One must also accept that one has "uncreative" moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass. One must have the courage to call a halt , to feel empty and discouraged."
Sometimes I go away. Not literally. For the most part I go no further than the garden gate. But still I am away. Away from everything that usually drives me. Away from the voices in my head forming sentences I will speak later. Away from constant shopping lists and television. Away from nights sat up for no reason other than it is too early to go to bed. Away.
I saw a lady die in Marks and Spencers on Saturday. Staff surrounding her as the ambulance man tried in vain to save her life. I couldn’t stop staring. I walked around the store and found myself drawn back to the spectacle of sudden, unexpected death. My eyes fixed on the gap between her neat little old lady jeans and her pop socks. I wanted to walk away. To go fill my basket with fig scented candles and a ham and mustard sandwich. To turn away from the sheer indignity of drawing a crowd in your dying moments but I couldn’t. I stood horrified. Helpless as the men in green looked at each other in a way that said enough now, enough, let her go. And I wanted to shout. To insist they put her shoe back on or at least take her other one off. Because this neat little lady wouldn’t have liked it. She wouldn’t want to think of herself lying there, one shoe on and the other jammed under her left leg. I’m sure she wouldn’t have liked it at all.
Some things stay with you. They creep back into your mind when there should be only nothingness. I feel today as if I will worry about that womans shoes and the slightly mottled skin of her bare legs ever after. Like it will stay with me unresolved till it is my turn.
And yet it isn’t only the big things that pre-occupy me. It is the pile of newspaper cuttings in the blue spotty file I am yet to read. It is the as yet untried recipe for a watercress tart I can’t stop thinking about and it is the wonder of seeds turning into shoots and shoots turning into bold upright dancing plants that is also filling my mind. I lie in bed and wonder what is happening to my little seedlings. Whether you really can create something wonderful out of something so tiny. I’ve never really been green fingered. Never stopped to consider the teeny miracle that is planting and hoping and watching and growing and being. You take things for granted don’t you? You see gardens created by nature and you don’t give it a second thought. My beloved little chamelia blooms year after year and I never go near it, terrified of interfering with something I do not understand. And yet for the first time in seven years my daffodils are blind: they needed human interjection, to divide them and re-plant them. To give them hope for another year.
I didn’t know you see? Didn’t know my daffodils needed me.
And so this is how it happens. Life in it’s own softly spoken voice reminds us what is to be done. I become pre-occupied with things I have never thought of before. Tiny lessons I need time to learn. And so I go away. I climb into bed early and finish piles of books I’ve not had the brain space to absorb before. I switch off the noise and potter around the house in silence, noticing all at once what needs doing, what will not see me through another year. I peek in the the little green cupboard and whisper to my seedlings and make an occupation of planning my little potted back yard. Tracking down the perfect tomato plants and finding wonder in the sheer possibilities contained in the smallest seed packets. I bake and clean and tidy and dream and find my way back to my everyday.
I will not be glib. I will not say that this because I saw a lady die when she least expected to. That I went away because my head can’t come to terms with the gentle cruelty of not having time to say goodbye. Nor wonder for ever more whether the girl looking for her Nana in the pan department would have to deal with something too flourescent to ever come to terms with. Whether she would have to be the one to tuck her Nana’s foot back into her tan coloured shoe. Some things are what they are and we have to take from them anything we need to re-assess our own lives. Because there is nothing else to be done. No other way to honour what we have seen.
And so I see this time out from myself as simply that: a time to escape myself and the stupid demands I am constantly making on myself emotionally. A time to re-focus. To look at life in the teeniest of detail, to dwell on the fullness of living the best way we know how and to plant seeds for tomorrow while acknowledging that tomorrow isn’t a God-given right.