Monday, 6 June 2011

The new normality; or lunch and compost

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The Sitting Very Still plan was instigated because of two main things. The first is, which I’m not quite sure I was expecting, that all normality is fled. This is oddly counter-intuitive. What could be more normal than death? Fathers die, dogs die; of all the things in life that happen to one, those can be banked on. Yet what comes in the wake of it is a feeling of a world out of kilter, spinning off its axis. The normality of other people takes on two clashing aspects: it is comforting, in a life goes on way, and it is an affront. It is, in some ways, quite alarming. What are all these humans doing, going about their usual business, when, in one’s own mind, everything is out of frame?

The second is that you feel, or I suppose I mean I feel, that a layer of skin has been stripped away. I have absolutely no defence against the smallest setback or slight. Tiny things take on a huge, looming aspect.

So, today was a bit of a test, because I was asked to go out to lunch. The Mother and Stepfather had a guest, a professor of literature, right up my street, and I wanted also to see the Step-Uncle and Aunt before they left. It felt slightly transgressive, because it was a schoolday, but I am in a what the hell mood just now. I brushed my hair, attempted to get the worst of the garden out of my nails, and put on my society smile.

It turns out that I can just about conduct myself decently in polite company. We talked of the limits of capitalism and the presidency of Barack Obama and the caste system of India and the London gangsters of the 1960s and the Scottish elections and the playing of bagpipes. I managed to make a reasonably intelligent contribution. I even made a joke. I notice still that my laugh comes out far too loud, more like a shout than an expression of mirth. I am suddenly conscious that there is a noise in my head, like the rushing of wind. I still have the thing, which started right at the beginning, of thinking that perhaps I am yelling when I should be talking. Still, I think I just about got away with it. I only mentioned death once, and that was in an oblique, satirical way.

Even though the feeling of normality is still just out of reach, I have a sense that it will come back to me. Out there in the internets, there is an extraordinary blogger called Sister Wolf, who has been writing, among other things, about the death of her son. She has just hit the one year mark, and she writes that she still misses him so badly that she wonders that she has the strength to go on. Will normality ever obtain again for someone in her situation? What I mean to say, in a rather clumsy way, is that while I learn to map the sinews of sorrow, understand that it must be felt, honoured, allowed, I know also that I have the kind that makes room for other things. It is not of the obliterating variety. And for that, I feel profoundly lucky.

I came back just now, after the lunch, a little worn out from putting my best face on, but pleased that I could, and looked at my garden. The earth was black. I thought, vaguely, surely it did not rain while I was away. It took me a moment to work out what it was. The vast load of compost which I had ordered ages ago had finally arrived. Some kind compost elves had spread it everywhere, so that the ground, instead of being the colour of dun, was the deep shade of ebony. I cannot tell you how happy it made me.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, I said, out loud, as I took the dogs on a tour of inspection. The thought of all the dear plants being fed by this magical stuff in this dry season made my heart lift in my chest. Everything from my young fruit trees to my ancient elders will feel the force of it; all the green things will hold their faces up to the sun with a new vigour. It gave me such a deep pleasure that I can hardly find the words to express it. It was the gift of life, in its most dirty, earthy, mulchy, elemental form.


Pictures of the day are exclusively of leaves, because for some reason I was moved to catalogue the green things:

6th June 1

6th June 2

6th June 4

That black in the background of the two photographs above is the wonderful new compost.

6th June 3

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Who knew that in one small garden there could be so many different kinds of leaf? It feels like a bit of a miracle.

The Pigeon, having a bit of a rest after her social exertions:

6th June 1-1

The hill:

6th June 20

Many thanks for yesterday's lovely comments, and especially for politely not mentioning two shocking typing errors, which have now been corrected. But not before I did the writer's march of shame in my own mind.


  1. I think bereavement is a state of shock - there are no physical traumas as there would be after an accident or an operation but the effect on a person is the same. Treat yourself gently! I do admire your courage in still looking around at the world and posting your photos.

  2. On South Uist and thinking of you.

  3. Chloreplast@yahoo.com7 June 2011 at 15:06

    I found today's photos simply wonderful. My favourite colour is green (maybe it's because I'm Irish) and having read somewhere that it is the colour of peace and new beginnings your photos confirmed that. Equally so, your sleeping dog is so beautiful and obviously loved.

  4. Rest assured normalacy is out there waiting for you when you're ready. As my physician once said to me when I was particularly down (and with several good reasons), "If you weren't a bit depressed at the moment, there'd be something wrong with you."

    What beautiful light you capture in your photos. I'm certain the light here is never that magical.


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