Strange Fits Of Passion I Have Known
I have never walked down a path gloved like this one and I want to cling on while I imagine retracing steps tomorrow, as naïve as to imagine that I will ever see the same white throat swallow chase with the twilight, or the same wave make towards the shore. The pathway will be there and the light will fall, but different as it steals between lichen loved oaks, the scratched beeches, notched alders and hovers beside and beyond guardian banks of purple-speckle foxgloves that stalk me in their hundreds. Poisoned digitalis bells that sound the heart and have impelled a fascination since I was a child and knew them by more sinister names, dead man’s bells and witch’s gloves, which I was told when sucked would change the beat of your heart for better or for worse, or stop it forever, are seeded here.
Tomorrow, I will uncover an undergrowth stumbled on by last night’s storm. Brambles will advance in legions alongside the pathway. I have walked down other paths and sometimes I have seen hollyhocks and at other times, wild iris; often a grouping of gloves, so different from the sweetness of a cowslip bell but I have never seen – and they are no longer there for the seeing – such a sheet of poisoned heart bells. The idea of a poisonous nature fascinates; the golden chains of the laburnum, the yew and that modest berry, the deadly nightshade, seduce me. Ah, I have forgotten hemlock. My heart aches as though of the hemlock I had drunk and was about to sleep forever.
Scrambling for balance, I inhale loamed bark with tears and trample sudden orchids that are gemmed like butterfly into dunged earth and cannot escape the knowing that nature is careless. Involuntary images of the heart – of digitalis poisons and inhalations of loss – are companions as I emerge from the undergrowth into a clearing with nothing other than the memory of Lucy – breathless and with her life forces extinguished – as she changed into a carcass beside me.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me!
Lucy, my Hungarian Vizsla and a divine part of myself for almost eleven years is dead. For precision’s sake, and death’s measure is precise, her life was extinguished by a kindly administered injection of Phenobarbitone at 5PM or thereabouts, I did not look at my watch but held her tight in my arms on Friday 27th July 2012.
Each day of Lucy’s life reminded me of the privilege of living close to an instinctual and gentle animal nature about which the human animal knows, or perhaps I mean cares, less and less. Milan Kundera says: “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.” I go further and say that it is only in our, no not in ‘our’ but in my own experience of loving Lucy that I have experienced the joy of an extended and passionate relationship that has not been harrowed by a fretted ambivalence of human nature. Paradise lost is to acknowledge a paradise of desire where love was unconditional and without ambivalence, without envy but desire survives rarely between humans without some obstacle, without some green ey’d monster.
Lucy lived life through her heart and fittingly it was her heart that stole the life force from her. No! Lucy lived life through her heart and her nose, a saucy, beautiful beast, who loved the scent of a small dead thing; who loved to throw herself into a skunked heap of fox dung and then to rub-in against our shins. She was born a hunter and retriever who had to imagine Regent’s Park into heath and highland. On her penultimate day of life in late July she ran the park like Zephyrus and dined on the bone scattered air of an Olympian picnic or two.
To begin with our vet was convinced it was a case of poisoning, what other explanation might answer for a collapse of morning energy into evening inertia, which reminds me that when people ask me how I am, I reply, ‘Well, I think. I hope.’ How do we ever know what agenda our bodies are plotting to hostage us, today or tomorrow?
Lucy was not poisoned and she only had to suffer for a small while until another emergency vet, still baffled, thought to image her heart, which was found drowning inside of an abominable and irreversible tumour. ‘Rogue cells’ he explained, ‘which are very rare in the heart, can grow from the size of a pea to a pineapple in a week.’
Memories are seeding into my mind. Despite our energetic human ways, our seductive flurries of activity and our lives’ cul de sacs, it is our memory, our attachment to certain memory threads that define us, not for the other but for our selves.
Lucy is dead. With her death my supernal memories have become more static, a memorial series of glorious photographs. Across the table my grandson is also challenged by thoughts of composition as he struggles to navigate his own plot. I see an exceptional head of doused curls, which trigger an energy that trawls through years of exquisite boy-growing self. My involuntary third eye selects and remembers through twenty years of shock headed life. When I think back to Dan’s beginnings I think of a small boy taking his first steps and falling over with an indignant expression of surprise. I remember him hungry, a little gannet who knew the name of more than twenty sea birds before he was twenty months old. I remember him in a small red felt duffle coat looking in awe at a large red letterbox at the end of the road. I remember how quickly he discovered that it is the girls and not the boys who always have the leading role in fairy tales.
When I remember Lucy I think about her innocent heart and her attachments. I remember the first thing that I did on coming home was to call, ‘Lucy, Lucy’, and I waited for her wet greeting.
Thus Nature spake – The work was done –
How soon my Lucy’s race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.
Willliam Wordsworth, Lucy Poems
LUCY AND BLUE EYE’D BELL JUNE 2012