ON THE VERB ‘CANTAROLAR’ – TO HUM

It was said: “lock down”. So, she opened all the windows. Vera knew something like this was on the cards, but it came too soon. And this wasn’t the first conversation she had had with her 7-year-old about the consequences of people’s actions, our actions, so they agreed: “slow down”.

Sometime over those first 14 days, they were gathering their thoughts, overwhelmed with feelings they couldn’t put a finger on.  They had been on functional mode. It reminded her of the first two weeks with a new-born. Between bellows, mother and child tried to synchronise, yet the tiny creature only sometimes slept, mostly cried, not yet adjusted to being held by hands nor her ears fine-tuned to his calls. Ready to try anything, Vera went for the clockwork approach, following a pattern of sleep, feed, play, bath, sleep, feed, play, bath and so on. That was how they rolled, and do again now, added a vague global perception of the turbulence all around us, silently simmering, anticipating outbursts. By no coincidence there is within their walls an outspoken concern with notions of geological depths, of explosions, questions about lava and volcanoes. The inner workings of Gaia, Pachamama, Amalur, Sarasvati, Earth.

They got their heads down, and often fell back onto that vital practice of drawing, painting, observing. Lots of banter goes on when immersed in these actions, which can be silent times, although mostly Tom would be cantarolando – humming a song.

And then it appeared, a drawing of what could be a hexagon dividing equally, segments cut short by the edges of a rectangular frame. He had been colouring each part vigorously whilst she was engrossed in her own making, likely drawing, or writing, or both. He stood up straight having been hunched over the cardboard for some time, putting a considerable effort into the bright colours over the pale ginger surface. Tom showed his mum what looked like a spinning wheel of sorts and she realised she had just been presented with nine carefully considered elements, written with a biro as candidly as an adult would manifest their signature.  It read: woryd, skaird, bord, hert, happy, upset, carm, anger, omosions. What had emerged came from somewhere. Perhaps it was from the pulp of the recycled card, or the pressed pigments of the pencils, the water he sipped, the air he breathed. She suspected it flowed out of what he cantarolava – hummed, whilst he drew.

Vera likes to collect and display found objects around their flat. A habit maintained for as long as she can remember. An exercise in aesthetic connection with inanimate things, a tactic for avoiding solitude. When the boy ran to his bedroom with the usual preoccupation with the next play, Vera noticed a group of shells she was given, they were next to the ever-growing spider plant. It was a handpicked gift from Vietnam. The spiral shaped cones had covered an entire beach in that far-away country, not returned to since the friend had left her country of birth as a child. Now the memory and gesture had a place in their home too. Vera took what had been molluscs protecting themselves from the perils of sea-life and placed them in the centre of Tom’s multidimensional star. Unaware of her intervention, or indeed the conversation they had silently begun. And then left the board on the bookshelf next to the door as she took leave of the room herself.

They would have gone out for their daily cycle ride, it probably got late, emotions were stirred as they usually are. That’s when she noticed the shells had been moved and spread out differently. It was ‘bored and upset’ that first time, and ever since then the shells go on dancing. Turning visible the ever changing, the intimate and subtle, the impulsive, the alarming. Feelings which become committed to, for a duration, recorded, listened, moving. A visualisation of the verb cantarolar. An absent friend’s hand joined in communion. A hum heard through an open window.