Someone has moved my Grieving Bench.
Its been replaced by a large picnic table – probably courtesy of the Parish Council (bless ’em). I’m not sure I like it, I glanced at it disdainfully today and kept walking. I will try it out later in the week but may move my place to the next bench down the hill. This new interruption creates a different feel, less enfolded, more outward looking. it’s not about contemplation, it’s about spreading out, so it may not be such a good fit. I liked my old battered bench for my old battered life.
I have a good view from up here and have carved it into my morning routine. sometimes this walk and the space are the process itself, sat overlooking our town with a perspective I can’t get from my cold settee in a dark dank lounge. But sometimes its only a moment, a pausing, then home to a private pain and welcomed isolation. I go with it, either way its good and necessary.
Last week while crawling through the early morning ritual of breakfast- lunchbox-bookbag-are your shoes on yet- have you got tissues routine? I acknowledged just how dark it was outside and revelled in the fact I’d be out in its blustery misery soon. I am a winter baby, I appreciate the stripping back to nothingness, i feel calm amongst bare branches. The season reflects the starkness of my life. I am a grey stormy day.
I observe, I sit above and outside of it all, it passes around me.
We swirled and buffeted our way to school and when he blew across the playground with the debris of autumn I turned to unfurl my emotions on the hill. I shuffle-huddled defiantly across the bridge till a gust of wind carried me, disheveled and bleak to my usual location. I dropped down into the morning like a Bergman version of Mary Poppins, humming ‘a bottle of Merlot makes the grief go down….’
and from my black vista I surveyed the scene.
Stormy, three layers of grey clouds over noisily protesting trees. I can see the painted horizon, solid heavy gun metal, it needs more white in it. The thick heavy wash of grey moving in from the right, fast clouds today, starkness with a purpose. Startled by floppy damp dogs who trundle after their quilted owners, both carefree and abandoned in the bluster.
A buzz of traffic tries to compete with the wilderness but I am focussed. I’m back in Howarth with both of them, cold Christmases and the obligatory protesting at yet another visit. Linked arms on the slippy cobbles and her slow unsteady gait through the graveyard to the oppressively brooding church, before we’re pulled back to reality round the corner for tourist teashops. It’s always autumn there, even in summer. The hills make her knees ache and we have to get back for the in-laws ordeal meal in the evening. Getting lost was inevitable yet fun and we never did get to the treacle mines.
What can I see in the distance now? Can’t quite make it out? Flat and white could be a frosty field and in the brown suburban-ness a late street lamp hangs onto orange. One tiny pinpoint of warmth in this appealing desolation. The rain clouds bring mist over the fields and I’m back in my long black velvet dress, the hem tatty and unravelling, wet and muddy round my bare feet as I stumble desperately across the barrenness.
Same bench – different day
and the landscape both inside and out paints an alternative story…
In the beginning was the word and the word was Nothing.
I took breath in and breathed out, that was all.
The panic and fear came from thinking, thinking ahead and dazzled by the void in front of me.
We liked the wisdom of the East – no, not Great Yarmouth, slightly further- China. He especially tried his best to be true to its nature. But as we understood from Yoda “Do, there is no try” There was something Good about it, in the truest sense of the word, least resistance was The Way. Years ago when first introduced to the concept I didn’t think ‘The Way’ would play this role in my life. I joined that particular social group because it had to be right for me, it was yet another sign. I had to follow – though ‘Widowed and Young’ was not the spiritual path of my choosing.
Some days in, those ahead of me advised ‘baby steps’. Despite the catastrophic debris of my mind I still remember my reaction. Is that all I have to do? Can I really stop trying to do and think and just creep teeny tiny little fragments of movement along? It was such a relief and release to just let go. But to simply ‘be’ turned out to be harder than it sounded and it took a while to adjust, to leave behind the practised engrained approach of many years of being busy, keeping the plates spinning and sniffing around for the next idea.
I had stopped.
Imperceptibly I slipped into this new pattern. It is my salvation.
I have learned. When the blackness arrives around me I can only surrender and regardless of whatever action I feel compelled towards, I know enough to sit it out.
It will pass.
When I stare out of myself, the carcass of who he knew, I know it’s not permanent. When the wailing makes my ribs ache and the panic crawls and ravages me from within, I breathe. I hurt – but I still breathe and after a while it shifts. And this is how it is.
There is wisdom in this process. I am learning to observe, to sit outside of as well as be the pain. Non attachment does not come easily, there is something dynamic going on.
And so I look back to the East, and am guided by a deeper truth. I am reinventing myself from the feet up and from my uncarved block comes a continued existence. I can’t say it’s a life yet, but it is an existence. Leave the block untouched, let it be, follow its natural lines.
I spend a lot of the mornings on the hill, the changeable weather and scenery reflect my grief. I am reassured by the barrenness that has replaced my earlier companions. The colours around my summer bench have decayed. I study the ground, the splinters of broken glass from the late night giddiness of youth and grubby discarded stubs.
The detritus of a life: but in the quiet of the freshly opened day the dew sits in perfect spheres on the tiny sharp blades of grass. In the sunlight each fires a rainbow at me and somewhere deep inside on some quantum level the particles push and shove for speed and position. In the surface tension on each dewdrop I am perched in a miniature reflection of myself, peering both inside and out.
Being and becoming. Uncertain duality.
In the wavelengths of light in between everything.
All in motion, giving and taking, beginning and ending, hurting and healing. Spinning atoms in tiny spheres on a whirling lump of molten rock in a swirling expanding universe.
In these moments of clarity I see it all. Simultaneously.
The wood is warm to the touch from the sun rays that connect us. The third generation star made from bits of the start of the universe heats up the carved bark that I sit on.
I feel it’s warmth, it is Good.
Everything has its place
Everything is wonderful
Even my agony.
I remember writing that and the wholeness I experienced. But today, right now – my legs are cold. I’ve sat here too long. Wet, hollow, alone, bedraggled.
The spheres on the leaves are raindrops now, not dew.
Incomplete – harshness – wandering
Black, Bleak, Brutal
Went back this morning stumbled over tyre tracks. The winter visitors had been and mowed back nature. Muddied crevices to freeze and trip over. It must happen every year but I didn’t come up here that often in the old world, didn’t noticed the change before. Now I notice everything. Now it’s a daily necessity.
It seems merciless. Where’s it gone? My sap heavy grief spring, the aching summer fullness, becoming dried out brittle pain, vulnerable, fragile, to crack and seep back into the earth.
To follow the natural lines of loss.
And now it’s been raped, torn, ripped from its place.
A forced change
on my nature, something was in motion, moving, growing, feeling with energy, being.
Suddenly out of time, against its curves, imposed,
Savaged, ravaged, abused,
Razed to the ground
My bench, my field, my life
Winter has descended
I stand and survey the damage,
then and now
The icy wind and pain bite into me
My gloveless hands ache from the bitterness.
The world still spins
Days tick by
Seasons come and go
Life in motion