Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I have now started today’s blog three times.
I was going to write about death. (I know you are devastated that I decided against that.)
Then I was going to take a swing at evolutionary biology, and whether humans are genetically wired to incline towards pessimism and paranoia. The thinking behind this goes: it was the ancestors who were convinced the woolly mammoth was after them, and were certain they could hear it coming, who survived, and passed on their slightly gloomy but effective genes. The blithe, bonny ones, who were too busy gazing at the sky to hear the mammoth, or who were so optimistic that they were convinced the mammoth really wanted to be their friend, got eaten.
I simplify horribly, of course, and I have no idea whether ancient humans were in fact eaten that much by mammoths, but take it as an illustrative metaphor. Besides, I like writing the words ‘woolly mammoth’.
Then I decided that was too complicated and would need further thought, so I thought I might write about soup. I was going to give you a recipe for yellow split pea. But that seemed suddenly rather paltry, so I stopped.
Perhaps, I thought, I should write about the small things.
I said yesterday that I am starting to have the suspicion that the answers to the big life questions might lie in the very small things. I’m not sure I quite phrased this quite correctly. It is a new theory, and I have not yet shined it up.
I thought of the small things as I went to the flower shop and bought my mother a fold of hyacinths, newly arrived from Holland. (I would like to know what it is about the Dutch which makes them the queens of the floral, but that really is another question.) It suddenly seemed symbolic, almost an act of defiance. The economy continues to teeter and shiver; Greece is still in all kinds of trouble; even mighty Germany is shrinking, like something out of the Wizard of Oz. I should be economising and counting every penny.
But it seemed like an act of faith, a marker of optimism, that for ten of my Scottish pounds I could buy my mum a glorious fold of spring flowers. They do nothing, they fix nothing, they explain nothing. They are exactly what they are: aesthetic, frivolous, pointless. I can almost see the strict and the sensible wagging their fingers at such reckless extravagance. Yet ten pounds for naked pleasure seemed like a good bargain, in dark days.
Then I went home and stared at the snowdrops for a bit. They nodded their heads, shyly. They cannot explain fiscal policy or guess whether Iran will get the bomb. They have no clue as to the meaning of life. They just exist. They grow bravely out of the cold ground and delight the eye.
New clumps of mauve and purple crocuses are appearing, almost minute by minute. They too have no purpose except sheer loveliness.
Then I threw the stick for The Pigeon. In my small garden, brown with winter, invaded by moles, there was a sudden explosion of joy. An old dog went from mooching about with no apparent purpose, to bunched, muscular determination.
It’s almost as if her entire confirmation changes; her body tightens, her head lifts, her ears go up, her eyes open wide. She grows a little taller; everything about her is suddenly on the vertical. She bounces up and down on the turf.
She stares, with laser focus, on my hand, dodging a little from side to side, trying to anticipate which way I am going to throw. Every faculty is sharp and quivering. When the throw comes, she is after the projectile like a shark. I’m not sure I ever saw a breathing creature want a thing quite so much.
Every day, this simple, tiny, entirely unimportant thing makes me laugh. It also impresses me. I have a great deal of respect for the athletic abilities of my canine. I’m not sure I do anything as well as she chases a stick.
So, I come to the small things. I’m struggling a bit at the moment. I’m struggling with my work, I’m struggling with intermittent insomnia, I’m struggling with mortality. (I actually said, to a complete stranger, not long ago, as my opening conversational gambit: ‘I’m having a bit of trouble with the whole life and death thing. How about you?’ I think he was expecting me to ask what he did, or what he thought about property prices, but he dealt with it manfully, although I saw the fleeting glint of fear in his eyes. It was such a very unBritish question.)
This is nothing more than the human condition. It’s what everyone struggles with. I don’t like to talk of it too much; I certainly cannot complain of it. It’s just that I really, really would like to know the meaning of life, and I’m getting increasingly annoyed by the fact that I may never work it out.
That’s why I stare at snowdrops. That is why I delight in my dog and her stick. That is why I carefully make good soup. I know that it is not so much that the answer to everything lies in these small things, but that perhaps in appreciation of them lies the greater point.
You see what I mean about it being a half-baked theory?
And even as I write all this, I think: oh, come along. Just get on with it. Perhaps one does not need to know the point. But curiosity is my besetting sin. And when I am not making soup, I do really quite enjoy a little wrestle with an ontological problem. Some people enjoy crochet, or chess; I like wondering what it’s all about. Everybody needs a hobby, after all.
And now for the pictures of the day.
The gentle hellebores are out:
Newest clump of crocuses:
Snowdrops in the wild garden:
And now for an unfeasible amount of dog pictures. I give you due warning.
Ready for stick:
Yes, I am ready:
After a certain amount of throwing, she lies down and demolishes the stick. Those of you concerned for canine digestive tracts, do not fret. She does not eat the thing, she neatly chews it up and spits it out, so she is left with a small pile of wood. I have no idea why she thinks this is fun, but she does. She looks very like her sister here, who enjoyed the same thing:
See how cleverly she holds the thing in her paws:
I became slightly obsessed by the paws:
Then back to throwing again. Come on, come on:
You really can't fool me; I am watching closely:
If I should take too long about it, she sits down and puts on her goofy face. I can't really get enough of the goofy face. It cracks me up, every time:
Right. That really is quite enough. Those people who think blogging is ephemeral or self-indulgent have no idea what they are talking about. Eight dog pictures is merely public service. Where would the sum total of human happiness be without that Pigeon?
Rather out of focus hill. But the colours are pretty today: