Through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden

A woodsy scent of burning cedar and spice. The languid winter hours spent by the window with the lull of rain thumbing the gutters and panes. “Through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden,” that’s the phrase I borrowed from the guy who told us the way into town from our rented flat, Stratford-upon-Avon, that January we spent in England. Me drying out for the first time, trying on sobriety. Solemn, reflective mornings piddling about the muddy paths on the edges of town, the thin gray forests where the residents walked their dogs and the pink English sky unfolding for all that could be mine, for all I could be beneath it.

To see the value in death, not the big death but the small, everyday death, the garden-variety death that goes by unnoticed, the flip side of the small, everyday life that gets wasted like tap water down the drain. The everyday kind of death like these fallen tree branches in our yard from the past week’s windstorm and how the large pines are better for it, a kind of thinning of the herd, a lightening of the load that helps the trees stand stronger for the next storm. The everyday kind of death that makes room for something new, a shedding of old skin.

So could it be we lose parts of ourselves like that too, to prop up or strengthen our higher self? A constant refinement through the internal daily processing, categorizing, and letting go?

Where is the celebration in the everyday death, the death we would not shun or fear but recognize for what it helps us understand: what it means to live? That we could find a way to honor both, for the constant change that’s in our nature. It’s helped us evolve as a species, to learn and improve from death, to survive.

I burn incense and recline on my chair to the drumming on the drains and give thanks for it, in wonder of how much I’ve lived and died today, for how much more I’ll do before I’m through. For all the small, everyday ways. For the gap in Shakespeare’s garden we’ll pass through on our way into town.

Categories: death, prose, writing

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30 replies

  1. Beautiful! I really enjoyed reading this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bill, this is such an interesting piece. That really strikes a chord, especially this time of year somehow. Shedding old skin, lightening the load, sloughing off some non-essentials. I think Shakespeare would call it culling the herd. Really like this one a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So cool! Yeah I feel really glad we got to spend 90 days in the UK on road trip, over the winter. Seems an odd time to travel through there but I think it put some deep grooves in my head I’m grateful for, like this time in Stratford-upon-Sober. Thanks RP!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps this explains why we fear change so much: myriad little deaths.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Trees offer all the best metaphors, don’t they? This was really nice.

    We thought we’d lost a big old oak last week in one of those windy storms, because we couldn’t see its silhouette in the early morning. When the light did come up, we saw it was still there, but the wind had knocked off all the dead leaves, and that’s why we couldn’t see it in the half-dark.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, so glad about your big old oak Kevin. Wild weather, its own metaphor always different but still the same. Glad you enjoyed and yes on the trees. They’re also good source for puns of course, which I’m oft pining for.


  5. This is so profound and, in spite of the connection to Shakespeare, made me think more of William Blake–the world in a grain of sand, and also Dylan Thomas, who once remarked that sleep is a kind of death from which we wake an entirely new person.
    Sloughing off the old is so quotidian, in every sense, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pause to celebrate it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So cool Christopher. Man, “English majors unite!” Glad to have met my kind here, as it were…grateful for your company and footprint on this here velvet sofa. So cool. Slough off indeed. If only for the sound of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A piece worth re reading. ~~ Years ago I had a conversation with a South African migrant who had been part of BOSS; a decent Australian who’d once worked for an indecent South African organisation. His view on decision making was that every decision required you to acknowledge that something died as a consequence of choice. So make it conscious. ~~ Thanks Bill, you’ve given me something to think about. DD

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Tis true, we don’t often think of the small deaths, the everyday recycling that nature’s been practicing for eons. So “normal” as to be nearly unnoticed. But, added up on a larger scale, I think there is a celebration – it’s called Spring. Perhaps that’s the ticket for getting through the grey, rain, and windstorms in our lives, both internal and external; to notice the small Spring that occurs each day.

    Nice piece.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s right Dave! Spring, for sure! We are up on Whidbey Island in a town called Langley. You ever visited here by any chance? I was remarking to Dawn that it reminds me of Portland in the way of a place that’s retained its authentic personality. Similar in that regard though obviously different in many ways. Happy new year! I hope you’re well, and thanks for reading. Bill


      • Don’t think I’ve been to Langley. Typically if I’m on Whidbey I’m with my dive club and we’re camping on the other end, at Deception Pass. Doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year, tides are not favorable.
        Hope your 2023 is favorable…

        Liked by 1 person

      • And may the tides for 23 be favorable for you too, Dave! Thanks for this, and be well.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. ‘through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden’ – it’s like you could plummet through time, whirling back and back, all the words of centuries. If we step through now, where will it take us? I wonder if one dare use it as a meditation mantra…whoa there!

    A fine piece of writing, Bill. I hope you’re OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy new year Tish! Thanks, hope you’re okay too. Enjoyed that B&W photo you posted recently from 1962, tried to find some resemblance in the woman’s face to yours or the two boys there but couldn’t. What was that about, the Ashford photo if I saw right? Bowie’s birth/death day was last week and I think that’s when I visited you and G back in Jan. 16, when I wrote a piece with the same title as this. Just a sucker for that phrase; you’re right cool mantra or portal idea for sure.


      • Ha! You took us for boys, my little sister and me. I am quite like my mother, though it’s not obvious from this particular pic. I have her nose and crossed teeth, drat it, but hopefully not her wayward proclivities.

        I’m loving how you tie your post with an earlier version, and David Bowie coming and going, and the time when you came to lunch, and the strange, still dark day it was, and I made Elizabeth David’s chocolate almond cake for desert. That feels like a portal too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s fantastic, your portal painting and mine. We do a fine sketch. Pleased to know you Ms. Farrell! Thanks for clarifying the subjects in the photo too, I was a bit bleary eyed in the dark reading that earlier today. Enjoy the week and happy new year once more!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. So glad found your page, 30 days clean, off uppers/downers/booze.

    Liked by 1 person

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