It was the anniversary of my first wife's passing and I came across a dead fox in the garden yesterday. Not just any fox but our resident fox who we had watched grow from a cub just one year ago into the beautiful adolescent he now was. At first I thought he was asleep lying next to a clump of forgetmenots. There were no marks on him so we will never know how he died. Perhaps because of the anniversary it made me feel very sad. I buried him by the wind chimes under the sycamore tree.
Today at breakfast I noticed that our two Canada geese were on the lawn...This was the first time they were together for several weeks and I said..ohh the eggs must have hatched. Sure enough there were four bundles of fluff... running around next to them.. Life and death are all around us..
Putting the first mark on the paper is a scary thing but I know once I get going it's not so bad. The psychological barrier we have to confront when we make a start can be very hard to overcome. I recently spent 6 or 7 weeks prevaricating over a
chapter I had to write that I knew was going to be hard. Sadly, when I eventually started it was hard and I find it very easy to put it to one side and start (and finish)something else. Not a good habit I know but I have managed to convince myself its part of my creative process and that because it's at the back of my mind (actually playing on my mind!) I'm still working on the ideas. So my question is do other people suffer from this problem and if they do have they learnt any strategies for
dealing with it. Generally once I get going my attitude changes and I become more positive so something obviously happens in the mind once a start has been made.
Saturday 15/09 - my mums birthday- 86 today
Today I have a good example of making a start. One of my goals in my current development plan is to create a memorial garden for my first wife Jill. Immediately after she died in 1999 I spent 3 or 4 months building a water garden. It gave me a lot of comfort and the physical toiling under a hot sun helped me work through my grief.. Since I moved house I have felt guilty that I have not created a physical space for her. But it's one thing saying you are going to do something and another to do it. Anyway its a lovely sunny day and I have been in the garden chopping down trees. I decided to move one of our
benches into the woods.. We have 3 acres of woodland and apart from the paths it just runs wild.. As I was carrying it down to the woods I decided I'd like to put it in the middle somewhere and as I started looking the idea of the memorial garden came into my head again.. There is a sort of drainage channel through the middle with lots of reeds and in spring there is a swathe of forgetmenots.. which flowers in early May - the time Jill died... I know my daughters also share my delight in the forgetmenots so I decided that the naturalistic 'garden' just had to be there.. so rather than prevaricate any more I worked out a route
from the existing path, cleared the bigger logs and drove the tractor in to make a start on the pathway.. Standing back from the particularities of the situation I think my goal is to create something that I, and my children will value. I had a vision of what it will be like- pretty and natural like she was and surrounded by wild woodland but in the more open spaces where the light comes shining through and the wild flowers grow in spring. While my vision and enthusiasm was still in my head (and ignoring the other jobs I was in the middle of) I began creating a pathway towards achieving the vision.. I know its just a start, and
there will be a lot of hard work ahead, but it feels already as if I am a significant way towards my goal. I took some photos before I started so I can see the changes I make. I feel quite positive about it having made a start.
Knowing I had a busy day ahead of me I got up at 7am and went down to the woods and spent several hours laying out the pathway. It was laborious work cutting through fallen logs, lugging fallen trees to line the pathway and trying to dig through the chalky rubble to fill in some of the hollows. I fell over several times as my foot caught in the brambles and got stung by nettles. Altogether it was a sweaty exhausting process but I could see the progress I was making so that spurred me on. I could see that although I had a rough idea for the direction of the pathway and the detail was designed as I went in order to miss trees and stumps that I hadn't at first appreciated were there because they were overgrown. It made me feel bad when I realised that the 4' wide pathway was going to destroy a lot of plants in the middle part of the new pathway. After thinking about if for a while I decided that I would only use the lawn mower in the middle part and have a narrow pathway through the reeds and bracken. I recognised that this was a better solution.
I should have been doing other things but I spent a couple of hours in the woods. It was hard work filling in valleys and fissures in the path and there is a lot of this to do before I have anything like a proper footpath. When I'm walking in some out of the way place I often think of the people who must have made the path originally. Making paths for future generations of people to follow seems to me to be a special task in life and it can be used as a metaphor for leading others. Today my woodland work was inspected by my mother and father in law who are visiting us. They love walking and they could see what I was trying to do and they recognised it as a good thing. We talked about how gardeners don't just make things for themselves they are creating something that other people can enjoy in the future. My insight today was to do with design - now that I have done what I have done I can see much more the potential in what I'm doing. Its only after you have got someway into a project that this potential can be appreciated.
Well I think I have found a solution to my bumpy path problem. I went for a walk around the garden and behind some fir trees I found a pile of builders rubble which I had put there 4 years ago when we had a garage conversion done. The only snag is it's a long way to hump it down to the woods. So I have to convince myself the exercise will do me good. I spent a couple of hours humping the rubble down - altogether I made 4 trips with a full barrow.. fortunately its downhill and the last one I got a puncture and ended up having to pull the barrow. This is the slogging part of the process with little joy. It took me two hours to grade 2 meters so I can estimate that there is a couple of weeks work if I try to stick to my two hours a day. It was sunny though and paused to imagine several times what I could do when I start to create the woodland garden.. The results are good and I covered up the rubble with woodland soil so it looks fairly natural. Today's reflection is on the role of 'sustained slog' in trying to accomplish anything of significance. Once the initial enthusiasm of starting is over there is usually a lot of labour which is not very rewarding emotionally. I'm going to use John Cowan's idea of finding two hours a day to keep chipping away at the 'problem'. I probably won't make any more entries until I get to the next stage.
Sunday June 24
Every parent knows that the thing that they most want for their unborn child is to be healthy and when you are told that your newly born child may not be - it is an unbearable burden. Over the weekend my daughter learnt that when one of her new born twins stopped breathing a week or so after he was born, he might have suffered some damage to his brain. I cannot pretend to comprehend how she must have felt all I know is how I felt and she and my grandson have not been far from my mind ever since. At such times we realise that life is not just about development in a positivistic sense. It's about coping with things that fundamentally turn your world upside down, that require love and empathy in a profound way and I ultimately providing practical help and support wherever and whenever it is needed in ways that you never imagined before. This is profound mental and emotional adjustment within a set of relationships that lie at the centre of your life. As a parent it has hard to discover anything that is good in such a situation until you see the way your daughter starts to cope with the worst situation she can imagine and becomes positive and hopeful again. It is a lesson in the resilience of the human spirit and the profound love a mother has for her child or as she calls him - her little angel.
I often say that we are who we are because of all the experiences we have had and the meanings we have chosen to create for ourselves through those experiences. Today is a special day for me and my children. Its thirteen years since my wife Jill died of cancer at the age of 48. It's also true that you never stop grieving for and missing the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. They remain an integral part of who you are for the rest of your life. Indeed, one of the reasons I have tried to live a positive and fulfilled life since she died was to try to honour her. Had she lived she would have seen our three children grow up to become fine young people, she would have enjoyed two of them getting married and the third talking of marriage and enjoyed our grandson and the thought of twins on the way. She had that rare gift of being able to get so much enjoyment from the smallest incidents of life - like a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. She taught me to see the joy in the simplest of moments. Whereas I complicate life she simplified it to the essentials and enjoyed it for the sensual experience it is. She helped me see that it is the simplest of things in life that are worth living for.Generally I am able to be positive abouit most things and people often comment on my enthusiasm, energy and positivity but there is nothing positive about losing the one you loved. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and my loss, at other times I experience intense feelings of guilt that I am alive and she is not. I tell myself that she would have wanted me to try to live my life to the full and I know she would think I had done the right thing to marry again and try to be a good step father to my three children. But I am not religious so I have no concept of her awareness being in another place and that makes me very sad sometimes. I have to comfort myself with the thought that her spirit lives on in mine and of our children. Perhaps all I am doing is really a tribute to her.
My wife knows how I feel because she feels the same about her husband who she lost when he was only 35. We are united by a shared experience that has profoundly shaped us both.
These two pieces of music to express how I am feeling - when I am feeling melancholy I love to listen to the Chinese erhu. Jill never saw the film crounching tiger but here is some of the music from the film that really touches me. The second is Jill's favourite ever song - fields of gold by sting. The first makes me feel unbelievably sad the second reminds me of our happiness.
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life