Monday, 27 July 2009

Getting back to living life

I started to write this blog so many times, in my head and on the computer. “Don't think – just write”, but the words wouldn't come out in the right order, and I pressed the back space key so many times, I nearly gave up. What's the point? It's been so long and so much has happened – too many things to catch up with.

But here I am, pounding the keys and fumbling with words, thoughts and emotions, with a few pictures thrown in, just for good measure.

Spring was a write off for us. We had three close bereavements in rapid succession – the culmination of an emotional roller coaster as I watched my friend, Carole, lose her battle with cancer. Then there was my uncle Peter, also a victim of cancer, quickly followed by my ex-father-in-law, Derek, as he finally gave up his brave fight with Parkinson's. I moved through Spring in a state of numbness, not feeling the same joy as new life burst forth all around me. What is it all about? This journey of life we are all travelling on: watching the seasons come and go; getting up, filling our day and going to bed; laughing, crying......

I was brought up Church of England, but following my parents' break up, when my Dad found the Jehovah's Witnesses, I have had a strange relationship with religion. I don't go to Church, except for weddings, funerals, harvest, Christenings – you know, the times most people make an appearance, but it doesn't mean I don't believe in God. For me, religion is a personal thing: I don't wear a label; I don't “belong” to a particular faith. My experiences of the affects of religion on a family have soured my belief in Church – not in God, but the Church bit, when mankind gets involved. Watching the goings on as the ladies do battle over alter flowers (C of E) and “Elders” (Jehovah's Witnesses) telling my Dad to shave his beard off because it gave the “wrong” impression to the outside world (unclean – can you believe that?), then listening to my Mum crying and pleading with Dad to stand up to them, after all, didn't Jesus wear a beard? The sound of him tapping the razor on the side of the bathroom sink will stay in my memory forever, as I watched the sparkle dim in my Mum's eyes. But that wasn't God's hand – it was men “interpreting” the Bible and its message, and that was when I pulled away.

So, my faith has become my own personal relationship with God, and this spring saw that sorely tested. As I watched the greening of the hedgerows, buds bursting forth and bulbs pushing through the earth, my usual joy and wonder was absent, as I grieved for people I loved. But this IS what it is all about, though, isn't it? The cycle of life, that continuous circle and my grief gradually turned into a heightened awareness that I had to get on and “live”.

And that is what I have been doing. I have been outside at every opportunity, working in my vegetable garden and nurturing my plants. I have started to sew again and resumed my voracious reading habit. Oh! And cooking – something I have always enjoyed, but now has become a passion. Jimmy has been chief tester as I have tried out new recipes on him and I have shopped locally for in-season produce, that I haven't grown myself, like a woman possessed. We have entertained as never before and I have hardly turned the computer on – that is a major achievement in itself!

Last week we went to Suffolk – just the two of us in a beautiful cottage between Edwardstone and Boxford (Grove Cottages).

The cottage was rustic rural at its best and each morning we were visited by a family of ducklings, with their mum. I fell in love with this county as we visited Flatford Mill, on through Manningtree to Mistley (Essex borderland), back towards Nayland, Polstead, Kersey (where the Witch finder General was filmed), up to Monks Eleigh, Needham Market, across to Framlingham, Woodbridge and Sutton Hoo and then on to the coast, where we explored Walberswick, Dunwich Heath, Westleton, Thorpeness, Aldeburgh and Orford.
The furthest west we went was to Lavenham and Long Melford, where we also visited Melford Hall. Wherever we went, we drove through picture perfect villages of pastel coloured, thatch roofed cottages, with village greens and duck ponds. I completely understand Suffolk Mum's choice of home county! All too soon it was time to come home, back to the reality of domestic routine – washing, ironing, cleaning the chickens out...............

But then, of course, as we drove home reflecting on our adventures in a previously unknown county to us, we turned the corner and the Malvern Hills came into view, as the sun was setting. My heart lifted, as they gently stood proud on the landscape and the warm feeling of home seeped into my bones. We finally turned into our lane and as we drove up the hill, our cottage stood quietly waiting for us. The dogs were going ballistic as they recognised the car engine sound and after a raucous greeting, accompanied by wet noses thrust into our hands and tails circling at 90 miles per hour, we collapsed with steaming mugs of tea, laid out in preparation on a tray by my Mum. We grinned at one another. There's nowhere quite like home, but we both agree that Suffolk comes a VERY close second!!