Tears are often seen as a negative, as a sign of dis-ease. But, in some circumstances, the shedding of them can be seen, rather, as an indication of healthy healing.
The crying started, with no warning, at 7.10 last night – and carried on, almost continuously, until gone ten. I drove out, through stunningly beautiful May evening sights (the greens and lilacs, soft golds and bright blues), to Felton Common. The sky held three balloons – colourful and heavy – aloft, but there were no planes during the hour I sat in the car, watching and weeping.
As I drove up the A.38, past the Airport and up to the Common, John Stanley’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ came on the radio – and crying turned into out-and-out bawling, as if my pain were trying to find an animal-like outlet. I probably should not have been driving, or should have stopped, pulled into a lay-by.
The tears started again early this morning. I did not try to stop them – and, although it did occur to me that I might be cracking up, I think the truth is slightly different, both emotionally and linguistically: I am, I suspect, cracking OPEN, and allowing banked grief to pour out. Not just divorce-related sorrow, and the attendant insecurity, but bereavement-grief which, aborted with shocking suddenness three weeks after my father’s death, was never allowed to flow to a healing conclusion.
The day is, once again, gorgeous – and, determined, despite liquid sadness, to make the most of it, I bundled Jumble into the car and drove up the Burrington Combe road to Velvet Bottom, streaming and sobbing all the way.
We started walking, Jumbs and I – and, immediately, I was entranced by the scented and lovely welcome of bluebells, blossoming in May sun, to my right – and lots of sweet little rabbits to my left.
I now recognise the typical bunny poses, having had Pippa to observe for nearly a year – and watched in delight as the babies scurried about and the adults lazed in the sun in front of their burrows. They are such gentle, endearing little creatures – and I was so glad that neither the dog nor I disturbed their peaceful Sunday morning routine.
We walked on, and came across a woman – roughly my age, perhaps a bit older – wandering our way. She had a gentle aura, and held a book of music in her hand: Was, I suspect, learning songs, or perhaps memorising the notes for a musical instrument. We talked, briefly. She had mislaid her dog (a female border collie, actually a retired working sheep dog) and was vaguely searching for the animal.
As we parted company, something hit me – and prompted a fresh shudder of tears: This was the very last walk I ever took with my father, nine years ago, two months before he died. He, the Lad (then aged nine), the dog and I had walked this way, under very similar conditions, in April 2007 – and we had seen a bountiful supply of bunnies that day too. But the much-younger, and still-sharp-of-eye Jumble had tried to chase and catch them back then.
I wished my father had still been there with me on today’s walk: That I could have talked to him about the divorce and all the other things which make me cry so atypically and so much; that I could have asked his advice and sought comfort from the fear and pain. I suppose, in that moment of feeling like a lost child, I just wanted the hugs and reassurance of a parent.
I met others on this track, this slice of natural beauty, and greeted the day with them. The tears came and went. They still do.
And, as dog and I meandered back to the car, bumping into Music Lady and her now-returned-from-canine-quest dog at the top, I thought to myself, ‘Why do I strive so hard to keep a stone face? To show the world that I am all right even when I am not?’
And I realised that I can luxuriate in the world’s sensual delights and sob at the same time, that grief has to be expressed and come out in order for it to pass – and that, sometimes, the bravest face we can put on is the one which shows tears flowing down our cheeks, and the bravest voice is the wobbly, at times bawling, one which flushes grief’s toxins out of the body.