Very pleased to have Isabella Clarke as guest writer for this blog post. I am hoping she will return here on a regular basis with essays that share her reflections on poetry and life. Her bio (including current writing projects) is at the end of this post.
The last few mornings I have been out with Jabulani* as the sun has risen. And, the day before yesterday, the sky was torn apart, revealing the livid rose-gold of the sunrise. Such crazy beauty over the leafless trees and charmless streets. Jabi ran, sniffing the ground; I stood transfixed, music in my ears and something as harmonic above. Beauty is beauty, whatever the sense it stimulates – and I smell wild orange and rose otto, taste tangerine and papaya, feel skin against my skin – it’s all good, it’s all so good.
And then, yesterday evening, I finished the chores at the yard as the sun set, the shadows lengthened, and the light turned from warm to cool. The horses, mud covered and semi-feral, eyeing me curiously as I tried to protect a fence from their leaning, galloping flat out when I brandished a lunge whip to reinforce the message – coming back, joined up, and then fleeing again when they realised I’d electrified the fence. Zap. And, above, the electricity of the skies – a fluorescent scar in the clouds where the orange, red, red of the sun bloodied the coming twilight.
When my mother died, I remember looking up every day at the turbulence of November cloud forms, feeling that the roiling whirls of the weather were some kind of metaphor. And, in the year of living dangerously, well, the first year of my living dangerously, 1999, I was sure that every sunset was a thing of unique glamour and intent, perfectly manifesting my over-arching emotions. Pathetic fallacy – that’s the literary device… Tennyson used it, the landscape or the weather reflecting an internal mood… As it turned out, due to dust in the atmosphere caused by a huge volcano somewhere, the late summer skies that year were indeed more than usually dramatic.
I primed myself to notice beauty as a teenager, I think… during that hormonal wave of melancholia and lust… Funny, I think that adolescent emotional register has continued as a background note, the hollow bells sound of it in my mind whenever I feel intensely or see the world with a poet’s eyes. It’s all very Keatsian, isn’t it? ‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense…’
She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine..
“Ode on Melancholy” **
Yes. Yes. So much for the wailing John… I have a love/hate with him… That whiff of sentimentality turns me off. Strong emotions are one thing – bring ’em on – but the waving handkerchief gets my goat.
Makes me think of D.H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers – not a special favourite of mine – but I’ll never forget the way the narrator feels about Miriam… she’s inhaling the scent of roses, swooning at the fragrance. I can sympathise with that. And he – Peter, is it? No, Paul: how could I forget? – is repelled by her intensity. Having written that, I went to check out my accuracy – and it turns out that she needed Paul’s descriptions of Nature to allow her to experience that passion – she becomes reliant on him as a catalyst, an inspiration for her personal, and seemingly intoxicating, appreciation of the world… no wonder he got sick of her. What a burden.
Anyway. The skies have been rather lovely. And they do reflect something inside me. That light, that brightness. The promise.
Isabella Clarke is a well-connected British sports journalist whose voice is well known to soccer fans around the world. Currently, she writes and voices programs about England’s Premier League. She reported on the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and 2014, from South Africa and Brazil respectively. Her work was broadcast in the UK and across the world in English speaking nations.
So much for the professional CV. On a personal level, Isabella was diagnosed with a bipolar condition in her twenties – more recently, that diagnosis was changed to Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.
In 2012, Isabella suffered a life-threatening accident when she was kicked in the face by a terrified horse and lay in an induced coma for a week. When she woke up, she couldn’t speak, move or even think. For an active woman, a broadcaster and a reader, this was hell. During the London Olympics – when she was meant to be working – she was bed-bound with her jaw wired shut and half her teeth missing.
Yet Isabella made it back to work in four months. And, despite the serious nature of her condition, she leads a full life – flourishing through her deep passion for life, learning and literature as well as yoga, meditation and plenty o time with friends – both human and non human.
She is an Emotional Clearing facilitator, having trained with John Ruskan. Her blog, The Spoken Horse, muses eclectically on life, psychology, emotion, literature, nature, love, beauty and the full glory of what it is to be human. Isabella has also written a book of short stories, Colours and Shades, which is available on Amazon, and is currently working on a self help book, Radiance: how equanimity can bring balance and beauty to your life.
Her life is an example of resilience. Her journey has been finding balance. Her gift is the discovery of radiance. Her dream is for her new book is to help others as the message contained in its pages has already helped her.
* Jabulani / Jabi is Isabella’s dog-companion – a smooth collie.
** The entire poem by Keats can be read here.