Sunday, 26 April 2009

I am not resigned

It has been a lovely weekend.

R's brother and sister-in-law have been to visit. They are the people with whom I can most easily unburden my soul. The weather has been beautiful, they have helped me with some jobs around the garden, we have been for long walks, eaten and drunk, laughed and cried together. And yet. And yet.

Now they have gone home, I feel so unsettled. Worse than that, I feel jealous, and it is such an ugly feeling.

Despite their sadness at losing R, they still so obviously have and love each other. And every time they laugh at a private joke, touch each other briefly or share their plans for the future, it gives the knife that is permanently embedded in my guts another little twist. That should be me and R doing that. We had plans. We loved each other. It still makes no sense at all that he should be gone.

I have been carrying these words by Edna St Vincent Millay around with me, scribbled on a scrap of paper, since R was buried. They reflect most accurately the anger and sheer bloody outrage that is burning up my heart right now:
Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Tonight I feel that I will never be resigned.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Happy hands

I seem to be entering a new phase.
After nearly 9 months, I was starting to get used to the rollercoaster ride, or at least learning how to handle it.
But now I appear to be cycling between euphoria (Look at me! I can do this widow thing) and complete despair (Look at everything that needs to be done. How can I possibly do this on my own?) at such a rate that it is making me dizzy.

So today's post could just as easily go either way.
I think I will go with a happy one.
R used to say that he could tell my state of mind from the state of my fingernails.

This, apparently, is a good sign.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

So much for my plans

I said in a previous post that I had decided not to have any new animals this year. My plan was just to take it easy and see how I get on with handling everything on my own.

But it looks as though someone had different ideas!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

New season, new soup

At last the garden is starting to yield some produce other than parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes.
The new season kale and PSB are exciting enough, but the first picking of mustard greens from the greenhouse means one thing, and one thing alone.

Noodle soup.
Noodles and R went together like, like.... Well, they just went together.

When we lived in the city, we always headed to Chinatown for noodle soup after a post-work beer or six. After we moved away from 'civilisation' it was often his first choice for a birthday treat, and was what I cooked for him when he was feeling down.

Good stock, noodles, of course, spring onions, garlic, ginger and star anise. Plus the all-important greens and topped with the protein of choice. Crispy pork belly is good, so are chicken, prawns or beef in their own way. But for preference it was always duck. However, as it took us a couple of years to start rearing our own ducks when we moved here, we had a long wait before it returned to the menu.

But so worth the wait.

I don't recall ever cooking it for anyone else, though. It was one of our guilty pleasures together. Soup, spoon, chopsticks, dish of pickled vegetable. Then silence punctuated only by happy slurping.

It is a dish that is so bound up with R that I haven't been able to eat it since he died. But the new mustard greens needed to be celebrated, so I took a deep breath and broke my duck, as it were.

It was as good as I remembered.
Quack quack!

(This is one of my girlies. She will never be soup.)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Comfort guilt

I think we all have one, at least in the early stages.
A "what if", "if only I had ..." or "I wish I hadn't done, said, thought X, Y or Z". The coulda, woulda, shouldas that we use to torture ourselves, long after we have stopped believing there is any rationality to these thoughts.

I have mine. It doesn't really matter what it is - he is dead, and no amount of clothes-rending or breast-beating is going to bring him back. But friends seem to worry that I won't let go of these feelings. We argue, they rationalise, even to the extent of talking to their own doctor on my behalf to prove that I couldn't possibly be right. But still I hold on to my guilt and the exquisite, scab-picking pain that goes with it.

It is an odd sort of comfort blanket that we wrap ourselves in and carry around with us. The warped logic of bereavement makes it easier to believe that he died because of something that we didn't do or did wrong, than to try to come to terms with the sheer crappy randomness that can, in an instant, stamp out the life of an otherwise fit, healthy, wonderful human being.

Perhaps one day I will be able to dig a hole and bury this feeling or put it in a box along with the flashbacks and other bad memories. Perhaps this is a necessary step on the road to acceptance. But for now, my little guilty friend seems to be showing no signs of wanting to move on and I have no idea whether to actively encourage him to go or allow him to leave in his own good time.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Popping in to say hello

R is buried here. His grave is where you can just about make out the dog.

Up to a couple of years ago, if you had asked me what will happen to my mortal remains after I die, I would have assumed that I would be cremated. R felt the same. Then, by chance, we met the people who run this green field burial site and it all fell into place. Neither of us was planning to die any time soon, but we both realised that this was what we would like to ultimately happen to us.
So when R did decide to exit suddenly stage right, it was one thing I didn't have to think about. His family didn't object at all, as that was what he wanted.

It was absolutely the right place for him. He loved hills. This is the view from one side of his grave.

It appealed to his sense of utility to know that this is also a hay field. The grass will be allowed to grow up and the farmer will take a cut of hay in June/July. For this reason, the only permanent marker at his grave is a small, flat stone with a number on it. Otherwise we are allowed to plant native bulbs on the grave, and we sowed a packet of wild flower mix at his burial. They should start to flower soon, now that the daffodils are dying back.

For me, it is the place I feel closest to R. Sometimes I can't get a sense of him at home. When the pressure starts to build in my head, I come and sit here for an hour and talk to him. It comforts me to know that one day I will be there with him; my space in the grave is already booked and paid for. Watching the buzzards circle overhead, listening to the newly-arrived curlews and being near him gives me a feeling of peace and warmth that will keep me going for another few days. At least until the next wave comes.

I also love the fact that I can bring Moose with me (although he does stay in the car on the rare occasions that there is someone else there). Sometimes he will come and lie down beside me. Or else the farm dog comes over to visit and they romp around the field.

Today, however, I'm not so sure it was a good idea. After I had shed my tears, told R all the news and was feeling ready to cope with the coming week, I turned to go.
Only to see the dog rolling in a large pile of very fresh, unutterably smelly fox crap.
It was a long journey home, even with all the windows open!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Give us this day...

I like making bread.
I quite like eating it, too, but mostly I enjoy making it.
Saturday morning always used to be baking day. I would make a week's worth of dough and leave it to rise while we went shopping. On our return, I would shape the loaves or rolls, put the oven on, and 45 minutes later we would have steaming hot bread fresh from the oven.

We would then hover over the cooling rack, arguing over whether it was cool enough to eat. Invariably it wouldn't be, but one of us couldn't wait any longer and would hack into the first loaf, slather it with butter and the breadfest would start. Half a loaf would disappear before you could say "Isn't hot bread supposed to be bad for you?".

Now I have the opposite problem.

Even with my little loaves, it is still too much for me to eat before the bread goes stale. OK, there are things I can do with stale bread, but I only need so many breadcrumbs and it is an expensive way to feed the chickens. There's also no point in making smaller loaves as they would be too small to make a decent sandwich.

So I started to cut the loaves in half and freeze the halves separately. It's an eminently sensible thing to do, but there is something so pathetic about that sad little widow's portion of bread defrosting on the counter that I can no longer bear to do it.

Rolls are part of the answer. Somehow they don't seem as lonely as half a loaf. But mostly I just make and eat less bread.

When my workforce are in residence working on the extension, though, it is worthwhile making a big batch. At lunch today, I estimate that the first loaf off the production line lasted all of about five minutes. I've no idea why that makes me feel so happy, but it does. Perhaps it is another of those elusive glimpses of normality.