Yesterday was a scorcher! The temperature steadily rose throughout the morning until it reached its peak of 28 degrees. I’m not complaining. And compared to most of southern Europe that’s nothing! I liberally applied the factor 50 to my burning-prone skin and positioned my reclining chair in a sun spot to soak up some rays.
By coincidence I had just started reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson. ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ is an old book, first published in 2003, but one I had never bothered reading before because it’s about science. Nevertheless, I’d decided that anything that Bryson had turned his hand to must be worth a look, so look I did. I quickly became sucked into (not literally, obviously) black holes, galaxies, mind-bending facts about the universe and that ‘singularity’ that is theorised to have been the first moment of life. I found myself wishing that my science teachers of yesteryear had been able to engage me in this way. It has been an easy and fascinating read so far. I squinted up in awe at that great ball of fire in the sky that sustains life on our planet and which, according to Bill Bryson (and I have no reason to doubt him) appears as a tiny dim dot to those planets which orbit at the outer reaches of our solar system. Then it disappeared behind a huge grey cloud.
Yesterday was also the anniversary of the death of a close friend; a vibrant, gregarious, compassionate and funny woman who cycled or walked the three miles to and from work each day, climbed mountains and swam most lunch times – and had decided she was going to live to be a hundred. A ferocious illness seemed to come from nowhere and took her within weeks.
My friend loved nature and had a favourite woodland walk which is where her ashes were scattered. I don’t know exactly where as, quite rightly, her family carried out that last rite. I’m glad I don’t know, as she would have hated the idea of her friends standing, all maudlin, as if by a grave. Instead, some other friends and I decided to walk in her footsteps and joyfully remember happy times we spent together.
We approached the trees through dense long grasses and wild flowers which had been left to do their thing, mostly undisturbed. In one or two places the vegetation revealed snaking paths where regular walkers had left their marks. We followed those, confident of solid flat ground and not wanting to disturb the terrain elsewhere. Once into the thick of the trees, the intense sunlight filtered through revealing ancient roots and branches. I have a treasured photo of my friend sitting in the midst of those branches, laughing her head off because I’d suggested she looked like she was in a web and I wasn’t sure If she was predator or prey.
In a clearing we came across some bees feasting. I got a close-up of one.
Life burst forth all around.
Suddenly, the sun once again disappeared behind the cloud as we approached a dense grove between the trees. It seemed to mirror life itself where joy and sadness, light and dark co-exist, in harmony and in balance, side by side.
Life blossoms and decays, and out of the decay comes new life. The circle must complete itself for life to continue. Our friend celebrated this truth, and we celebrate her.
We laughed at anecdotes we had shared so many times already but which had not lost their humour. That’s how our loved ones live on. Our friend once said she wouldn’t mind coming back as a butterfly but we didn’t see any. We did, however, find the strangest thing on the ground amidst the sprawling roots and crushed twigs: this piece of bark with what looked remarkably like a heart at its centre.
I don’t expect I’ll read about friendships in Bill Bryson’s science book, but we’ll see. There are many scientific explanations for the bonds that we form and hold on to and celebrate, even beyond their physical endings. It’s part of being human and will continue as long as we inhabit the earth and spin around the sun. 🙂