The world flickers on and off with social media connections and I sometimes crave darkness. One of my overseas publishers is going through difficult marital tensions and I have to listen to hours of misogynist rot from him. (He won’t read this. He doesn’t read anything unless it has to do with his banking account.) I have been kind and made allowances and listened with empathy, etc, then told him to shut up and get over it. Get outdoors and enjoy what is left of his faraway summer.
One of my neighbours, a close friend, needs to have an operation to replace a leaky heart valve. I am sick with dread but act cheerful and optimistic. This is what is needed here and now.
My dearest friend is dying very slowly and I can’t think about anything else, walking around gnawing my knuckles and weeping. While revising work estimates for the maritally troubled publisher and fact-checking and proofreading my own work (it looks perfect to me, not a good thing) and teaching the new pup to walk nicely on a lead and sorting out complicated feeding arrangements for three dogs and making thin but nourishing soups for my friend and cooking for weekend guests, tidying the spare room, sorting laundry, peeling green cooking apples for a pie.
And the garden smells like vanilla from massed bushes of lilac heliotrope blooming in the middle of winter. I’m reading Seamus Heaney and wondering how it is that distressing and insoluble crises, dark nights of the soul and grief all somehow put fine steel into the backbone. The hard and valuable work of getting on with life.
by Seamus Heaney
All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end and square,
Set there immoveable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.