My little dogs found a fallen egg at the back of the garden and rolled it under several Polygala bushes, over gravel, along a rough brick path, up a step and into the kitchen where I retrieved it. Whole, unscathed, and smaller than a hen’s egg, creamy and faintly speckled, stone cold. I have no idea whether it fell out of a nest or was left in a grassy hollow. How astonishing.
Echoes of Samhain are drifting my way from across the oceans. Even as I repot pelargoniums and go out into the garden with a watering can, the sun hot on the back of my neck, there is a sense of darkening, endings, descent. In night dreams and daydreams, I feel a sense of separation and liminality. Dreams stay with me like cobwebs tickling the face on waking in the morning, insubstantial but lingering, haunting.
Two years ago while engaging with the Steps very enthusiastically and unskilfully, I wrote to an older woman who was living in a small cottage somewhere in the Forest of Dean, 30 years sober and a great-grandmother, to ask how I should go about searching for helpful images of a Higher Power. That is how I thought and acted in my unguarded moments back then. She wrote and told me that the Power at work in others like me, call it the Divine, the Source, G-d, a Still Small Voice, that Power would find me, I need not worry too much about it.
In those months it didn’t feel as if anything was likely to find me. I had buried all my emotions and intuitions deep under several decades of numbing and dulling behaviours and even I couldn’t find much of myself to work with. So I wrote to the wise woman I shall call Sara and asked her about her own Higher Power. Sara wrote back with a recipe for apple and blackberry crumble and said vaguely that her Higher Power was quite elusive, more like a fragrance than a dogma. Which reminds me of the old Pretenders song:
And she will always carry on
something is lost
but something is found
they will keep on speaking her name
some things change
some stay the same
But some things can’t be rushed in recovery and I’m still out there amidst the rubble with an arbitrary compass and lousy sense of direction. In about a decade or so I might have something to say on the Power that comes into our lives in sobriety and changes everything.
My housemate may be travelling up north to Limpopo in early December for health-care work and I am worried sick about her being at risk from malaria and heat stroke and snakebite. I am also envious because I wish it was me going on a big adventure.
If you’re doing your job, the reader feels what you felt. You don’t have to tell the reader how to feel. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel.
A much-loved friend called me from the UK yesterday and in the course of a long and enthralling conversation (shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings) talked to me about my brother and how limiting it may be that I only understand his situation through reports given by third parties. She also talked to me about ‘untreated Alanons’ or codependents who keep doing the same thing over and over again and seeking out alcoholics whom they can ‘rescue’, and with whom they can become enmeshed. How the role of being a martyr or saviour allows them to control the story. That labelling her ex-husband as a hopeless alcoholic would allow my sister-in-law, the successful lawyer, to criminalize him and turn everyone against him. I sat and thought about this afterwards: how alcoholism is so stigmatised and misunderstood, and at the same time stereotyped. It hasn’t occurred to me once to wonder if my brother might have another more complex and contradictory narrative of his own to share. I don’t even know if he has tried to get help. In fact I don’t even know if he is alcoholic or if there may be another problem there, a mood disorder or PTSD. All the information I have comes from his ex-wife who has divorced him and has sole custody of the children. Everyone believes her, nobody believes him. Because we all know what alcoholics are like.
Sometimes I wonder what it takes to learn to think clearly in a society filled with so many self-serving misconceptions. Let me go and chop carrots and celery for a lamb daube.