Saturday, 24 December 2016

Last Breath

 I thought I was taking a photo of a wave. Then this seagull flew into my lens at the exact moment I clicked the shutter.  An instant of synchronicity. An instant of wonder. 

Like the moment of conception.
Like the moment of death.
A breath. Then no breath.

I can't get it out of my mind.
Nothing before it and nothing after it.
Just his last breath.
Stuck in my mind.
A seagull in flight
above the wave.
forever alive 
in that 

Happy Christmas everyone.  Back in 2017.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Chance Encounter

A Christmas wreath for Robin. I usually buy one to hang on the front door but this afternoon

I carry it to his grave instead. I'm surprised the rose petals I scattered are still fresh. And a dog has used the earth clods as a toilet. I curse its owner.  It's spitting with rain. And windy. Desolate.

I'm right back to the day we buried him. Tearful. Numb. Unbalanced.

Walking out of the cemetery I hear a woman's voice. American. She is just leaving the porch of her house which is the gatehouse of the cemetery. I recognise her but she doesn't know me. I am not like my father, who always used to talk to people in the street, but something prompts me and I stop and I say,
Hello, are you a poet?

She says, Yes I am. And she is delighted to be known. 

I tell her I have been to one of her poetry readings at the library, many years ago, and that I have one of her books. 
She says, You must have my new one,

 and she goes back into the house, invites me in. I say my boots are muddy, so she comes out with the book and gives it to me. I say I have no money on me. She says  Oh no, just make a donation to Hospice Care sometime. 
 She gives me a hug. And says what a coincidence we were passing at the same time.

She notices my camera, indicates the cemetery and asks if I've been taking pictures there.

I say, My husband died.

Her face becomes so sad and she gives me another hug.
She is so tall and warm, wrapped in jaunty purple scarf and I imagine she's quirky and a bit scatty and we say goodbye as if we have always been friends.

At home I start to read her poems and my breath is punched out of me by the force and acuity and raw beauty/pain and reach of her words.

My spirits are so raised by our chance encounter. Maybe not chance though.

Her book is The Skin of Mercy.   Published by Cinnamon Press.
She is Dana Littlepage Smith.

The baking of my day - honey gold Medjoul dates stuffed with almond butter and walnuts and roll dipped in dark chocolate, specked with pistachios.

 Jewel glazed light fruit cake( thank you, Nigel) - an alternative to the royal iced Christmas one. I left it too late anyway to make that one which needs time to mature. Which needs to be fed with brandy.

My traditional mincemeat shortbread squares. I used  up the mincemeat I made last year. It smells alcoholic - maybe it has gone off. Too late now.

I would like to be a poet but I think my vocabulary isn't wide enough. To marry the language of emotion with a dictionary of meaning.... to pierce the essence of turn over another's heart with words - now that is an art I would love to go beyond the poison of not fall at the first hurdle of,
  How does she do that? I could never do that.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Turn Away from the Light

Ancient Whistman's Wood on Dartmoor. 1st January 2009.

Although these photos are on my computer I have a feeling that my sister took them. If you did, thank you, Jane.

I make a big bowl of roasted beets and carrots, red onions and cherry tomatoes, potatoes and crown prince squash, cut in rough cubes and tossed with a fried sambal of ginger and garlic, turmeric, chilli and ground toasted cumin seeds. And because it's that time of year I open a packet of chestnuts and stir them through the mix with melted coconut oil and fresh chopped coriander. The theme of our Deeksha Solstice supper tonight is curry so I add my bowl to the table already groaning with dishes of curries and  basmati rice, naan breads, salads and dips and cheeses.

Afterwards we sit in the circle and I let the music and the blessings and the peacefulness wash though me. I feel empty and tired and small. Diminished by the carving away of half my life. More than half..... nearly all of it....can't feel into what's left .....not yet.

Yesterday was the turning of the year. The light will start to come back.  But I prefer the early darkness of these short days..... and the softness of long nights.... my impulse is still to turn inwards and away from the light .....not sure I want to see too clearly anyway or too far ahead.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Gone Forever

There is something wrong with my computer. 

I took a lot of photos while I was walking by the sea late this afternoon on my way back from having lunch with an old friend in Dorset.

They have all disappeared - the photos. This is the only surviving one on the desktop. Not the best. I downloaded them onto the computer this evening  so I know they were there. Now the file is empty. It says 21st December - No Photos. And I'd just deleted everything on my camera. Because I trusted the computer had them.

I'm  ridiculously heart broken. It physically hurts - a pain in my side -  this loss of just a few moments  in time - captured in my camera. I'll never have those moments again. The grey sea, the breaking waves, the black cliffs, the mist on the pebbles, will never actually be like they were when I was there on that day at that time. Gone - I'll never have them back, never be able to share them.

It doesn't matter that I have 28,000 photos already - most of them waves. 

And I know it's not about the photos. I keep going back to iPhoto and looking and looking and thinking they must be here somewhere - where can they be? They WERE here and now they aren't. And I don't know what I did to make them disappear. But I know they really have gone. Deleted. Those moments I captured are over forever.

 I just miss him dreadfully.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Tightness of my Heart

I sit on a deep sofa.
 Flames leap behind glass in the wood burner.
 The woman opposite me is talking.
 I listen and I cry and I blow my nose.
 Her husband died 4 years ago.
 She is giving me permission to  grieve.
In my own mountainous messy way.
Like she did.

I  have come to her for healing.
And she lays her hands in the small of my back
In the crevices of my ears.
On the bones of my chest.
And  gently opens up the spaces
 in my cells.
So it is safe to let go of
the clench
I maintain
from my jaw to 
my toes.

But it is her words of
gentleness and
 of understanding 
this has happened to me too
you will get better
when you do
open up a space in
the tightness
my heart. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Cakes and Cooking and The Fact of No-Robin Anymore

Some of the gorgeous homemade dishes for bring-and-share lunch on Saturday.
A five birthdays' lunch.

I made the birthday cakes.

Nigella's Clementine Cake - the one where you boil the clementines for 2 hours and then whizz them up into a pulp and stir them into eggs and sugar and ground almonds and nothing else. Almost the same recipe as Claudia Roden's Moroccan Orange Cake.

I didn't have clementines or enough oranges so I boiled up a whole orange and two lemons and made a glaze of lemons and Seville orange marmalade for the top and called it Orange and Lemon Cake...almost a Clementine cake....if you think of that rhyme  - 

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements.

The other one was also Nigella's  - Chocolate Olive Oil Cake. My addition was the chocolate avocado  frosting. Whizz up 2 ripe avocados with some cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla essence and you have a deep and  light silk icing made in heaven. Both cakes all totally dairy free, and gluten free but  fortunately not taste free.

Cooking and baking are good for me at the moment. It's what I know how to do. It engages and distracts and absorbs me. So when I'm triggered by some thought, some memory, some  regret ...or  suddenly overwhelmed by the unbearable fact of no-Robin to pull me into focus, I can chop an onion, break an egg and let my hands and the urgent call of lunch bring me back into the depths of myself.

On Sunday I made lunch for my sister and vegan friend. Soup - green and creamy with leeks and spinach. Little cubes of root vegetables roasted with garlic. And to sprinkle over them a jar of Dukkah - ground up roasted  hazelnuts and seeds - cumin and coriander, flax and chia, sesame, black pepper and sea salt. A piquant  salsa - avocado, peppers and tomato dressed in lemon oil.And in the absence of green salad the crisp and sharp leaves of pak choi.

I have been in the kitchen all afternoon - not cooking though - at the table - writing cards - remembering the last weeks, remembering Robin, his face inside the card. The lovely artist who painted the picture of him, and from the very beginning used to take him out, calls in with a card and photos of Robin that she took over the years on their outings. We have a cup of tea and we remember him some more - what a big space he took up in our lives - in the same and different ways.

And we laugh and cry a bit at the unbelievable truth of no-Robin in our lives anymore.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Every Day

Every day is different. 
Every day is the same
without him.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Mile Too Far

Feeling fragile and breakable... relentlessly stretched.... too much Christmas as usual. Even without Robin  - why isn't it easier - even though I'm not doing half of what I usually do.' Early days,' friends advise me. My car heart knows it but my driver body doesn't.....still powering on high octane gas.

In the kitchen this afternoon.  Portuguese lemons ripening. The table has become the central writing/sorting  post office.

It's taking me much longer than I imagined......I'm triggered by re-reading very moving condolence cards and letters....I keep getting up to make tea, shopping lists, phone calls, choose a different pen, entertain the idea of ironing the drying up cloths - never ironed one in my life - now seems a good time to start. Feel light headed and wonder if I may be going bonkers.

I doze off during the semi-final of Masterchef.....unheard of for me. Maybe I'm just beyond tired and have stopped questioning what I'm doing....better just to stay on the familiar rails for now...making any other decision seems like a mile too far. 

6am moon this morning lighting up the apple tree in the back garden.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

So Many Different Lengths of Time

December garden rose.

  Sometimes  I get stuck in the war between  my internal voices.

One - a grown up - which says, matter of factly,

Come on. Just get on with it. Stop indulging yourself.

And the other one - a very young voice -  which is wailing

What about me?

Today with the help of a dear coaching friend I found some compassion for both of them.....listened to both of them...let them play on the roundabout....while I measured out the tasks of my day, making cheese biscuits, writing cards, wrapping presents.....stopping when I was tired.....letting myself cry.....having tea with a dear friend who dropped by....talking about Robin......not stopping when I was tired....noticing.

At the end of the funeral a dear friend gave me this poem by Brian Pattern. She wrote it out beautifully by hand. She has been through what I am going through now. I'm very grateful to her and also to Brian Pattern who based his poem on one by Pablo Neruda. I find it constantly reassuring.

So Many Different Lengths Of Time - 

Brian Patten

How long does a man live after all?
A thousand days or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man spend living or dying
and what do we mean when we say gone forever?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.
We can go to the philosophers
but they will weary of our questions.
We can go to the priests and rabbis
but they might be busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live after all?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions -
then when it comes to us
the answer is so simple after all.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man's scent, his touch:
his children will carry the weight of his love.
One friend will carry his arguments,
another will hum his favourite tunes,
another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces,
then the weeks, then the months,
then there will be a day when no question is asked,
and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach
and the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased
but will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live after all?
A man lives so many different lengths of time. 

In one of Robin's lives...December 2008.....kicking a football with his nephew.