Solstice turning

Woke out of a whirlpool of  a dream, saying aloud, “The world is too breathtaking and gruesome”. Giddy, as if with solstice precognition. Pillows thrown aside, bedlinen crumpled, the water glass on my bedside table cloudy.


Well, it is, but right now peacefulness comes from knowing the  ongoing fraught dramas are none of my making.


A friend came around and dug out an overgrown clump of wild ornamental ginger. My small brown foxy terrier The Chub sat looking on sadly because this has been her private ‘jungle’ for hunting frogs and big rain spiders. I’m wondering if I can put in a mulberry tree — it is too close to the house for another fig tree.


The season’s wheel slowly turning towards autumn and winter though our hottest months are yet to come. But the summer is burning itself out,grasses bleaching, foliage darkening, sap falling, the juiciness going out of the summer.


End of year rituals: great joyous festive lunch with friends up from the coast, much laughter and  conversation. I put acid-blue hydrangeas all around the house and set out white candles in glass with LED lights around, very pretty. Shining glass, white candles, a sheen on everything in the cool interiors. Outside the day blazing, not a breath of wind and the cooing lament of turtledoves incessant as cicadas thrumming from trees. In the evening, the flickering light  on  old walls and starlight gentle in the garden.

In search of daily illumination and acceptance. From Tom Gardner’s Poverty Creek:


Finishing up the run this morning, cresting the ridge above the pond into a sudden blinding sun reflecting off the ice. As if the light were alive, preparing to speak. And then turning ordinary again as I came down the ridge and the angle changed and the light pulled back into itself. My right calf is still a little stiff from where I strained it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body. When Emily Dickinson writes about Jacob, she never mentions his limp, even though that awareness of limits is everywhere in her work. Instead, she writes about his bewilderment—Cunning Jacob, refusing to let go until he had received a blessing and then suddenly realizing, as “Light swung . . . silver fleeces” across the “Hills beyond,” that he had been wrestling all night with God. He had seen God’s face and lived. The limp is what we take away. It means there must be a way back. It almost goes without saying.






Only the lonely

This is a time of year when loneliness is almost palpable. People hear those jaunty sea-shanty carols and  see glittery lights in shop windows, families shopping together; and pause to remember long-dead parents, lost family members, former marriages filled with promise, the  small children now grown up and gone out into the world. How we miss the loved ones who are no longer here,  the big family (including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, Uncle Geoffrey in THAT hat) all together laughing and beaming around the table when we ourselves were very young.


And there are other kinds of loneliness, the  anguish of clinical depression, the shame of  a hidden addiction, the phobias and anxieties that keep some of us housebound. Having nowhere to go, not able to summon up energy to be with others, dreading a time of year when everyone else seems to be happy and capable of enjoyment. Those who are limited by disabilities, visually impaired, a lack of mobility, cut off by deafness. Those grieving.

An article in the Guardian notes:

Loneliness has been linked to the development of a number of serious chronic health conditions, including depression, high blood pressure and dementia. We know that people who experience loneliness are more likely to smoke and drink too much, and less likely to exercise and adhere to a medication regime. Loneliness is therefore correlated with poor health, and causes some of the behaviours that can harm our mental and physical health.


As if just feeling lonely is not bad enough in itself.


As I was watching the horrifying ordeal of  the hostages held in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney unfold yesterday, I felt once again how extreme life=threatening situations can reset all our priorities and remind us what really matters, to be there for  one another and how courage or kindness matters in even the most desperate situations. We cannot  always save one another’s lives but we  can act with decency and restraint rather than giving in to hysteria and hatred. And I saw again that it is possible to show togetherness and some kind of solidarity with those in trouble, their families and friends, a disrupted city putting the pieces back together again after  tragedy.


How do we recover connectedness? I thought to myself, eating buttered toast with dogs underfoot and thinking about reaching out to solitary neighbours, people in the local old age home, a friend surrounded by  family but secretly eaten  up with unbearable secrets, the lonely who are lonely not just at Christmas. But that isn’t enough, personal solutions are rarely enough.  No easy answers in a society in which, as George Monbiot says, we have “surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism”. Hard words but that is another perspective on a festive season emptied of  any deeper meaning or togetherness.