Nearly two months since I last posted here. Haven’t had the head space to think about blogging. Mum’s rapid decline and death. Feels a bit like a dream.

Rationally, I believe death is very much part of life, a necessary part of the cycle of renewal. Emotionally, it’s been a wave that I could see coming, couldn’t avoid or outrun, had to be faced.

Time now to pick up some things that I’d left off. Not a return to normal, but an adjustment to the new normal.

What a difference a few weeks make to my perspective on rain. The end of March and I was sick of the sight and sound of yet another Atlantic low blowing in yet another shed load of rain.

Two months on and I’m lying in bed with the window open, listening to the steady wash of what I think of as summer rain. No wind to speak of, unhurried, thermodynamics and gravity. My response is entirely different.

Mum has only a few months to live. It’s been confirmed. It’s a relief to know for certain. The priority now will be her comfort. To see her as much as is feasible.

There is an odd state of limbo that I find myself in. My mum’s health has taken a rapid turn for the worse and depending on whether the medics can do something or not, could mean she is close to the end. So I find myself on the one hand trying to get my head around the scenario of there really being not much time at all, while at the same time retaining the possibility that this might be a blip that she comes back from.

When one of a couple we were good friends with became ill some years ago, it has always stuck in my head, something they said: ‘We are getting used to this phase of life’. Accepting that they were on a journey, the end of which was the death of one of them, and all the uncertainty in between, was, and still is, very powerful to me.

Tim Ingold, anthropologist, has a lot to say that I find fascinating. I can’t recall how I came across him, but I think it was some months ago while I was reading about animism.

His idea of the ‘meshwork’, and his exploration and examination of perception and animistic world-views resonate a lot with me. I don’t pretend to understand everything he talks about, but nor is he so academic that it’s totally beyond my grasp.

I bought his book of essays The Perception of the Environment., which is waiting in my stack of books for me to get to.

It’s just coming up to 7 am. I’m sitting outside having breakfast enjoying what looks likely to be the last day of this spell of fine weather. Thunderstorms are predicted for later today and there are certainly lots of the clouds around that can are the type which are a precursor to the build up of cumulonimbi.

The male swallow is still around and yesterday a female was hanging around with him. I even saw them check out the old nests in the barn so things are looking promising.

A pair of great tits are nesting in one of our boxes. I’ve had a trail cam set up to track their feeding of the young. I was interested to see when they started and finished their working day. Seems to be about 6 am and 8:30 pm respectively. That’s a long day, back and forth every few minutes!

Since writing that I have largely resigned myself to not having the company of swallows for the summer, there has been more promising activity. On several occasions there has been definite territorial flight and song. As I write this I can here a male as he flies past our open back door. He’s been sitting on the wires on and off this evening. I hope this is a sign of things to come!

I am told that I’ve become a member of the sandwich generation. Caring for both a child and ageing parents. Albeit largely from a distance for the latter. And the former is not so much a child as a young man.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been quite full on as a result hence no posts here during that time.

On the bird side of things, having been delighted to see swallows arrive, I’m gutted that ‘ours’ haven’t yet. And are increasingly unlikely to. Usually we get two pairs, sometimes three, nesting in the barn we share with our neighbours for parking our vehicles. Obviously, over the years these must be multiple generations, given their average lifespan is two years.

Then there seems to be a couple of other small groups that nest elsewhere in the village. One lot at the farm, and it seems they are the ones that have arrived. The other lot nest in the outbuildings of another property and I’ve not seen them at all.

You do hear of swallow populations getting decimated while on migration by sandstorms in the Sahara, for example. Maybe that’s what’s happened with ours. I don’t know how knowledge of nesting sites is carried forward through multiple generations. I hope that if the one group in our village produce successful broods that perhaps we’ll get larger numbers returning in subsequent years and that they will repopulate the now empty nesting sites.

Given they have been here every year of the seventeen years we’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss them.

Following on from yesterday, another part of Rose Cartwright’s article caught my eye:

If the medical model is willing to examine its assumptions, it may admit that its research is often a repackaging of knowledge that the west has forgotten or destroyed. Every year, studies are published “proving” that things like nature, creativity, exercise and community make us happier, framing them as prescriptions for ills rather than age-old preventives.

The idea of prescription versus preventive speaks to something I’ve come across elsewhere1; that there is something structurally very wrong with a society that has to prescribe those things that should be part and parcel of people’s lives, in order to cure the ‘ills’ arguably caused by the demotion of the very same things in favour of productivity and such.

  1. Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks certainly touches on it, but given I don’t currently have a copy, I can’t quote from it []

The following quote from this article caught my attention.

My disorder … was the part of me who always knew I was worth protecting.

This is a perspective on mental illness that has never really occurred to me. Yes, I understand that it can be a protective reaction gone awry. But the idea that it’s fuelled by a sense of self-worth, albeit one buried deep in the subconscious, is something I’ve not considered before.

For me, an absence of self-worth goes hand-in-hand with anxiety and depression, fuelled by a desire to be ‘normal’ – whatever that is! So to see a mental disorder as coming from an inherent sense of self-worth, however small and hidden that is, totally flips my usual perspective on its head. Changing my relationship to my anxiety is a strategy that helps, and this view could definitely help with taking a more kindly approach.

One way or another, I’m regularly passing through or am otherwise in the vicinity of the Somerset Levels. As a result, it’s difficult not to be aware of peat extraction.

The National Trust are taking mushrooms off the menu due to the use of peat in the production process. Got me thinking about whether peat is used in the production of mushrooms for Riverford Organics, where we get our veg box from. I’ve emailed them so we’ll see what response I get.

I love mushrooms. Makes me wonder about growing my own.