Where are you now?
Today, I remembered walks with the children when they were small. Wrapping them up and heading out for fresh air. And to freeze – because they were so … painfully … slow … and stopped for …every … single … thing.
This day, my daughter Vita and her friend fell behind. They were about four. We lost sight of them and I bellowed back, ‘Where are you two? You’ve got to keep up!’
Silence. I retraced my steps and found them standing still, looking at the ground, in the middle of a field. A look of mild alarm crossed my daughter’s face, when she saw the exasperated mother striding towards them.
‘We’ve got to keep up,’ I heard her say to her friend.
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘Because they don’t know where we are.’
‘Where are we?’
I watched her turn her head. Then she threw open her arms and said, ‘We are here.’
I almost applauded as I hauled them back towards the rest of us, one in each hand. I admired her ‘We are here,’ said in an off-hand, isn’t it obvious, where else would we be, tone.
Whereas I remember now as I walk the farm that Kim and I used to dart all over the place. We were so new to each other, we flew all over the place like a pair of dancing dragonflies in May, glued together – always talking, dashing from the Scottish Highlands to London; from house, to office, to plane, to car, to friend, to family. We ran about to keep up with our diary.
We delighted in needing to be somewhere else. As if being on the go was an achievement.
Until, the morning the bomb went off in Kim’s head. He had two strokes. We were left on our faces, face down in the debris.
Where were we then? We were in hospital. Kim fighting for his life, and me being called into the corridor by a doctor with an image of Kim’s brain under his arm. He tapped the brain scan, showed the bits that were all right and the bits that were … well, not there any more – mapping our future. That terra incognita was where we had to go.
‘Where this leaves both of you,’ the doctor spelled it out so I really took it on, ‘is that he can’t speak or understand. He’ll drag his right leg, and the right arm will curve up and claw. But he’ll bark out his needs in single words.’
Part of me acknowledged an obscene poetry in his prognosis – even as the madness descended.
My beautiful man…
Five years later, two things had happened. Kim has done a hero’s labour to recover, and achieved far more than was predicted for him. Much never returned. Much did.
Second, we fought to let go of the dragonfly life. We still fight – who chooses to let go of a happy life? But we cannot go back there. We have to stay here. We cannot walk the world. We must slow right down and walk the farm.
And the slowing down has given us back a world I think we only half saw, as we flitted through so lightly and busily, on our way from one event to another.
Not always, but often enough, we feel like those two four year olds, who found something on that winter walk that it will take them a lifetime to find again, if ever – the ability to say, ‘We are here.’ And not always, but often enough, that is profoundly liberating.
We are here now.