I put up a picture on Instagram yesterday of the Iron Age fort near my house, a deep almost full circle of a dell lined with beech trees. It's a peaceful place, filled with wood pigeons and the sound of the wind in the leaves. Three people noticed my little cry for help, and I want to note, here and now, how grateful I am for that.
There is such a stigma about asking for help, or not even help, but acknowledgement of the fact that you're not doing well. You just don't want to make a fuss. You know that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world that are in a far worse state than you are, and it just feels selfish to go on about not feeling fantastic. What on earth do you have to be miserable about? You have a lovely life, two fantastic children who are happy, an incredibly supportive partner, a thriving business, a sweet cottage you rent in an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, two hilarious dogs, a garden full of blackberries and apples and daisies. There is nothing to be unhappy about! And yet, you don't feel right. You have dark thoughts. You don't feel good enough. You find yourself wanting to be alone. You can't get up in the morning. You feel ugly and unloveable and anxious. It's no fun. It's no bueno.
I said I felt ossified. I started out by using the word "petrified." But it is that feeling of your blood not flowing properly through your bones, a sense that not enough oxygen is reaching the parts need it. A sense of stagnation. I think of our human bodies as being an extension of the things outside us, for me at least, my body takes in the essence of things around it. Thus, when I'm in the woods, I breathe the air, listen to the birds, smell the sweet mulching leaves as they crunch underfoot. And similarly, when I can't sleep I read the accounts of our dreadful, shameful president in his ugliness and his hatefulness, and I suppose I feel it too much. My mother says that you shouldn't worry about him because you can't do anything about it. I think of the words of Heather Heyer, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."
This unpleasantness that has been unleashed on the world is really beyond outrage. I think we all want to be happy, want to feel loved, want to love in return. I think most reasonable people believe that all men and women are equal and should be afforded the same rights, like clean water to drink, basic health care, respect. But the idea that one race can believe themselves to be superior or that we can judge people based on the color of their skin is absolutely mind-boggling. And by the way, that happens here, where I live. It's not overt, it's not intended to be hurtful, it's close-minded and small in its thinking, but it happens. It's quite shocking, after living in a large metropolitan city for a long time. Everyone has the same colored blood. And it spills the same way.
So, thank you for noticing my lack of sparkle. Thank you to two writer friends, one of whom sent me writing encouragement via Instagram, enough to make my day (You Know Who You Are, Miss Scotland), and the other who texted me and asked if I wanted some "recognition." She meant reignition. We laughed. And she told me that mercury was in retrograde. Hooray! And to my lovely LA friend, who wrote me a long email asking if I was okay and telling me she missed me. And to my mamma, who I had lunch with yesterday for her birthday. I tried to cover it up but I had to explain why I was fifteen minutes late to pick her up, how I'd wandered through the woods trying to save my soul (!). She was lovely. And then there's my sister, who invited herself to lunch, happily, on Sunday.
All these things create a safety net. These little gossamer threads of compassion hold me gently, just above the water, in the kindest way. The water is there, and I can splash my feet in it, but head is suspended safely in kind hands, mothering hands. My gratitude is endless. Truly.
I've also taught my dog the word "apple" today. We have so many in the garden, so many that they have taken the place of balls. As I put out the washing, I throw them. Thistle runs madly and brings them back to me. "Bring me your apple" I say, and she is obliging, or as obliging as a French Bulldog can be. But she smiles when she does this, so I know she is happy. This is the second word I've taught her this week. The first was "glis glis."
The plums are so copious that they are rotting on the trees. They grow like dates in huge bunches, like the tiny alveoli in your lungs, and the branches hang low with their weight.
This is a year of change, and I am so aware of that fact. Clinging on to my old life while forging a new path. Missing my children every day. Remembering them as children, connected by little silk strings to me, to each other, gently, sweetly. Trying to reestablish myself in the country of my birth. Getting used to not having my old friends around (that's a hard one, even for someone who likes to isolate) while making new ones. Listening to who is there. Listening for signs that we speak the same language, love the same things. Familiarizing myself with the routines of living with someone else, creating new dances and manners of existing, persisting, discovering new ways and tracks and furrows, building a framework that feels strong and can support a proper life. Cutting back, cutting off, cutting out. Living more from the land. Picking blackberries directly off the bush in to my breakfast cereal bowl. Foraging for chanterelles. Eating yellow plums off the trees on my rides through holloways banked with hedgerows. Understanding the country code, and realizing how lucky I am to have been brought up with it, where we blend seamlessly into it, outside and in, flowing one through another, without jarring, or mistake. Discovering maps and paths and connections, new places and new trees, and new cultures. Embracing this English way of doing things, often small, infinitesimally tiny, and often huge and loving and kind. Thinking about the common good more than the self. Being kind to strangers. Having strangers be kind to us without reward or expectation. And noticing everything. Sometimes too much.
Sweet dreams, my dears.