The Sound of Nourishment

I am attempting to expose myself and my new baby to the balm of nature, by going on walks in the autumnal woods.

That word, nature, is a healing and wholesome word we use to describe raw biology. It is the same word you could use to describe the intensity of pain in labour, or the heavy grief of bereavement. They are all natural, and when I used to walk in Hampstead Heath after Jannah, my baby daughter died, I would look at the leaves on the trees and know that they have a caretaker, a life force that will cause them to fall, and for the tree to continue living, to blossom again in the spring, to grow deeper roots and for new green leaves to come again. I was entirely baffled by it.

I have realised that nature is not something to visit once in a while in a park, like an elderly relative that sits still.  It is the awesome weather storms that nourish our thirsts, and at the same time, the emotional turmoil that governs a heartbeat.

If you listen to the music of Vaughan Williams, you can hear nature. It is, to me, the sound of England.

Romance by Vaughan Williams

It is the musical equivalent of an ode written by Keats. You could almost hear the wind.

hampstead-heath-hampstead-heath-in-a-sunny-winter-day_0

 

Becoming a mother is a rite of passage. Every woman goes through the intensity of emotional upheaval that comes with caring for a new baby, and the term ‘baby blues’ really does not do it justice. It is more like ‘shrinking selfhood’.

A young woman, thick with creamy youth, sees her skin expand. Simultaneously her experiences envelope her emotions as she becomes the natural protector of her young. Nature saturates her mind with the baby’s survival, and no other thought, not even for her own wellbeing, can be tolerated. This is how our species has survived.

That saturation is what we call love.

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Coping with the Past

 

ts_eliot_plaque_soas_london
The Plaque of T. S. Eliot on one of the SOAS buildings, formerly the office of Faber & Faber

You can order your life by the chronologically startling events that punctuate it.

These aren’t always happy, exciting events, but dark and terrible moments too.

How many soliloquies of an acquaintance have you heard beginning with ‘When my mother died…’ or ‘the year I got divorced…’.

The most significantly painful memories cleverly enmesh themselves into our moments of greatest change and transformation, like the period of time it will take to shed skin.

This is a deeply painful process, nonetheless, but vital in colliding our fantasy of our lives with the reality of what it has become.

As a student at SOAS, I attended lectures in the building displaying the above plaque, and had little notion that, alongside writing one of the most influential poems ‘The Waste Land’ and inspiring the poetic revolution in Iraq through انشودة المطر ‘Rain Song’ by Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (‘Eating the earth around her, drinking the rain’), T. S. Eliot also wrote a poem entitled ‘The Triumph of Bullshit’. He enjoyed detailed observations of the pathetic, the superficial and the humiliating.  The point to be made is that pressed up against the window pane where you will daydream your best work, is the categorical failure, trauma or anguish required to fuel your journey towards it.

Soon after my baby died, I spent a long, lonely afternoon in the Waterstones in Piccadilly. This is the largest bookshop in Northern Europe, and a cave glittering with gems of ideas where you will be left alone to browse, read, sleep and ponder. I read ‘Very Good Lives’ by J. K. Rowling. She talks about failure having the power to reveal ourselves, in a brutally honest fashion, stripping away the misdirected thoughts and aspirations we had.

I am now in what John Agard calls ‘a pregnant moment’ of my own history, both metaphorically and physically.

R&Dlookaway

Pregnancy after loss is both thrilling and uncertain. I am aware of the weighty impact and responsibility now of every decision I make for my health, my mental wellbeing and my spiritual growth. I have emotionally come through a cycle, a flow chart of growth:

flow chart

I accept my limitations. I cannot see the future, and I know I have human anxieties and emotions that make me imperfect. Imperfection, as many learned men and women try to reiterate, is the ingredient to a wise life, because in overcoming our powerful desire for superficial order and symmetry (and never taste disapointment) we are on the road to a wiser, more contented life.

We enjoy escapism, fantasy, the arc of the narrative and the subsequent happy ending. But this is not what we experience in life. As T. S. Eliot writes:

‘…said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.’

So never stop daydreaming, keep writing nonsense stories, painting and indulging your appetite for sitcoms. Be ever aware, though, that these are part of your consolation therapy for being a troubled human, and that you will have to take the path towards deep growth and resilience if you want to make difficult experiences empowering.