Skimming Stones: An Epilogue, 2010

2010 has been, it seems, a sad year for many people. My own sad story has been punctuated with glimpses of light.

Burton Agnes

End-of-year epilogues are so hard to write, but in the light of some illuminating and wistful dreams that have consumed me recently, I’d like to share some meaningful pieces.

I can be jealously protective of some of my favourite hidden treasures. It is part of what makes things appealing to me. But their allusions are telling, and stories can be built around them.

Coloring Silence

Ryan Farish’s delightful ambient blend has been close to me for a few years now. From upbeat and energetic to melancholy softness, one song stood out for this year.

There is not too much I can be proud of this year, but my dignity remains. In a culture where it has never been easier to trade words, sully reputations, and break bonds with acrimony, I allowed silence to prevail in the face of great shame, and at the expense of my own self-sovereignty.

It is difficult: how can one ever be sure that what they seek from life will ever come to them if they do not look for it? Words are magic. Much of great beauty will be found from self-expression. This beautiful creation reminds me that sound is magical, but that silence has a context and a colour.

For You

Elsewhere online, I have listed as a favourite quotation the following:

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

This is from ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot, a poem that has always struck a very powerful chord.

A middle-aged man is growing old, feeling the pinch of loneliness, and scared that every passing day, every physical change, every single move might affect the way he is observed and undermine his chances of finding something special.

He feels the change. There is an identity crisis, and he is afraid. He wants to turn the clock back and relive life, yet aware that it would play out exactly the same again.

This seems remarkably close to the story played out in a little-known masterpiece in German by Alphaville entitled Für Dich.

Composed for the Dark Ages of Camelot game, a lyrical version followed, sung by Marian Gold. There’s something bizarre about this being produced for its own sake. No album. No single. It sits, like many other fine Alphaville songs, as a piece of musical art obscured in the mists.

The subject in this thoughtful video is detached and self-inhibited. Once the moment of crisis is forced, and an identity change takes place, the femme fatale finally comes to him.

Identity came to the fore this year. In February I was applying for jobs in Hartlepool, so fanciful were my fantasies for work. In July, I went to meet old Primary School friends for the first time in over a decade. This splendid night should have been commemorated, but for my fears that it was a one-off despite the declarations we all made at the time.

It was terrifying from a self-fashioning perspective. I needed people to forget the child existence that I’m trying to overwrite.

But for that, I’m still young, I’m still lively, and despite some of the things I’ve done, I’m still quite inexperienced in life. The most sombre post of the year broke the need to roll back the clock, and that is happening, in a roundabout way.

Skimming Stones

The most moving song that I have encountered this year – and possibly ever – is from an American ambient artist, Justin Elswick, better known as Sleepthief.

Justin collaborates with select friends and vocalists, one of whom, the British hidden gem Kirsty Hawkshaw (once of Opus III), lent her stunning tones to this completely heartbreaking song.

I don’t know why you love me.
I don’t feel worthy…

I refuse to watch or listen too frequently, never wanting the power of emotion it brings to fade.

The meaning is rich and ambiguous. Love and loss; life and death; past and present. There is pain in elegy and somehow hope in memory. The naivety is exquisite; the loss is acute. The experience is devastating.

The lesson from this is that the worst of tragedies can lead to the most exquisite of memories and the most powerful of rewards. To feel is divine. To want, and to need; to hope for pipe-dreams and to be sad if they fail.

We cannot all experience life and humanity with the same degree of success. For some, perhaps, it is all about finding the right consolation. I have felt, or suffered, some of the worst of humanity this year. I would despair if I did not

look around. My family still welcomes me back home with open arms. The family continues to grow. I have some fabulous friends, the likes of whom I feel humbled to know. While my scepticism is irrationally deep-rooted, there are still exciting opportunities.

There are pieces of Heaven in the midst; illuminating lights around the corner. There are fireflies charming my every waking moment. There are fine margins between the stoic ways of normality and the wondrous heights of happiness.

Sometimes, one looks up, startled and frightened at everyone flying past in their glorious conquests. One day, though, it will be my story to tell again.

I will walk into 2011, determined with all of my will to believe that, for those who mistreated me, ignored me or forsook me this year, the loss is theirs and not my own. Let decency, honesty, and dignity continue to win the war. When a princess enters this particular story, it will be too beautiful, exciting and ineffable to ever end.

Thank you for reading. May 2011 bring you all that you wish for. All my love.

If you enjoyed the music here, come and enjoy it again here in the context of its appreciation, this garden of repose. I am also laminating in these sands a stunning response from Justin Elswick received in March 2011. The best endorsement I could have ever hoped for:

Love hearing from you Keith! I think your writing was so inspiring and really touched me!! Thank you for sharing it with me, because it makes me want to always work hard to be as creatively “true” as possible.

Justin Elswick / Sleepthief, March 2011.

14 thoughts on “Skimming Stones: An Epilogue, 2010

  1. This is wonderfully written.

    ‘To want, and to need; to hope for pipe-dreams and to be sad if they fail.’ To be or not to be, eh?

    I hope 2011 brings you some joy too, Keith. x

  2. Those whom you perceive flying past must surely realise that their journey is so much less worthwile if they are not looking also at you.

    If there is war to be won, let the finest arms be open ones. If the night really does feel endless, let us be thankful it is starry.

    May 2011 be charitable, and enriching, and may it not catch us with our Fireflies undone.

    1. Thank you, as ever, for your careful and caring sentiments.

      Indeed, surely any ascent will benefit from looking at someone like me in quicksand. 😉

      ‘Let the finest arms be open ones’. I love this. It turns Marvell’s ‘inglorious arts of peace’ into glorious ones.

      If 2011 cares to be close to your blessings, it will be a fine one. 🙂

      1. And as ever, thank you.

        How could someone look at you in quicksand and fly on? Because they know that you will not sink; that, if anything, the quicksand will be absorbed by you, becoming a part of your experience, however long it takes. (One might term it ‘using the bog’.) So they look at you to impart this belief; to say, “I’ve got to go now, but I’ll see you there.” Don’t think that just because you feel quagmired, you are not admired.

        Sometimes, I will not be out-comebacked. 😛 (And that’s the spirit, is it not?)

      2. Someone could observe me in quicksand and fly on either because I put myself there, or just because the game goes on. But I value your judgement of mental strength, and your implicit compliments of perseverance.

        I think the sad thing about life as we encounter it is that it’s not about the end product, but the journey at each and every moment. And yet, the end product, or ‘beyond the turbulence’ as it may be, is all there is to contemplate.

        And of course you will not be out-comebacked. 🙂 This can only scrape as an acknowledgement, and not a retort. (It is the spirit: the equivalent of a single malt, on the rocks!) x

      3. Ultimately, I should not speak for others, but can say that should I ever fly past you like that, I hope I fall. May the only melting wax be in candles.

        If you must bring Knightmare into it, then naturally I have more to say. 😛 As we know, Gavin only reached that point because, for whatever reasons, he was granted a second chance. Life is not like the Dungeon Dimension: sometimes we don’t get a second chance; sometimes we get a third, self-made or otherwise. Gavin held what it took to carry him through: the means to sate an unseen menace, the elixir of je ne sais quoi, the information to bridge a merciless gulf between himself and his goal, and a friend or three. Away from the constraints of fantasy, he might have had his third chance too. The game does indeed go on, green shades and all: never say die, unless you’re using it as a noun and asking for another roll.

        And when I preach what I’m unsure I can practise, perhaps it’s time to close. Anyone fancy a pint? 🙂

  3. Hey man, I’m back at work now but I’ll be in the UK again at the beginning of June, for the last time before America. As the mythical 3rd groomsman, I would love to at least see you before life carries us apart again. If I book you this early can we work something out?
    Great post, and interesting links.

    1. Hey Sy. I am sorry about December. Assessments, gigs, weather and all, it was a nightmare. I don’t imagine June being a problem on any of those counts. It will be over four years by then! It’s hard the thought of subjecting you to the dirge I am these days. Very glad you enjoyed the post. Keep having great times! x

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