The red haired beauty with the sparkling blue eyes wept as she held her baby in her arms, barely a child herself at only 17, she knew these next few moments must be treasured and remembered as very soon now the baby would be taken from her. 1964, this was a time that 17 year old single girls did not get to keep their babies. I was wrapped up in a fluffy blanket after an hour and whisked away, my mother roared until her throat bled, exhaustion finally leading to sleep. My Aunt Maureen stepped in and persuaded my Grandmother to allow my mother to keep me, miraculously she was. The following years were difficult for a young girl in a small town, with smaller minds and big mouths. But she never really let it get to her, she was proud of her little bundle. She married and went on to have six more children, my step siblings. Her husband adopted me when I was 16 years old. I remember the day well, I was taken to a hotel for my lunch, I now had a new name, an official respectable existence. I had not known the story of my birth until I had to get a passport and it was then my mother told me the whole lot. I was shocked at first, shocked that my father was not my father, shocked that my sisters were not my full blooded sisters, shocked that my mother was only 17 when she had me, more shocked that she would not tell me who my “real” father was. I was a troublesome child, I felt I never really fitted in, I was the square peg in the round hole, but somehow my mothers confession helped me somewhat to understand why I felt different, it was of course because I was, I was different, I was not completely one of them. My mother and I had the most amazing relationship. We were kindred spirits, we were wild and soulful, and we were deep thinkers. We loved too much but were never loved enough.
I loved her too much, I do know that. I loved her energy, her zest for life, her love of life, her love of nature. She taught me a lot about living, most of which I never took on board! But that’s life eh? Her love of nature was infectious and this I did take on board. I would never come back from a beach walk without a pocket full of shells and pebbles, a hill walk without a bunch of heather, my eyes were always open to what was around me. Most of all she instilled in me a love of gardening. Gardening became my saving grace over the years, my solitude, my confidant, my reason for smiling when often days I did not want to. I remember the summer of July 1996. My speciality that year was the lupin. My mom was thrilled that I had finally decided to embrace the lupin: she has been singing their praises for years. 1996 was an ok summer, not record breaking weather wise but it was ok, we had some sunny days. I planted an abundance of lupins that year along with wonderful flower boxes to dress my window sills. I loved them, I watered them every day, fed them, talked to them, told them how beautiful they were and how happy they made me feel. I used to laugh when Mom told me it was good for the soul to talk to the plants, I felt a bit regal sometimes as I gave them the news of day as I sprayed water on their eager heads. I loved talking to the pansies, they had faces, they all had different little faces and I used to name them. Sometimes I think they heard me and if they had the ability they would answer me back! It was a Sunday in July 1996, the sun shone high in the sky. My garden waved in the light summer breeze, my window boxes told their colourful stories. On the same day that nature was doing what nature does best my wonderful, vibrant, adorable Mother stopped breathing, she closed her eyes, she never opened them again. I held her closely in my arms and swayed gently in unison with the trees swaying in the summer breeze outside the window. I caressed her soft red curls, she did not protest. As I looked at her face as she lay sleeping in my arms I remembered the time she told me about the day I was born and she holding me close in her arms and she whispering into my tiny little ear that she would never let me go. I now wanted to tell her that I would never let her go, that I would keep her safe in my arms forever, but I could not do that now, now it was too late to do that. I placed my mouth to her ear and as the tears flowed from my blurred eyes I whispered “thank you” “Thank you for never letting go of me and thank you for loving me and thank you for minding me and thank you for teaching me”. As the abiding sadness turned to savage grief my relationship with nature completely broke down. We had nothing in common anymore, nothing to bind us together. The red headed vibrant 51 year old was gone and so with it was my love of nature. I could not talk to the pansies, they would not understand this broken heart, how could they. I watched as the flower boxes turned from multicoloured rainbows to pathetic withered brown boxes of death. I did not see them die, they just did. I could not look at the rows of lupins and roses as they lay dying in their beds begging me to love them, to give them a drink. I passed them day after day as the life drained out of them – it gave me some comfort that Mother Nature was suffering and experiencing death and pain just as I was. I seldom went walking those days, I never brought back shells and pebbles from the beaches that once gave me such solace and affection and peace, now I just went there to cry, to roar out my grief at the raging sea.
I crossed over the shallow river, picking my way over large rocks, my heart as always carried a burden, a burden of grief that was weighing so heavily on me now that I wondered how long more I could carry it. It was a year later, I had made no progress in my quest to handle the loss that had been thrown at me. Today I wanted to try and be at one with nature, I wanted to try and get some of “me” back. I walked through the tall grass that awaited me at the other side of the river, in the distance the wood beckoned. My thoughts and tears were halted as I saw a little robin sitting on a branch, a delicate nimble branch. The branch was much lighter than the robin I thought and wondered how it did not bend under the weight of him, though he himself was light and tiny. I stood in front of him, he did not move, he did not flutter, he did not fly away. “Hey, little Robin” I said, “ You’re not afraid of me, aren’t you the brave boy now” He was almost posing for me, he was making little movements to try and impress me. I smiled. I had not smiled in ages, so I surprised myself. I admired his red breast and told him that it was the same colour as my mother’s hair. “My mother had that same colour hair” I said to him. He buried his head in his chest for a few seconds. “Are you not afraid that the branch will break and you might fall” I asked him. He flew from it to the upper branch and back down again. I marvelled now once again at nature and how this tiny weak branch was supporting this robin and all the burdens he carried on his back. As I cleaned out the withered window boxes I felt the sad burden lift from my once heavy shoulders. My mother was gone, she was dead and I had to let her go and allow Mother Nature to take care of me once again.