My 250 word - Flash fiction piece - runner up in the CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition July 2011
"I rarely sleep when others do. In your world things are bright and crisp. For me, there are many vacant hours, leadenly pressing my skull to the bed.
The tendrils that connected me to your world, where things have urgency and panting breath, they’re all gone now. I have received my severance. The relief was there, on their faces. “We’re so sorry” they said. “If there’s anything we can do.....” But it is an affront to the bright ones, this refusal to get well. Who has the stamina for that? The visits soon stopped.
And the little forays out? Well yes, they can happen once I’m seemly. This body, it leaks and it doesn’t move right. It snags the eye of the young and the thoughtless. Do you think I mind that indignity? Do you suppose they are the ones that bring the fear flapping in the night? You are wrong.
“S’only me!” comes the horror. “Soon ‘ave you up, there’s a little sweetheart.” Frozen, I do not reply. “And how are we this morning, Mr Brunt?” it trills as it rips open curtains, shooting blades of light across my helpless face.
I try to sink further into the bed. Don't look, do not catch her eye. Silence, then breath on my cheek. “Oh now, Mr Brunt, so still?” I do not move. Then, softly to my ear, “I can see we're going to have so much fun today”."
I wrote this some time ago as a reflection of how much we have lost in not being in sync with seasonal life:-
" I started wandering down to the pond after I'd been into the hospital. The garden and the pond were becoming a real refuge. I could just sit there quietly on the bench by the willow and watch the frogs in the pond and just try to get a handle on my jagged emotions.
I strolled down there early one morning and the garden was covered with delicate lace doilies, daintily scattered all over the shrubs; dewy cobwebs, all twinkly and moist in the frosty light. It was then that I realised that the season was turning. I've always loved the changing of the seasons - you can feel it in the air. The temperature drops, I suppose, but it feels more profound than that, doesn't it? - like a planetary shift or something.
I went in to tell mum about it. It's funny, I felt sure that she'd know what I was talking about. This time though I couldn't tell whether she really did. She always tried to respond, always tried to give something back but this time she just gave me a little crinkling of the brow, a slightly raised eyebrow. I went on chatting about it anyway, how the moon seemed to be bigger and how odd it was to feel a chill. It was so blazingly hot when mum was taken into hospital and now the season was changing, it was getting cold and she was still there.
I didn't tell her about the willow. The willow was dying. It had hardly any leaves at all this year. We were going to have to take it down this winter or it might fall. It was a big tree and it was already losing withies all over the neighbours' gardens. It seemed really odd in the garden now. Everything else was so lush and green and there it was, just dying, in the middle of it all. How can there be death in the middle of life? I didn't really know what to do with that. Looking at it made me feel like there was a barren wasteland inside me. Not sad exactly but empty and grey.
Between visits to the hospital, I'd taken to sitting down there thinking all sorts of things. I thought about Autumn and the small death of the deciduous trees. I remembered, from my prehistoric studies that something like 95% of the British landscape was completely covered in mixed-oak deciduous forest. The wildwood. Every season the world of our ancestors was completely and totally changed. According to the season the overhead canopy was either so dense that the bigger world would completely disappear or it would fall from the sky making a huge orange blanket on the floor.
How do you live with such profound seasonal changes, not only in the practical aspects of survival but in the aesthetic and spiritual world? Every season your entire world would visibly, dramatically and completely change aspect. What must an entire deciduous landscape look like in Autumn, when the whole world turns red, gold and orange?
Wow, it's no wonder we feel a thrill when we sense those first signs of season change. It's part of our prehistoric selves to feel in touch with the seasons, to react to them. It didn’t occur to me then, when I was sat down on the bench but I’ve begun to believe now that this closeness to the concepts of life and death must have prepared us for loss and grief. We've not only lost touch with the seasons but with some of the mechanisms to cope with loss. There's nothing in our modern lives that prepares us for the fact that our loved ones will die, just as each season changes. We know it on an intellectual level but we suffer such a confusion of emotions with our grief.
To our hunter-gatherer forebears everything would have been about a state of change not of loss. It would be much easier to have a sense of ease and continuity, even in the face of personal grief, when you lived in the midst of a panoramic exhibition of the cycle of life. No wonder we feel so lost now, so isolated in our grief and trapped into internal introspection rather than sharing. We don't get a chance to practice and rehearse how death will feel, how to adapt our lives to the loss and to know that life always follows death. We're so disconnected from our Land, from its rhythms and meanings, that grief and loneliness are two of the heaviest burdens of the modern world."
Mum died in October 2003. I still miss her very, very much.
JoJo Spinks is a Westcountry writer deeply in love with her landscape and her life!
"Thank you very much for joining me here. Please read on to explore more about Working in the Gift and my joint passions of participatory arts and the Devonian landscape." JoJo :)