Back in late September, when I shared Ben Brooker’s blog, Kate’s Words, I suggested Ben give me a word and I’d try to ‘refresh my writing muscles’. The suggestion is I write for thirty minutes, musing on the word – which in this case is knots – and share what emerges. Okay, here goes …

… R D Laing published Knots in 1970. I tried but failed to read the book in the middle seventies, when I was first married. I failed because … well the text tied me in knots and my life then – as now – was rather knotty anyway, so I felt unable to see the book through to the end.

I wrote a poem a decade and a half later, titled, I think, ‘Rope’. It alluded to the ribald habit ropes have in snapping at your ankles and tripping you up. Maybe I’ll go back to it later this month and turn it into a Flash Fiction, which is something I’ve done with several of my old poems. This is cannibalising one’s writing and has little to do with knots, though it might explain why some of my Flash Fiction lacks a distinct narrative.

Free writing can get knotty too, because when you let the mind wander  – the purpose of free writing – the mind, like a rope, can turn in and around on itself, twisting neurons and crimping axons, leading to nowhere or worse, allowing it to form its own connections, risking aberrant, gratuitous or self-destructive thoughts, like ‘Why am I doing this, I am usually so structured and planned? I don’t like this …’

… See what I mean?

Have you ever tried to undo a knot in a gold or silver chain? It’s not easy (see what I did there?). When I cleaned out my mother’s jewellery drawer I found most of her chains tangled into a ball. The week I cleaned the house, the week my father joined my mother in the ‘Aged Care Facility’, was unseasonably hot at well over forty degrees Celsius. I remember sitting on their bed and looking at the tangled ball of gold and silver and wondering how on earth I could separate them. That the ball symbolised my often difficult relationship with my parents was not lost on me and perhaps I applied myself to the task  because of that; by separating the chains maybe I could prepare myself for my parents’ inevitable demise, something that happened only three years later, in my father’s case, and eight months after that, in my mother’s. I only ever managed to untangle the ball of chains, I could never address the disarray that was our relationship.

I kept some of those chains. I wear them occasionally and admit I am, like my mother, careless when I remove them and put them away. Will my children have to untangle my necklaces when it is time for me to move on?

From the knotted peculiarity of Laing, to my early poems, to the gnarled vagaries of my mind and on to my mother’s tangled, sometimes twisted hold on me I have come, perhaps inevitably, to my own demise, to the day when I must untie the knot that secures my hold on life. Maybe I should find a copy of Knots? Perhaps, at my current stage of life, I will understand it better than I did when I was a callous, untried girl?

Afterword: I could not help myself – I edited this piece but only so I could eliminate any convoluted sentences.


6 thoughts on “Knots

    1. Wow, thanks, Cheryl! I have learned from this exercise that the more I write from my heart instead of my head the more satisfied I am with my work (though still nervous about it) and the more satisfying my readers find it.


  1. Very interesting Janet. Just as the silver and gold chain ball survived so will the relationship with your parents last for the rest of your life. You will see them in your children and grandchildren and gradually more so in yourself as you journey through life. You may even be lucky enough like me to find that you remember them as parenting the best way they knew how and we love them despite any shortcomings. Love Chris. xx oo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Chris, although this piece is not as autobiographical as others I have written. I assure you that my parents are as present in my life as they ever were, and in very positive and loving ways. xx


  2. I just knew you wouldn’t be able to resist a cheeky edit! Old habits die hard, am I right? In all seriousness, I enjoyed this one-off (?) very much, Janet. I don’t think I’ve managed a decent metaphor in three free-writing attempts, and yet there you go in your first (and last?)… I’m fascinated by the diagram (‘What one has’ etc.). Is this from the Laing book? Whatever else free-writing does, I just love the weird, old shit it prompts you to remember, and doesn’t (or shouldn’t) allow you to filter out as you normally would. I think there’s something nice (and maybe instructive) about seeing writing’s detritus to the fore (much as a recent contemporary dance work in Adelaide was developed from all the bits that had been cut out).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, you know me too well Mr B. Not sure it was a ‘cheeky’ edit though, more like a desperate one. The diagram was from Laing and Patrick went online to research him, as did, I assume from this comment, you. Thanks for your comments about the metaphors, which just seemed to emerge although I am reading a lot of poetry this week and that always seems to help me wax metaphorical.


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