31 October 2013


This blog post is in memory of my neighbour, Wendy.

In one of life’s ironies, I only really got to know Wendy over shared cups of tea once she took ill with leukaemia and needed to spend time at home, and once I had left my teaching job to develop a closer relationship with my personal computer.   Until then, for the previous ten years, we had simply waved at each other in a friendly fashion or occasionally passed the time of day on the way to the shops.

Wendy began to make jewellery.   It was a new passion.  She attended gem and stone fairs like there was no tomorrow and acquired varied specimens to fashion into necklaces and bracelets.  She kept her growing collection in the spare bedroom, organised neatly into drawers and boxes, all the labradorite and the amethyst and the tanzanite, and countless others whose names I have forgotten.   Holding them up so the sunlight could tease out each one’s rich personality, she would explain exactly why she was  drawn to them.

Sometimes she wished she could lie in a bed of cool stones, feeling them all around her. 

When it became apparent that the leukaemia had returned and she would not get better, it was a special privilege to go across the road, sit in her bedroom and talk to her as she lay in her bed.  Or rather, I would listen, because even these conversations were acts of generosity on her part, as she shared anecdotes, stories, dreams and regrets.

She said how none of us really knew, as we walked upon the ground, the stunning beauty of what lay hidden underneath.  It had always been her greatest ambition to have the opportunity to go into a mine herself, to be that person who discovered a gem of unique exquisiteness, to chisel it out from the surrounding rock and take it up to the light of day.

Her words resonated.  They continue to resonate.  She may have thought that she never achieved her ambition.  But, in fact, she did.  She touched a profound truth – for she reminded me that all creative life is exactly that: digging deep, very deep, risking scratches on the hands, gouges on the arms, and contortions of the body in order to chip out and extract something that has been buried and never imagined, then hold it aloft, shining and translucent, to share with and delight others.

Postscript October 2016 - The Woman in Goggles band has written a song inspired by this blog, called Dig Down