It is with an aching heart that I write these few lines. Terry of Spearfruit, who many of you knew and admired, died yesterday afternoon at home with Gary, his husband, at his side.
I am so grateful to Kerry for letting me know by email and for Jodi for posting the sorrowful news in the comment section of Terry’s very last post.
I need not write any more except to acknowledge the numbing pain that Gary must be feeling and to send a heart-full of love to him and to all those close to Terry.
Sleep well, dear friend, at peace and released from your suffering. I’ll be eating cupcakes and ice-cream with you this afternoon even though the sky is suddenly gushing wet, fat, appropriate tears, as I type.
I would like to dedicate these words to Gary:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W H Auden
And this one is for you, Terry:
And for everyone who loved Terry:
PS: Because there is always a PS. The picture was taken in Concorde MA a year to the day before Terry took his quiet and sombre leave of us. A year ago we were planning to meet in Massachusetts where Gary was raised. One. Short. Year ago. We none of us know what is ahead, behind the railings, round the corner, through the gate, in the next field. So in honour of this most dignified of men, I ask everyone to celebrate what they have, and to cherish every moment of this little life we are granted. Terry was the same age as me.
Imagine if you will a real-life, modern-day Saint Francis – not all the high-born and father didn’t like his name stuff, but the animals part. The friend to all creatures, critter-whisperer. That Saint Francis. Well, here’s the thing. I know this man. This latterday guardian of all living things. All living things except humans which might be construed as a crucial difference between this man Frank and the Assisian original.
In fact Frank is of the opinion that there are far too many of us human varmints jostling and barging one another through life, and that instead of dwelling on our own selfish needs we need to protect our planet for those that have no voice and no means to halt the uninvited destruction of their world. I imagine his sentiments are perceived at best as highly eccentric and at worst with a great deal of suspicion by many. But much of what he quietly iterates resonates with me.
I had heard much of Frank before I met him. I knew that he had a squirrel whom he had nursed back from injury and who he had recently discovered was in fact Josephine rather than Joseph. She has the run of his backyard now that she is fit and hale again but during her long convalescence had a tree, a full sized tree, in the house to be her natural squirrelling self in. And for the avoidance of doubt, the house is a modest house, in an ordinary street not a gaspingly vast mansion. She is a cared for and nurtured squirrel and he files her claws regularly since she is not scampering around a wide-open space as she would have been had she not succumbed to a speeding car in the particular suburb of Boston that she lives in. His next door neighbour is a Dental Surgeon and he has asked him to make braces for Josephine’s teeth since he worries that her fang-angle is becoming an issue. Not cosmetically, you understand but rather in terms of her ability to gnaw gustily. Excited to meet this tiny mammal saviour, I had rehearsed my appropriate conversation opener. Donning my most charming and inclusive smile, I commented that I had heard all about his squirrel and that in fact my mother is called Josephine. He stared hard and with undisguised mild alarm and softly murmured ‘Your mother? Is a squirrel?’ Seldom lost for words, my powers of pithy response evaporated and the previously alluring smile froze unbecomingly on my nonplussed face giving me a distinct air of rampantly and irreversibly imbecilic. It turns out that there really is no comeback from the disquieting visual of your mother become rodent.
Most people discourage mice in their homes. Frank calls them ‘the little people’ and actively ENcourages them by leaving all their favourite treats in prominent places. He doesn’t shoo them off the table but rather invites them to share his plate. I do not have a word powerful enough to describe what a peace-loving soul Frank is. Strange certainly but bloodless and I feel remarkably tranquil simply writing of him.
Frank is companion and protector to all animals. He is their true and unwavering friend. He does not do this in the name of anybody’s God but simply because he can and he wants to. Surely that is what true friendship should be based in. Love, decency and kindness. This little traipse into the world of Frank is prompted by the Weekly Photo Challenge dubbed Friend. You can potter through the superabundance of delights here, and in honour of Frank and Josephine here are two plumptuous Squirrels partaking of the feasts I put out daily, when I’m in residence, for their delectation in our Massachusian backyard.
PS: The title is stolen from Zeffirelli’s 1972 film of the life of Francis of Assisi, ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ which in turn come from Saint Francis’ own praises for all creatures written when he was very sick himself. I reproduce a little excerpt here because, despite not being of his faith, I am of the belief that a beautiful piece of writing should be celebrated simply for being a beautiful piece of writing, not tainted nor tarred with prejudice, nor owned exclusively by one self-elected sector of society. Simply embraced and cherished. Like friendship.
Praise be to Thee, my Lord, with all Thy creatures, Especially to my worshipful brother sun, The which lights up the day, and through him dost Thou brightness give; And beautiful is he and radiant with splendor great; Of Thee, most High, signification gives.
Praised be my Lord, for sister moon and for the stars, In heaven Thou hast formed them clear and precious and fair. p. 153
Praised be my Lord for brother wind And for the air and clouds and fair and every kind of weather, By the which Thou givest to Thy creatures nourishment. Praised be my Lord for sister water, The which is greatly helpful and humble and precious and pure.
Praised be my Lord for brother fire, By the which Thou lightest up the dark. And fair is he and gay and mighty and strong.
Praised be my Lord for our sister, mother earth, The which sustains and keeps us And brings forth diverse fruits with grass and flowers bright.
And for your bonus, Donovan sings the title song he wrote for the movie:
‘Brother Sun and Sister Moon, I seldom see your tune – preoccupied with selfish misery’ ….
We might be minded to take that line to heart, do we think?
My home is in France. I will reside in the USA until mid-October. My heart breaks for this place. Of course my heart breaks for France. It’s my status quo. That my heart is breaking is hardly surprising. Here, numerous lives wasted by guns. In France, just about to lift it’s highest possible security alert after the abominable attacks last year, 84 literally mown down and numerous others injured many left in a life-threatening condition which you can seamlessly translate to ‘if they live they will have a steep slope to climb if they are ever to live a full life again’ in Nice on 14 July. A bloodbath on 14 July in France, by the way, is akin to a massacre on 4 July in the USA..
And then there are those others. The copious blood spilled in numerous locations which cannot have escaped your attention, lives exterminated, bagsfull maimed in other places. None of it is justifiable to a reasonable person let alone a pacifist. None of it is right to a rationalist let alone an idealist. All of it bids to erode my inate and possibly foolish optimism. But I will not let awful un-lawful acts rule my life. I will strive to find a way through.
How so? How on earth? First I must comment that what happened in Nice is in all likelihood not a terrorist attack. You can play with the semantics, of course and you can tell me that most nutters root back to religion, politics or any combination therein that feeds their sick souls but I don’t count that. An organisation has taken the most half-hearted responsibility for the 19-tonne truck deliberately barrelling down le Promenade des Anglais just when it was bound to be full of revellers gathered for le Fête Nationale. They were clearly going to. Fear bolsters up their macho resolve, so to claim responsibility is almost inevitable. Some sort of tenous connection makes us all feel even more scared. When I was growing up in England it was the IRA – any mention had us quivering in our boots, soiling our knickers and feeling very very insecure. The world moves on. Though I must say that I fear that the IRA never really went away. And the recent British Brexit vote that narrowly resolved to leave the EU (or UE if you are French) will add fuel to that nicely weakening fire. So claims are made and responsibility often falsely attributed and we all quake and shake and wonder if we can really really go out of our front door safely and if our babies and their babies and their babies not even thought of are ever EVER going to be safe.
I put two notions to you.
The first is this. We have become an increasingly tiny planet. By this I do not mean that the world has physically shrunk from a big fat fully inflated and energetic basketball to a teeny weeny, possibly depressed ping-pong ball but rather that we know what goes on in every crevice and we feel a part of it where once we did not. Media and especially social media shout and scream at us even when we sleep – buzzing and bleeping and flashing that something is happening. I remember Gerry Anderson’s ‘Thunderbirds’ – I remember those puppets being woken by the bleep-bleep of a catastrophe. And they went out and resolved it. Solved it. Made it all right again. Kept us safe. Now we all bleep and buzz and ring and weep. It is not healthy. We cannot absorb it all. Leeloo in the 1990s sci-fi film, ‘The Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis, of all people, could not absorb it without breaking down with the sheer emotion of it, and she was manufactured to be the savior of humankind – it’s too bluddy much for one person, one creation, to take in:
The second notion is born of my idealistic nature. I think that if we can, and do spread love and decency and kindness and tolerance eventually (not in my short life-time), eventually the world will see sense. I will leave the notion of spilling blood to others. But I will give you this thought. This weekend I had a situation that should have ruined my relationship with my husband. This weekend I was told I was hated by his son, by one of his son’s closest friends. This weekend I could easily have told my husband I wanted to terminate our relationship because of his closest kin, his spawn. But I didn’t. I squawked and I cried and I shouted and I threatened but I stayed. Out of love, I stayed. I am imperfect. If I can reach into my vat of love, we all can. I say this because I am absolutely unperfect. Blemished and scarred and not at all pure. So it stands to reason in this tiny brain of mine that we CAN all tolerate if we firstly want to and secondly put a little thought into the process. Here’s the thing, we can all be decent just because we want to be decent. It is absolutely in all our hands and minds and hearts to want to change and to stop being selfishly driven by our own needs and to accept that we are all particular and that none of us is a better particular, a more worthy particular than any other.
The picture is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge ‘Detail’ – my title is a bastardisation of the known (‘The devil is in the detail’) and the less known but proper (‘le bon dieu est dans le détails – ‘The Good of God is in the details‘). With my mish-mush belief system I can take from both and manipulate you as all good terrorists do. What I will bring to you is the detail of harmony, peace and tolerance – not things that just magically happen but things that require work. My picture illustrates this through the idea of a diversity of lichens co-existing on a rock.
If this is my rock then let it be known that every religion,whatever colour, LGBT, men, women, straight and yet to be determined, able bodied, disabled, are welcome, Don’t rock me and I won’t rock you. Fact.
PS: I find it interesting that ‘The Devil is in the detail’, most notably attributed to 20th Century German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is the accepted venacular over the original le bon dieu est dans les détails which is attributed to Gustav Flaubert (author of my beloved Madame Bovary) who died twenty years before the turn of that century. God-Devil. Good-Bad … personally I think we are better placed attempting to be good ourselves rather than bathing in books and falling back on them when their language will surely fail us so long after they were supposedly penned.