Pevensey Bay at sunset, December 2021

It is a new year; it is the first year since 1982 Kieran hasn’t seen at least part of, and that is another landmark. We have had so many firsts in the last nine months.

Our latest first was Christmas. The first time I’ve spent away from a family home, the first Christmas for my daughter without her daddy. My parents rented a beautiful, light-drenched house by the sea for a week and filled it with food and wine.

Twilit sea

It was as good a Christmas as I could have hoped for. In my last post I said I was struggling a little; strangely I found that as Christmas got closer some of my anxieties dropped away. Christmas Eve I barely slept, but I anticipated that, and after my daughter had opened her presents from Father Christmas it was like something tightly wound inside me unfurled, because that great thing was done. It was a lovely week; I went every day to look at the sea and sometimes to talk to it.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
(E.E. Cummings)

Then home, and new year with Kieran’s family – my family – and that, too, was good. I feel very lucky that in our love for each other we have become like a bower of trees grown together, branches entwined, holding each other up. So many widows have quite different stories about how they are treated by their in laws after a death.

Now term has started again. Tomorrow I am giving a paper and a roundtable contribution at my favourite conference, Gender and Medieval Studies. As usual I wish it were held at another time of year. No one wants to start January scrabbling to write a paper. I’ve been enjoying listening to people’s papers but still find that my concentration is not great. Grief, even in its most sustainable, bearable form, is still a great drain on my body and mind. But I remember the sound of the surf, the rush and hiss of stones tossed onto the beach and dragged back with the tide, and know this, too, will change, that my inner landscape will keep shifting, until one day I am in a place far from here – yet still carrying where I came from within me like a stone polished smooth by the sea.

Not lost, by the sea

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