There was another girl I remember from Fitzmary 2 ward, her name was Eleanor and she was a child of mother earth, connected to the cosmic force like a magnet to a fridge.
She was about my age, which at that time was around 25, and I vividly remember the first time I met her. I had only been on the ward for a day, so was the newbie, but was also entirely accustomed to strange new surroundings and therefore able to take everything relatively in my stride. I walked into the lounge area, and she was already sitting on a one person sofa, her legs were curled up beneath her and I felt her eyes bore into mine with the force of an arrow.
I smiled reservedly, sat down on the other sofa which was in the room, and then lay down so that I could better face her. She regarded me cooly and with slight disdain for about 2 seconds, then turned her head slightly to one side, lifted her noise in an expression of utter and decided dismissal, got up in one sweeping and fluid motion, and dramatically left the room. I remember shrugging slightly, I’d seen in all before, and then turning back to a new room and a new ward.
Eleanor was as passionate and scornful as she was entirely diffident. She had wide shoulders, a slimmer upper body and thick curvy legs like tree trunks. Her face was broad but ever so slightly pointed at the chin, her hair was long and dirty blonde, and she always swept it up and over one side of her head so that it fell voluptuously over her shoulder. She was forever rearranging it, or sewing daisies into it which she had fetched from the garden. Her eyes were large, brown and almond shaped, and would glitter or flash depending on what she was intending to convey.
We went our separate ways at first; she was a loner and danced vehemently to her own drumbeat. The first time I remember her approaching me was outside the medicine cabinet one evening whilst we were waiting for the night-time meds to be dispensed. I was sitting down on the floor, leaning against the wall with my head rested back, and she meandered her way over and sat down next to me. I looked her way, and she gave me an enquiring kind of knowing look, which I accepted.
I think I remember feeling particularly low that evening, and she had seemed to sense that. She was like a cat; she came and sat next to me, and then shared my space and kept me company for a time because she wanted to. She listened without words being said, I think, and she just knew that sometimes silence is the most sacred and personal thing.
She was endlessly sitting with trees. Nina and I would pass her on our way out and invite her to the cafe, and she would shake her head and then stare off to the skies, evading our gazes and enquiries and instead swaying as the wind blew and caused me to pull my coat closer to my chest.
I had a lot of time and respect for Eleanor. She was so deeply connected to mother nature that she had decided nothing else was worth her time or attention, and therefore flippantly and defiantly ignored each and every attempt the nurses or doctors made to reason with her, or talk her back into a place where they could relate to her from.
She defied it all with a wicked toss of her head and then a stare which would bite the bottoms of their souls off. Once she had decided that I was worth her attention, she invited me into her room one afternoon. She had loads of drawings and sketches she had done of animals and scenes from outside, which were relatively good, and she wanted to show them all to me and hear my reactions. She spoke in short sly phrases, and tossed her head a lot haughtily as she finished whatever it was she was saying.
I remember she leant back against her bedpost as I looked over her drawings from the other end of the bed, and drew her legs up to her chest in the blatantly coquettish way she always did. They were unshaven, and when she caught me glance at her two-day thick stubble she ran a hand up and down one of them deliberately, held a finger to one lip and smiled scornfully at my stare.
I admired her on many levels. Her eyes glittered with a kind of presumptuous sensuality, and whilst I knew some of the places she stared off to when she was alone outside on the grass or under a tree, I knew that she devoted so much more of her time and her focus there than I did. She let the sacred feminine element of the natural world into her body and her soul, and her spirit thus roamed freer than a soaring birds.
When I caught her eye I could see that where I felt rage, she has mastered scorn- and this was the haughty look I caught most in her eyes, but always underscored by a scrutinising questioning- like she was sizing you up and usually sniffing dismissively at what she found. But she had such authenticity about her, and the certainty which dances hand in hand with that; she was so connected to and entwined with the deep forces that they bored out of her eyes when she glanced at you.
I think that after I had known her for a while, after she had met my eye-line enough times, she let me see the sadness which lay within her. It was soft and glowed somehow, and I would sense it when I saw her sometimes. It seemed to me as though she just accepted it along with the other various darkness’s, and sometimes it would mean that she merely looked upwards and away when someone displeased her, rather than glaring at them head-on.
I never got to know her as much as I would liked to have done, and looking back now I wonder if she would have liked somebody to talk to and be close to. I know that scorn cannot always drive back the worst of the demons, but I never knew her well enough to know exactly what assailed her, and what it was which led her prefer the company of tree’s than people. I was younger then, and was intimidated by her scathing outlook more than I was able to perceive how badly she might crave human contact.
Or perhaps it was me who craved the human contact, and she seemed to touch and trigger something in me which I instinctively responded to; perhaps she waved her fairy wand at me, but I only half perceived it then.
I moved in my own orbit and her’s was distant from that, but I do still wonder about what else exactly was underneath all of that moss and cosmic force which streaked her face and her hair. She was erratic; wilder than the most tumultuous ocean storm, and the flashing lightening which streaked the water.
But most of all Eleanor was away and flying free with the scudding leaves and the rain streaked mud. She was always bare-foot, and always on her own; but she still dances in my memory, and her eyes continue to glitter with derision- winking across somehow at my own minds eye.
2 thoughts on “Eleanor- the girl who sat with trees”
Hello, sorry to hijack your blog but I love your writing and get excited at reading your post 😍 Are you writing ‘it out’ or can I suggest you develop this one a little more? I think this one can be longer (tell me to shove off if you like I won’t be offended) it’s just that this character is so super complex and you know more than you are giving which ‘angers’ me as the reader as I want a little more info on each paragraph. This could be a great piece, it already is but could be better if you lengthened it, not massively, just for detail. I say this for two reasons 1) I want more info and 2) your average person has no idea what it’s like inside such an institution so this so is your opportunity to tell them.
Whatever you decide I’m a fan of your work, well done and thank you as always for sharing 💜
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It all makes me wonder what goes through the heads of a psychiatrist in one of these institutions. I mean, are they as mad as the people they’re treating? In their own, subtle way, of course!