night’s sleep”. the allure of cool, crisp cotton beckons. the black ink of night fuels my scribe as i scratch across cheap paper in the dim of my lonely room. writing a song, in the dark, with a 5-string guitar, is cathartic. but there are too many distractions. my thoughts resolve back to the dead fox cub on the Standing Stanes Road and i sob,  my arms wrapped around Julio*,  my shoulders shaking. outside, the street lights shine like beacons for breaking hearts, insomniacs, poets and moths. someone is yelling. God knows what, but it’s 4.42am and the streets are already wet. the atonal hum of summer rain sounds like a song for the hopeless or a psalm for the loveless. a burgeoning hope, that tomorrow will be a brighter day.  the sea sounds so far away; weak, and diluted by this new precipitation. this time of calm is stirred by an itch in my [open] left palm. and, a ringing in my ears breaks my thoughts in Fmaj7.  i play along.  words fold and unfold and float by me, like soggy paper boats in my own sea of rambling.  i lay down and strum. sleep will come, easily.  songs often manifest in my dreams. there are six planets on their rise, elliptical. they are all visible with the naked eye, if you know where to look.  i close my eyes, put down the pen and close my book.  i hold on tight to Julio, in the absurd hope that he will sing me to sleep, as i pluck strings in harmony with the gentle peal of the wind chime above my head, as the palest breeze waxes lyrical.

[i don’t remember falling asleep, but i guess i must’ve………………….]

5 hours later, i find myself awake and Julio still asleep on the bed beside me.  quiet. there is paper and guitar picks everywhere.  my thoughts resolve to my lover, along the coast; i can still smell his scent in the tangled mess of my hair.

 

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2016

-for Robert – with you, i never feel loveless. i love you, like i was born to.

the strongest march…

the strongest march

clouds, slowly, gather
in the bluest sky
reflected in
my altruistic
eye
as sirens wail their
woeful cry
i watch the ants
of July suck
upon a glob
of spit.
the strongest march
‘cross to the bone
dry side, near a dismantled rone;
whilst the weak
get stuck amidst,
or trampled.

clouds gather, now, at quickened
pace;
the sun no longer the white
furnace.
a cooler breeze now strikes my soul
like a hammer on
an anvil.
i hear Thor’s roar
a battlecry that rips
the sky wide open
and raindrops
splatter

down,
in a shower
of Hellfire.
what of the ants?
i watch them struggle
as they run amok
seeking cover
between the cracks,
under the crock,
or beneath
the flower, foot and flock.
as the strongest march
on, flight of
foot and brace
themselves for
their struggle and plight;
whilst the weak
get stuck in
mud.

(c) Kat McDonald 2016

– a stormy lunch hour, fulfilled by the company of ants.