Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Moment of Reflection

I have just eaten my lunch outside on the front terrace in soft September sun. Of course, it's actually October, but today feels like its softer sibling. The sun is hot yet burnless, warming my back as I write; the air is slightly milky and completely still. Save for the buzz of flies, the crisp rasp of a dry leaf as the cat shifts her position in the sun, the distant barking of a dog, the caw of crows, the lowing of cattle and, way across the valley, the intermittent drone of a chainsaw and the calls of playing children, all is calm. A plume of grey smoke, too far away to scent the air, drifts gently upwards from the green valley floor to the blue sky above where not a cloud breaks its perfect cian expanse.

Sitting at my round white metal table, this vista before me, I wish I'd come out earlier. Chores, as ever have kept me inside. I had paperwork to sort out, calls to make, bills to pay. I had not even noticed that the day had turned so good. Only when my stomach rumbled, and a baked potato and coleslaw called, did I discover what I had been missing.

In a few days' time I am on the move again. There are bags to be packed and things to sort out. It is the half term holiday and we are using one of the two weeks we are given in this long Autumn term to go and find the sea again, the last splash of latest summer before the clocks turn and all becomes dark and cold once more.

Although just a few posts back I was writing of our summer in France, that all seems a lifetime away. This first half of term has hit me like a juggernaut. In nearly seven weeks I do not seem to have got to grips with everything that has been thrown at me. I have felt nothing less than bamboozled by life, yet I am not quite sure why. I have struggled with the events happening around me to my friends and family (death, divorce and debt among them), and I have struggled with keeping on top of everything that has been going on with the girls at the busy start to this new school year. My diary has been a constant zone of head-on collisions, all of which have to be worried about and sorted. There has been an endless flow of events scholastic, business and social, all of which need managing, organizing, preparing for.

I am trying to get used to my eldest daughter being in senior school and helping her, in turn, get used to the new independence expected of her. I am trying to remember the new forms, teachers and activities that they are all involved in. Pantomimes, musicals, ballet exams, Brownie camps, trips, tests, matches, races and competitions all vie for attention amongst the daily grind of homework and housework. N is a nebulous presence in the background of our days. If we were divorced I somteimes wonder if it would make any difference (yes, I quickly answer, as it would mean less food to prepare, less nagging from him about mess around the house, fewer work dinners to go to, fewer shirts to launder...where are the papers, I'll sign, I'll sign!). But no, I do believe that we would miss that presence, however nebulous, truly I do. It just needs to be less crabby, less stressed. That is no way to live. He needs a proper holiday. I don't want him to bring a single paper of work, yet I fear he will and the complete break he so badly needs, and never gets, will remain just out of reach.

Tomorrow I am away to my gardening course and I must learn my latin names for an identification test. I have two bay trees to re-pot, tomatoes to tend, plum jam to make. I should be writing up notes for the gardening club I run at the village school (I passed by this morning just to check on our pumpkins and carrots, cauliflowers and parsley). Today is a day for being outside. The lawn has had its final cut of the year and is looking soft and alluring. The trees are turning, all in their own time: some are dusty grey-green, others have golden highlights on their leafy crowns. A few lupins still colour the garden, white and pale pink anemones too; red berries of cotoneaster, the hips and the haws. Dark pink cosmos and sedum, white arenaria, bright yellow hypericum and antirrhinum, and the pale mauve of scabious all add their notes to the harmony of the autumn borders. All nature is calming down, save the fruiting trees, in preparation for the death or dormancy of the winter months. The sap is returning to the earth from whence its energy came, before rising again next Spring in the continual cycle of regeneration.

But now the hour of sublimity I have alloted myself is sadly past and I should return to the tasks before me. As I tread gingerly back over the chicken shit and the headless mouse by the back door, I am grateful for this moment of reflection. I know how lucky I really am.


elizabethm said...

Hi Carah, this one resonates on so many levels: the beauty of place, the impossibility of getting the balance right, the pang of guilt from a few years ago when I was at where your N is now.
I wonder if you need to go away, or just to be more present? sorry, cheeky. Hope you have a good half term and that the next one is easier.xx


You know, you are right Elizabeth, in many ways. I often think we are on the move too much. The problem is, N hates being at home for holidays because he just gets bogged down in chores - or feels guilty if he isn't. It's a tricky one and we have both agonised over it much. There are pros and cons to both scenarios. One of the issues is how much we love the sea and feel the need to get in as much sun as possible ever since we have moved to this most sodden and often grey part of the world. It really affects me when I do not have enough light. For me, going away (apart from the preparation of course) is potentially more of a holiday than staying at home. My home is my work. I need to get away from it too or I get dragged down by all the endless things I see around me that need tending to. I'm sure you understand that too.

I think the only real answer is to live in a very small house with a very small garden somewhere further south and near the sea!!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah there is a huge poignancy to this post....and I understand it all too well.
Hmm, somewhere further south, near the sea? North Devon????
James has just started senior school as well - he's flexi boarding a night or two a week and adores it - but such a huge jump somehow.
Hugs, my dear.... jxxxxx
PS - hope your holiday allows you some stress-free time together.


Jane, how very lovely to hear from you. We haven't been in touch for ages have we?

Weekly boarding is something we have vaguely started to consider, though I'm really not sure. It would free me up enormously. But would I really want that? Would I miss the day-to-day contact with their lives? I probably would - though I'm also sure I'd soon get used to it! Anyway, the jury's out on that one. I'd miss their energy around the place in the evenings, filling the house with life (and N's not here much, after all - I could get very lonely without them!!).

N has just started to feel ill, in perfect time for the holiday. Much daring, I asked if he was bringing any work with him - and I fear there is stuff that will dribble through the week, though not as much as last year. On a positive note, I have just checked the forecast and it is sunny all week and around 70 or so degrees, so pretty darned good (here the forecast is rain, drizzle, grey, cold, wet, snow on high ground - so I think it's the right decision to get away!).


Ps: forgot the kisses. (And hope you have a good half term too.)

Pondside said...

Of course you need to get away - and you can't be responsible for N's inability to leave work behind (been through that!).
I hope your spirits lift as you get closer to leaving on your holiday.

Mark said...

Tell me about it!

What a half term: moving house, year end, ferrying kids; snatched sunshine. Do you ever feel you always just miss the good weather because you are committed to someone else's plans?

I'd hate to be an accountant with a big firm; they live in a perpetual year ends (stress) big 'deals' (tension) and crises (breakdown). The problem with jobs like that, in my experience, is that it comes to define the jobholder - and the real person gets lost very quickly.

I sometimes think that my second home in Wales has kept me sane these last ten years. It being only beng two hours away means it is an easier bolt hole than a trip to France. I guess we have the sea - but not the sun.

But as you say, you are lucky - as am I - look at that view for a start!

Nutty Gnome said...

You struck many a resonant chord here Carah - we have been through death, sexual assault, exams, grotty wet 'working' holiday, Himself having to make people redundant,burglary etc, etc and I am feeling totally knackered and out of sorts with the world as a result.
I've booked for the two of us to have a weekend in Whitby next month - not told Himself yet as he'll wittle about having a day off work!!!Ho hum.

Have a good and restful break :)

Deb said...

I love your evocative writing and your honesty. A nebulous, crabby husband can be stressful indeed. I've been there. I also understand the need for light as the days shorten and darken. I'm starting to knock back a lot of vitamin D this winter as it's supposed to help (we'll see). Enjoy your break.

Levonne said...

I particularly love your last paragraph. So graphic and it says it all! Good writing. If I were going to push my photos up a level, what would you recommend I do? Levonne's Pretty Pics

Grumpy Old Ken said...

One hell of a word, nebulous! Did you read blog dated 11 Oct that suggested the 35 to 44 age group are the most stressed out. Interesting!

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