The inevitability of buds

MARCH 19 05

I am sitting out in the sunny garden for the first time this year. The grape hyacinths are in blue bloom. I notice the buds coming on the lilac and Japanese maple. The chives are pushing up through the moss. And I think about the sheer inevitability these things represent. The carrying on of the natural world quite aloof from 'the news'. And that is how I like to be too. Listening to the geese and the rooks, feeling the sun on my skin, outside writing a few notes.

The past few months have probably been my poorest to date, having to sell books to buy food. Though poverty often induces depression it does permit more intense thought about one's situation than normal, and whether accurate or not (because one's thoughts are distorted by depression), it becomes easier to wipe away burdens than deal with them any longer. I tend at such times to get trigraph #41 in the Lingqijing, probably my favourite, it always cheers me up to receive it. It's about the example of the four white-haired old men of Mount Shang, who withdrew from society to live on pine-nuts and mushrooms, putting behind them the concerns of the world.

Seeing the buds today, sitting in the sunny garden, reminded me of the inevitability of change. Not that I normally need reminding about that, but sometimes dark times continue longer than I feel they ought to, and when depression comes it seems as if it has always been that way, that this is now your life and nothing more will change now, you have set. Reminds me of something mum always used to say when I pulled a face as a child: 'If the wind changes you'll stick like that.' True enough, the faces we pull become our own and many do not decide wisely which face is really theirs, or even notice what they have become, which is why I like to return from the despair I see in the mirror I forget is a mask to the true smile of compassion that breaks through like the sun from behind dark clouds, at first the smile of some superior being here to help, and soon enough my own smile once again.

It's interesting to reflect: this time last week I was considering sitting in the street with the beggars, telling fortunes for money to stay alive. Poverty throws you back on what you know, and telling the future is a useful skill and far more enterprising as a street career than holding a piece of badly written cardboard with a glum expression or petting a mangy whippet by a cash machine. Although I wouldn't mind roasting chestnuts on winter evenings pushing my blazing trolley through the mean streets. And though I still have hardly any money this week, what I do have jangling oddly like a foreign coin in my change is a greater sense of my own worth; a sense that the things I have struggled with over the years are starting to bud at last, and the rest is indeed inevitable. One of the great things about depression is that it becomes so much easier to let go of life, to let go of everything you have worked for, to no longer care. If, at that point, even your own death is just too much hassle to arrange, and continuance simply more endurance, which you already know, then you may as well just sidestep the worst of it by curling up and going to sleep on the cushions where you are, because yours is now a cat's life, and there's every chance by the time you wake the sun will be shining on all the little flowers or the moon will be glowing in the crisp night air.