Last Things, Lost Things
My dearest Carol,
How are the old bones? Creaking and groaning like mine, no doubt. Skeletons in an empty cupboard, eh? How odd that we revere those of our ancestors as though they still lived; how we preserve the fossilised remains of dinosaurs and mammoths as precious relics. Remember how excited we were at getting hold of that that final hoard of tusk and horn, the way it fell almost unbidden into our hands. How ironic then for us to lock it away in trust for the grandchildren we didn’t have; not knowing, as we do now, that we never would.
I remember so clearly the day our Last Things Project began? I’m sure you do, too. What great shots we both were, even at the beginning. Like our first kiss, bagging those red kites was magical, though the flesh, as I’m sure you recall, was a little stringy. Not at all like your sweet lips, call me sentimental if you will! Ah, but those nests of rare humming-bird fledglings we served on the Project’s tenth anniversary. Each one wrapped in its own little feather coat; so tender, so sweet. How poignant for each of our guests to be sucking the marrow from one of the most beautiful creatures ever to grace God’s earth. Such moving tributes. Such gratitude for nature’s bounty. Oh those yesterdays, when nature still had bounty left to give; when her miracles seemed boundless and endless; when we still had faith in a divine being who would step in and save us from ourselves before we reached the tipping point.
Remember that year we made our pilgrimage to California. Weren’t we the lucky ones to find the oldest known surviving Redwood? It’s that one, I said, and that one it was, confirmed by the official counting of the rings. I say luck, but intuition distilled from the experience of a lifetime might be nearer to the truth. Too bad that special auger recommended by top arboriculturists should have become irrevocably wedged, only a few seconds before it would have been withdrawn and our hopes realised or dashed. A thousand dollars-worth of equipment; we couldn’t just leave it there, could we?
Though each of our expeditions has given us the privilege of communing intimately with a different one of God’s creations, for me it was that final Scandinavian trip that was the culmination of our Project. A true triple whammy, I’m sure you’ll agree. Firstly, the trip north from Oslo in that tiny jet, draining our life’s savings for those last precious drops of aviation fuel, from what was left of the aptly named black gold market, along with our hunting permits. And then to be able to put out of their misery one of the last herds of reindeer, their lives poisoned by the parasites that were thriving in the warming air. It was an act of kindness in my opinion, though I couldn’t stop the old hunting instinct rising up, sitting targets though the desperate creatures were. And I can’t help thinking that those last few Sami herders, ravaged by poverty, disease and alcohol, might have wanted us to deal with them in the same humane way we dealt with their ravaged herds. And then to return to our wooden eco-hut and stand there, hand in hand, among the last humans on earth to glimpse the Aurora Borealis, only hours before the permacloud rolled in and hid it permanently from sight. A triple whammy indeed! Now, we can do nothing more than to pray to the God who has abandoned us for its miraculous return. As the storm clouds gather pace, we can only be thankful to have been able to purchase such wonderful memories of Mother Nature’s bounty.
My dear, this may well be the last time I am able to get in touch. I would love to be with you at the end, but given how little time we have left, I think we must give thanks to glorious lives well-lived and lay our Project well and truly to rest.
I miss you so much.
Your ever-loving Phil.
Colin is seventy five, married, with grown up children and has lived in Liverpool for many years.
Publications include two poetry collections in print and short stories on-line and in magazines and anthologies. He’s had plays performed in and around Liverpool.
He cycles everywhere and cultivates a quarter of an allotment. He is a long-standing member of the Dead Good Poets Society and co-runs a regular Story Night at The Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool.
Facebook: Colin Watts
Twitter: Colin Watts @FentimanW
Wonderful piece, Colin. Very poignant and let’s hope not too prophetic.
Thanks, Chris, I hope so, too.
Good to hear from you again. I’ve dug out the anthology we put together when you were on my course: Words in Progress, 2009. You had 4 pieces in it: The Day the Soldiers Came, The Ruby Choker, The Spotless Bathroom and You Dancin?. You may remember Liz Miller – she’ now my yoga teacher!
Hope all goes well.