Sunday, 24 September 2017

Negative Space

I'm sure I've read somewhere about a branch of science that maps by absence. Perhaps I've conjured the idea out of my imagination but certainly such a thing makes sense to me these days. Something - or in my case someone - that you have taken for granted as part of your daily landscape is removed and the space left empty shows you exactly how pleasant it was to have that space filled by what has gone.

The only comparable experience that comes to mind is something that happened several years ago. There was a tree in our neighbours' garden, just beside the fence that divided them from us. It wasn't something I really noticed. It was nice when it came into leaf in spring, of course, like all the trees around. It was slightly irritating when it dropped masses of leaves or decided to reach its branches up to the power lines, at which point the local authorities would tell us that we had to have it cut back, (why us; it was their tree; yes, but they were our power lines, apparently).

The tree was just part of the scenery mostly, unnoticed as an individual item therein. And then one day I came out on the back verandah and somehow things had changed. At first, I couldn't see what was different, beyond knowing that the scene was in some way not nearly as nice as it had been before. There was a hole in the picture. Something was no longer there.

The neighbours had cut down the tree that day, it turned out. I don't know why. As they were renting, they hadn't actually been allowed to, but it was too late to do anything, by the time they were found out.

Only in the tree's absence did I realise how much it had been a part of the pleasantness of our back garden. Only then did I see all that it had shielded us from. Only then did I feel consciously grateful for the shade it had given us, which I had not been properly aware of until it no longer did.

I remember that tree now, having lost someone who was part of my life's fabric. Only now that he is gone do I fully understand how much he was there. The constant to-and-fro  that I had with my brother is something I never questioned. It was part of the everyday, the unnoticed flow of life. In its place there is nothing, a space that no one else can fill.

Appreciate what you have before it vanishes - the age-old lesson.

The first boxer, Bamtsa

With Paul, gardener, DIY dentist and maker of the best hot buttered toast on earth


  1. Your words ... describing how loss feels ... I am so sorry

  2. Thank you very Much. You are very kind

  3. My husband died in March this year and I understand precisely what you mean by negative space. It is like a black hole or abyss that you have the be careful not to fall into. Your blog is beautifully written and very interesting. Thank you for sharing with us. You and your brother have a wonderful way with words...

    1. Thank you for your very kind comment and please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your husband. For what it's worth you are always welcome to have a moan here, if it should help at all. Warmest wishes