The wind blows cold in the hills today, grey clouds
have kidnapped the sky, rugged up in winter gear
we wait and hope for Spring rains to refresh the earth.
Pangs grip my heart as I think of you on the other side
of the world where crimson and gold now fall from the trees.
We’re living upside down, you and me. Your days begin
as mine come to an end. Here young green leaves unfold
to a sun which is rising earlier each morn. Will I ever find
my way to your land, where the giant redwoods grow?
Between us a huge gulf of distance and time spreads, but
we share a common language, my friend. At midday I met up
with a friend who has shared my journey for decades;
our wisdom grew when our children arrived, she’s seen me
through times of exquisite joy, and stood firm when death’s
abyss opened and took my dear love. She witnessed the
last rites when his soul was commended to eternal peace,
in the company of five hundred heavenly angelic hosts singing
Ave Verum Corpus. But today we visited friends on their return
from overseas. In a gesture of appreciation for watering the
garden during their six weeks’ absence, they gave me a small
dish from Portugal, decorated with a blue bird of happiness.
Down the hill we went together to deal with our daily chores.
We shopped, then relaxed at a café where, within a short space
of time, other friends congregated: the first one was from
a long time ago; she was in a book club with me; then a little later
a fellow poet wandered over, and we were able to offer her
comfort in her recent bereavement. A former student of mine
then arrived, with two of his three young children; he was amongst
many mourners who, by their presence at the funeral, honoured
my dear one. Yet another friend came over, the same one who
offers me a place in her family life almost every night. We left
empty cups, then farewelled each other to tend to our separate lives.
Up in the hills I gave the sketchbook I’d bought to my walking companion.
Several years ago she drew a portrait of my husband after his cancer
treatment. In the picture he wears a black top covered with Chinese
dragons of green, gold and red; with artistic flair she has extended
the imagery, so the creatures leap out of the shirt material into
the background and foreground. Alone again at my table at dinner time,
I lit a candle in his memory, as I do during each meal at home;
I was delighted to receive a message from my daughter who
safely touched down in Bangkok this evening. In my neck
of the woods a cloudburst has ransomed the sky, and through a hole
in the clouds a sickle moon glints in the midst of her starry entourage.
At supper time I visit other friends who each night expect me
to come over for a chat and a cuppa, and tonight we share orange
and poppy-seed cake. When I return home I’m surprised by a call
from my son who is in Florence. He tells of plans to see Pisa, Barcelona,
Valencia and Madrid in the next couple of weeks. Later he’ll fly
to Dublin, then move on to explore his father’s ancestral terrain
around County Clare. I give thanks to those who’ve generously
stayed with me on my journey. I am blessed indeed. Though it’s still
chill outside, the blanket of friendship warms me to the core.