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.

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