It’s my birthday soon.
My husband asked me what I’d like to do for the day.
Which is a big, open question. The biggest and most open, yawning-cavern-like question, based only on my own desires.
I am thinking.
What would my perfect day look like?
For a start it would involve a lie in. A magical and mythical beast. At the latest I wake up around 6.30am every day. This suits me, I get time alone to sit and think about my day before the alarm goes off at 7.15.
The alarm that still makes me smile two years after I set it to that tone (Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell – still the best decision I’ve made to date). In that time it has only had to wake me twice.
So maybe on my mythical, perfect day, I’d sleep longer and awake completely refreshed. Like a film star, with carefully placed bed-ruffled hair, and a full face of subtly fresh-looking makeup. Instead of my wonderfully crumpled face and bird’s-nest hair, and my signature drool.
I would stretch and then my adoring family would rush in. They’d bring me coffee, and let me stroke their soft hair. A warm sunbeam would float through the window and make us all glow. A pair of kites would twist and turn in the morning light.
As I describe all this, it’s not that far from how I wake up every day. Just a tweak of detail here and there. It’s wales so the light is designed to pick out the greens, not the reds. We usually have a bluer light here.
The children will all pile in for five minutes before the morning rush begins, and it’s all elbows and knees, but also wonderful.
Maybe part of my perfect day would mean keeping to the routines. The simple things that bring me great contentment.
When I think of my perfect day I end up with a list like this:-
1. At some point I will have muddy hands
2. I will create something
3. I will laugh
4. My family will be there
5. It will be connected to nature somehow
6. I will see something new, not just see it, but touch it and learn about it
7. We will work by my whims and it will be joy
8. I will be me. I will not be carrying a mask
Which you have to admit, isn’t a great list to plan a day from, but it’s also how I try to spend every day. There’s a reason I live the way I do, with the routines that I have. It’s a carefully designed system.
In fact I have my perfect day already waiting for me. Just one more project waiting for the right day.
But first I will have to tell you a story.
A world away and a time ago my Tadcu built a boat (Tadcu is Welsh for grandfather, it literally means kind-father). He wasn’t a boatmaker by trade, he was a doctor, but like me he loved to make things. I still have the most beautiful rug he made. As well as a marquetry heron who I love.
I’ve digressed already. My Tadcu was a proud Welshman, silent and strong, and when he decided to do something, he did it.
He learned to build a boat. The wood curved to his will and piece by piece it grew. He carved out its soul and made it what it was destined to be.
My Mamgu (grandmother) had grand plans. They had learned to sail many moons ago, and she longed for the open sea, but my Tadcu longed only to build a boat.
Two romantic visions; one of the purpose, the rolling of the waves, the spray, the salt and the gulls; the other of the practical, the curve of the bow, the connections, the smoothness and the firmness of the object.
When Tadcu finished the boat he declared he wanted to start another, bigger and more than the first.
Mamgu despaired. All that time and expense on a boat without purpose! The two romances crashed together like waves on a pier, and the new boat was splintered in their wake.
Tadcu moved on to new creations, smaller and more manageable, and the boat was tucked away in the attic.
Time passed, I came into being, and I grew, and at some point the boat moved from the attic to one of the sheds on the farm where I grew up.
I would look at it on my explorations. I knew it was a special thing. In amongst the piles of “potentially useful in the future” wood, nestled this little boat. All elegance and purpose and so nearly ready, but not quite.
I would stroke my hands over its dusty frame, and then run off to find treasure in the old farm tools, and adventure, running along the walls of the pens. All balance and fearlessness.
I grew more, became sullen and angry, but that boat always softened me. It tugged at my guilt when I thought of it. It was one huge expression of longing. What am I if I do not sail? Who am I if I’m shaped but not used?
Life got in the way, as life always does, and I left that place, and moved and moved and moved again.
As that shed was cleared and sorted and cleared, the boat was moved from one spot to another. Sometimes the chickens would perch upon it. They weren’t to know that it was not a chicken perch, it was a boat.
Thirty years and more, passed. Woodworm found it and nestled its way in. No one wanted to look at the boat. It sparked pity. Pity and guilt, all that beauty, all that hope and shape, and still it had become nothing but a bit less space in the shed.
Then last week I was planting some bulbs in the garden, the sun was shining, our first real break in the weather, Spring was in everything, and the boat popped into my head.
When things pop into my head they are there for a reason, and I followed that reason. Within four hours the boat was on the roof of my car, and I was driving it slowly back along country lanes, the dust and cobwebs billowing behind us.
One side has rotted through. The boat will never see water, but it will have a purpose. Next time the weather is right, I shall brush away the last of the dust, I shall treat the wood for woodworm and then seal it, layer upon layer upon layer, until it is shored up.
Then I shall see what I can do to fill the hole on its side. The wood will glow in that warm sunlight that I’ve ordered especially.
I will fill it with soil. It will make me sad to cover the seat, but the depth is too low, so cover it I shall. I will plant it with vegetables and nasturtiums. The flowers will spill over the sides as it sits on the curve of my garden, like the swell of a wave, the petals a salt spray.
No one will pity it anymore. It will have purpose. It will grow and renew and be a thing of beauty, not guilt.
I think my Tadcu would have liked that.
My perfect day has all the romances in it. It has the purpose of creation, and the beauty of the action. It has the growth and the movement.
My perfect day will involve splinters and mistakes. My hands will be sore and my nails full of soil. My back will ache, and so will my smile. My perfect day will stretch out for as long as the boat is growing. Because that’s how the world works, a moment stretches forwards and back. It’s connected to what was and what will be.
There is no such thing as a perfect day, because imperfections are at the root of perfection. If that boat’s side hadn’t made it unseaworthy, it might be too close to going on water for me to consider planting in it. It would sit in that shed for a lifetime longer. Sometimes it’s our imperfections that really make us perfect.