Nothing is Wasted – or – It’s Not About the CarBy Emma Pearson
December 6, 2023
25 March 2019
“These things I know:
How the living go on living
and how the dead go on living with them
so that in a forest
even a dead tree casts a shadow
and the leaves fall one by one
and the branches break in the wind
and the bark peels off slowly
and the trunk cracks
and the rain seeps in through the cracks
and the trunk falls to the ground
and the moss covers it
and in the spring the rabbits find it
and build their nest
inside the dead tree
so that nothing is wasted in nature
or in love”.
Life After Death by Laura Gilpin
From Megan Devine: No notes at first because I wanted you to read the poem without any introduction. As always, jump off with whatever is sparked in you from this piece.
I also want to note that you might hate this piece. In my own early days, all this “life goes on” stuff pissed me off. Life springing from death is no replacement for having your person alive. So – wherever you’d like to go with this is the way to go.
It’s always amazing to me how context changes my interpretations of cold, hard facts. Cold hard facts, such as Mike is dead. And cold hard writing, such as words on a page, like this poem. How it’s me, my context, my environment, the weather, my kids’ well-being, my emotional state in the moment, that is what influences my interpretation, my liking or not, my understanding, of words, of hard facts.
Today, as I sit in a comfy armchair in a well-lit living room on a beautiful and fresh English spring morning, going through numerous cups of tea, I feel in a good place. I am waiting for my middle child to perform her Grade 8 flute exam in which she will be accompanied on the piano by my dad, her grandfather. Wow… just think that through for a moment – my dad is 81 and lives in the Pyrenees, and my middle one is a few weeks away from turning 18. Dad has come to her here in the SW of England. A lovely inverse pattern of support, music notes and numbers across the generations.
So today, I sit in a lovely bubble of gratitude and appreciation and sunlight and Earl Grey fumes. And I can read this poem and find it sad and lovely. Sad and regenerative. Sad, of course, but with hopefulness. A “both and” poem.
Last week had some very hard moments, hours and days in it, and if I had read this when it came out from Ms. Devine, I’d have gritted my teeth and snarled. In fact, I think I did and shut it down. I’d have found it patronising and Hallmark-y. Same words in the poem, different state of the reader reading it. Context matters.
Of course, life goes on. Of course, life grows from dead things. Of course, compost and dead wood and rottenness give life.
That’s not the point. It’s just not a substitute for the real deal. It’s fake, an interloper, Ersatz superficiality that doesn’t even come close.
Last week on Wednesday evening I got home quite late to find Mike’s 1970 MG BGT sitting on a trailer in my neighbour’s driveway. I knew it would be there. Mike’s sister Helen had sent me a note saying they’d hauled it up.
Mike’s little MG which has sat in our drive, unused for 2.5 years now, since summer 2016, before he got ill and last drove it. Finally hauled up to safety, before it collapses into itself, off to begin a new life with a loving restorer.
Someone who will bring the MG back to life, as Mike did when he was given it in 2004. Someone who will even allow my kids to buy it back off him – or at least drive it if that’s what they choose – as and when or are able to. A careful holding of precious goods until the time is right.
Bringing life back
Where life had gone
From Mike’s old MG
With cracks in its body
With its paint leaves peeling off, flake by flake
Its wing mirrors giving up their hold and falling to the gravel
As both rain and snow seep in through the cracks
A new chance at life
A new chance of being loved
New bunnies able to play in it in time
When I saw the car on the trailer, I burst into tears. I carried on crying for a bit at the sight, then composed myself and went inside to greet the two men and Helen. They’d driven with the trailer from East Anglia in England to where I live, half way down France, to literally take the car off my hands, into safe-keeping and restoration.
I saw Helen and burst into tears again. I tried to make the men feel welcome through my sobs, but the words of welcome and thanks were inconsistent with my tears.
I said, “I saw the car on the trailer. It’s shocking. It’s sudden”. Helen said, “I know – that’s why I texted you – to warn you for when you got home”. When I had read her message earlier, I’d thought, “Well done – job done – good for you”.
I wasn’t ready.
Except I am. I am ready to say goodbye to the car. It needs to be cared for. To be given a new home. To be given love and life.
Eventually I said, “It’s not about the car”. Helen, ever ahead of my emotional state just nodded and said, “I know. It’s not about the car. Of course it’s not about the car”.
There’s a gaping hole now where Mike’s MG was. A physical hole. Mirroring the ever-growing emotional hole in my heart. In my love. In my life.
And life, even for a 1970 MG, starts anew.