Sunday, 20 September 2009

Death is the Road to Awe

Today the weather was calm, overcast but trying to be sunny.

Work needed doing at the allotment so I decided now was as good a time as any. The cucumber wigwams won't dismantle themselves, and the sweetcorn is now finished. The ground needs to be cleared, weeded and covered in preparation for next season. There is a lot of work to be done but, no matter, slow and steady and progress will be made.

The Husband doesn't come and help me at the allotment. Once in a blue moon, if I ask very nicely indeed, he may come and do a bit of strimming or help me carry it all back if I've harvested a lot of stuff (the site is a 5 minute walk from home so I never drive). And while there's still many the time I could do with an extra pair of hands to help with the never-ending digging and weeding, his boredom threshold is reached after about 15 minutes when he starts getting twitchy and wanting to go home (much like the typical bloke in Top Shop on a Saturday afternoon), so he might as well have not bothered coming in the first place.

So I left him sitting on his sofa, playing a time- and attention-sponge of a computer game called Civilisation IV. This, though, is fine.

The allotment is my place. It's only my money that goes into it, and my labour that keeps it going. I enjoy being there, on my own, with no-one to talk to. Quite often I'm the only person on their plot on the whole 4 acre site, which suits me just fine. I like being outside, unless it's tipping down but then I can retreat to the shed until it passes over. I love watching the ever-changing sky, and I talk to the bees as they clamber over the lavender planted beside where I sit. The foxes trot purposefully along the path, keeping a cautious distance from me. Sometimes I think it would be nice to share this with someone but, hey, if it's just me, that's okay. It feeds my soul and that's enough.

The allotment is where I also do many other things. It's the place where I also dance, sing, think and, sometimes, weep. I managed to do all four today as well as weed and clear the ground. Now that's multitasking.

I took my iPod with me, as I have started to lately, and today was Classical music day. There's nothing like waltzing around the raspberry bushes while listening to Khatchaturian's 'Masquerade Suite':

It immediately transported me to a vast mirror-lined gilded ballroom in some middle European palace. I'm wearing a gorgeous gown and diamonds, and being swirled around the room by a knee-bucklingly handsome Hussar in leather boots and gold braiding. *sigh*.

As I was cutting the string tying the bamboo canes together I moved onto Vaughan Williams' timeless 'Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis':

I know we've been here before but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this melody. It always makes my eyes feel a little 'hot', if you know what I mean. This particular piece, for me, is the distillation of everything it means to be English. (And I actually like the (admittedly fairly poor quality) video of scenes of the River Torridge in Devon that I've posted here.) Somehow it makes me feel that I'm standing in an ancient landscape which, of course, I was - St Martha's on the Hill looks down upon me from the horizon - a church built upon a hill that has been a place of pilgrimage for thousands of years. I stood and looked at it while the music swelled in my head. I thought about what a shame it is these days that bigoted fascists like the BNP have stolen the concept of 'Englishness'. I'm uncomfortable with overt and obvious patriotism such as you find in the States - it's too close to militarism for my liking - but I dislike feeling guilty for living in a culture that gave the world Stonehenge, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Capability Brown, Christopher Wren, Turner, Millais, Holst, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Blackadder.

But what to listen to while pulling up the sweetcorn? I chose the soundtrack to the film 'The Fountain'. I am undecided whether the film is a staggering work of heartbreaking genius or an enormous pile of self-indulgent, pretentious wank (although it is beautiful to look at) but the soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking. Written by Clint Mansell (who, I was extremely surprised to discover, used to be the main guy in 90s chart-botherers 'Pop Will Eat Itself'), it's mostly strings (the Kronos Quartet, I believe) but with some electronica thrown in and is achingly, weepingly sad.

Briefly, the plot of the film revolves around Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman and their relationship through time - firstly in 1500 AD as a Spanish queen and a conquistadore who (I think) discovers the fabled Tree of Life; in modern times where he is a researcher who believes death is a disease that can be cured and she is his wife who dies of cancer (he is unable to save her); and then 1000 years in the future where he's in a big bubble, together with the Tree of Life, rising up through space towards a supernova called Xibalba where he will be reunited with his missus. I think. Hugh Jackman's pretty good in it and conveys this massive and eternal love for his wife, and what he had been through (and would go through) to be with her again. I started thinking about who would be there to hold my hand on my deathbed, or would I even be missed? I cannot have children so will never be a mother. This also means I will never be a grandmother. If (heavens forfend) The Husband should come to his senses and decide he's had enough of my lazy arse, slatternly ways and hightails it out of here, who would there be to comfort me in my hour of passing? No-one, that's who. There would be no-one to love me as much as Hugh Jackman loves Rachel Weisz and I'm just in that chocolate-centric part of the month where I'm prey to those loathsome girly-hormones that finds anything like that unbearably moving.

There's a melody on the soundtrack called 'Together We Can Live Forever', which made me stop and look up into the sky, ostensibly blinking away the tears, but then I noticed, waaaaay up above my head, two large birds of prey, probably buzzards, dancing around each other, slowly circling in the thermal, flying together, higher and higher - it couldn't have been more appropriate and fitting to the music.

So please forgive the length of this particular video but it contains the whole of my favourite track off the album 'Death is the Road to Awe', which is a pretty cool title just by itself. The music builds in layers and repeated themes until reaching a climax.

So after this rollercoaster of emotions, I came home to find The Husband still sitting where I left him, playing his life away on a computer game. "So, did you get up to much?" he asked. "Not really" I replied - well, where could I start?


blackbird said...

What a day in the garden you had.

I think that I missed hearing about The Fountain but after watching the video clip- it seems like a trip. The music was lush though.

I also enjoyed watching the birds, insects and animals along the River Torridge- what a beautiful river.

My gardening these days takes place along a street that is busy with people and dogs. Lots of chatting is done but I often wish for solitude. And music would be grand.

Sinda said...

My husband doesn't enjoy working in the garden either, but it's therapy for me to be outdoors. Thank you for sharing your musical accompaniment!

Maureen said...

Hi Maxine, What a fabulous post, and I sincerely mean that. It has everything, an insight into your day, your life, your emotions and all the music is very moving I recognised the 'Masquerade suite' but would never have known the title or author of the piece. I love the last video and soundtrack.

I too have a husband like yours, but mine doesn't play computer games, as he's not technical and could never understand them, but he likes T.V. So like you it's mainly down to me as he also gets bored after a short while on the allotment. BUT they don't know what they are missing do they? it's very therapeutic and to know that what you have cooked and put on the plate for dinner was grown by yourself is a great feeling isn't it ? Thanks again for this great post, oh and I nearly forgot why I popped over to your blog !! to say thanks for the comment on mine and that I will be posting the recipes on there for you this week. :)

elizabethm said...

I have a husband who will garden in a digging up the potatoes kind of way but does not at all share my preoccupation with trying to create something which induces a particular feeling (calm, openness, awe on a good day) and my fascination with the endless pratical challenge of how to do that with plants. I don't mind at all. I rather like the privacy and was reminded of that reading this. A really great blog, thank you.

Mrs Jones said...

Blackbird - I do actually recommend The Fountain. It's terribly ambitious, I'm not sure it works but, as I said, it's beautiful to look at and the music's fab. And take an iPod or something similar when you go gardening, I find I get an awful lot more work done when listening to hardcore dance!

Sinda - This is a good time of year to be outside, not too cold but not very hot either. I don't understand how people don't like being outside - I wonder sometimes where The Husband gets his Vitamin D from!

Maureen - I love the fact that you call me Maxine, it's a great name but not mine. My given name is Caroline but known universally as Kaz. But Max Jones has a certain appeal. I can recommend the entire Masquerade suite, it's full of tunes you'll recognise.

Elizabethm - Thank you for your kind words. Men are a constant mystery. I have such trouble just getting mine out of the house, it's like being married to a teenager sometimes!

Maureen said...

Hi Kaz, I am still laughing at your comment. The mystery is solved !! there is another Mrs Jones.

and her name is maxine ha ha, she left a message on my blog and I thought it was you who had re-discovered my blog and wanted the recipes

Welsh Girl said...

I am in such total agreement with you on all of this post, including being indecisive about the merits of The fountain, and the hussar in the ballroom, and the ending up alone thing. Strange to see my own thoughts on someone else's blog!!!

peevish said...

I really admire this post. Thank you for baring your soul to us. I rarely have the courage for such honesty, even on my blog.

Gardening is a fine medium for soul-searching, isn't it? Perhaps your husband finds it too introspective an activity for him. My husband is the introspective one in our family. He loves to dig in the dirt. I do the planting and harvesting, much of the tending. He is the one who prepares the beds and digs out the rocks and weeds. In other words, he does all the really back-breaking parts for me. I really appreciate it.

You know, having kids and grandkids is no guarantee that you would have loved ones at your bedside. Many of my relatives are estranged from their children. They have kids, but are still very lonely in their later years. And some are alone because that is what they have chosen. In the end, we all die alone, whether or not someone else is there. I guess that is why the concept of Heaven is so appealing. I wish I could believe in it.

Mrs Jones said...

Welsh Girl - We can approach this in a couple of ways: (1) It's always good to know you're not the only person in the world feeling like this, and/or (2) Neither of us have an original thought in our heads!

Peevish - I'm not terribly good at keeping secrets and I never seem to suffer from shame or embarrassment, and I generally have no problem spilling my guts to anyone who can be arsed to listen. But I don't really do that 'in real life' 'cos no-one's that interested so a blog is the best place for it. Believe me, there's plenty more where all this came from which I probably won't go into (although I'd like to) as The Husband reads this as well and he wouldn't appreciate it. I actually started this blog as somewhere to post anonymously about marriage and families but I couldn't keep it secret for very long so now there are some limitations.

I know that having kids is no guarantee of an unlonely old age. We come into this world on our own, we leave it on our own (usually!). I am a fierce Atheist but, yes, the idea of a Heaven where my dad is waiting for me is undeniably appealing...