Early one morning some time ago, I climbed into a long, thin boat with a handful of strangers and started on a journey. It was 6 am and the boatman was scrawny and clutched what looked like an inadequate paddle. The river was the Ganges, at Varanasi, and it was running fast and certainly not blue. I truly thought my end had come as the scrawny one played the currents that kept us from being swept out to sea. As I looked around I could see white bundles bobbing on the surface of the water and was convinced that I would soon be joining them on the far shore of the River Styx. There is nothing like extreme emotion to cement a friendship and the man at my side, Charlie of Derby,was no stranger by the time we both rose, very shakily, and climbed onto dry land. We still correspond.
So, obviously, I have yet to experience the moment of death but I have had so many close shaves that I feel that I have a reasonably intimate relationship with the subject. The thing that I like most about growing older is that I have time and the inclination to work on that relationship. I call it getting acquainted with Soul. I know that at the moment of death I will leave behind my body and my Allie-ness but that I will retain the essence of everything I have learned, through the experiences I have had since my birth. Those experiences include some scary near- death moments, scary in the feelings they induced that is (rather than how they came about). All I can say is that, as I met the chaotic disorder of trauma, I came cell to cell with something conscious beyond it and knew it as eternal. I’m glad I experienced that because I aspire, when my time comes, to do my dying with clarity and grace.
I know that in order to ride the tumultuous wave of dying I will need a well practised soul- consciousness and for that I will need a friend, like I needed a midwife the other end of the journey. That friend is Myrtle and we have made a pact. Our mutual task will be to encourage the other to let go of bodily feelings, like breathlessness and unease, and let awareness fly free, without resistance. We meet every so often and practise, laughing about the 50% chance that one of us is going to be disappointed with the arrangement.
On that morning voyage into fear on the Ganges, I started the preparation for my departure and I work on my soul consciousness daily. Not only does it help me face death with less fear, it helps me to appreciate every moment of the days that I live. And on the subject of living. I have a wedding to go to next month and today I bought my outfit. Oska. Blue, like a shiver of bluebells or the colour of soul. A three piece; waistcoat, jacket and trousers. I feel so pleased with myself for avoiding neutral and going for such a profound and interesting colour. The ultimate feeling blue creates is one of rest. According to Kandinsky it has majesty, melancholy and mystery. I like also Klein’s take on it being the invisible becoming visible. ‘When it sinks to black it echoes a grief that is hardly human.’ I’m sorry I don’t know who said that but sadly, it wasn’t me.
My wedding outfit felt comfortably familiar and on the way home , clutching my expensive purchases, I realised why. When I was 11 my mother bribed me into good humour about a move to the country with the promise of an outfit advertised through The Sunday Express. It was trousers, waistcoat and bomber jacket in exactly the same blue. I took to the country like the hoyden I was and ruined the ensemble on its first outing by falling off a horse into a series of squelchy cow pats. The farmer’s wife rubbed me down but the damage was done. The blue however lives on as a motif in my life.