Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paul’s Death

Today is the anniversary of Paul’s death. He was twenty-three when he died; it has now been dead for twenty-four years. I find it intolerable that he has now been dead longer than he has been alive. This anniversary has joined other hideous memories from the first year after his death; he died yesterday, last week, last month, last year (a particularly nasty milestone), a year ago.

The Relay Race of Life
With his dying, he confiscated my talisman for the future. Watching my friend’s lives, I see them like a relay race. They are passing the baton onwards to their children and grand children. I received the baton from my grandparents and have splendid memories; I know the name of the plant Solomon’s seal. from following my grandmother around her garden when I was four; when I was fifteen and she was in her late eighties I remember taking her for walks. She carried an umbrella even on the brightest of days, not against the weather but so she could hide inside it little cuttings of plants she had nicked from peoples’ front gardens. She was an inveterate gardener. I’d say to her; “what will you do if it rains?” and she’d giggle. I remember my grandfather shaving with his braces hanging down his legs or playing patience at the desk I now own. So I certainly received the baton but I have no one to pass it on to. I will reach the finishing tape of death on my own.

A Grief Time Will Never Heal
Obviously I don’t sit here dwelling on this but, nevertheless, it is an aching grief that time will never take away.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Destination Unknown

Texting and emailing seem really amazing to an old woman who comes from the days of surface mail or air letters that took 5 to 7 days to travel from Christchurch to London. I can really appreciate the instantaneousness of them.

But although I have a blog, I confess myself puzzled. I feel I am writing a message and enclosing it in bottle, tossing it into the ocean without checking tides and currents. I have no idea what the destination is, or even if there is a destination. If I walk pass the same piece of shore three weeks later and discover my bottle, I do not know if the bottle has been opened and the message assimilated.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


At the very moment
when she was looking
at a rainbow, she received
a text from a friend, far, far away,
who was looking at her very own rainbow.

yet, spatial boundaries,
here, there, everywhere
had evaporated.

It first felt like I was an eavesdropper
but then I found myself very glad
to be sharing the moment
when two friend, cities apart
gazed at a rainbowed sky.

I’m 70 and came late and cautiously to the internet but am beginning to get the idea.

A Garden of Grief

Now is not good,
but it will only get worse.

The illness is squeezing me
like a piano accordion
into a tighter and tighter note.
Only with the utmost vigilance
can I swallow food and drink
past the pleated folds
of my stomach.
I do not know how it is
that my last breath hasn’t already
echoed thinly in the air.

One is not a family:
it’s a solitary fugal voice
faltering as other entries
fade into nothingness.

This morning I took these griefs outside;
with flagging breath
and dereliction of body
I cannot rant or wail.
I just hoped to release
a trickle of tears
against the pain.
But I hadn’t taken the garden
into account: the integrity
of a fifty-eight walnut tree,
a vibrancy of bird song
bellbird, thrush, canary, sparrow
each claiming their own
spring time territory.

I felt like a sailor setting out
in expectation
of fierce winds and crashing waves
only to find myself lulled
into halycon days;
calm skies, sunshine
and the promise of spring.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Who’s going to remember me?

This haunting cry could belong to any of us, surrounded as we are by teeming millions and vast reaches of space and time. But it came from the heart of a 14 year old dying of leukemia. He collapsed before breakfast, was diagnosed at lunch time and dies that evening with no time to prepare his mind for his approaching death.

Hunger for knowledge

Charlie had run away from a dubious foster home when he was nine and lived on the streets for over four years with a group of similarly disadvantaged children. Then in the last few months of his life he had been given the chance of a normal education, which he responded to as if he had been starved of knowledge for years. It even turned out that he had, during his street years managed regular visits to the public library where he had read The Three Musketeers.

The importance of little things

Activities we take for granted became for him miracles of living: he was beside himself with joy at riding a bicycle. He just wanted to be ordinary. The head teacher of his school acknowledged Charlie had seen more evil than everyone in the school put together, but Charlie wasn’t one to indulge in self pity. He gave those who knew him the gift of himself and touched the lives of people who merely had heard his story.

Charlie, you will be remembered.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Particularity of pain

One of my most significant writers is Loren Eiseley. In one of his essays he studies his hands admiring their dexterity.

He asks us to consider " their first painful venture on the pebbly shore" and immidiately my mind travels back to that probably ugly, not yet amphibian creature struggling out off a puddle of water, not for scientific exploration, not from a sense of adventure but from bland necessity to find more water.

This is the journey we are all on and it makes my suffering trivial and takes away the particularity of my pain. I am part of this journey even if the human race becomes extinct because of drought, famine, greed or just playing human foolishness and ends up like the sabre-toothed tigers locked in death with a tooth in each other's skull.

Pilgrim's Progress

I am lucky enough to live in Bunyan St and so have my own pilgrim's progress but whereas Bunyan's Christian seems to have a fore-ordained end, my journey is more tortuous it winds back on itself, repeats itself and never seems to get anywhere. It is the labyrinthine journey of the inner life.