Friday, 1 April 2016

Amidst the dung.

Today, I was happy. Properly, purely, authentically happy. Right down to my boots.

It did not last all day. It was a long moment, in a specific place, but it was real and true. 
          I had not felt like this since my mother died. I have climbed back up onto the rocky shore from the sea of grief. I began to have flashes of normality, could laugh proper shouty belly laughs, could enjoy simple pleasures. I started to lose the feeling that I was hanging on my fingertips, or being the spectre at the feast, or having to conceal my true feelings so that I did not frighten the metaphorical and actual horses.
          I started singing again. This is always a good sign, although it is perhaps not so welcome for the poor mares, who have to put up with me warbling out of tune as I give them their hay. I brushed my hair and even occasionally put on my lipstick. Colour came back into my cheeks. I got work done. I did not want to burst into tears three times a day.
            But all the same, there was the low drum-beat of loss. The pleasures were fleeting and near the surface. Sometimes I felt I was forcing myself to feel them, just a little, almost as an act of defiance. This life, this loss, this blow would not get me down, would not finish me off, would not wreck everything.
            The happiness today was organic, and came up from the earth, and spread through me, at first so unfamiliar that I did not know what it was. It was like running into a very old friend you have not seen for years and having to do a quick double-take before you recognise them. Oh yes, I said, it really is you.
            And where did it happen, this revelation? What was I doing? Was I gazing at my beloved hills, or up in the mountains, or listening to Bach? Was I contemplating a sea cruise or an African safari? Had the agent just rung up and told me she had sold the book in eight territories?
            I was standing in the rain, shovelling shit.
            This is making me laugh so much I can hardly type.
            The sky was the colour of despairing pigeons, a bitter east wind was blowing, and I had on my maddest hat, the one I bought from the village shop for seven quid, to keep the rain off. The horses, muddy and rugged up, were eating their hay and giving me little quizzical looks out of the corner of their eyes, because I was belting out an old Cat Stevens number. The piles of dung seemed to accumulate around me, and no matter how many I cleared, I would find another secret cache. (I sometimes think the mares do it for a joke.)
            Here, amidst the dung, I was happy.
            The universe looked down on me and laughed its most ironical laugh.
            The funny thing is that only this morning I thought: I must give the Dear Readers some fine prose. My life is really not that riveting. It involves canines and equines and green soup and going to the Co-op and endless word counts. Sometimes the most fascinating thing that happens is a shocking revelation on The Archers. Recording it is interesting to me, because I like to look back and see what I did, but it’s pretty pedestrian for everyone else. The whole point about me is that I am a writer, so I should make the attempt to do something interesting with language. The poor Dear Readers put up with so much. They deserve a break. I shall give them some ravishing paragraphs, I thought.
            This was my grand resolution. And then I go and write about shovelling shit.

PS. It was too dreary today for pictures. The photograph is from a sunnier moment. A Dear Reader was asking about the beech avenue, and so here it is. 


  1. It's a dreary, rainy day here on Long Island, as well. When I wake up and see that out the window, I say "Oh! It's a Scottish day today." - And then I feel much happier about it all.

    As for your happiness resurgence - why should it not be when you are shoveling shit in the rain? I think that is most appropriate and marvelous. The fact that there is shit means that the digestive systems of your darlings are in fine working order. The fact that there is rain means there are flowers on the way.

    As Hamlet said, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

  2. Strange. Was singing "Moonshadow" to myself when much the same for me once. Cat Stevens must have some powerful magic. Very good to hear.

  3. I'm happiest in the barn, feeding early morning mash, smelling the hay bales, sneaking treats to the other boarded horses. I'm even happy huffing & puffing pushing that wheelbarrow! But I like picking out a stall, gabbing with other boarder, admiring my old man in the cross ties :)

  4. That was the exact moment a few years ago at which I realised I really needed to reconsider my life. The moment when I realised that for the first time in ages I was actually happy. I too was out in the dull grey rain, Norfolk was looking it's least attractive, & I was shovelling horse shit. Complete peace & happiness :-)

  5. Ahhhh the Beech Avenue!!!! How I love it. It shouts out from a sea of other images. And as for the words; they always please. Happy now. L x

  6. What very wonderful news - grief is a funny friend...and not in a funny way. I laughed aloud too at the notion of your hat and *location.*

    Oddly and it wasn't singing as I really can't and really don't my fog of doom ( and more it's evil twin searing anxiety ) seems to have buggered off. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours doing something I didn't especially want to do and I laughed and laughed. The fat monkey on my back who has taken me from me ( and I like monkeys just not this one ) seems to have decided to give me some peace. Bless you.

  7. Tania - When I lost my Dad, somehow this came to my attention. "I will share it with you here - I think it is important to honor lives which brought love. I don't know that scrambling to get over it or heal wounds or generally putting it behind us is the thing to do. I think that part of the healing is to learn to carry the departed in the heart. But the lives must be marked, loss must be honored, respect must be paid. Sorrow is part of that, and there's no point running away from it. There can be room for good things too. It's not one or the other." No idea where it came from, but it helped me and continues to help me still. Hope it helps you as well. All best wishes to you! I so enjoy what you share with us.


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