Across the Bay

Brisk breeze beguiles  
Winter sun warms the weariest of souls. 
Across the bay snow atop the Langdales.
Gulls glide as eventide
Sheds a subtle ombre orange sunset glow across the sheltered sands.
Whisper me home.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

© Feature Image courtesy of Dave Hankinson

The stench of trauma

Olfactory associations.
In 2001 we experienced a hugely traumatic event in Cumbria, our county was ravaged by foot and mouth disease, it began in early February and by late March virtually the whole of the County was restricted and lifestock was culled in the thousands. Some estimate that as many as 20,000,000 animals were slaughtered during the course of the year. Where they found an outbreak livestock within a three mile radius were culled-this was refered to as a pre- emptive cull.

I remember driving along the cavernous empty motorway, virtually nothing seemed to travel along the M6 other than the slaughter trucks with their “Livestock reduction programme” signage and the trucks eventually carrying the rotting carcasses to burial sites like the one at Great Orton. At the time I was working as an education advisor for Cumbria LEA and although my schools were all in the South Cumbria area much of the work we did was as part of a team and covered the whole of Cumbria, travelling to Penrith and Carlisle was part of my weekly routine. Part of our team’s remit was to support schools in supporting the mental health and well being of their student populations and so the we did play a very large part in the later responses to the crisis.

At first it was the smell of burning pyres that haunted me most, the smell of roasting flesh, the pyres were enormous beyond anything anyone could possibly imagine and often burned for weeks on end until the Department for public health declared the smoke as dangerous to health and forbid them to be used a as a disposal method anymore- that was when they moved on to creating huge burial pits for the never ending trucks full with the carcasses of dead farm animals. Then I remember the stench of rotting flesh as the carcasses were dumped at Great Orton. Too many were culled to be able to transport or buru them in a timely manner and the army was drafted in to help with the process. My husband was drafted in to work for atwo week shift, they weren’t allowed to come home during that time and it took him many months to recover from the tasks he was asked to do during that time. The dead animals lay bloated and rotting on smallholdings and farms and the build up of gas was so dangerous that their bellies had to be punctured before they could be dumped in teh over burdened pits. You could smell Great Orton from my parents house some 10 miles away in Port Carlisle if the wind was in the right direction. There are 26 trenches at Great Orton and in them just less than half a million carcasses. It has now been turned into a nature reserve as a memorial- Watchtree.

Dave bought me a lemon scented air freshener for my car so that my nose had some respite from the constant stench of trauma and it gave me a different aroma to focus on during those lengthier journeys. Trouble is the lemon scent became associated with the scent of the trauma it was tryi g to over come and I cannot bear to have lemon scented air freshener any more in my car, or for that matter in the house.

This pandemic will also have it’s own smell, for me, as I work from home in my extended isolation the aromas are pleasant, coffee roasting in the pot, good nutritious home cooking on the stove or in the oven, the clean crisp smell of a frosty winter morning as I go for a gentle jog.

The aromas for many others will be unforgettable, unimaginable and will become the unmistakeable stench of trauma to them for the rest of their living days. Our trauma from foot and mouth was quickly forgotten and the things we put in place to safeguard against the trauma for the children and their families have long since vanished but the smell will never go.

We must care for these people onec the pandemic is over, we must acknowledge the trauma that they have suffered, as it will always be a part of them and the memory will never fade when it has such a strong olfactory association.

Dedicated to all those who know and have known the stench of trauma.

If you wish to read a little mor about the FMD 2001

https://www.visitcumbria.com/foot-and-mouth-disease-in-cumbria/

Alison Jean Hankinson

Weathering the storm.

We find ourselves still in lockdown after almost eleven months of disruption and isolation. I find that there is so much that I thought I needed before the pandemic that I have slowly come to see is not needed at all. We filled our lives with so much that was uneccessary and benal. So much of out time energy and money was spent on what I can only describe as diversions.

Diversions from what is another matter-diversions from what existence is. The mortal condition. We are here for but a moment and it isn’t about how much we possess but about what we experienced and learned in that moment and what we were able to give that is meaningful or can make a diffference.

The distractions had beeen so beguiling, even writing is perhaps a distraction.

Before we were just marching relentlessly forward, whereas now we have had time to pause and reconnect, now we can work out where we have been, where we really are now, and think about where we actually want to be in our future if there is a future and if we as mere mortals can actually steer anything that is our future.

There were points in my life where I thought that I was in control, where I thought I could somehow determine and shape the future for myself and those around me, and now I see that most of it has always been outside of my control. The very nature of our existence can be changed in a nanosecond by that which is way beyond our control. It challenges everything I have stood for, all the lessons I have ever taught and yet at the same time it just adds another dimension to be grappled with.

The truth is, this pandemic has muddied the waters, blurred the edges. Working hard is no surety for a stable future. The fragile reality that we have built our lives on can be overturned so quickly, so easily and with such alarming speed. Most of us have no idea what the next day or month will bring let alone what life will be like 10 years down the track.

I have relearned to taste my food and savour the pleasure that it gives. I have relearned to value all that I have around me, the people, the places, my home and to try to value each moment for what it is secure in the knowledge that this moment might be as good as it gets, and none of it is to be taken for granted.

it is enough

If you have food in the cupboard and a roof over your head, it is enough.

If you have worries that wake you but family that make you, it is enough.

If you have known love, shown love and grown love, it is enough.

If you have dreamed a little, worked a lot and been satisfied with your endeavours it is enough.

If the art of giving is more meaningful than getting, it is enough.

In the dark moments of life if you can still see a tiny flicker of light it is enough.

It is enough. It doesn’t have to be as vast as the oceans or as deep as the sea or as high as the mountain,

and you don’t have to be the richest, fastest, bravest, tallest, it isn’t about how much your worth measures but how you measure your worth.

It is enough. This I have learned.

Whatever I am, whoever I am, wherever I am, if I give with gladness of my heart it is enough.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

cropped-profile

 

When I was about 18 a very close friend of mine observed that I always seemed to be searching for something and that she worried that I might never be happy. I remember because it troubled me too, it was as if there was something missing from my life and I didn’t really know what it was, and I mistakenly labelled it happiness or perhaps even love. I think it took me many years to realise that it wasn’t missing at all that I just hadn’t recognised it even though at times it was staring me in the face.

 

Kintsugi

It has been a very long time, sometimes this is just how it is. We lose our voice. We open our mouth wide and nothing comes out. We have to be patient, let it heal. Pick up the pieces let them mend and grow and rejuvenate. Grow into a new person, a new being created from whatever grand or harrowing experience that was thrust our way. There will be a lot of this.

When we were in NZ I bought a set of jars, they all matched, one for tea, one for coffee, they had funny animals on and I thought the girls would like them. They came from Farmers, the department store so they were coveted and saved for, and I was joyful to have them. One day the sugar pot fell to the ground and smashed. Dave out it back together with superglue and life continued as if nothing had happened.

Last year the lid broke from the Tea jar, so now it holds utensils, it was beyond repair and I am still scouring second-hand shops to find a replacement lid meanwhile it holds wooden spoons perfectly. Then it happened again and the sugar pot broke again. I thought perhaps it was time to give up and throw it away and start again. I thought about buying a whole new set from Barton Grange they have the Wensleydale ones that are so unbelievably beautiful and cute. But it was lockdown, and so Dave got out the superglue and mended it again. And do you know it doesn’t matter at all. It is still my sugar bowl, it is just that it has a few extra cracks to it. I still have the same joy when I see it and I still remember the joy I felt when I brought them home and I had the full set.

In Japan imperfection and broken-ness is embraced and Kintsugi is a revered art. I think this is something I am learning to embrace too. The broken-ness doesn’t have to be detrimental, or pushed aside, or hidden away, it is simply part of the vessel’s journey. From the broken-ness comes a new vessel, with a new beauty arising from it’s life experience and it’s journey.

Namaste.

 

sugar pot

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Pakaru

For a tiny while I was extinct.

Kaput, derailed, unhinged and pakaru.

Afraid that the slightest breeze might sink me.

I lost all grace, all meaning, all love of life.

The empty skin where my laughter used to rise

Fluttered lifeless in the wind.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

this is for d’verse quadrille. the word this week was extinct.

The image is my own, it is a Westerley Pentland near Glasson Dock earlier this year, it seems abandoned. At the time I was struggling with my own dereliction. It broke my heart seeing it like this, as my Dad had one just the same and we spent many happy times aboard, Dad’s Pentland was called Tolivar.

Brighouse Bay

Over the stones

we stumbled

eager to race the tide,

the last rays of summer scorching the sand between our toes.

 

Tiny crab

hermit hides

beneath the sodden shells

tidal drift and rock pool teems with life.

 

Brighouse Bay

Sunset lingers

Last days of summer languish,

this moment frozen forever in time.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

The memory keeper.

I shiver in the shadows of your unvoiced fears

My fingers icily tracing the outline of your unspoken anxieties like lace

As my whispers leave their memory on your wizened face.

 

You give me life,

I am the invisible force that keeps you on the straight and narrow

When others clamour and chide and try to pull you towards a doom and gloom and sorrow

That would drown us all.

 

In silence I stumble forward

And see the smile appear like sunshine after storms

As the dreams and yearnings of those earlier years come flooding back

And rekindle faith and hope and love.

 

Some may see me as the invisible worm

The memory keeper and in a moment I can change the mood and alter the meaning

Of all of your past and how you perceive your future.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for Tuesday’s poetics at d’verse. With love.