( William Morris. I read a section from 'Love is enough' at our wedding, nearly fourteen years ago.)
'How did life get to be so good?' I asked.
'Through love.' replied my sister.
'Through work,' replied Tom ' through not sitting on your arse and complaining about what's wrong with it.'
It has to be said that both of them are believers in and exemplars of both schools.
('Leaves', chalkstone, by Jantien Kahn)
There was a time, and a long one, when I didn't believe that the rich or multifarious satisfaction of human love was something I had much right to or gift for. Community was a fine word but only a reality for other people. The people who mattered to me I kept in boxes, I tried not to let them count too much with me, and certainly believed I generally counted little with them, or occasionally knew I counted oppressively too much.
Now, amazingly, I see they move in circles, mobile, intersecting forms, and I belong to all of them, from my immediate and nearest, Tom and Molly, through my oldest and sometimes furthest, blood family, a few way-back friends, still there in my life, thank God; my village neighbours, who took us in so kindly, now worn and fragile with age in places, rare and fine and cherished, like old silk; kindred spirits and likeable others who speak my mother tongue, and those they have brought with them; my students and their families, all added on and joining up. And now this marvellous translucency of friendships made here, which have, I sometimes feel, added the catalyst of trust and shared creativity which has breathed life into the rest, made me see the life I have as a 'wild and precious' gift, added a dimension of mindfulness and awareness that wasn't quite there before.
Over the last days and weeks, these circles have interleaved quite magically. I am still overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder, not only for the open-handed, hard-working generosity people have shown and shared with us, but also at the sheer, generous open-heartedness, not only directly towards us, but towards each other.
The food put out, far from the disdainful contempt I expected from my French guests (about 50% ), they homed in alarmingly fast; the beef I'd thought must be too red drawing them like bees to the michaelmas daisies. No forks! While we rushed to find them, the quiet and elegant Claude...
showed an organisational talent for the first of several times, and cracked and peeled quails' eggs for the crowd.
(never could resist a gratuitous foody picture)
'We're off to look at baby clothes!' Isobel takes time off from having The-Bump-That-Will-Be-Ilan patted and admired by all the old ladies of the village, and is escorted upstairs by the ever-competent Fi to be guided through several boxes and binbags of infant paraphernalia, collated and donated by friends and friends of friends.
Girly chatter emanates from the bedroom. Later, ' I'd never dream of going into a label shop myself... there's even a Moses basket; I don't really need it but it's so pretty!' It nestles in the back of her car, the pearly cotton crochet blankets folded into neat squares.
Iso's mum Pippa, (far left in the picture above) comes up the garden arm in arm with Blind Old Helene. They have been down at the pond, where Pippa has learned three new French words, including 'nenuphar'.
Our old friend Jacquie is giggling at Jean le F., the very best neighbour that ever was, until he move to Ploeuc to form an informal retirement community based around the local Champion supermarket, and to collect waterbutts. 'Translate for me exactly what she has said!' he demands. Jack-the-Lad, hmm... my French fails me.
( showing his appreciation of English style sausages on sticks)
'I went down to the bottom of the garden,' my brother says, ' there were two small boys under a hedge, giggling a lot. I don't know what they were up to.' French Sebastien and English Oscar, playing cache-cache. Later they have to be chased off the compost heap, from which they were leaping nearly into a patch of nettles.
Jean's and Old Helene's sister Marcelle ( left in the picture below) spills a glass of red wine down her straight neat olive green skirt. She picks up a bottle of mineral water and pours it all over the skirt.
(Marie smiles on.)Our rather quiet and understated clever brother is absorbed in conversation with our rather quiet and understated clever German doctor friend Brigitta.
My brother is not really a dog person.
Claude's rotund dynamo of a wife, Josette,
stops my hippy niece
in her tracks. She has to talk to her she says, because she had the chair de poule as they brushed against each other. This was a druid village, she informs her, le Houx, (our village's name ),the holly, in the Ogham script, was the letter for teaching and instruction, she is drawn to tell her. My niece says she dreamed of druids the previous night. The rest of us raise our eyebrows sceptically. Later, Josette is to be found knowledgeably discussing the properties of stone with Jantien the sculptor. New Age mysticism and connaissance of stones is not something I would have imagined in her.
My sister-in-law and our old friend Doug, both half-killed by chemotherapy in the last year, compare and commiserate (unnecessarily, in my view) their new curly hair.
In all, and I was too busy chasing my tail to take it all in, more amusing and touching and surprising vignettes than I can cope with.
Later, and later still, we are tired, all tired,
and my sister takes the weight off her feet.
Any flies in the ointment, spectres at the feast, inevitable flaws in the intricate human tapestry?
How not? But not worthy of mention.
And, of course, you were right, all right, with your support and your prophesies. It was fine on the day, all right on the night, a great adventure, the sun shone, I had fun, and when the week began Robin's words brought the smile to my face and, by and large it stayed there. Bee, your mother was priceless beyond rubies in the delegation stakes; we couldn't have done it without her. The exhibition was more exciting than I ever imagined, a truly fabulous gift, but more on that, including Tom and his alabaster swan, anon. There are scores of photos of the sculptures which I need to sort out, and to take a bit of time to do them justice.
We're off to the abers tomorrow ( rias on the sout coast, abers on the north, the Spanish and Celtic influence respectively), and off-line again. Not blogging for a week or two is neither here nor there, but not reading other people's seems very remiss... I'll get on to it when I get back. I'll take camera and computer ( to sort through photos), and I'll prepare a new set of 'Compasses', but there'll be no internet.
Thanks again for the wonderful support, birthday greetings, and more besides.
'Live on for love liveth, and the world will be shaken,By the wind of his wings on the triumphing morning
When the dead and their deeds which die not will awaken
And the world's tale will sound in his trumpets of warning
And the sun smite the banner called scorn of the scorning
Dead pain you shall trample, dead fruitless desire
As you wend to pluck out the new world from the fire.'