Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wind and Waves

At 3:41 am I was awakened by the quiet. The silence was conspicuous because the wind had been harrying my mind for several hours. The day had dawned not excessively bright but clear and soft air. By noon, however, the wind was driving the rain into you no matter which way you faced. Worse yet, it had reached the frequency where it sawed away at frayed edges of my already tired mind. I do not like that harrying wind. I do not like it because it can nip at my mind's heels for hours or days or blow into a proper gale. At 3:41 am I was reminded of the other alternative: it can stop.

Because we are still in that time between proper spring and the heavy days of winter bluster, neither bird song nor chittering of small animals intruded on the silence. The large metal door that heaves and shudders in the soughing wind was silent. The cattle were silent. Not even the distant sighing of the ocean into the bay claimed a space in the silence. I lay as still as I could as the first rays of light came through the shade and then I fell back to sleep.

Today is a commemoration of the Longhope lifeboat disaster. It is also a recognition of the 150 years of the lifeboat service. It is going to be a big affair with celebrities coming from the islands as well as down south. The little church where it is going to be held will be overwhelmed. I am honoured to be going but I am reluctant as well. I will certainly cry--that cannot be helped--and I have become more reticent about crying in public. I have in fact become less of a public person altogether, prefering the company of fewer people at a time.

I think I have also been here long enough now to appreciate how difficult life can be--or more precisely to appreciate how close death is living here on the edge. I have learned not to dwell on the calves that do not make it. I still silently grieve for each of them and for the sadness for those who tend them. I keep my perspective in part by keeping my distance. I rarely go into the barn now. When I heard the cow bugling at 11pm the other night, I did not go out to the barn and felt a pang of guilt the next morning when I learned there was a dead calf. Even from a distance, the grief and the guilt can find me. Not a sharp edge as in the beginning, but there lurking waiting to be called up.

It was easier in the beginning to acknowledge with only distant grief the hillwalkers or the young men in road accidents or the people lost at sea when I did not know them or their families. I have been here long enough now that almost any accident touches me more directly--a friend of a friend's son, the favourite uncle of a friend, or a neighbour. Sometimes closer than that.

The last time I was in the tiny historic church where tonight's service will be held was for a funeral. It will be hard to shake off that memory for tonight's service.


At 2:48 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

This brought tears...

Urban life is so antiseptically unreal. We become cushioned in illusions. I wonder how much is just the emotional distances - so many of our "friends" aren't really well known, so their griefs, too, are distant.

wonderful description of the wind...

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Hayden, sometimes I reflect on what it was like in small towns in past centuries, where the circle of people one knew was very small. When I was young, I emphatically wanted anonymity and freedom and did not want to live in a small town. As I get older, I am starting to feel the opposite way.


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