It's the end of Boxing Day and we did it. We made it through Christmas without Felix. I think I got through because a sort of numbness and disbelief set in again, like when he first died. I had a sense of disconnection from the whole thing. Perhaps it's because Christmas is all about age-old rituals and these rituals are strong and definite and bring into relief whatever is happening at the time. Here we were again doing things we always do at this time of year, getting a tree, going to Mass, eating turkey, singing carols, it just didn't seem possible that Felix wasn't there. Christmas highlighted and accentuated his absence, and I went into numb mode again.
On Christmas Day we went to see him at his burial place which my brother James calls 'the green hill far away'. Alex, Lucian and I stood there in the roaring gale and opened our present to him, and left him some mince pies under his tree. Earlier I had had a morning dip with Yaara at Ladies' Pool, which was pointy-daggers cold, our limbs pricked by the icy water. Today I swam in the West Dart, in a swollen, fast moving pool. As my body entered the water I felt myself shrinking back to a sort of visceral essence of being, rewinding back to Felix when he was part of my body, part of me, grown from me. Momentarily I felt connected back to him, then there was nothing.
Tuesday, 26 December 2017
Saturday, 28 October 2017
|Above Butcher's Cove|
|Trying out the costume|
|It looks fab on Yaara too|
|a gratuitous pic of Tarka|
Thursday, 19 October 2017
|Approaching the cove|
|"Are those what I think they are?"|
|Remarkably well camouflaged PMOWs -just like bubbles|
|The only thing we need to worry about now is seals|
Thursday, 14 September 2017
My niece Ruby Pierce, who is 17, has been awarded the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival Creative Writing prize, beating off competition from hundreds of others, most of whom were adults. She won it for a poem she wrote about remembering Felix. She came down to Devon for the award ceremony, not knowing if she had won, and we were totally overwhelmed, not just at her brilliant achievement but because something beautiful had come out of his death. Afterwards we walked along the seashore in the fading light, and remembered him. Here is the poem.
(One Summer's Day)
There’s a sudden shift in the air.
The first note prises open a crack in time and all in a moment I’m standing in the heat of one summer’s day.
A searing warmth nearly as deep as the red in my cheeks.
There’s an August feeling.
Stepping onto the balcony, eyes skim and stop on the horizon, sinking slate.
Buddleia, heavy with a scent so sickly sweet the layers of butterflies become tacky like our fingers, doused in a honey glaze.
In the shallows of the sea we dive for oddities uncovered with such an instantaneous glee shown in the arcs of our mouths as we swim back home.
To escape the chill we fumble with the showers until the hot pellets graze in burning streaks.
There’s a sudden shift in the summer.
The boundaries have fallen on the shoreline.
Waist deep we wade, rigid as the sea frigid
But he stops and sits on the sand.
This is how it would normally be but something is different.
We retreat, pack up, drive off, move forwards
But he just sits and looks, then picks up his daily book.
And then I’m back again.
Standing on top of the hill where the wind cuts sharp, like the stark black keys on white
Their contrast a jarring battle waging war with our emotions.
But his brother tames them softly.
He unwrinkles them in a tune so smooth it pierces you in an unwarranted mix of beauty and sadness.
I think about where he is now,
Both below in the earth and skywards above
An encapsulation, safe with the strength of his hug.
I’ve felt this before.
In the cool of the summer night we slipped ourselves into the water.
The world ushered into a drawling darkness, disturbed only by gentle baptism.
Our fingers set the sea alight in tiny fragments like sprightly iron filings.
We carved our way through liquid starlight
a rippling mirror
And as the elements lost all definition the lucidity intensified with a scintillation all around us.
The merging of the sea and sky and he’s with us again,
in the brilliance of one summer’s night.
Monday, 31 July 2017
Since Felix died I find it helps to find new places to go. All the old places are full of memories of him, and it's good to visit them, but not all the time. About two weeks after he died Alex and I went for a walk along the coast path west of Heybrook Bay, a stretch we hadn't walked before, and found a stunning lagoon. It was the period in between Felix's death and his funeral, a surreal and unreal time. The magic of swimming in that lagoon was a moment of sanity in a miasma of madness. I've had the urge to go back there many times since.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Watching the sun rise is both magical and therapeutic. You are drenched in beauty, and the inevitability of the sun rising and setting every day, whatever happens in our little lives, somehow puts things in perspective. A couple of months ago I got up early to watch the sun rise on Dartmoor; it's something I've been doing on the anniversary of my mother's death for a few years, and now of course I've lost Felix it is even more important I do it, as a little act of remembrance and worship. Then a few weeks ago I went for an early morning swim with Amanda in Torquay (ok it wasn't dawn, we were a bit too tired for that) but there was such a sense of serenity out there, it was quiet and otherworldly and the sea held us in its gentle grasp.
Monday, 3 July 2017
The River Dart upstream of Ashburton is so well known to me now it is like an old friend, and old friends provide comfort. During the last three months I have been compelled more than ever to swim in its silky clear water, sit in its cascades and explore its beautiful rocky depths. The Dart estuary, below Totnes, I know less well. It is a different personality, though of course related to its cousin upstream. It slips in serpentine langour through the folding fields of the South Hams, gradually widening and becoming more saline as it gets to Dartmouth and the sea. And now of course this bit of the Dart has even more relevance to me, as Felix is buried in Sharpham Meadow, one of those fields above the estuary. When I visit his grave I often now go down to the river afterwards and swim below the meadow, looking up at where he lies.
Friday, 12 May 2017
Swimming is a way of losing yourself in the vastness of the landscape. On Sunday I swam at Slapton where everything is enormous - the sky is huge, the sea stretches as far as the eye can see and the shingle is an endless line. It's a very abstract place, in three colours, three stripes ahead of blue, dark blue and brown, the sky, the sea and the shingle. The water was clear and I let it move me up and down the shore. Then I floated and looked up at the sky. It's that Hardy-esque feeling of being microscopic in the immensity of the world, and it's a feeling I crave at the moment, perhaps to try and make my loss less. In the last few days I've been in Snowdonia where I climbed a large part of Cadair Idris in a quest to reach a glacial lake called Llyn y Gadair which lies in a bowl under the towering cliffs of the mountain. It was breathtaking, and I felt a sense of relief on getting there and plunging myself into its icy waters.
Friday, 5 May 2017
|At Leftlake, Dartmoor|
|By the River Dart|
|In Greece (Felix was never a fan of cold water!)|