Saturday, 17 September 2016

cancer year

One's dead, one's dying, and one has just been diagnosed. 2016 is my cancer year, and I can't keep pretending it isn't happening. So I went to see a fresh-from-the-fringe black comedy show about cancer diagnosis and recovery, hauled out my black clothes, and left the grapes to rot on the vine, and the willow leaves to build up in a thick mulch on the patio.

Cancer Gardens, full of lilies and roses, and pretty froths of baby's breath, are a feature of garden shows. Sponsored by Macmillan, or insurance companies; I walked through one once, where you passed through a dark narrow space as if stepping through a crematorium, to emerge into a frothy white and pink paradise on the far side. I didn't like that garden. I'm still young enough, or restless enough, or angry enough to find the fictions of in a better place, or at rest now horrible, dishonest and cruel.

That black mulch, the rot, that is the real stuff of death and the most honest kind of rebirth. When a much-loved friend unexpectedly became the first in my social group to die of cancer, a few years back, I took the day off work, unable to cope with the awkwardness of crying at my desk (I'm less bothered by that now).

At home, alone, at a loose end, I looked out into the garden and thought about digging or cutting something - hard, physical work-through-it work. But then realised I  hadn't attended to the compost bin in a while, and spent the rest of the day up to my knees in worms and filth, crumbling old eggshells and fishing out those premium tea-bags that never compost properly. 

Now that's what I call taking consolation in your garden.

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