It’s two years since my mum died on midsummer’s night. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I try to find her sometimes in familiar places, but she is never where I expect her to be. But then on a random Wednesday morning as I make myself a cup of coffee, I suddenly remember how we’d always enjoy a fika together – sitting out on the veranda or cosying up on the sofa. She’s there when I look down at my hands and it feels I’m looking at hers. When the tiny unicorn and I can’t stop laughing together, just like my mum and I used to. She’s there when a moth lands on top of my glasses or when I spot a bright green spider on a blossoming buddleia. She’s there when I come across a field of poppies. It’s moments like these that I lose my breath for a second and tears roll down my cheeks. Whenever grief pierces my heart like that, I think of the poem by Ellen Brenneman: “Think of me as living in the hearts of those I touched, for nothing loved is ever lost and I know I was loved so much.”
Gathered under the oak tree for the summer solstice, we took a moment to reflect back on the past year. All of the ups and downs that we have shared: our heartbreak, my mum’s death, the magical road trip along the German Fairy Tale Route, a family member falling ill, the arrival of new beginnings, and… lest we forget, a pandemic affecting each and every one. I don’t think I have ever experienced the cycle of life/death/life so vividly. Faced with this challenge, I started reading Women Who Run With the Wolves. Estés’ book gave me the courage to embrace this cycle of nature with grace and made me realise that now’s the time to be in the light. And so this midsummer, we came together with family and friends to celebrate life and our unicorn love. It was through a magical ritual that we promised to each other to always answer the call of song, dance and joyousness. Like Raynor Winn phrased so beautifully at the end of The Salt Path, “Life is now, this minute, it’s all we have. It’s all we need.”
The winter solstice is here. A time for rest and retreat in this season of darkness and transformation. Although six months have passed, it amazes me how much my life is still filled with fear. I’ve read lots of books on the topic and they all tell me the same thing: that anxiety is a normal response to an extraordinary event. Or in even simpler terms: that fear is a natural reaction to pain. They tell me that fear is the opposite of love. And that it takes courage to let go of it. To release our grip on it. To befriend it. But it wasn’t until I read Edith Eger’s book The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life that I understood how hard that is. Because fear is paralysing. It creates a relentless cycle of hyper-vigilance, thinking that it can protect us from losing even more. But life doesn’t work like that: pain and loss are an inevitable part of life, no matter how vigilant we are. Instead Eger tells us that we should stay curious. Don’t you want to know what happens next? If you shine your light into the darkest places?
One moon ago, on midsummer’s night, my mum died. Just like that – no farewells, no teary goodbyes. The most peaceful death anyone could wish for. In the midst of life and light, just like the dancing fireflies. After all this loss it feels like my world has been shattered. What am I to do now? Thankfully a dear friend showed up with pink flowers and the book I had once lend her When things fall apart: heart advice for difficult times. The book is exactly about finding yourself in this no-man’s-land of not knowing where you are or what’s going to happen. Chödrön explains that being alive means always being in no-man’s-land. Because the fact is that we never know what’s happening. We might think we do, but we don’t. Life is challenging and never perfect the way we want it to be. So she tells us to face up to the enormous space that has opened up. That we should move towards the turbulence and doubt, not away from it. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.
As the autumn leaves are falling, the end of our gardening season is near. After weeks of looking after the beautiful calabash, who has almost completely conquered our little plot of land, it’s time to harvest it’s fruit. The incessant rain hasn’t done it much good and only three large calabashes remain. We bring them home to dry, but it soon turns out that one of them won’t make it, turning brown so quickly it takes us by surprise. The two that remain are hanging from the ceiling until they are ready to be carved into shape and made into a cabaÃ§a. Meanwhile, some plants are thriving at this time of year. The chrysanths is in full bloom and so are the winter cherry’s. The lavender is looking lush and abundant too. So I gather all of the pots and get them ready to be shipped off to our balcony. How will they adjust to this new, contained life? I ask myself the same question as the days are getting shorter and I fall into slumber. Six more weeks until the solstice and the return of the light.