Thursday, 7 August 2014
It's almost 9pm and I'm lying on the kitchen floor. There's a big black dog on my shoulder. I'm not depressed, I literally have a big black dog on my shoulder. I'm stretching out the muscles that are making me run lop-sided and it feels good. I put a tennis ball beneath my backside to press into the muscle group in question and stare at the ceiling. White, wood-chip paper. Carefully applied, no doubt, by Merv the previous tenant. Merv is a semi-retired builder/chippie/P&D man who pulled this house back into shape after the previous previous tenant, known to all as Chalfield Dave, ran it down. Chalfield Dave had a metaphorical black dog and it was huge. His depression led to him to live in one room which he painted as black as that dog. The rest was slowly returning to nature when Merv (and the indomitable Elaine) took over. They made it beautiful again. They took the garden back to its former glory. All in nine months. The cold winter and the stairs - the cottage is four floors, with one room on three of them, one and a bathroom on another - did for them and they took off for a nice housing association new build in the village. And here we are.
After five years, a lot of Merv's work is looking a bit tired. Our financial struggles over that period haven't had us spending money on paint and decor. The garden is big enough to need constant attention that we can't give. Neither of us is a fanatical gardener and are quite happy to let the lawns grow because the bees and butterflies like the wild flowers. Or, like now, the annual toad migration is underway and the grass is loaded with teeny toadlets whose minds are full of routes established long before even this old place was built.
The daylight is fading. With my mind full of nature and nurture, I get up off the floor and make drinks. Tea to Charlie, working upstairs on his current campaign; hot rice milk to Evie in her room, building me firework displays in Minecraft because she knows I love them. Back downstairs, I take my mug of redbush out to the back garden and sit on the steps. Black dog comes too, naturally, and I hook my arm around his shoulders. There's a bright waxing gibbous moon, high in the east. I can hear a moor hen at the pond over our wall, rooks gathering for the night, crickets chirping and of course the rustle of leaves as toads and mice move around. As it gets darker, moths arrive, drawn by the light from the kitchen window. Bats swoop in too.
I breathe, consciously. Slowly. Feeling the life rhythm with the in and out, the rise and fall, the ebb and flow. Feeling everything. My body hums with it, harmonises, loses its edges and becomes part of it all, just for a moment or two. Calling both dogs to me, we head for the field where the wheat smells so good and sleepy deer look up from their beds to check that we're harmless.
This house, this home, this land, this world. The physical, the intangible and all in between. In, out, in, out.