The ever-present storm

The dverse haibun theme is fear. Fear is a big thing, and it never goes away. An easy one to write since it’s something I think about every day one way or another.


What do I fear? I fear what might be. I fear the child’s fever that won’t descend, the late train, the doorbell that hasn’t rung, the telephone that won’t pick up. It’s in the blood, a gift, the anxiety that walks beside me like a second shadow, crouching close to the wall where the rubbish gathers and the pigeons scavenge, picking at every trailing, frayed edge of my nerves.

It’s in the blood. Grandma lost two children and refused to go to their funerals, destroyed the death certificates, and now no one even knows where they are buried. Lost grandad too after only twenty-four years of marriage, had a nervous breakdown and wouldn’t let her youngest leave the house. Followed her grandchildren around as if only her watchful eye stopped the claws of death snatching us away.

Deeper than worry is the visceral fear of loss, and it nags and gnaws at the merest hint of trouble, the barest bones, like a famished dog. If I should find myself adrift, with the phone in my hand that never answers, waiting at the barrier for the passenger that never arrives, and for the doubt to become a certitude, my world would shatter, blow away like the thistledown that fills the bright spring air.


Wind blows through the leaves,

spring-brisk and blossom-scented,

heralding the storm.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

55 thoughts on “The ever-present storm”

  1. Got a double-treat, a beautiful string of words and then some inner Jane-world. Immediately upon reading I felt I knew you a little better (a good thing) moreover I could relate deeply to that sense of powerlessness of your grandma’s generation and how death creased every corner and the only way forward was backward at times, hiding behind doors, following those you loved, surely it is a wonder everyone did not lose their minds. The strength they must have had in those days. On a very superficial level I used to be scared of going into a childrens home and being alone, having nobody to love me (as a child) so this is the echo from the child who maybe does not yet understand death, and so the burden of emotion on the parents shoulders is enormous, one who is not a parent could never quite understand. You conveyed it so powerfully with the prose and then a lovely poem. I really appreciated both and you, for your rich legacy and your truths.

    1. Thanks Candy. My grandmother was a bundle of nerves though she hid it from us when we were small. She believed in nothing. To lose faith in the safety net of religion must have been like being cast adrift in an open boat without any oars. She was such a strong, intelligent woman. I admire her far more than those who are usually held up as models of courage.

      1. You did a terrific job with the prose, just a window into your life and so much was there. I found it fascinating, yes I’m biased, I want to know, but it was more than that, you posed the very existential question of what makes us fearful and then colored in the detail. Maybe she did not believe because of her intelligence? Am I allowed to say that? 😉 Either way nothing erases fear from even the smartest or the more devout. She was honest in her battle and maybe that’s all we have – in those days I believe it was more raw than now where we stand and look at sanitized horror without moving our mouths. I like that you admire your grandmother, I do mine as well for much the same reasons. I like that you admire her falibility as much as her strength as that shows you know her, and you liked the real her, not the ideal.

      2. Before she left school (to become a teacher) the nuns entered her in the Oxbridge entrance exams. They did it under an assumed name to give her a sporting chance. She was offered a place at Oxford. She couldn’t accept it of course since her family couldn’t afford to send her and they needed her as a worker. She always wanted one of us to get into Oxford, just to show them, and to have her small victory. I hate myself now for refusing to take the exam on political grounds.

  2. Oh Jane. another haibun where the grandmother transmitted her fear. And this is so gut-wrenching. I too felt as if you let us see a little bit more of you in this haibun. The word choices and wordsmithing are beyond excellent. We both chose spring storms as our haiku imagery as well. I think your haiku is much better.

    1. It isn’t better, it’s just different. I was very close to my grandmother and understood from being quite young why she was the way she was. The stories we knew instinctively never to ask about. I’m still not sure how much of her story is what my mother and my aunt have told me and what are the details I have imagined.

      1. Mine too. The bones of the story are there, in family history. I have a vivid image of events in my grandmother’s life, like a film though there aren’t even any photographs. She destroyed those too.

  3. This one definitely strikes a chord with me–and others–as I see above. Well done.
    (Part of the Passover play jokingly dealt with the anxieties of the women in our family.)
    This is a great topic for a haibun.

    1. Thanks Merril 🙂 It’s an almost limitless topic! And one that goes deep. In fact, I’ve only just realised that a haibun is supposed to be a present tense poem and this isn’t. Ah well, another rule broken.

      1. And actually, it can be past tense as long as it is true and actually happened to you. I usually include that bit in my instructions so people will know. So it is not a broken rule or a “westernized” (so-called) version of the haibun. Even Basho sometimes wrote in the past.

      2. Oh good! I’m pleased that it fitted the pattern. That’s the way it came out without my even being aware that it was a) personal and b) not immediate but general. Thanks!

  4. I can think of all the anxieties and what-ifs that can drive me crazy. But I have learned its not good to dwell over them as there are things beyond one’s control. I can relate to the family history of stories that can’t be casually discussed about. And your haiku is lovely, with that turn to another kind of storm.

    1. She was a stormy sort of person. She never wanted company, as if nothing could replace what she’d lost, and often took herself off to wild places on the Atlantic coast of Ireland to watch the storms and the ocean beating on the cliffs.

  5. Oh, did you nail the voice on this one! I have known people who have lived in that house, with that (fill in the blank) relative. They sound exactly like this poem. Well done!

  6. It’s amazing how our own minds can overtake us and whittle us down with its fear. I know because I’ve been there but didn’t stay…thank goodness. I feel for your dear Grandmother and enjoyed your haibun.

    1. Thank you 🙂 She was a complex and intelligent woman born in a period of prejudice and poverty and she clawed her way up all on her own, despite the tragedies that destroyed her mental. health.

  7. That’s such a hard life. It must have been terrible for her, to lose so many of her little flock. No wonder she guarded the rest so carefully. It’s a tragedy to be rooted down in fear. Of course, I probably should have learned a little more fear as a youngster, might have saved me lots of trouble. Some things are worthy of caution. You have brought your fears to light. I hope it helps them to subside. The light can dispel fear

    1. Thanks Walter. I don’t think I’ll ever be free and easy enough to stop worrying, immediately jumping to the conclusion that somebody’s dead and wonder how to break the news, how I’ll cope etc etc. We live in a dark world, I’m afraid.

  8. I can so identify with this, Jane. My granddad was seriously agoraphobic after his parents and three of his sisters were killed in the war. He took in the rest of the family and neighbours but was too scared to leave the house. When they moved, he managed to walk to the end of the road to his job at the local wire works and sometimes allowed himself to be driven in a car, as long as there was nobody left in the house. Then he got dementia. My mum and I also suffered from agoraphobia in different ways. Mum has recently died after five and half years of the demon dementia. It’s true, it’s in the blood and ‘it nags and gnaws at the merest hint of trouble, the barest bones, like a famished dog’.
    On a more positive note, I love the haiku!

    1. Thanks Kim 🙂 After her breakdown when my granddad died, my grandmother developed agoraphobia too. Her youngest was still at school and couldn’t leave her so they took in a lodger to have another presence in the house. We used to joke about the huge heavy handbag she carted around with her when she overcame her phobia of leaving the house. It was full of pills.

  9. You’ve captured that feeling of anxiety so well. The tension is in the structure as well as the words. And I love how the haiku somehow disperses it.
    I think fear is a constant companion to us all. (K)

    1. Thanks, Kerfe. Fear ought to be our constant companion. If it isn’t it means we have no consciousness of the suffering of others, and how close we all are to suffering of one kind or another.

  10. Your haibun was moving. I’ve a cousin who has lived her life with fear by her side. I always said she could walk into a room painted entirely pristine white and say “See that shadow over there in that corner?” I feel faith should be our constant companion … and the prayer for surcease for those who suffer.

    1. The shadow of her loss never left my grandmother. It made her want to do the best she could for the ones she loved, and she was always moving, doing things, studying, learning, but she was terribly aware of how alone we all are.

  11. Ah! Now I can see why you are a novelist, Jane. Excellent. All of it. Drew me in with claws of steel. it went deep, Jane. Evocative of similar events.

      1. Pointless waste of gems, Jane. jewels before swine. I just rather never be a popular writer, but I write for my own therapy, ego. I never make any money at it, and I will remain an unknown author until my death.

      2. I could say, I want to be successful because I need the money (true) or I could say, I want my talent to be recognized (also true) but either way, I think I’m going to be disappointed 🙂

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