I write to you from my new garden in Hay-on-Wye, the sun is shining, my hand-sewed bunting flaps silently to the spring breeze and I type from the sunny corner with a coffee to my right. The radio is playing some delightful violin concerto and I feel at peace.
My toddler is snoozing under the tree in his pram. I notice a smattering of sparrows plucking up the courage to peck away at the bird feeder – their minds, I imagine, go something like this:
“Hoorah the human fledgling is no longer a threat to us, quick: eat, drink and be merry!”
I notice the lack of human sounds. The birdsong is abundant and almost unpenetrated, apart from the faint bleating of far-off lambs, fields and fields away from where I sit.
Annoyingly my prescription sunglasses slip off my nose, not because of sweat but because yesterday Sholto, my son, used the left limb of my glasses to dig soil in the newly planted herb box and thus broke my glasses. My glasses’ legs remain somewhat splayed and therefore loose on my head.
The tape I have used to repair them looks like a dodgy lockdown fix, that leaves a lot to be desired. The glamour of a filmic pretence is shattered, it was a nice escape while it lasted. In such strange times it is not a big-deal.
Since my last post, I have become a single mother and a single woman – a lone ranger so to speak, for the first time in 10 years. Let me say how strange it is to become an unchaste human during a historic pandemic – a global lockdown. Not much chance for me to polish up on my flirting skills or practice biting my lip in the face of pitiful chat-up lines that go something like this:
“You look good in that T-shirt, but it would look even better on my bedroom floor”
It’s difficult not to retch, isn’t it!? This is an example of many chat-up lines my sisters unduly receive at university. I wonder, has the dating scene changed much since I was eighteen? I know that I’m more or less worlds away from flinging my clothes off while nonchalantly exclaiming that the lights must stay on because, wait for it –
“I’m an artiste and I need to see”. – Equally cringe worthy, I know!
Somehow it worked for me back then but I don’t think I’d get away with this rhetoric as a twenty nine year old mother of one.
At eighteen I went for the uber handsome, Anglo Irish chap, who rumour had it, lived in a Castle. He came to Leeds to visit his cousin Al, who had become my bosom pal. He was incredibly ‘hard-to-get’ and not in the least bit charming. What a challenge, what a chase, what a thrill, for my puppy fat self who wore fake tan, fake eyelashes and six inch heels every Saturday night.
In the end I did get the ‘hard-to-get guy’, but only for ten years as fate would have it.
I recall the flowers and chaotic love D. H. Lawrence talks of in his poem ‘Fidelity’. The gem of two human souls was not ours to treasure in this lifetime. I’m learning to be OK with this, but of course it takes a certain amount of acceptance that incurs huge changes needed to move on with one’s life. I convince myself that our son is in fact the sapphire depicted in the poem – shining brightly for us both and he, who will forever share both our love.
Fidelity and love are like different things, like a flower and a gem.
And love, like a flower, will fade,
Will change into some- or it would not be flowery.
O flowers they fade because they are moving swiftly;
a little torrent of life
leaps up to the summit of the stem, gleams, turns over round the bend
of the parabola of curved flight,
sinks, and is gone, like a comet
curving into the invisible.
O flowers they are all the time travelling like comets, and they
come into our ken
for a day, for two days, and
Withdraw, slowly vanish
And we, we must take them on
the wing, and let them go.
Embalmed flowers are not
flowers, immortelles are not flowers;
Flowers are just a motion, a swift motion,
a coloured gesture;
that is their loveliness. And
that is love.
But a gem is different.
It lasts so much longer than we do
so much much much longer
that it seems to last forever.
Yet we know it is flowing away as flowers are,
and we are, only slower.
The wonderful slow flowering of the sapphire!
All flows, and every flow is related
to every other flow.
Flowers and sapphires and us,
In the old days, when sapphires
where breathed upon
an brought forth
during the wild orgasms of chaos
time was much slower, when
the rocks came forth.
It took aeons to make a sapphire
aeons for it to pass
And a flower it takes a summer.
And man and woman are like
the earth, that brings forth
in summer, and love, but
underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae
older than plasm, altogether is
the soul of a man underneath.
And when, throughout
all the wild orgasms of love
slowly a gem forms, in the
Ancient, once- more- molten
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man’s heart
and a woman’s,
that is the crystal of peace,
the slow hard jewel of
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace
emerging from the wild
chaos of love
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
It has only been just over three months since our relationship fully broke down and I can’t blame child rearing as an excuse for it. I read recently from the book An Emotional Education by The School of Life…
“…The whole notion of who is to blame… (in this case for our relationship breakdown) suddenly starts to look much more complicated and less clear cut. One should be focusing on certain conversations that didn’t go well in the kitchen three summers ago or the sulk in the taxi home five years before. The drama began long before anything dramatic unfolded.”
The process of resurfacing a life’s worth of rutted and pitted tarmac has already begun for me, whether I like it for not. So far I have managed to mindfully slosh new energy into the repaving of a personal road that is in much need of levelling out. Memories of my time with Jonathan are scattering themselves like blossom petals carried and dropped by the breeze. The petals stick to the hot bubbling new foundation, and I welcome the contrast of white blossom against the harshness of black tar. Friends and family tell me the tar will become solid and take my weight eventually. Without the support of a great many people, organisations, charities and government help I would not be able to begin this process as well and be a ‘good enough’ mother to Sholto.
My son comes over to me now, beaming like some sort of lost boy with a twig or two in his hair, as he grips two huge blue and yellow punch ball balloons – adding to the already fair-like vibe the garden has going on – decorated with a magical blue and yellow tipi tent, a green and blue slide, blue and green sea creatures on the fence (artwork we made) and a green paddling pool full of brightly coloured toys. All very colour coordinated, quite by chance…
And just like that – the yellow punch ball pops on the rose bush.
Time for me to go I think.
I hope lockdown is proving how resilient you can be to yourself and others, be it going it alone or with family/housemates.
These days of our lives may be the hardest some of us have ever had to go through, so if you’re feeling down, anxious or just not quite right seek support- it can be liberating to just talk to a nonjudgmental ear. I regularly have a 1-2-1 session with Mind, but during lockdown this other option might be a good solution. It’s free and easy, just click on the link below to find out more.