The consolations of nature

This was meant to be a blog about a beautiful weekend Charlie and I had had in Scotland – and the week before that, in Suffolk. We’d arrived in Scotland on Friday morning, bright eyed off the sleeper train (where we had both slept a remarkably good night)… meeting our friend Gabby in Glasgow and heading down to a wonderful party that weekend on the Mull of Kintyre. We went via the bothy where progress is taking shape – all the more so in the last two weeks since we were there, which is incredibly exciting.

But It was as we were approaching Campbeltown, at the end of the happiest afternoon, that my phone rang… a lovely neighbour of Dad’s, in Poundbury, who was telling me that she’d received a message that he’d collapsed. I called my brothers, who already knew and were en route. An anxious few hours awaited, as Dad was admitted to hospital and tests and scans were carried out. Later that evening, we spoke again. Dad had had a stroke from which, it seemed, it was almost impossible he could recover. Shattering.

My brothers insisted that Charlie and I stayed in Scotland the next day, for the wedding, but the following day we were back down. I arrived in Dorset on Monday. My father was being beautifully cared for in Dorset County Hospital, where the staff were so incredibly kind and thoughtful, and professional; but he had little, really no consciousness; he was at rest, breathing deeply, almost as if he’d just slipped asleep on the sofa after a nice lunch at the Parsonage.

Tim, Jon and I, and my niece Emily, stayed at the Parsonage that night. I walked out in to the garden after supper. There was a beautiful sunset… and, for a moment, an extraordinary phenomenon, which I’d never seen in my life before – a pink rainbow, stretching wide over the village, just as the sun was going down. I couldn’t help feeling that Mum was around somewhere.

Two days later, in the small hours, my dear father gently, peacefully slipped away. My sister-in-law Lisa and I were with him as he went; it was calm, it was completely gentle, it was a moment of almost strange beauty. But yet again we find ourselves on the rocky shore of sadness.  It’s been a strange year. Stop the clocks.

Dad loved Mum so much; he was missing her so much, that it really did feel that when she died back in February, his purpose of life had vanished. Regular readers of this blog, over the years, will know the huge love my parents had for one another. After 56 years of marriage, they have been apart for four short months.

It feels as if a part of the world has now ended. I know that many readers will have experienced what I’m just learning to experience.  I’ll be honest, there is much less shock than with Mum, and in so many ways a sense of relief, for me and my brothers, that Dad’s sadness is no longer; a huge sense of relief too, that he isn’t now in a care home, hospitalised for the rest of a painful life – a condition he would have detested.  But the sadness is now like a thread woven through every cloth.  The rest of life at the moment has been feeling so positive that it’s almost rather powerful having that new thread weaving again through the warp and weft of the cloth of life.

And so, at this time of year, with night after night of beautiful warm evenings in the garden, I’m  finding again the consolations of nature – almost intensely so. 

Incidentally, the little church is now having the roof and the spire repaired. Work is progressing well and will be finished later this summer.  It’s a moment again to thank so many generous blog and Instagram followers for their support in fundraising the last part of the campaign to mend the roof. 

The meadow is looking amazing this summer, just dreamy. 

A few days later we went over to Jim and Nic’s for supper. They had been so good to Dad, especially after Mum had died. We were all feeling reflective, but on an evening of such beauty,  the world felt entirely redemptive. 

And a few days later, we were at our friend Kate Hubbard’s, at Chilcombe – the extraordinary garden created by her remarkable father John – the renowned artist, but equally, an incredible plantsman and gardener.  Yet again, the consolations of nature, and of balmy summer evenings, and of friends. 

The view leaving Chilcombe, looking down to the sea, is breathtaking every time. 

Back home that evening:

And this weekend, we’ve had my best friend Valentina over from New York, with perfect timing. On Friday evening, we went down to the sea before supper. It was flat calm, infinite.

This was precisely the same spot that Tim, Charlie and I had taken Dad the evening after Mum had died.  Four months later, here we were again, staring at a soft, completely calm sea.

Life is strange. Charlie’s been a bit under the weather today, with some sort of fever that put him in bed all day. We missed the gorgeous party at Bettiscombe thrown every year by our friends Jasper and Oisin.  We’ve had the quietest day at the Parsonage, Charlie asleep most of the time. I’ve been reading, and just thinking, and catching up with myself, sleeping in the sun and the shade of the big tree this afternoon.

It’s no bad thing right now.


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