She opened the bedroom window, almost absent-mindedly, to dilute the noise in her head. She often found she had opened the window without considering it. It was an instinctive thing. Sometimes her skin tingled with itchy heat, sometimes the air inside felt too thick to breathe and sometimes she simply felt so inquisitive she knew she just had to peer into the treetop views that she felt so much less in touch with throughout cold autumn rainy times.
She took two nostrils of cool breeze and then ducked her head back in again quickly to avoid the light droplets of rain that were falling with increasing persistence. Then she stood at the windowsill with her legs twisted so that her feet were positioned on the wrong sides, exhaled deeply, and listened.
The wind purred with the gentle noises it was tumbling together: The distant ocean, the air whooshing though the rows of half-bare trees, the fickle tickle of bramble leaves still clinging determinedly within the hedges, a helicopter so far away that its blades seemed to scribble at the air like a pencil on a hard surface under a single sheet of paper. Someone, somewhere was sawing something – lopping off a tree branch or cutting slates to fit a kitchen floor, or maybe even building a birdhouse – she liked that idea and dwelled on the positivity of it.
Birdcalls came in piccolo spurts and sea-saw violin bowings and oboe parps like a modern uneven symphony, while the jackdaws chacka-chackered percussively and the rain pattered below her on the plastic conservatory roof like impatient fingernails. Road traffic engines growled higher and lower, changing gear on the hill, coming closer – almost too close – before fading away again.
She saw that she had missed the designated countrywide silence for 11th November, and wondered if that made her a bad person. She had read Wilfred Owen’s famously ghastly war poem many times in the last few years and winced in horror at the ‘froth-corrupted lungs’, she had heard news of deaths from war on television almost daily and taken a moment to think of awfulness, sacrifice, and loss, and wondered at the futility, the people who benefitted, the people who were left with nothing. Regularly war bothered her. Loss bothered her. The shortness of life bothered her. And the wasting of lives all over the world bothered her. Of course she wasn’t a bad person; she took moments out of every day to consider, and to care.
She knew when sadness washed over her to go with it, to take time, not to force it to either come or go. She had seen terrible suffering, felt loss and understood pain.
Moments came and went. Remembrance came and went. Sadness came and went.
She was distracted by a tractor struggling noisily uphill in front of her. She thought of the nagging hunger in her stomach, the lonely dog downstairs, and the washing to be done.
A little sadness was carried with her daily, unforced. It was always there.
Oh look – she’d left the window open again.