Sunday, November 24, 2013

White grief

I was quite ready for my daughter to leave the country last February. She had come and gone a bit, quite amicably. She had some good reasons for moving. We kept in touch online. It was all good.

Then someone asked me how I was doing. And I said, spontaneously, 'I am suspended in an aspic of white grief'.

Because, yeah, I actually talk like that sometimes.

I realised I had seized up. I had an inescapable image of myself suspended, immobile. It was as if I was hanging in a white fog, in silence, almost blind. I has stopped reacting to anything. I was, in fact, actually suspended in an aspic of white grief.

Traditionally melancholy has colours, and white is one of them. I figured, I know what this is. People write poetry about it. It's not unique. White melancholy isn't violent or self destructive or reddened with anger or fear. It's just paralysing. Everything just - stops.

I did not want to go about this in the ways sanctioned by society. I did not want to see it as a crisis, or pathologise it, or medicate it, or flee from it, or deny it, or cheer myself up about it, or fight it. I wanted to lean into it, learn from it, surf it, discover it, find the health and truth in it.

I began by checking myself over. I was safe, as far as I could work out. I was still sort of functioning. I didn't need any 'help'. I felt I could tolerate this state for a while, if I needed to, if that was what it took.

Then I did what I usually do in these circumstances, I took off with my sleeping bag and stayed in a camping ground. I walked a lot. I slept a lot. I didn't have a great time; I felt sour and ungrateful and nothing was what it seemed. There was no epiphany. I didn't get to tick a box for my next step towards enlightenment.*

But, gradually, gradually, I gave myself a new image. In this one I was in a tiny boat on a still sea at night, lit by a full moon. I was entirely alone in the boat. I was not afraid. The lessons of the night are often obscure. We need to listen carefully, I mean with care for ourselves. The light is dim under the moon, and the wisdom lies in the shadows. We don't get to see the light of truth here. We get the merest, dearest hints of true things here.

Slowly, very slowly, I was being carried by tides and a whisper of wind towards land. I could even feel the swell of sea become shore waves lapping, pushing me gently, until eventually

I made landfall.

* I never do!

Saturday, November 16, 2013



Mine would be a God of darkness
A God of stumbling around the streets at four in the morning
And of crawling under the blankets against the tears
And of bare snatches of sleep
And of getting through the next six hours.

That sort of darkness.

A God of small emoluments
Of grit on icy roads
Of town lights in the distance
Of the travelling gypsy hedgehog crossing the lawn
Of getting through the next six hours.

That sort of God.

And the big wonderings -
The slow cold swing of Saturn in the ancient sky -
Then getting through the next six hours
Becomes a sort of worship.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

On clothes. And not-clothes. And shopping in Linwood.

Over a month ago I took the pledge to buy no clothes over the next year, which I take to mean from September 2013 to September 2014. You may be wondering how I am doing.

The definition of clothing has become interesting. Do shoes count? What about jewellery? What about being on holiday and running out of underwear? Can I ever really have enough black t shirts? What if I really, really run out of socks? You have to have socks. Six weeks on, my socks are already getting odder and odder.

How about this mad urge to buy clothes for others? Does my husband need some white shirts, even just a little? How about that very cute t shirt at Cosmic Corner that says, profoundly, for sure:

'Be humble
for you are made of earth.
Be noble
for you are made of stars'

Someone I know would like that. I like that. It's not really a t shirt, it's more a mobile poster. I could probably buy it and not break the rules I made for myself.

Anyway, I recently bought a kangaroo onesie. It is a bright orange and white onesie with a hood with a face on it and ears, and a joey in a pouch. I have no idea why I bought this thing and I instantly regretted it. How on earth could I justify it. Well, here, on the following grounds:

1. I live in Linwood, where acceptable dress for shopping is a pair of pyjamas with hippos on them and a Sons of Anarchy hoodie. So don't judge me.
2. It is not really an item of clothing, more a costume.
3. It has a dear little face.
4. It is not really a costume even, because with the joey in the pouch it is more a toy,
5. They are my rules anyway.
6. It is a size small, which is always so encouraging.
7. It has a joey in its pouch.
8. The joey has a dear little face.