As I walked with this pair earlier today - on our last walk of 2020 -
I reflected. Because reflecting or dreaming or imagining things is what you do when you're walking. I reflected - I don't know why - on the homophones tier and tear in relation to the Christmas just passed -
a Christmas that was suddenly smaller - tiers and tears;
a Christmas that was devoid of the usual parties - tiers;
a Christmas that had FaceTime unwrapping of presents - tiers. And later, a few private tears.
A Christmas 'crown' that was more than adequate and cooked far quicker than the usual big bird - tiers;
a Christmas with friends distant, some on the end of a phone, and one gone - tears;
Christmas walks to clear our heads and meet first in a group of six, then one with one - tiers;
and the last ten minutes, alone with a Christmas film, caught channel-hopping, by mistake - tears.
And today, a chill wind, mist and fogged-up glasses, and, pouring down cold cheeks, tears, unchecked.
To suggest that 2020 has not been a good year is a massive understatement. I was going to say it's a more massive understatement than the time the Earl of Uxbridge said, 'By God, sir, I've lost my leg' after his leg was blown off by a cannon at the Battle of Waterloo, but in degrees of understatement, Uxbridge's cry wouldn't get close, so perhaps it's best to leave 2020 being described as 'not good' as just that: it was not good. But, at midnight tonight, 2020 will pass. Covid, too, will pass. Maybe not soon, maybe not entirely. But it will pass enough for us to live alongside it, rather as we live alongside the flu virus. This is what we must wait for. This passing.
The quote 'this, too, shall pass' is of uncertain origin. Uncertain because a quick internet search does not conclusively reveal who said it first. There are lots of people who have said it, including Lincoln. And it's in the bible (Corinthians) but - according to the rabbit hole Google dragged me down - it's roots perhaps lie somewhere in Persia and a challenge issued by a King to find a saying that would always, in any time or place or situation, be true. Arguably, there are some other, perhaps more obvious contenders -
the sun will always rise. And the tides will always rise and fall.
The leaves on the trees (the deciduous ones) will fall in autumn. And be edged with frosty spicules in winter
Water, spilt, will flow down a hill. One day, we will die. A labrador will jump in the muddiest puddle it can find
Man likes to play with fire. And in 2020, man purchased fire-pits
The Persian King, however, was clearly looking for something more pithy - an enduring truth to inspire, or to lead with - a motto perhaps. And it is true that this - whether the this in question is good or bad - like all things will eventually, in one way or another, pass. It may not always pass in the way that is wanted or intended or planned. But it will pass. In time, all things pass. Be those things delights or problems or wars or dreams or holidays or exams or parties or stories or pandemics or journeys or feasts or walks or lives, they will certainly all pass. It is incontrovertibly a truth and I think the Persian King chose well.
Which brings me to more words chosen well. Words of 2020.
Earlier this year, Captain Sir Tom Moore said this,
"I've always believed things will get better. The sun will shine again, the birds will sing and we'll all have a lovely day tomorrow."
As 2020 breathes its last, it's time to look ahead. To picture that tomorrow - construct it, fill it with our most loved things, set it in our favourite place, serve it with things to eat that will make us ache for more, and suffuse it with whatever music is needed to make our hearts sing once again. To build that picture of our tomorrows and hold it firm. This will get us through the worrying uncertainties of early 2021. When things seem too much to bear, we can shut our eyes and see those images of our tomorrows - hear the dogs barking, smell the warm bread, feel the sun on our faces and the hands of our long-missed loved ones in our hands.
... I'm not settling out to make you cry here. Nope (... I write, as I wipe away tears). Nor am I going to apologise for the syrupy words above - mine, not Captain Tom's. All I'm doing is trying to imagine myself through the next few months. To put 2020 behind me and yes, to wish my life away. I'm advocating doing precisely that thing that I can still hear my parents admonishing me for whenever I asked 'are we nearly there yet?' or 'how much longer?' or 'I wish it was Christmas/the holidays/my birthday already' - 'don't wish your life away.' But right now, I think it's ok to wish the next few months to pass away as quickly as possible.
... as quickly as possible - I know that's a nonsense. Time will pass ... well, in its own good time. It always does. But I can't be alone in wishing it would pass sooner. I'd like to leap straight to the end of Spring. I think that by then there is a better chance of being able to see Hope sitting calmly on a sun-lit horizon, supping tea, perhaps (as it apparently makes us live longer). Maybe, Hope will be reading a book, with a cat or a dog curled up on her lap, and intermittently, she will look up to glance towards us, and whisper words we won't hear until we get closer. I know I've crept into syrup-territory again. But what would Hope say? Or, asking that another way - is there anything she could say that would better Captain Tom's words? No? I don't think so either. I salute you Captain Tom - thank you for reminding us about our tomorrows.
Happy New Year.