Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Penguins Bring Good Cheer

On Monday the first thing I take note of is a waning gibbous moon. A blue-silver bloom floating in pale morning sky. Two cloud tufts make eyes, the moon makes a button nose, a face more awake than mine. Cold takes hold of my fingertips, brings attention to frosted car windows. A visible sigh in the beautiful air. It’s Monday and I need to drive. Blow a kiss to the mouthless moonface, grab the ice scraper. (Call yourself petal out loud, no else is awake to know about it. List the things to be done: do this, do the next thing. Get it done, petal.)
Yesterday we trailed to Exmouth, piled the little car high with boys and dogs, took them to the beach. Grandchild 1, Grandchild 4. Two of our counted blessings. One football, a few squabbles: the usual brother-banter. A slimmed down Fat Beagle, a springy Dog who would ache later. A dog’s ball for throw and fetch. (For spaniel Dog, for this is her vital work. Beagle is more about the scents and the schmooze.)
No sooner do we tread the sands than the miracles begin. Penguins, Grandchild 4 shows us (they look much like crows) PENGUINS THAT FLY!! But they are birds, he further reasons, so of course birds will fly. On no account are they not penguins. Grandchild 1 chuckles. Agrees. Joins our conspiracy of cuteness. Penguins!
We go in search of caves but the tide is closing and the sky drops its colour and the little one tells us that the the sunrise is going down. Yes, we say, how lucky we are to see this. A sunrise that goes down! Look - more penguins!
They both get wet feet. They share throwing the ball for Dog. Five goes each: a challenge to get the ball to the sea before Dog grabs it. Fat Beagle grunts at smells. A girl asks to pet him; he has such soft ears. Return the boys to warm up, eat home-cooked food, lie on sofas, lamp-lit and overtired and watching Christmas films - because this year more than ever we’re all in it for the feels, not the stuff. (Though we bought birthday presents for Grandchild 4: he wanted glue for making things and seeds to grow. They’ll be peas and broad beans and purple carrots and, if tended right, the world’s biggest pumpkin grown by a five year old.) And here I am on a Monday, under the nose of the moon- and look, a penguin!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The Sense We Make

Laura Denaire Harris, oncology nurse, cancer warrior

Dedicated to the memory of Laura Denaire Harris
19th May 1975 ~ 31 October 2018

We travel a road copper-edged in dropped leaf.
Under crooked branches a filigree of gold and shade falls upon us.
A burst of starlings, as though blown from the boughs: silhouettes swooping through blue, in a bloom of sunlight.
We cross a shining river on a sturdy bridge, each arch has a shadow-shimmer on the water below.
Pass a thatched cottage where a rose shakes in the bite of the breeze.
The air has no warmth beyond the sun’s reach.

We walk through the town to find the right church; pass paramedics kneeling by a man who is prone on the street in a sleeping bag. There are people at a cashpoint queuing, subdued. Passersby viewing with concern. A busker without a coat, his face pinched pink. Shops open, some lit for Christmas. In a gilded doorway, a couple ask directions from a lady who points as she speaks.

We find the church, the hearse - this is just part of life, the big picture of everyday life, this gloss black transport, this crumbled red brick - we remind ourselves. A lady with a pen waits patiently for names to be spelt; each letter stumbles out, however normal we know this to be.
I never saw a wicker coffin before - the prettiness of it, unexpected.
Blindsided by something cute: a detail.

Hush in the congregation save for the pipings of young children.
Murmurs. Tissues pulled from pockets. The church organ plays.
To shoulder a casket is an honourable thing; a piercing bravery, a bond between worlds.
They carry her in that pretty wicker, her family, her friends.
Place her at the head of us, to be celebrated.

People drawing strength from need stand to give tribute.
We see a life - a grand adventure, devotion, mischief, achievements - it is what has passed and will be missed and to be grateful for. How proud she was of her family, of her friends, of her calling to be an oncology nurse: her uniform was her going out dress, today.
(Collectively we are not going to win any choir prizes; it is sweet that we try. There’s a warmth in that.)
Hands press into neighbouring hands, by thoughtful request. Literally, a nice touch.
Each speaker given applause for what they share, and for the sharing itself.
We look after each other, today.
Hands in hands. Arms open: comfort in proximity.
Comfort in the petting of dogs, in memories of kindness and fun. Hot release of weeping, and slow fond tears.
This beautiful mess of grief that can only be made with love - for which we can and cannot be sad - this connection is the joy of sorrow.

Night brought with it the image of a half moon. Leaves blew, colours unseen.
This wonderment of mess!
These details!
Moments, fragments - they become our whole stories: yes, a life is made of moments, yes: it is how we bring our attention to them that makes the composition work.
The sense we make.

Laura Denaire marries Paul Harris, celebrating life

Friday, 9 November 2018

How To Catch A Cold Without Regret

One good skimming stone, one limpet shell saying 'O'

If I wash my hair today, tomorrow I could schedule in some combing. 
Not to glorify busy, if messy hair is a glorification. I forget. It could be fashionable, if that word still exists.
Anyway, here I am babbling: poor time management; though most things seem to be getting done; the big picture is a body of water - me and my task list are bouncing over it, skimmed stones – I'm not at all sure if I know what I’m doing but I’m doing it. 
 There’s a destination which we may or may not reach.
Even r
est time is skittish: yet this fear is relished – if only all fear were like this!  

Doubt is less popular. The work ahead is a weight I haven’t fully figured how to shoulder.   Did I ever figure out any previous burdens?  
Luckily, no! An encouraging precedent!  

 When I am standing on the shore, a real shore, and the air is gathering chill and the water is silky-dark, I doubt my ability to get in and swim. But then I am swimming. Gulls wheel and cry, yacht ropes clank. I’m a giant in a bladder-wrack forest. Perfect twists of wood drift by.  The sky can be anything – bursting golds, dissolving greys, lashing rain - it cannot be wrong.  

 Later again I am curled in blankets, brimming with symptoms, reminding myself that plenty of folk have this same virus without braving the swim: busy without the bounce.

A beach at twilight encourages adventures