I went down to Marigold & Mint this morning to buy vegetables. I was early and the woman who works there was still setting up for the day, so I prowled around, looking at the spools of pretty ribbons and letterpress cards and sweet-smelling soaps. There were vintage gardening books and handmade ceramics and old glass bottles, and I thought again of the lovely writer Elspeth Thompson, who I wrote about last spring, just after her death. I had discovered her after she left a comment on Justine Picardie's blog. Drawn to Elspeth's warmth, I loved her writing, her photographs of the home she was restoring and of that glorious Sussex coast just beyond her garden. She had an insouciant, elegant beauty that recalled the slender grace of her beloved lurcher dogs. And then she was gone.
Bits and pieces of the story trickled along in the following months. The sadness now is understanding that someone so stunningly gifted lived in pain, with demons no one else could see. At least no one who knew her only through her words and photographs, what she showed to the rest of the world. Her husband, months later, spoke of a crushing insecurity beneath the soft polish. However beautiful and talented Elspeth was, she didn't see it. A black depression descended, one that antidepressants ultimately worsened, leaving her sleepless and raw. Then, one day, she slipped heavy stones into her pockets and walked into the lake near her home. The cold waters closed over her head, the way night throws a black curtain across the last glow of sunset. I wonder if she thought of Virginia Woolf, who did the same thing 69 years before, almost to the day. Elspeth left behind letters for her family and friends, her husband, her young daughter. She left behind questions that will forever remain unanswered. Why. How could anyone have stopped her, lifted that weight of despair, quieted her fears.
I bought two roses this morning, one pink, one red. In Russian class we were taught that flowers in even numbers are for the dead, and odd numbers for the living, and since I am not dead yet I put one in the living room and one on the table next to my bed. I thought of the flowers that Elspeth scattered around her home, how she loved white flowers, how I'll plant paperwhite bulbs this winter, the way she did. I thought of this little poem, by Georgia O'Keefe, which she posted on her blog:
"Still, in a way
nobody sees a flower
it is so small
and to see takes time
like to have a friend
I'll make the time.