Dear Soul Beings,
Low hanging fog drenches the sunflowers and rogue morning glories this morning. I watch it rise, slowly, as the cloudy mist grows translucent, revealing our sandy driveway and finally, it clears. The clouds remain heavy with only fractures of blue shining through. The moisture feels good on my skin and the cloudy skies will be good for inside work.
I had been thinking, one moody morning, over a week ago, before my computer died, (now repaired), about the change of seasons, astrological aspects, (mercury retrograde) and the eclipse. Eclipses always seem like potent times to me, a portal to endings and new beginnings. The mist always brings on felt memories of England, where I have strode through fields, climbed on the moor or just looked out through a window at the mist, wondering what mystery is unraveling now.
On that morning, I was reminded by Facebook, of Princess Diana’s death on August 31st, 1997, which fell in the shadow of the September 2nd solar eclipse. As many will, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the shocking news.
It’s the summer of 1997 and I am in London. We’ve been here since the middle of July, to see if a particular infertility clinic would work with us. They agreed to run a number of tests, the results of which I’m about to find out. We are just back from a trip to the lavender fields in France. It had been a euphoric couple of weeks which started with soft summer light in Paris. Late dinners under colorful umbrellas. Plenty of garlic, cheese and wine. Good sweet sleep under a canopy of floating chiffon.
The trip is a balm to the hell in my soul. We are trying to get pregnant and round after round of infertility treatments have failed. I do not know what they will tell me when we return to London, but I am not giving up hope. I feel completely worn out and I’m craving light, culture and calmness. The lavender fields have beckoned at just the right time.
After a few days in luminous Avignon, we rent a car and drive past the honey colored houses, past the mimes in white face, past the chanteuses and up into the hills. We are headed to Haute Provence. The windows are open and the smell of fresh lavender and thyme is palpable. We stop at a local restaurant and order red wine, coq au vin and salad. In the distance, fields of lavender roll out like an amethyst quilt. The dusky light and fragrant wine infuse our senses.
Up in the hills we meet the most marvelous people working with the flowers. Everywhere, the scent of lavender is intoxicating. We visit a lavender co-op and watch the distilling process of flower petals into their essential elements. I still have an ounce of oil left that I bought almost twenty years ago. The workers are like family. There is an equality amongst the growers, the pickers and the perfumers, all connected through the flowers.
One day, out in the purple fields, I see a little girl in a white sunhat and yellow sundress. The dress is stained with lavender and she is barefoot, running and laughing, her head thrown back in delight. She is catching clouds, catching sprays of lavender, catching songs. She follows her father, who is doing the bulk of the harvesting. Her arms are now full of purple flowers and he scoops her up. Laughter creases her face. Tears run down my cheek. They are so beautiful together. I know I want a piece of that.
By the middle of August, we are back in London, and Gavin immediately returns to Dallas. I take up residence in the guest quarters of his cousins’ large house, in Clapham. The next day is my appointment at the infertility clinic. We have a long discussion, an ultrasound and medication is prescribed. The cost of treatment is about a third of what it costs in the states.
In the weeks that follow, I navigate the bus route from Clapham to Lambeth every other day, for blood work and ultrasounds. At the end of a couple of weeks, the doctor wants to do more invasive tests, scans, as well as a biopsy. I’ve had enough. I can’t handle the thought of surgery without Gavin there, or the emotional wash that the medication produces. My wings fold in on myself. I do not have the strength to do anymore by myself.
In the end, I call Gavin and tell him I want to come home to Dallas. It is hard being apart. We talk about many things and that makes me homesick. After the phone call, I cannot sleep. I turn on the radio. They interrupt the program to announce that Princess Diana’s car has crashed, two are dead and she is in the hospital. I call Gavin again. By three a.m. her death is announced. I react, as millions do, with tears and grief.
The next day I am required to attend a luncheon for Gavin’s aged uncle. I adore him but feel out of place amongst his Oxford cronies. There is an iciness, a steely air of criticism. I force myself to make conversation. No one mentions Diana’s name. My belly feels like it is caving in and all I can think is get me out of here. Cold intellectual conversation is not what I am craving. Diana, in my mind, mirrored the collective wound of society’s bruised and vulnerable heart. And here I was, with my own infertility losses, surrounded by a patriarchal group of men and women stuck in their heads.
The phenomenon of the people’s reaction to her death, and the outpouring of grief, challenges the stagnation of the ruling class. As I walk past the flowers and teddy bears at Kensington Palace, I stop to look at the photographs filled with images of her beautiful smile and expressive eyes. Here was someone who wore her wounds unabashedly. She was looking for love, as all of us are. Her heart was golden. I felt, as many did, her generosity, her warmth and her courage. We value her for that, as well as her spontaneity and vulnerability. She was the Queen of Hearts and I wish I could have known her.
At the time, I didn’t know her death occurred in the shadow of a solar eclipse, where the new moon’s disc had passed between us and the sun. But something profound happened during that time. Something deeply touched the human psyche. I feel her loss now, and how we as humans, are still struggling to come to terms with the acceptance of vulnerability. We are still struggling to have compassion for our own loneliness, and owning our own wounds. Diana modeled that kind of courage with beauty, vulnerability and grace. We can remember and honor her, by being our own best, loving, and tender selves.