An old half-wild white rose blooming in the hedges, flat-faced and single-petalled, radiant. Roses out here (brought on ships from France and England and Holland) have been grown in gardens and graveyards for nearly 400 years and many of them are no longer found in Europe, but grow overlooked on farms and alongside country roads: Rosa alba, The White Rose of York, roses developed during the Napoleonic Campaigns and carried on sailing ships to the new world (Bourbons and Malmaison), the Holy Rose of Abyssinia brought down by traders from Ethiopia, China roses and tea roses from the Orient taken as cuttings and brought to the Cape Colony on the ships of the Dutch East India Company, The colours are simpler, not the vivid hybridised colours of the 20th century, but paler pinks, mauves, creams and whites.
The housemate still very unwell, struggling with fever and breathlessness, and I am chief bottle washer and bullyboots nurse. Trying to distract myself with book reviews and a little editing, feeling helpless.
And sleepless. Got up at midnight and found such a moving snippet of correspondence on line, the blogger Dave talking about the ending of a marriage as the loss of a human utopia.
It was in listening to you that I got my freshest insight into why this hurts so much more than the loss of a treasured but flawed love and into why there’s so little comfort in my friends’ plausible reassurances that I will find someone who will love me better. A utopia died. I would never have described it in those terms. Maybe it sounds unhinged to do so now — especially to a stranger over email. But what feels real is that my idealism can’t rebound from this, that I can’t be the equivalent of the type of chump who would move from the wreckage of one utopia to the founding of another utopia. So I guess I’m trying to find comfort in something you said in the interview: “community can be life-giving, even if it falls apart.”
How we go on hoping and dreading, beginning over, trusting that something will work out, that there will be better days. Because that is all we can do, I suspect. We need some kind of dream to hold onto, some hope of community or togetherness, some notion of healing and restoration. Families, marriages, friendships, home. The stuff of everyday life, the stuff that gives meaning to our work and effort and struggle to get better, to stay together, to give it all another chance. Not just a fantasy of romantic love but the relationships we have chosen, communities we have created or joined ( recovery forums, churches, faiths, co-workers, protest movements, political parties) the people we think of as family and who may leave us but will never be forgotten.
I guess what I mean by that is that the pain of (sometimes inevitable) losses is sometimes such a huge and overwhelming presence in the room that it’s easy to forget the beauty of the room itself. And the pleasure one once took there. And the quiet nobility of having been there at all. Because many people never have the courage to find a utopia of their own, or they do find one and lose it and don’t have the heart to try again, and it takes so very much to know disappointment on that scale and still nurture hope.