The walking week: I

Sunday 25th March 2012

I FOR… ivy, infinity and interwoven.

Jo and I wrote Still Kicking together; performed it in garden sheds and other small venues, two summers ago. There were songs, poems, characters representing who we might have been, scenes where she spoke about her breast cancer, where I talked of how my son, Gaius, chose to end his life.

“This is Peggy.”

She has a small puppy, cradled inside a zippered cardigan for the walk, having not yet met the vet and been inoculated against the dangers of parkland and undergrowth.

“That was my Mum’s name,” I smile.

Ivy is a vigorous species with a great ability to populate conducive habitats. It gets everywhere: ground-hogging, wall-crawling, tree-climbing. The berries are toxic to humans, but the foliage contains falcarinol, which recent research suggests might reduce the risk of cancer.

Jo sits on a bench to make phone calls. We were born in the same year. It is a boundless grief she has to endure, her daughter, Harry, having died in January: of similar age to Gaius; the obsequies for our beloved offspring observed in the same hall.

The yearly greening of leaf and plant is all-purpose, all-embracing. I still can’t get my head round the universe being infinite in time and space: what was there before? and before then? what is there outside it? and outside that?

Peggy wriggles in my arms, all nose and lick and now-ness. She doesn’t yet know the meaning of everything, but will. Jo points to a terrier padding the path.

“Be a bit like that when she grows up.”

Orchard and hill seem younger today: daffodils trumpeting pride; gardens winking with primula and forget-me-not. Buds on a cone-bearing tree have opened, revealing tiny filaments, like a green anemone, as soft-haired as my father’s shaving brush.

In the cedar grove, I notice branches of different trees resting upon each other: floppy-limbed children, quietly sleeping.

The death of your child is the harshest of infinities. As Jo says, all we can do is adjust to living in a changed landscape.






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