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“If there is ever to be any real peace on earth, all people need to relearn and re-establish the now diminished and hidden arts of Grief and Praise, for one without the other is not possible.” Martin Prechtel’s uncompromising and passionate message rubs off the page. His words seduce with rowdy charm. He urges us to shake off our avoidance of grief, to embrace life through praise, to recognise the consequences of the “unmetabolized war grief of past generations”. Ideas grown in hot dry New Mexico land amongst sage, marjoram and lavender, taking root in a very English garden.

Nearly blind and very deaf, Pickle lives by his nose. Increasingly it feels as though he has entered another realm – barking at an empty corner of the room, or startled by the unseen. At this moment, it is as though he is receiving a direct transmission of light. He sleeps on pink fluff while the light beams in. Our steady love and his devotion continues.

I have learned to look beyond the wallpaper at the care home. This wing – built in 1975 was last decorated when wallpaper borders were in fashion. It is a place outside time, where aesthetics are not the priority. “Is this real?” my friend asks regularly. I find it hard to answer this question. Yes in a practical sense, but perhaps not if all life is illusiary, philosophically speaking. He has sometimes asked me to describe the wallpaper as a way to gauge whether we share the same reality. What matters here is doing what’s needed, kindness, but mainly being. Our society values doing. I come here, witness how when doing is stripped away, being, kindness and love take centre stage.

I love the coming of our weekly veg box. I love the feeling of virtue that arises as I unpack the glorious array of earthy colours. I have read the list, made choices, added extras, but is still surprises me. This time a magnificent Romanesco cauliflower arrives – a ziggurat of vibrant green crenulations. I want to paint it, to wear it, to venerate it, and then to roast it. “Why can’t we have normal vegetables like other families?” the pizza eater asked.

I often listen to Cariad Lloyd’s chatty podcast. She talks to comedians about grief and death. At the Podcast Festival I watch a live recording of ‘Grief Cast’ featuring Keemah Bob, Jenny Bede and Tom Parry. Cariad is personable, asks questions which invite saying the unsayable in a very natural way. In response we laugh at the pomp of social norms around death, share dark tales of funeral meets lavatory humour and demystify the secrecy around the process of death and dying. Afterwards I play at interviewer, re-wind the questions in my head.www.cariadlloyd.com/griefcast

 

This is a brilliant book about life. I gallop through the seventeen brief encounters with the fragility of the human body in Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘I Am, I Am, I Am’. It’s beautiful words capture pivotal moments in her family life. Something happens, or doesn’t happen, but each recounting of an intimate incident leaves me catching my breath, counting my own lives and lucky stars.

Usually the documentarian, this time I am under scrutiny. Our smiles mirror through the lens. I wear only one silver ring, my fingers often marked by ink. The words that waltz and foxtrot daily in my head unexpectedly tumble out in torrents. I am excited by the problems behind the enquiry. How do we welcome in mortality? How can we reclaim a deeper knowing of the cycle of life and death? What is the most effective way to change our relationship with grief? My unbridled ideas pour out, some of which may snag on the researcher’s hook to be reeled in.

We saw ‘Fleabag’ in the muggy dark, holding hands at the local screen; my first time seeing live theatre at the cinema.  Long after we have laughed and cringed at the subsequent two TV series, this is the original monologue. It is darker, funny yet bound with grief and shame. A metaphorical rummage in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s underwear drawer. The tiny strappy ‘Agent Provocateur’ type stuff uncomfortably nestles with big knickers and woolly tights. While she sits or hovers centre-stage on a stool, the technology of live broadcast reveals every artful twitch and grimace of her face. A whole slew of emotions play out between her mouth and eyes, while we gasp.

I celebrate the love of these two beings – mother and daughter. Love that connects them, and reflects back to me. I feel passionate about the need for appreciation between generations, for the things we each have to offer the other. I know some awesome young people that bring me hope. I see their gifts are not always appreciated and I wonder how I can bring the best of myself to them as I learn to be an elder.

Early memories of childhood include examining the flowers that blossomed in the neat borders of our house. This was one of my father’s passions – his collection of perfectly formed flourishing flora. I gazed then at the complexity and precise beauty of a passion flower. The symbolism adopted in the middle ages by devout priests in the Americas will have suited his piety. For me, their form symbolises nature’s brilliance her razzle dazzle mating ritual and extraordinary microcosmic architecture.