Thursday, 26 April 2012

Three births, one death

Two nights ago someone walked past our window just as it was getting dark. This may not seem very peculiar but when you live in the middle of a wood, it's unusual enough to be alarming. Turned out to be our neighbour in search of a torch to help with lambing. Their lovely Gotland ewe was round as a melon and stuck in labour.
A while later I walked down through the inky dark wood, across their paddock shrouded in grey dusk, and came upon a beautiful tableau. The night was closing in, and everything was dark, but in front of their house was a small golden pool of lamplight. In the pool of light, on a bed of hay lay Michelle, huge, serene and woolly. Ruth, our neighbour sat next to her, calmly holding her head.  It was a scene of such timelessness, such serenity, there was an ancient energy of motherhood and love that struck me very deeply.
Lovely as it was for Michelle to be so serene, she was supposed to be in labour.
Help arrived, lurid blue lubricant applied and a scrawny, slimy, hip presenting black lamb was assisted earthside. We were all astonished at the size of the lamb, more like a floppy rabbit than anything else. What about the enormous belly! Was that all?
'Oh that's not all there is,' said the helping farmer. He pulled at another head and a foot.
I'd better leave the second foot, don't think it belongs to this lamb. Goodness! Triplets! Another long floppy black lamb arrived, was unceremoniously swung around in the dark (to clear the airways of mucus) and laid next to Michelle who was alternating between washing the new arrival and giving birth. And then the third. The raw brutality of birth, slime and gore and three floppy black lambs sprawled in the hay. Michelle worked hard, licking industriously..and at last a tinny baaaa from each lamb that melted us all. The slime turned to black curly wool....the enormous legs started the struggle to stand. Three new lambs.
An everyday miracle.

The next day I was on a train crossing the Tamar Bridge between Devon and Cornwall, musing on the possibility of train crashes, and the conductor announced an accident on the line. We stopped, and waited, and waited. The train was emptied and cancelled at Plymouth and we were told there had been a fatality on the line at the next station. My thoughts immediately ran to suicide, (although we were not given any more details) and my throat was dry, my heart fast. How final and quick death is, how commonplace, how shocking, how irreversible.  I wondered who, how, why, if only, what if. Restless people in my carriage started to call home, announcing the delay,  laughing (really)
'Yeah, yeah someone jumped in front of the train, God I'm gonna be so late. It's such a pain....'
Disconnected, desensitized..maybe I'll laugh one day.

Three beginnings. One end.
Peace to them all

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Chicken and egg, bread and cheese

Some words just seem to go together don't they?  We say them so often they create a sort of flowing groove in the brain, the connection between the two words an easy harmony. Some couple's names are like this, you know how its almost always easier to say one before the other? Ruth and Toby, Tom and Becky (sorry you guys,  if you're reading, you were just the first I thought of!)

Sometimes its hard to undo these connections in your brain if for example the couple separates and then, worse, form new partnerships. How many of us have bitten our tongues and swallowed a Rachel and quickly replaced it with,.... err,  Claire. Or not!

So it was with Freddie and Lily. Best friends, worst enemies, always together. I have called them for dinner a thousand times..'Freddie and Li-ly', shouted across a wood, a field or up a stairs. I have talked about them a thousand times, 'oh that's just like when Freddie and Lily....'
They weathered everything together, my break up with their dad, house moves, 6 new siblings (not all my doing!) They were a pair almost more than they were separate.

And I've had to bite my tongue so many times in the last two and a half years to stop the Lily coming out. Except she often does anyway. Which is fine among the family, but some people go a bit silent and wonder if I'm going to cry.

We have a new pair of course, Tansy and Leo, who are definitely more of a pair than separate. And I have a new cry, across the wood, across the street, up the stairs...'Tansy and Le-o'

On Easter Day we walked out towards Huntingdon Barrow or Heap of Sinners on Dartmoor, and the pairing changed. Leo's short legs needed Mummy and Daddy's company and encouragement.

Tansy's slightly longer ones ran in little eager panting bursts to keep up with Fred's. Freddie and Tansy. So strange to say, it felt like someone had handed me an grapefruit when I was expecting an avocado.

Freddie and Tansy. Brother and sister.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hot Cross Buns and Friendship

Good Friday. I forgot to take any  pictures. I was so involved in the baking, slicing, boiling, decorating, talking, celebrating and just plain enjoying, I forgot to do that slightly detached hiding behind my camera. Which is a shame for this post but at least I was present yesterday.

We had our first party here, here in our woods. About four days ago I suddenly thought hmm, wouldn't it be lovely to ask all the people who have helped us to a about an Easter's full moon on Good Friday, lets do it then! A flurry of late night texting ensued and I blew a few eggs to decorate. I don't like planning too far ahead.

But it felt so very special to bring people together on this land, where no one has lived before (except the badgers, sparrowhawks, nuthatches, orchids....) I mean no person..

We sat around our hastily assembled fire circle, sitting on the timber that even today, Easter Saturday, has been transformed into raised beds. (I promised myself I wouldn't mention them until a later post but I'm so excited about them that they just crept in without me knowing..)
So we ate hot cross buns dripping butter, straight from the oven, and crowded around our tiny table to paint eggs to decorate our branch of hawthorn, waiting for the procession. Our lovely neighbour disappeared into the woods with his recorder and became 'the fairy piper' and we set out, bearing our beautiful egg tree aloft, following the sweet elusive music trilling tantalizingly just beyond our reach. The children gambolled around in such excitement searching for the fairy piper and we processed all around the wood, back past the badger latrines..quite spectacular really, the latrines I mean.

And finally gathered for a small circle of sharing gratitudes.

Then we sat around the fire and ate again...

We have been helped and loved so much in the last three years, following Lily's death, and during our tenous living situations struggling to get through the weeks and months. There have been lonely times but there have always been friends and family with words, food, cards, accomodation, labour, timber, flowers ...and shoulders. We are part of a community and there has been so much teaching in accepting and asking for help (this is still a work in progress sometimes) and completing the circle of love which starts with giving and ends with receiving.

So, now we are finally here, finally stable, and as secure as a cabin in the woods with no planning permission can be, we feel we can open our arms to others. We can give, we can share, we can support. Yesterday felt good.
And we are so grateful to everyone who has helped us (which I forgot, from stage anxiety to mention in the gratitude circle yesterday)