Watching the news

I am writing this in bed today, not well enough to get up and like everyone else I am watching the news showing the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

My heart breaks for the people of Ukraine, who are now living through a reality many of us can’t imagine. Last weekend, they were making plans for this weekend coming, they were arranging to meet up with friends, have dinner with family, maybe take the kids to the park, and now there are tanks on their streets.

Like everyone else, I feel helpless, powerless in the face of such brutality, to be able to offer real help.

All I can think about is what about the people like me? What about the people who are disabled or housebound or too sick to travel, to evacuate, to leave their homes?

What about the people having treatment for cancer, or surgery or have dementia or are dying?

 What about the people sick with Covid or Long Covid?

What about the women who are heavily pregnant or in labour?

What about the families with new-borns?

Or those that just don’t have cars?

Or don’t have any money?

Or don’t have family to flee to?

If it was you, sitting there watching the Russian army getting closer to your hometown, hearing bombing in your city, what would you pack? What would you leave? How would you know when you’d be able to get home again? What about the cat? Or the dog? Or the goldfish?  What about the groceries you’d bought for dinner tomorrow night?

What about those precious things, the little things we all have, that wouldn’t mean much to anyone else but mean something to us – the grubby yellow fluffy duck that has sat in the crib of each of my babies, the picture of my husband when we first met, my favourite book. How would you decide what to take and what to leave?

And what about the people like me?

In all the terrible images of the invasion, of all conflicts, sometimes it is the images we don’t see that are the most poignant.  The people we don’t see, people making ridiculous decisions just like we’d do, wondering if they should leave their homes or wait, wrapping their kids up warm, phoning to reassure their mum.  

And what about the ones that know they can’t leave?

That’s all I can think of today.

Going home

The river is resplendent in the colours of the season. Oak leaves turn biscuit brown, the Gelder Rose a dark lipstick pink, deepens to vermillion. Field Maples litter leaves the colour of sunshine, while Lime, leaves limp like hankies, drip to the floor. The Willow, luxuriating in a great unrobing, scatters its leaves across the floor like discarded clothes. With the passing of the pumpkin’s, the air shimmering with the crush of pine needles, autumn is here. It is still and lush and silent.

It’s a long farewell to the summer, a lover lingering, not wanting to let go and yet ready for sleep. And for me, all the more bittersweet. Summer has seen me zooming off, whizzing across the fields, the ground firm and dry, the path rough and bumpy but navigable. Here I get up close to the water, sitting in clearings to watch the river flow by. There are swans, heron and only once this year a kingfisher. In spring I watched water vole but later only the slinking black mink. In early mornings, the light glittering with dew, crow’s, dark and heavy hooded bobbed to the water’s edge to sip delicately, all eyes cautiously on me.

 I am nourished after the long exile of the winter. Days are spent by the river with the dog, a book, some writing, a sneaky sausage roll. I come back to myself.

There is no path down by the river. There’s a black path that runs across the fields, but it stays away from the water. A cycle lane/footpath of shiny black tarmac that floods each winter. It skirts the edges of the fields as if scared to encroach across the meadows, into the wildness. Clinging instead to the slope that runs below the housing estate. And it’s here I am now trapped, as if on tracks, where I should be. In my wheelchair.

Accessing the world in a wheelchair is a constant negotiation. – even international politicians can find themselves locked out of talks because there is no access. Accessing the countryside even more so.

In a wheelchair we are meant to stick to the paths, stay in our lane, and by lane, I mean stay home. Despite laws about access, wheelchair users still struggle to get into shops, get on a bus or a train or enter public buildings, never mind the great outdoors. And I’m not arguing for tarmac paths across the moors. I want the wild as much as anyone else. And there’s the rub.

 It feels like loss.

 I see it coming. The dew a little heavier, the subtle shift in the light. I risk a ‘walk’ in grass too wet for wheels to grip. Just about getting away with it, just about making it through.

 My heart aches.

 Today I got stuck. Today the wheels spun in the mud leaving deep tyre-tread ruts as I twisted and slid, in the end reversing slowly away. It is tense and tight. Panic filled with grief and the shame of needing rescue.

With the fall of the leaves, I am lost. Trapped now to pavements and tarmac. Instead of molehills and meadows, I now negotiate cars parked on dropped curbs, recycling bins scattered to the winds.

I am undone.

 No longer tethered by the trees.

The river calls to me, it is deep within me somewhere but for now, from the path, it is just out of reach.