The other day, our middlest daughter received Star of the week from her new gymnastics class. She was so completely delighted. She strapped the heavy, gaudily over-polished star under her seatbelt and cradled it all the way as we drove home, looking at it and stroking it, then looking at me with such a look of happy wonder in her face. Disbelief and joy could be clearly seen in her eyes as she took it all in. In my mind I held a breath’s space in silent thanks to the teachers who saw her shyness as she first walked in and the way she clung to me, tears in her eyes as she felt the alien room and the half-strange faces all around her. Thanks to them for encouraging her into the room and helping her forget her fears as she chose a hula hoop to whirl about her tiny body. I remember that feeling from dance classes when I was a child. Clinging to the rock of security that was my mother, I’d have done anything, anything at all to not feel that feeling of homesickness. No matter how much I ended up enjoying swinging myself about, dancing to the music, getting mind and body and will and rhythm to all merge as my body moved into the dance, the first fears were ever present.
I have an occasional habit of turning on the morning news. Mainly for the weather report.
I get the news I need from the weather report
The gymnast walked in with her star. She had slept with it on her pillow and had been carrying it around since she awoke. She looked at the TV and said “perhaps I’ll be on the news today.”
“It’s big news, isn’t it?” I replied.
Indeed, this is big news. News so enormous in her life that it may well determine the course of her Wednesdays for a good while. My little agent of chaos, my firecracker has made the news.
Out of curiosity, I tune my attention to the news report coming from the TV: Macron, Le Pen, Brexit, Frexit, polls and elections, Syria, fake news, bombs, Trump and North Korea. All in the space of a two minute round-up of the headlines. No mention of a scared little girl getting a star, no mention even that their five month old brother can now roll over. How about the eldest and her encyclopaedic knowledge of Animal Jam, a game on the computer? What about my sleep report, how did last night go? That’s news to us. Or that yet again, my husband will be working this weekend and there is no let-up in sight for how much, how deeply I miss him.
“Four eggs today, mummy”, says the eldest. Our ever-giving chickens create their daily offerings.
It’s enough to make anyone sad, or mad, or angry, desperate, despairing. Two minutes of my life I gave them and I got given a list of enormous problems, caused by enormous egos, for enormous egos to fix or worsen, depending on what mood they’re in.
Stepping outside, I take Dog and Baby back into the world. The wind whips my hair in jubilation the moment I step outside the back door, playing with my skin as it cools and strokes me. The sun plays too, peeking behind cantering clouds as they race overhead. It isn’t warm enough yet to make those first moments comfortable, but I know that I’ll heat up and I’ll be glad I didn’t wrap up too warmly. Cherry blossom shakes in the tree above me, the apple blossom is just starting to erupt! Soon the trees will be a rich, sexual pink. I step on ground elder and daisies, brush past a patch of forget-me-not at the gate. The lawn is dotted with colour now: verdant greens, whites and yellow of dainty little flowers. Cuckoo pints unfurl beneath one of the apples and tiny red currants bob about in the hedge. Everything is growing its offerings! Clothes snag on reaching brambles at the end of the garden and the willow bends her graceful boughs to my face, her leaves caress my upturned smile. Every day is different, the world tells me, yet every day is a return of the Great Circle of the year. The same and so achingly familiar, yet so new and so unique. Like greeting a very old friend, to find that you have both grown, but not beyond recognition.
This is the news I want to fill my world with. This. It’s real. It’s real news. It’s eternal and it’s right here. It’s what my body, senses and spirit have, right here. The path winds through the world and all I have to do is step forward, step by step and the news is there to be known.
Wild garlic is now in full flower in the old quarry; the heron takes off and lazily sweeps away across the river. It must have heard the crashing of Dog in his joyous meandering. A toad has laid strings of spawn in a receding pool of the river. I pick it up in my hand, and feel the ooze of the jelly around each delicate little egg. I gently move it all further into the pool, under a protruding rock, away from the increasing heat of the sun. Give it a chance, I think. I’ll come back and have a look to see if it’s safe. Roving reporter. The river level has dropped, almost all the way down to its high-summer level. But still a little way to go. I’ll report back on that too.
Someone has laid my altar down and used it as a makeshift path. I re-erect it and place a marigold and a wild garlic flower on the top. Also some grass, because this ubiquitous, understated plant colours our world like nothing else, yet it’s entirely overlooked, in favour of herbs, flowers, anything but grass. I met an ecologist who’d been studying grasses for fifteen years and still didn’t know every kind.
News. It’s what I make it.
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
Excerpts from Simon And Garfunkel The only living boy in New York
and J.R.R. Tolkein The Lord of the Rings