Somebody remarks, in response to a brief bio that I must deliver, in which I refer to growing up children, Ant and his veg garden, ducks and bantams, ‘what an abundant life’. I re read the message. Over and over. Abundant? And try the word out on my tongue. It fills my mouth. Appropriately.
I have considered the comment often since. Tried out the word for size again and again.
What constitutes abundance, I wonder? In so many ways my life is lean: strung taut with isolation so that every sound rings louder, every occasion is more deliciously wrung for a last lingering drop , every rare guest celebrated.
Can you call my life abundant when time lies so weightily upon my hands that I must eke it out into manageable chunks and plot my days so that there are no idle hours. When for so much of the time I am not doing anything important or urgent?
I remind mum, who is battling a depression, of Samuel Johnson’s words: If you are idle, be not solitary; If you are solitary, be not idle. You can’t have both. You can’t Have It All. In my necessarily lonely life (I would not chose this), I dare not lounge, unoccupied. I would ruminate and fret and stamp my feet and weep (as I have done). And allow demons the space to clamber in. So I work – mostly to futile end in reality – feverishly. Busily. On nothing of any significance. Paddling to propel myself from one end of the day to the other.
But it is into those solitary, silent hours that the abundance creeps.
My children remain connected via the intangible, invisible umbilical cord of the ether. They are worried. They are tired. They are sick. They need an opinion.They are elated. I am happy to be the first to be alerted, to be asked, sometimes several times a day, with little electronic ticks and bleats and beeps. Even when they are broke. For it amplifies a quietening role. I am still their mother. I can still offer advice, salve, reassure, praise. And yes, inevitably, put money into their accounts.
And it is in the acceptance of my role of wife that abundance presents again: come and look at the veggie garden with me, Ant will say in the evening when he gets home and I will walk admiringly through neat, greening rows, my bare ankles tickled as I brush past lacy parsley bursting enthusiastically from its bed. I could not do this: grow things well. And if he could not – If Ant could not – we would not dine so lavishly: broccoli, plumply podded broad beans, big headed, snow-white cauliflower, tiny yellow pear tomatoes, huge purplebruised artichokes which we eat with buttery fingers. And when the vegetable garden is done I must usher my bantam hens to their pen and I always laugh loudly when I do, for their scuttle in feathered harem pant legs is so comical. We gather quail eggs – forty of them, tiny greyandwhite and pebble-like with yolks of smilingsunshine yellow; they look for all the world like sugar coated mini Marks and Spencer Easter eggs.
We sit by a roaring fire to eat a chive omelette for supper, with peppery rocket salad pinked with red Swiss chard stems.
And I roll that fat word around my mouth again, trying it out for size. Abundant. It makes me think of adventure and simplicity, fatsalted tears and love, and loud, loud unladylike laughter.
Is it the perfect word. To describe my life as it is now? I don’t know. There is abundance. And satiety. Certainly.
And when there is not, it’s what I must strive for. It is a word I must remember.