The Road to Tea

Whatever the Royal Shakespeare Company was up to last night in Stratford, I was up to something else. Almost the moment the lights came down, I was truly lost. I found myself drifting and dozing through an antic, loud and very physical holiday production. And why? There seems no point in analyzing the RSC’s ‘The Mouse And His Child,’ a British classic, if one is to believe the program notes. The whole experience may say more about me.

First there is my conflicting set of feelings about this trip. Travel alone having so many challenges, unpleasant surprises and frustrations. Missing Jane a constant. The upside being lots of time with British friends and family. And, it must be admitted, a refresher course in adapting to disability and change, that is to say, a changing disability.

As for the play, being such an exercise in physical theater, this adaptation of a famed young person’s tale was strangely lacking in words. The pleasure of language, of a story unfolding in dialogue or verse. Forget it. But I did not forget it. I missed it, in fact. Which begs the same question…why?

Because for me, the continuance of things, the flow of life, seems always in doubt. Jane’s strong feminine presence easily salves this particular wound. But without her one does get a chance to examine the wound itself. Let us call it an innate insecurity. Perhaps present from birth, certainly from maternal interaction. Basic.

As for words, what better than a powerful narrative, the flow of image and action, to convey a sense of life? Poetry, even without the action, can render experience, inner or outer, so vividly as to make the moment overwhelm all else.

It is an extroverted world, my cousin’s house. I like it. My natural sense of abandonment finds little justification here. People wander in and out of my wheelchair accessible compound at the rear of the house. Meals seem to appear every hour. I am not alone.

I am not alone in California either, but it is easy to fall into this delusion. Here there is no mistaking company. The challenge is to stake out solitude, to get in touch with what I actually need, hour by hour. Thus my discovery of the difference between reading and not reading. In California I often consider opening a book early in the day, first thing after breakfast. I dismiss the thought as indulgent, unproductive. Whereas the exact opposite could be true. Relieved of so many practical pressures, why should it be so hard to care for the spirit?

Not a bad exercise, all of this, considering that Jane and I plan to move in together. Just as absence need not equate with abandonment, presence need not equate with its opposite. Making this trip not just a chance for practical self-sufficiency, but self-awareness.

The road to self-awareness leads to Todenham. It is a short road, if you are a car, a long one if you are a wheelchair. I return from jaunts to the pub…there is no other ultimate destination…with my tires encrusted with mud, as discussed. Along the way, I muse upon matters local. Certainly, I would lobby for some sort of wheelchair-accessible country transit. Even twice a day into Moreton would be a good start. I wonder who lives behind the enormous hedge by the church. I wonder who wrote the book of love.

On the way back I wonder about a cup of tea. Nothing else but a roll in the English country winter could stimulate such thoughts. After all, by afternoon I swimming in tea. It has always been thus. Tea equates with care. This may even be true for the English. It doesn’t matter. I am on board. And in this limited sense…don’t care.

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