Much has happened. Much has not happened and I am still thrumming with that loss. But much has happened and it has been good.
On the anniversary of Thomas's death, I climbed the hill behind our house, YakTrax gripping incredibly in the foot-deep snow, pack on my back and Pickle on my shoulders. It was a hard climb, but I needed to know I could still put one foot in front of the other. I needed to see myself look at an ascent too steep, too slippery, too high and feel myself too tired, too introverted, too laden. Then I needed to see myself get to the top. Because sometimes I have to make life very, very simple for myself and metaphor is so direct, as the first woman to feel her hide-skirt fill with heat from a fire would tell you.
At the top was a gathering of good souls, clustered around a fire, warming hands and faces and bellies with tea. It was so quiet in the snow that I paused at a distance, unwilling to join this little shuffling crowd. A friend from behind swept us in and there we were, Pickle now inside my coat (Thomas's coat once) and me in a swarm of words and love. We planted trees for Thomas, for all of us. Here's my dad helping Pickle plant an oak. I just can't stop myself thinking, Thomas would have loved this.
And as Pickle's birthday last year came so close on the diving heels of the funeral; so this year that juncture felt a squeeze, but not so tight I couldn't breathe.
Here's my threedom fighter delightedly receiving a Granny-knitted Gruffalo. The medicine in that smile could heal the world.
Spring came, a bit. It didn't stay long, but we had a quick dalliance with crocuses and tulips, and primroses like I have rarely seen sprouted from every crack and cranny. Pickle, ever with a stick (a genetic trait) and often with a grin, played the fey girl through the churchyard and made this day seem a little warmer than it truly was.
With spring; Easter. This is the first year I've allowed Pickle to eat all the chocolate she's been given and, of course, she loved it and has been asking ever since when it will be Easter again.
And then, when we had all given up hope and resigned ourselves to a dim and dismal year, the sun! Actual, hot, blazing, one-layer, outside, urge-to-run, bright, shit-it-burns sun! For weeks! Two weeks! I am thoroughly a better person for being shined upon so magnificently and it gave us something to do when we were in chicken pox quarantine. We're waiting for the peonies and roses, but the aquilegia and bluebells have, like the primroses, come up in storms after their long soak. Enough for lungfuls of scent. Enough to soothe this heart. And the dandelions... I have written before about the wild world of our garden. I had just got to the point, as I do each year, of feeling our dandelion lawn is really a bit of an embarrassment, a bit naughty, makes me look like I can't do it properly (do what? I don't quite know); when a flock of a dozen goldfinches and a greenfinch each landed on a stem, bending it only so slightly, and pecked at the dandelion seeds. Every day for a week they came, always with the one greenfinch, and, with apologies to those of my neighbours as keep an ordered, business-like garden, I'm now as likely to pull up those flowers as I am to pull the teeth from a lion.
I now have geek-chic braces on my teeth of which I am surprisingly fond. Pickle is delighted to have chosen the colour of my bands and I am delighted she has not chosen green. (They're a pale pink.) Every six weeks we travel by Gappy van to Torbay for The Tightening (yes - ow) and if it is a lovely day we pootle down to the sea. Pickle is still very wary of this wettest of moors and rightly unnerved by the crashing and sucking of waves, but we take a look and find small wonders for the corners of our home (which will soon be entirely spherical if we continue) and breathe the differently clear air of the ocean, and I send love back with the tide, because the girl who's read so many stories still wants him to be able to hear and can't stop saying it just in case.