Watching The Sunrise

On this day, two years ago, my husband died. Suddenly. And so began a world without him, a life change, one my friend N. says is ‘the hardest work you’ll ever have to do.’ She’s right, but I’ve had help; ongoing help and friendship. And I have had time. Which is just as well, for there is no end date when one is certified ‘better’. Having said that, if better means stronger, then I am a lot better. Less apt to bemoan my outcast state and curse my fate, to steal a line from a Shakespeare sonnet. For it is both easy and tempting to feel sorry for oneself when we keep peering through the magnifying glass at one shattered fragment, as opposed to looking back at a whole life, a composite, the entire glorious lot, garnished with a few inglorious moments. Focusing on fragments alone, lingering on them too long, can be dangerous, especially when one is going through a rough patch. In the same sonnet, Shakespeare advises to bask in the wealth of memory, seek solace in the knowledge of love, remembered love that can carry one on and on and on.

Sonnet 29, William Shakespeare (abridged)

‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.’

Perhaps it was reading this poem and the idea of the ‘lark at break of day arising’ that urged me to rise early this morning – very early for me – at 5.30am to climb up Salisbury Crags, to watch the sunrise and remember my husband in the elevated quietude. It’s a steep climb at the best of times, but my legs were in shutdown, still in deep sleep as I trudged upwards with my back to the east, listening to the loud, thick-voiced crack-crack cry of the pheasants hiding in the nearby gorse. By 6am it was bright. I turned when I reached the highest point to look back eastwards to the rising sun. Boats in the Firth of Forth kept their lights flickering while visibility improved. A watered down pink bled into the sky behind the distinct witch’s hat shape of Berwick Law in East Lothian. To the north, most of Fife was obscured by morning mist. In the stillness of the morning the chugging of an early morning train, disappearing behind Calton Cemetery, sounded much closer. There were a few dog walkers, a few cars snaking through the park and, as I sat on a rock at the top of the Crags, a single fell runner made her way uphill towards me, slow and determined. Despite her easy pace she was making steady progress, her breathing even as she reached me to say hello. I’m no fell runner, but I understand how it is to push on slowly and steadily, climbing higher, out of the shade and into the sun. A squeeze of blood orange appeared in the sky, the same colour as a bolt of silk that my husband had once brought back from a tip to Sri Lanka. I had forgotten about it. I must seek it out. We had a chat about it there in the silence of the morning, he and I, there is a lot to be heard in silence. The air has changed – he told me – feel, it’s softer, you’re being cushioned into a new year, and new years don’t only begin on January 1st.

Elements, by Kenneth Bush (31.10.61 – 16.04.16)



throughout our life

the elements will make us

what we become


water will cushion our entry into this world

it will slake our thirst

and it will swallow the village we once lived in


fire will burn in our heart

it will kindle passion to learn and to love

and it will consume the husks of who were thought we were


earth will push back against our wandering feet

it will be swept as we sweep the dirt from our mind

and it will hold the ashes of our memories


air will animate our spirit

it will enable us to conspire

and it will carry us back through the stories to

our first home


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