Teardrops in a Dew Pond
Edna Teakle stared back at her reflection in the dew pond. She could barely recognise herself, her brown hair had become limp, her tired eyes had grown listless and her face was etched in deep dark lines. As time slipped on, Edna grew tired of the person looking back at her. She didn't want to face herself, she couldn't bear to and so she threw a stone in the water and watched as the waves coiled outwards until finally all movement stilled. This is it, she thought to herself, soon I will fade away like the ripples in this pond. A strange feeling washed over Edna as she once again set her gaze upon the returning reflection of herself in the water- it was a weighty sadness, a glad melancholia. Right then she felt an overwhelming sense of warm familiarity together with a feeling of marked detachment from everyone in the world.
She was going to die. She knew it from the moment she woke up that morning- her head pounding, her heart racing and her thoughts muddled. She couldn't describe it, the ominous fear and anxiety that took hold of her- the sad certainty that had settled within- time was surely slipping way. The consultant had called the previous day requesting that she come in to see him as soon as she could, she had a feeling then something was wrong. But that morning she knew it, she knew she was going to die.
She thought back to earlier that day. She had found herself at the hospital, sat in front of a handsome smartly dressed consultant. He had a slightly mournful, sympathetic look about him. Time stood still as she waited for him to speak, knowing what he would say- knowing that it wouldn't be good....
Edna had been coming up to the dew pond from her home in Seaford since she was a child. Growing up she loved climbing the trees that surrounded it, she loved watching the birds and putting her feet in the water and collecting funny looking insects and she loved watching the clouds change in the sky. And as she grew older she loved the solitude it offered, the quiet. She found herself wandering up there when she had a bad day at work, or when she was feeling contemplative or when she'd had a particularly heated argument with her husband or when she just wanted some peace. She couldn't quite explain it, why she felt so connected to the pool of water. She couldn't explain the way she felt it had become part her. Since as long as she could remember, she had always believed in its healing powers- she had always come away feeling renewed. She loved the timelessness of it, the fact that it was always there and that it never seemed to change. She loved staring at the reflections, sometimes for hours on end. She saw herself change a bit each time she returned. It was a mirror to her, a looking glass into a different world, a secret world, a world in which anything was possible. It revealed to her what her life was and what it could have been had she gone down a different path.
It was also her refuge from modern life- it offered her a different sort of security- a safe place away from the buildings and the cars and the noise and the people, away from the stresses of society. The pond itself couldn't have been situated in a more perfect location- in view of the sea and hidden behind a few trees just beyond Chyngton Farm where the sheep grazed in the open hills. It had always offered her a sense of comfort that no one or nothing else could. She knew it would be there, even when she departed from the world. The waters will never dry. I will die, but these waters will never dry, she thought to herself. Right then, she saw the doctors reflection appear in front of her on the waters' surface, she could hear the words on his lips- they rung out in her mind...
'The MRI scan showed an abnormality, a mass' he said as he pointed to an obscure shape on a dark laminated sheet on the desk in front of him.
'What does that mean?' she demanded, her heart racing.
'Well, it means you have a tumour'
'A tumour? A brain tumour? Oh my God, you mean, I'm going to die?'
The doctor shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
'Right now it's too soon to know the outcome Mrs Teakle. There are a number of treatments we could try...' he looked up at her to see the panic on her face. 'Look, I think you should come back tomorrow. I know this is a lot to take in, perhaps it would be better to talk to you once you've calmed down a bit and I think it would be best if you brought someone along, a loved one...' he offered sympathetically. Edna had stopped listening, colours and shapes had blurred and his words too, his voice. Abruptly, she got up and walked out of the surgery. She needed some air. As soon as she got outside, her thoughts began to race and she found herself almost involuntarily walking towards the direction of the hills- as if they were calling out to her; the sea, the chalk -her dew pond.
She had been there for hours, the sky was beginning to darken and the air was steadily growing colder. Edna was sat with her arms wrapped around her legs, her raincoat flapped in the wind and her eyes were transfixed on the water a few feet ahead. She didn't want to go back, she wasn't ready for the questions she was sure to be bombarded with. She wasn't ready for the tears, for the strength she would have to show. She knew she would have to be the one comforting her family. She would have to be the one to say 'everything is going to be just fine'. She would put the kettle on and make them all a cup of tea and pretend that things weren't so bad...
Edna placed her hands under her head and lay down on the cold damp grass. She could feel her hair soak up the tiny particles of water and was momentarily comforted by the fusion, as she looked up at the darkening sky, she felt a warmth run through her. If no one else could see or understand, the sky certainly did, it bore witness to what she was going through. It was ironic, out there under the sky she didn't have to hide, she could shed a thousand tears without feeling ashamed or guilty or weak. She knew she wouldn't be allowed to expose that vulnerability back at home, she wouldn't be allowed to let up how afraid she really was.
Edna was terrified- not just for herself, but for her family. How would they cope? She was worried about her husband mostly. He was so reliant on her, she thought as she brought her hand up into the air and traced the edges of her icy gold ring. Edna was worried about her two daughters too, neither of whom were particularly settled or happy. She wondered how she would tell them all, how they would take it. Edna slowly got up from the ground and started to circle the marshy edges of the pond, her boots sunk in as she went and the long grass gathering around her ankles, keeping her grounded, keeping her connected to the earth. As she floated around the pool, her eyes were suddenly drawn to a single wilting flower by the waters edge. She bent down to inspect it closely, it's limp white petals drooped downwards and dark lines framed their centres. Edna gently trailed her index finger across the soft surface of the flower, you are dying the same way I am dying, she thought to herself. She felt jealous of the flower at that moment, for it would die a quiet death, still and alone. It wouldn't have to endure the torrent of emotions that would take hold of her and her family- regret, anger, fear, loss, sympathy, absence and of course guilt. Edna tore herself away from the fading bud and contined floating, she knew she was bound to feel guilty for the hurt she would cause, time was slipping away and she was fated to let them all down for being human, being only human.
She felt the fear arise within her and anger too, she sat back down again by the water and suddenly let out a sharp scream of desperation- the sound reverberated across landscape. The wind blew in a fierce defiance, ripples circled and spread on and on and the the waves crashed violently against the shore. A few birds flew from a nearby trees and across the sky and a sheep off in the distance turned to look at her, eyes wide and sorrowful as if willing her to remain strong. Edna felt angry at the world for what she knew was coming, for letting her life end the way it would. She felt angry at the pain she knew she would have to endure. She felt angry that she had been a cursed with slow death, a gradual decaying of the mind and body.
She wondered then, where her life had gone. She felt she had wasted it. She hadn't achieved much. She'd lived a simple life, an ordinary life- a life too ordinary. She thought of all the places she still wanted to visit, the sights she wanted to see, the places she planned on going to when she left work- now it was all gone, her dreams vanquished. She felt cheated by life. This was it for her. It was all a waiting game now. She had no control.
The sky had almost completely faded into darkness, the stars shone and the moon looked brighter than she'd ever seen it. She couldn't make out the sheep clearly anymore, they looked like dark otherworldly beings and the crystal waters of the dew pond, usually so clear and inviting, now looked sinister and dark- like an abyss, a black hole- she was afraid to fall into it. There in the dark, in the open- she felt things she'd never felt before in her whole entire life- a mosaic of all sorts of emotions- a sad peace, a sorrow and a great love of life and of the landscape held before her. Tears rolled down her face, they had been doing so since she arrived, on and off. One thought would trigger them- one sad thought- the prospect of being absent at her daughters' wedding, the fact would never have the chance to share the secrets of the dew pond with her favourite grandchild, she wouldn't have the chance to watch them play and enjoy and learn from the land the way she had. The wind blew every now and again causing the leaves on the trees to rustle or a bird would cry out and her thoughts would dissipate and she felt herself return to the present.
She had only ever left Seaford once before, when she was twenty-four. She had saved enough money from her admin job at a local school and she went to Thailand for a month. She volunteered there, at an orphanage. It had been amazing. She thought about all those smiling faces and how happy she was during her time there- how alive she felt, how big the world seemed; how beautiful. She got sick in her last week, so sick that she ended up in hospital. The doctors didn't know what was wrong. She made it through in the end, by some miracle. Though after that she never really went away again, she was afraid and then life happened- she did all those normal things that women do. She got married and had kids and gave up work to raise her kids and then went back to work when they were old enough. Time had passed and before she knew it, she was in her mid-fourties lamenting all the opportunities she missed out on- all those chances she never took.
Right then, looking into the dark pool of water, Edna felt her whole life pass her by, she felt her whole life travel through her. At that moment she felt a strong connection with the earth and soil and nature and time and eternity and God and every person that had ever lived and died and everything she had witnessed, everything she had done and seen and every person she had met. She felt a connection with everything and everyone that had ever played a part in her creation and growth and being -everything that had brought her to that moment. It was an otherworldly experience, an epiphany that could never be described, it could only be felt. In that brief spell, images, a whole lifetime of images flit across her mind's eye- every pain, every joy, every failure and every success was exposed to her. The images appeared and disappeared across the sheets of water- her father embracing her at her mothers' funeral, her sister's tears on her wedding day, the birth of her daughter, the conversation she shared with the priest, the moment she lost her faith, the flock of starlings making shapes across the sky, her first day of school, her daughters first day at school. The tears streamed down her cheeks mercilessly as she watched her life unfurl, finally she wiped them away and let them drip down the tips of her finger and into the dew pond, the small ripples they made caused the images to merge in a way that rendered her part of the water and part of life itself. And she felt glad about it, she felt a sense of peace wash over her as the images on the water and reflections of her life faded away. Life would continue, she would fade away but life would go on, the dew pond would endure. For it was part of the circle of life, death was not an end but a new beginning.
Soon after the images had disappeared and the sky had bled black, she finally decided it was time to go back- it was time to face her fate. It will be okay, she thought to herself. At least she had this place to come back to when it all got too much. It was comforting to know that she could always escape to her dew pond and dream and reflect and merge into the background. She would be okay. Everything would be okay, she thought as she got up and started on the journey back to the town. As she walked down the final hill, she felt into her pocket and touched the little diary book she always carried around with her knowing that she had the precious little flower pressed safely between its pages. Everything would be just fine.