Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Love and trees

‘Don’t write about the thing,’ says one of the wisest men I know. ‘Write about anything else. I don’t know. Write about jam.’

He had been talking about Pirandello only moments earlier. For five days, I wondered if I could somehow work in some marvellously clever preserve-based theatre of the absurd parable.

I failed.

I loathe unsolicited advice, almost as much as I detest dangling modifiers. The wise man is one of the very few I take it from. But this time, I cannot quite obey his good instruction.

I have to write about the thing, just a little.

Here is what happened:

I was hurt.

I got better.

It’s not the most urgent drama the world ever wrote. It’s a very, very small thing. It was salutary in many ways. It reminded me that I have absolutely no defences. If anyone wishes to shoot an arrow at my heart, it shall hit its target. On the other hand, what I am very good at is talking myself down off the ceiling. I wish I did not have to get to the ceiling in the first place, but we all have our weaknesses and that is mine.

In some ways though, I don’t want to build defences. I don’t want to be guarded, to put up sea walls, to tread with caution. My heart is worn, recklessly, on my sleeve; that is why it is so easy to hit. I’d rather it was there, than hedged about with chilly barbed wire. If I wanted never to be wounded, I should never leave the house, literally and metaphorically.

There’s an awful lot of quoting going on on the internet at the moment. Some of the quotations are the most bogus things I ever saw, like that fake Shakespeare one doing the rounds, where honour is spelt without an O. There are a lot of counterfeit Wildes cantering about, too. But some of the true quotes are rather good and often come in a curiously timely way. The one I saw three days ago which really struck me was by some old Yogi or other, and it said: meet anger with love.

Oh, I thought, do I have to? That really is quite tiring. Much easier to rant and rave, to lash out, to be intemperate, to wail and flail. Do I really have to a sodding grown-up?

Unfortunately, I am a grown-up and it’s too shaming if I can’t behave like one.

I could not not write about the thing, but I refused to write about it until I could meet anger with love. That was my rule. There would be no snide remarks or horrid passive aggressive grandstanding or phoney fatalism. I had to wait until the hurt was gone and perspective returned and I could return to love and trees.

Luckily for me, the dear old perspective police staged a massive raid. I went to HorseBack twice. I’m doing a lot of work for them just now and each time I lay my foot on their turf I am reminded how tiny my own miniscule troubles are. (For a start, I actually have a foot.)

It’s quite a good life lesson to stand in the sub-zeros, talking to a twenty-three year old who has had both his legs blown off. He is matter-of-fact and cheerful. He is funny. He has a puppy. He works hard. He does not give in to self-pity and navel-gazing. There is another fellow up there just now who has such bad post-traumatic stress that until he came to HorseBack, he had not left his flat for six years. He could not conduct a normal conversation or look people in the eye. Now he builds fences and constructs beautiful saddle racks and makes jokes.

Perspective and time and love; those are the balms. That’s all it takes to come back off the ceiling and realise one’s own absurdity.

There’s another really good saying which zooms about the Facebook with lovely regularity. It is from Plato, who knew a thing or two. It goes: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’


Today’s pictures:

26 March 1

26 March 2

26 March 3

26 March 3-001

26 March 4

26 March 6

26 March 6-001

26 March 8

26 March 9

26 March 9-001

26 March 10

26 March 15

Love and trees, my darlings; love and trees. That’s all she wrote.


  1. well done! And very glad to have you back.

  2. it is lovely to have you back. and that puppy is divine.

  3. Re-learning the same lessons on the other side of the Atlantic. Are grown-ups still suppose to have growing pains? I thought the lack of them was one of the benefits of age...

  4. How lovely to have you back and on such very fine form.

  5. Your last was a timely quote for me. Brought me back from the brink. All better now.

  6. Welcome back - you were missed. Meeting anger with love is a perfect mantra in today's world. I love your blog and enjoy the ups, downs and randomness it entails. And hearts are designed to be worn on sleeves I find.

  7. Very glad to have you back, hope things are balancing themselves out again. Trees and love do make life a bit softer - but it can take a while for them to shine through the murk x

  8. I too was hurt (at your flippancy about the budget on FB, when so much of it is so bad for SO many people, at your calling any dissenters "moaning minnies", etc) but I too have got better. The more I have thought about it, the more I have realised that there are social and cultural differences at play, as as well as differeng ideas as to style of discourse going on here.

    In my defence - very briefly - I did ask you on FB to think and maybe type a little less abouut the four legs, and more about the two or one or no legs. And you did, and you have. And I thank you.

    The charity is for the humans, and the humnans and the organisers are there as instruments of God's grace (if one does God, which I don't) and/or as humanitarian outreach. Somewhere along the line the emphasis in your writing about it got skewed, in my eyes, so I said as much.

    Coincidentally, I have not easily left my home alone for months and months and months, also because of PTSD, but of a lesser order I am sure than that suffered by the military, and one or two other health issues, including SAD. I was for eighteen years a middle-class battered wife. There are lots of us, shamefully many. Not all wars are fought on the international stage. Far too many are happening every day behind closed doors all over the "civilised world". So I do appreciate the transformative power of the work Horseback does, and I am so pleased it exists.

    My own dog has done much the same for me the eleven years I have had him, as Horseback is doing for those soldiers. He gets me out, he loves me without words, with no ability to carp or criticise. His soul shimes out of him. They do that to people, the four legs.

    If I pierced your heart, Tania it was as much because you told me where it was, as because I was - briefly - furious with you. And now you know all you need to know about my achilles heel, to do with what you will. That is what I call reciprocation. You show me yours, and I will show you mine...

    And I do think you are a grown up. Not very sure about some of your FB friends, but hey! they aren't under your control. And you are not under mine. And I am not under yours.

    Welcome back. If you want me to right properly piss off, I shall, but I wanted to talk properly to you first before I did.

    Marion Griffin Bulmer

    1. I think that it is very brave of you to post here. I'm not sure what this misunderstanding with Tania has been about or what form it has taken but I think it is good of you to try and say you are sorry. There are only four more days until the clocks change- that should help to lift your spirits I hope.

    2. Dear Rebecca,

      What a kind reply to my comment. I am touched.

      The squabble, such as it was, happened on FB. As with anything on the interent outbursts of any sort are prone to being misinterpreted, and any context or subtext is invisible to anyone who reads it thereafter. It was a squall in a saucer. On Budget Day afternoon. The entire country was polarised - nuff said?!

      Yes, the clocks change, but here in the middle of mid-Wales a lot of us are snowed in still, especially the hill-dwellers off the beaten track, such as several of my closest friends and family. And it is snowing again - argh!

      I do regret the fall-out from the FB fracas, but I am not entirley sorry it happened. Sometimes life is like that, and at the end of it all we can understand more about ourselves and others by an argumentative moment than any amount of biting back could achieve.

      I spend a lot of time with men and the under 35s, two groups who rip it out of one another mercilessly and use expressions such a "grow a pair" quite affectionately ansd concernedly. We also say things like "I need to toughen the fuck up" after a difficult day at work. Which is what I meant by stylistic and cultural differences, above.

      Thanks again

  9. Here's a good quote - for you Tania and for Lucille, in particular:-

    'The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, and the way to be happy is to make the people around me happy.'

  10. Tania,
    Thank you for returning, that takes guts. Please write about what you want. You do it so well and if people are offended then they can stop reading. I feel rather silly to say that I was afraid you would abandon your blog and how much I missed your daily updates. So, again, thank you.

  11. So glad to see you back. Your writing would have been sorely missed (and Myfanwy's face, especially in that photograph! And all your other dear ones' faces, Rachel

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    1. OK, try again and try to make sense this time - long day at work! Tania, I'm so glad you are back and feeling better. I find trees and hills are excellent comforters.

      I love your blog, and that is partly because I feel that you write from your heart and I can imagine you saying all of what you write (that might be madly presumptuous!). So don't barricade it in, and I hope you don't feel you should.

      V best wishes and thoughts


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  14. Beautiful, thoughtful words and lovely pictures. Welcome back.

  15. I missed you, and Myfanwy who I love; I am sorry you were hurt and glad you are so courageous in putting your heart out here for us day after day. It is perhaps that which makes the blog so wonderful.

    Plato came at just the right moment, after I was feeling emotionally bullied and bruised, and made me howl briefly at the bus stop.

    Thank you for that and for all.

  16. Tania, I have missed your blog for the past week so very glad that you are back. Couldn't bear to think of no updates on Red, Stanley and Myfanwy (and you of course). Was very excited when I saw that you had posted today!

  17. It seems like something has happened somewhere and I missed it all. A bit like at school when the chant of 'fight, fight, fight' went off you never wanted to run too fast to be the first to see the fists flying nor too slow to see it all over and the culprits dragged off by their ears.

    I am really sorry that you were hurt. I hope it is passing and that you can forgive. I have missed you, and Stanleys ears. Your writing more than the ears but the ears do count for alot.

    Love the photos and the boy with the puppy.

  18. So happy you're back with your heart on your sleeve where it belongs. :)

    We have a quote in our family that means absolutely nothing - "Batgirl's got balls."
    Um, said in a certain way at a certain time it can be a relevant and timely response. To stuff.

  19. If there is a choice between wearing your heart on your sleeve and being open to pain -vs- keeping it forever concealed in an attempt to Be Safe, I'll take the former any time. I like the phrase (no idea where from) that says "I prefer to believe the best of people. It saves so much trouble". Or something like that. I'd sooner have my positive beliefs reinforced 95% of the time, and take the crap that comes in the other 5% that I'm mistaken. You, Tania, SHARE your heart - more proactive than wearing it on your sleeve; from this we learn generosity of spirit, and for this we are very grateful.

  20. You overlooked the hill. Welcome back.

  21. Ah thank goodness you are back, Tania!
    Selfish, I know, but I have been frantically searching the interwebs and cursing Bloglines and wondering where oh where you were.. and lo! My daily dose of love and trees returns. Phew.
    I have a phrase too for the more difficult people in my life who for reasons unbeknown to me - and probably them - have a way of poking me in the achilles... "Extra grace required". You found that grace, well done.
    As you were, everyone. She's back :)

  22. Have just arrived home after a happy day spent with one of my oldest friends and our dogs (a combined canine total of five) and saw that you had returned to your blog - in the best possible way, with a kind heart, a quote from Plato and joyful photos of Red, Myfanwy and Stanley. What better way to bring the day to a close?

  23. Happy you've come back. Loved seeing Stanley, the horses,the puppy and the trees. The hill was icing on the cake.

  24. Oh thank goodness for that. I don't have a blog but I love yours. So glad you are back.

  25. Yay! Hello, hello again. You were missed. Glad we're back in business. You know - the business of you doing all the work, and me reading. (I got a bit of a bargain, me.)


  26. Oh Tania! Welcome back! I missed the blog. And the dear young man with the puppy! And Red, Stanley, and Myfanwy! I love that picture of Myfanwy. *hugs*


  27. Welcome back, Tania!

    Yes, wailing and flailing, and yes, the perspective police...and love and trees.

  28. I am glad that you have decided to return, and with such grace and spirit.
    Your writing has been a source of solace for me over the last couple of years as I too learn that love and trees really are the only thing.
    Thank you.

  29. Make love, not war.

    And Marion needs to get her own forum, instead of using yours.

    Thank you for coming back to us!


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    2. Oh forget it, pointless trying. If you want to be an echo chamber for someone else it's your prerogative.

    3. Marion:

      Your negative, argumentative attitude is all that comes through with your words. Talk about echo chambers. You are bullying others, as you claim you were bullied before. Yes, it appears your way of trying is pointless.


    4. Phew! What a marvellous example of confirmation bias...

      Robyn, what precisely are you doing, but arguing? When did Tania's comment stream become a WI meeting with bouncers?


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