Some people call it intuition. Others refer to it as the sixth sense. Me? I call it the gut. Go with your guts. It is something every last one of us has. Whether one choses to acknowledge, listen to it and/or implement it is entirely up to the individual.
I trust mine. Implicitly. It has never let me down. That deep feeling. The uneasy one. Making its way to the surface when necessary. A warning. Sometimes it comes slowly. Creeping up over time. Other times it comes like a flash flood. All at once. No matter how it arrives, when it does, listen.
I got it when I entered Cousin Helen’s house. Cousin Helen is a cousin, but not mine. She is the cousin of my darling mum-in-law. Cousin Helen is 91 years old. She no longer resides in her house. It is a curious little place. Once full of all kinds of interesting things the lady had collected over a lifetime. Cousin Helen is an artist. Eclectic as most of us are. She was an archaeologist. Working for the Royal Ontario Museum. And, in a strange coincidence, with a relative of mine many, many years ago (he was the curator of Geology and Minerals, and largely responsible for establishing their collection).
Cousin Helen (her self-portrait, hanging in her kitchen) –
whom I have never met in person. .
Cousin Helen’s house creeps me the fuck out. I don’t like it there. Even after five plus years of various family members (though almost single-handedly by my mum-in-law and her twin sister) chipping away at all the stuff, it still feels claustrophobic and odd to me there; it feels cramped and stuffy even though it is nearly empty. Maybe it is the super eerie self-portrait. Or the musty smell from never having the windows open. Or did all of those artifacts and relics bring something (or someone) in with them?
Perhaps, it is the leftovers of her many years of solitude.
*** *** ***
The Brothers Gruff: Part 2
Well-known to and once loved by the three brothers, the troll adored the brothers. Would do anything for them. Perhaps, if the call came, the troll still would. Each brother vastly different from the others, and all very different from the troll. The troll had loved them all. Encouraged and supported them in their endeavours. Always. And especially when others had not.
One day the troll came to realize a loneliness had moved in; the brothers no longer came to visit. With regularity. Communication began to break down, becoming stagnant and increasingly infrequent. Then vicious. And suddenly all-together non-existent.
Confused, the troll reached out to the brothers. Not necessarily for answers or explanations. But because the troll loved them. Cared about them. Dearly.
Then one by one the brothers rejected the troll. Nonchalantly. Cruelly. And without reason.
His relationship with the troll waxed and waned over the years. Not for any reason other than distance. But Brother One always needed something from the troll. That ensured the relationship would continue. For a while.
It started with asking for a bit of help with homework and teenage troubles. More advice and help was requested as Brother One grew up, and then even more so, when he found himself left alone. Forced to grow up too soon. The troll offered guidance and assistance. Taught him how to survive.
The troll was older than the three brothers. And so, could offer this advice and guidance from experience.
Brother One lived a life of chaos. Mass disorganization and personal destruction. Despite everything the troll did. All of the help. Brother One did things he shouldn’t – bad things. And when Brother One found himself in trouble – big trouble – he called on the troll. And the troll would come. Sort the situation, remedy the problem. And help Brother One. Always. Even in the middle of the night. Without question.
But Brother One rarely learned from the mistakes he made. Some might think this is a natural progression. That the brother had not made enough errors to gain anything from those he had made. Perhaps, he had made too many. He was lazy. He liked to indulge and imbibe. He loved to nap. He took advantage of the help he was given. And not just that of the troll but others too. Brother One did not respect others and their efforts as one should. He showed no regard for the time the troll spent helping him. Nor that of the others.
One day Brother One met a young lady. She too tried to help. She showed him what life could be like if he pulled it all together. Their relationship grew. Quickly. And Brother One seemed to grow too. A little. He matured. A little. He was slowly putting together a nice, happy life. This made the troll very happy. And proud.
The troll and Brother One grew closer. They became really good friends. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and having someone to lean on. To talk to. The both needed the security of having someone on their side. And finally, they had that. Or so the troll had been allowed to believe.
Brother Two had a competitive nature. So much so that it was often times hard to decipher whether his acts were genuine. He was harsh and judgemental. Without cause. Brother Two seemed to like winning but in a twisted way; while always pleased with victory, he seemed to get off on the loss suffered by others. And he took his greatest pleasure whenever he beat Brother One (who was often unaware of the competition).
The troll found him to be a struggle. Deep down the troll loved Brother Two but as he grew the troll liked him a lot less. The troll was always there for Brother Two, but it became increasingly more difficult to be so. Eventually a push would come and the troll would no longer be able to do anything to help Brother Two.
The troll and Brother Two did enjoy some moments together; moments involving laughter and fun. But disconnect was always there. A lack of commonalities kept the chasm between and eventually allowed it to grow larger. It would prove one day to be impassable.
Brother Two took advice from no one. He was the ruler of his own destiny. Chest puffed out. Bravado on. Most people thought he was fearless and brave. For the things he accomplished. They did not know his crippling fear of the dark. His disdain for confrontation. His cowardly ways. Brother Two loved having the last word. From a distance.
The troll looked out for all the brothers. But when the troll had to leave Brother Two seemed glad to take over. He settled himself in the role of guardian. Though no one ever asked him to do so. Clever as he was Brother Two was never good at seeing the big picture. He liked to control things. Like people. To him it was all a game. Pawns to move around on a game board. He played because he liked winning but Brother Two never acknowledged or adhered to the rules. And when that happens, no one wins. You see, Brother Two did not renounce the rules or guidelines per se, he simply believed there was an entirely different set reserved for him.
In the end, the troll realized that Brother Two was not someone to seek after; he was not what he appeared to be. Masked or cloaked it didn’t matter. The troll became aware of Brother Two and his intentions, and wanted no part of it. Which appeared to suit Brother Two just fine.
A near mystery to the troll, Brother Three was once the brother best known by the troll. And it would not be a stretch to say he was once most loved too. The troll helped raise Brother Three. Taught him things, explored the world with him. Embarked on all sorts of crazy and fun – they were close. The troll adored Brother Three. He was so different from the others.
The troll watched Brother Three grow from a wee baby to a near-teenager. Witnessing a man en route. He was special, Brother Three, and he was a joy to be around and watch. Many times he was all that kept the troll going, a source of pure light in moments of deathly darkness.
But the troll hurt Brother Three without ever meaning to and nearly without realizing it. Twice during the short life of Brother Three the troll left. The first time it was a natural move, temporary but no less confusing to Brother Three. He was far too young to understand the why. Then, the troll came back. Unexpectedly. Under dire circumstances. But such things are difficult to explain to young people. And Brother Three was no different. And then, under an entirely new set of circumstances, the troll left again.
The second departure was a mess. Brother Three still too young to understand. But that departure was not what anyone involved wanted. Though it was absolutely necessary. And no one explained that to him. He was left to form opinions (or have them formed for him) without the proper information and facts. He grew displeased with the troll. And when the troll tried to contact him it was without reply. Time and time again the troll tried to reach Brother Three. Time and time again there was no response of any kind. And that broke the troll’s heart. Damaged it. There is no repair for some things.
And so the troll came to realize that like Brother Two, Brother Three was not one to seek. Especially when the wind whispered feelings of hatred. The troll would never recover from the disappointment of those judgements bestowed.
The Troll Revisited
The troll lived a lonely life. Forced to give up so many people. Treated as though undeserving of love and affection. Told to be grateful for things most simply have. The troll recoiled. Hid. Afraid and alone. Removed from the world, especially the brothers. Denied family and a sense of belonging. Judged and punished without committing a crime.
The troll still loves the brothers. But that love is not unchanged. Things happen and time passes. While the troll was in the darkness, rejected by the brothers, a small spark of light emerged. A hopeful spark. A joyful spark. The beginnings of a light the troll had never witnessed before. A light so pure and unexpected. Unlike anything that came before it. Too bright and wonderful to share with the brothers. So the troll kept that spark hidden from them. It was not theirs to share and the troll would not let them near for fear of tampering.
The brothers each rejected the troll. They each chose to ignore (or forget) all that the troll had done for them. The sacrifices the troll made. The love given. Brother One’s rejection was nonchalant in nature. He was disinterested. Too consumed with himself and lacking in confidence. Brother Two’s rejection came swiftly and cruelly. Leaving the troll suspicious and questioning if there was ever a true relationship between them. And Brother Three, while too young then and, perhaps, still now, his rejection comes without reason. He never responded to the troll, never sought out the true explanations, and so allowed his mind to be made up for him.
The troll once wanted to mend these torn fences. To put the work in and repair all the breaks. But each and every time the troll made an attempt at a repair the brothers would burst through, obliterating any work already done and destroying the possibility of a completed task.
Now the troll is content. But there is someone jumping on the bridge. So the peace and happiness may not be for long.
*** *** ***
The paths we walk in life are different – mine from yours, yours from mine – as well as those we walk at different times in our lives. These paths, of our own creation and divergence, will come together in the end. Not necessarily the end, but a time will come when you are no longer sprawled across various points and instead stick to one path in particular.
Cousin Helen’s house feels like a bridge to nowhere. It is the meeting point of all the paths Helen took during her life. But there is no celebration to be had for it is a sad assembly of one perspective.
We need relationships with other people. Not just to be physically intimate. Not just so we are not alone. We need them because those bonds we form allow us to grow. Our interactions with others show us parts of ourselves we cannot possibly see in solitude. These interactions, relationships, bonds all offer us perspective. A chance to change. To improve. To grow. To become something.
That is not to say that a life of solitude garners nothing – in the end, it produces a musty, stagnant smell.