i've come away from life in brighton to rural devon for four days focused on writing. there are five of us here to do the same thing. one is writing a novel about a group of older women living together. one is writing about her process of becoming blind. the third is writing a novel about life as a 20-something teacher of autistic children. and i am writing these reflections on conscious ageing.
this is luxury...no cooking, no shopping, no washing up, no clearing of tables, no cleaning of toilets or showers, no laundry...nothing but devon air (and butter and cream), village life and companions (if one wishes). each room has a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and comfortable writing chair, sufficient lighting, and, of course, internet access.
i had a fear that the words might not come, having created this space for just the purpose of writing. would i freeze? would i hit the wall of writer's block?
on the first morning i walked outside at 6:00. on the way i met a man who must have been in his 80s. he had a bucket of feed in his hand. it was destined for 'the pony'. as we chatted i noticed his cap. originally it must have been cream in colour. now it was a grimy, shiny brown. i imagined he has worn that cap each day as he feeds his pony for the last two decades, or more. he may not even remove his cap indoors, adding layers of grime, sweat, and fingerprints to its patina. i thought he may even wish to be buried wearing his cap.
then i asked myself, how do i wish to be buried?
in a willow coffin, in a natural burial ground..the answer is clear. i want my various constituent parts to go back from whence they came...to Mother Earth, to the void. i want no stone, only a wooden marker as is permitted in these graveyards. i want nothing permanent, nothing to tell anyone who i was, when i was born or when i died.
i want my friends to plant trees instead of a headstone. let the trees grow and bring life to Mother Earth. let them bring shade to those who are sun-baked. let them bring nesting places for birds to rear their young. let the leaves whisper and rustle their song each day. let the trees grow to their full height, unfettered by pruning and coppicing. let the trees be unmanaged and wild. let the trees grow, and let them die...die by fire or drought or wind or lightning.
i want to be buried in the trees.
without a cap.
and then i want my friends to have a tea party, complete with scones and devon cream.