Wednesday, October 07, 2020


We've hit peak anxiety, I think, with the White House now reporting more new Covid-19 cases than the whole of New Zealand. It's all a side show. Let's be concerned. Let's vote. Let's inspire other to vote, but let's concentrate on something else. Plan?

Good morning from West Berkshire, where the leaves are turning ochre and gold, and the starlings swirl around the pink skies at night. I call it murmuration lite. I think we've been in lockdown since March 23 with very little social interaction that hasn't been distanced. I've become lazily attached to my bed in the mornings, while my sweet man brings me tea, and I blame it on my lack of sleep, which I blame on the orange buffoon and anxiety, but today I leapt up and out at 7am with the idea that I could ride my pony girl at 8. She has been on box rest for nearly three months, due to a double fracture of her splint bones in her near hind leg; today marks day 7 of her being able to be up and about which means, in her case, a three mile walk hack, through the restricted byways and stone-strewn tracks of Park Corner and Russells Water, past fields of sheep, bursting blackberries rotting on their stems because of the rain, rosehips that dip down on to the path. Today she is calm. The bubble that is ever present in her belly has gone, and she walks with her head long and low, as we try to build up the muscle in her hindquarters, long and low at the end of my reins, rounding herself over her back, listening to every muscle twitch in my body. She is sweet and happy, and pants a little as we walk uphill, the veins under her fine, bronze fur, beginning to show that she is working hard, breathing as hard as a thoroughbred mare on an Autumn morning who is happy to have shed her confinement can.

I came across this quote from Steve Jobs, part of his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech:

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Isn't what we all need to be told? 

This has been a time of reflection. Since March 23, we've all been forced to assess our lives, what matters to us, who we choose to be our friends, what we fill our time with. 

I dreamed the other night that I had a baby that I'd neglected. The neglect wasn't life-threatening. But I remember the feeling of panic when I walked into a bedroom and found a little baby asleep in it, a child I didn't know I had. And I felt the most overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. And as I fed the baby, she smiled at me, seemingly with forgiveness. I took her into the bath with me and washed her with warm water and dried her with a fluffy, soft towel, and I held her and hugged her and told her how sorry I was. But she smiled at me again, as if there was absolutely no resentment.

So what could this mean? Yes, I could be neglecting my inner child. Yes, there could be some aspect of life that I've forgotten. But, I think, this is what people might call God. I think this is a reminder that there is a deep spiritual side in all of us that we must not ignore. I'm afraid my anxiety has ignored this part. And in fact, the simple solution is, instead of investing oneself in anxiety, how much better it is, and more healthy, and easier on the heart, to turn one's head just slightly to face the idea that we're connected to something bigger. You know, smite the ego.  After all, you are already naked.

My friend David Kirkpatrick has been writing a lot about the Irish monk and writer, John O'Donohue. As as with all good things, of course now that I have an orange VW Bug, I see orange VW Bugs everywhere. But in this case, it's John O'Donohue, who presented himself to me on the Tube on Sunday with this poem:

I think it's quite good.

So what's this blog all about? I think it's about finding things that connect to each other and piecing them together in an effort to discover meaning in life. Does that sound completely barmy? I do think that is what it is. It's something we all do. I salute magpies. I sing "One for sorrow, Two for joy." I watch the starlings in the evenings and wish for murmurations. I think if there is one it will be a sign. I look at the avenues of old oaks that we find all around us and wonder who planted them and what they mean. I discovered that Christopher Wren carved his name --  + Wren -- thusly, into a stone at Stonehenge as a boy, because he grew up in a village close to it, and the circumference of the dome at St. Paul's Cathedral is the exact same circumference as that of Stonehenge (30 m diameter). Coincidence? (Said in the voice of Ricky Jay, in Magnolia.) I think not. 

So let's thread together, through this world, and see what we can discover on our journeys.

Love to you all.



Speranza said...

There is NOTHING 'barmy' about what you write and discuss here - and thank you for doing so. The world seems to get stranger each day and every so often it seems literally impossible to get to lunchtime without weeping openly in the garden. The full moon is always particularly bad for me and this most recent one was no exception - I was so emotionally labile, crying randomly about things long past and then again for the present. I personally find it so helpful to know that all of these feelings are being experienced by thinking people like yourself.
Here is a poem that has helped me of late. Best and hugs to you!:

My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don't think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You see?
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Praise yourself.
Take another step.
Then another.
You won't notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.
- Elena Mikhalkova

Miss Whistle said...

Oh Speranza, I love this poem! I've copied it and I'm sending it to my daughter. So very grateful. Love to you, Miss W xo

Lisa said...

Beautiful. And is how I feel too. You are in no way alone. Have you read Olive, Again? Strout's sequel to Olive Kitteridge? I think she gets at this feeling, if you like her writing. Sending you love.

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