19 October, 2008

One year on

It is almost a year since I swapped life in inner city London for life in the Brecon Beacons, and I have been mulling over writing a post about this last year. But this is a hard post to write. I don't put much of my inner personal life into this blog, through choice. It is not what it's about. However this last year has been a life-changing year and not because of my move, and in order for how I feel about being here to make sense, I think I need to write about my personal life.

A year ago, I was preparing for the move to Wales. I was also adjusting to the news that my younger sister, who had recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer, was going to die. That the cancer had spread and the treatment she was receiving in her then home, Thailand, had failed. I found this out on the 4th October and the day that we moved to Wales, she and her husband and young daughter arrived in the UK for however long remained to her. We didn't know then that it would be less than a month. So I spent the first month of my new life in Wales, between here and her hospital bedside in Hampshire, watching her die. As I write this I can still hardly believe that it happened. She died on 20th November 2007. She was just 40.

I live in a beautiful and peaceful place now, a place which often makes life more bearable but sometimes the hills and skies and the quiet can overpower me. I look around me now at the beautiful autumn we are having and I remember last year, also lovely, and dreadful. I watch my children grow and change and it brings a great deal of comfort. Sometimes the fact that they look so much like my sister and me at the same age is a pleasure. Sometimes it is unbearable.

Moving here, making a new life, spending more time with Tom, meeting new people, are all bound up with learning to live without her. Digging in the garden isn't just clearing ground it is also clearing my head, clearing my grief. And sowing seeds or pricking out seedlings is repetitive, dull, careful work which is often all I can cope with.

I love living here. I love that my children have space to run and are learning not to be afraid of nature, birds, animals, cow pats and mud. I love that I have a quiet lunch with Tom during the week and that we can talk so much now about his work or what I'm doing. I love that it takes minutes to arrive somewhere new and beautiful or that my sporadic runs up our hill always have a variation on a magnificent view to greet me at the top.

My life is good. But there is one part, one room in my head that is a black place and most of the time I have to keep the door shut because to look too closely is to lose myself. I will not get over this. Time won't heal this wound. It will allow to me to get used to it and I will go on and I will have many happy times, as I have had this year. I feel it is rather like Kai in The Snow Queen, I have a sliver of ice in my heart, but unlike Kai, it doesn't stop me feeling things, it is just that there is a pang, a pain, a wound which will surface occasionally. Often now, less often in the future but it will be there because she is not.

This is what life is. It contains many sadnesses. We lose people. And we adjust. We go on. It is another scar to add to the others that any life well-lived and loved will gain.