Friends, it has been so long. I am here, still, singing and longing, swallowing curses with honey, doing myself differently daily and following that thread which has always been me and can lead only to me. I am here, still.
These months of ferocious learning are bringing a kind of peace. It becomes obscured by the stress of grief and responsibility and the details of life, but it hums darkly inside me and I cocoon it willingly, bracing myself for the first cracks which will surely bring cataclysmic dismemberment and then the remembering. To journey this far into the underworld; to refuse all helping hands out; to march down and down, winding this silken thread of me tightly around my embryonic peace: there can no longer be an easy exit. People ask me if it's getting easier to be without Thomas. Sometimes, when I am feeling more compassionate than truthful, I tell them yes. Or glamour them with a tale of Pickle's adventures. But I'm telling you (and if you don't like it you're following the wrong blog) that it's going to get harder before it gets easier. And I'm not even going to try to stop it.
One small child, a house, a big garden, a creative business and an orchard allotment... too much. Too stretched, particularly in the head. Which hurts. So, the allotment has gone to an enthusiastic, organic tender who will safeguard the bees who live at the top. I promised them that. Thomas spent hours with this piece of land and they would have come to resemble one another in time. Another goodbye. We ate apples from our trees for the last time, Pickle ceremonially stripped the loganberry bushes and I transplanted the double-petaled feverfew we always plucked a flower from for Pickle's hair when she was tiny. It died immediately.
We went on retreat to stay with a crazy canine friend, chickens and a couple of geese. If only the geese were this relaxed. After a smooth and quiet few days, we were ready to go home when a fever took me which I feel has not quite released its last tendril yet. More burning; signs of getting nearer to the core.
I took these photos to celebrate the startling beauty of my garden after I had shown you its rough and raggedy underbelly. Sweet wonders have been appearing and disappearing while I do little more than stand and stare.
And then it was my wedding anniversary.
For weeks before I had been refusing this day - silently insisting the world denounce it with me. I wanted, desperately, to avoid living through this day - to fall asleep the evening before and wake the morning after. But, of course, no.
I can't do this.
I am lifting her from her cot, feeling her warmth against my face as I carry her back to my bed. His bed. She latches on and snuggles down, arms around me.
My face is wet as I look across at him, see that smile.
I can do this.
Sometimes there is such a shortage of alternatives it gets really simple.
Sometimes that is a good thing.
And then, as we left the house for playgroup, pretending this was just a Thursday; a gift. A huge rainbow, like the ones we had for days and days after Thomas died; the moon above and a raven flying below. Face wet again, I trundled the trike down the street, at last remembering that gratitude is what brings me back every time.
That afternoon Pickle was off playing with her Gappy and I was all set for an afternoon of wailing and gnashing of teeth. But only the day before I had learned of a singing workshop and before I could intervene I had my shoes on and was walking down the road, not really knowing what I was going to.
The Naked Voice is what I have been feeling for. For me, it is freeing and strengthening and challenging. Moments of exquisite grace soar over the powerful drone of charmless and perfect truth. We are tribe, for a time, and as much ourselves as we dare. That thread again. Always leading to the burning. And the peace.
After this induction into the song of my soul, I sat on the top of the hill which holds the body of my husband, and I sang and I sang and I sang. And the more I sang, the more beautiful the world became. Gratitude, bringing me home again.
Not many of these Firsts to survive now. Christmas, of course, then the big one. Gappy had her first birthday without Thomas. To help get her through we went to the Food Festival at Powderham Castle. I was spun out by a strange, bullying man quizzing me about Thomas's jewellery which I wear, but Pickle had an excellent time, which made it okay. Here she is waiting for the return ride on a land train (pulled by a tractor), under an ancient oak in the sunshine, eating a cookie the size of her head. What could improve such a moment?
The hilariously unexpected emergence of a Gappy!
Much else has happened, but that can wait. What I want to say here is that it's not getting easier but it is getting better. I am still making my best amateur attempts at reaching out for help and I can't tell you the gratitude I feel when your hand closes over mine and I know I am not on this journey alone.
Peace is coming. Peace is coming. Brace yourselves; peace is coming.