A Yellow Wood by Gill Stanyard

Gill St 1

The 1st June 2018 was my  last day as a  Non-Executive Director for NHS Dumfries and Galloway.  After four years of a potential eight year appointment from Scottish Government, I decided to  leave. I felt I had reached a good and fulfilling end and to stay on for another four year term would have been signing up to endure.  I made a decision I wanted to enjoy. So, I felt happy with my decision to end my time, made when swimming in a shimmering blue sea one early morning, whilst in Greece.

I made a decision. ‘Decision.’ The Latin origin of this word  literally means, “to cut off.” Making a decision is about “cutting off” choices – cutting you off from some other course of action. Now that may sound a little severe and limiting, it’s not. It is liberating. Decisions, they take us onto the next stepping stone, sometimes called  ‘The End’  – two words which tell us a story is over.

Gill St 2

My friend made the final and shocking decision to end his life at the weekend. A fact I am still struggling to comprehend. Our last communication was a fortnight ago, with me texting him about all the different gins (24 to be exact) that were on the menu at my leaving ‘do.’  He texted me back with a  joke about Rhubarb gin. Then nothing. I didn’t think too much of it, life gets in the way. And then I received ‘The News.’  Yet I have forgotten a couple of times since then, and have gone to text him. Then, with a strange physical ‘flipflop’ stomach feeling,  I have remembered ‘The End,’ which is accompanied by much hurt and sorrow and  strangely, lines from one of my favourite poem’s. – ‘ The Road Not Taken.’ by Robert Frost:

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Gill St 3

 A single decision can transform a life. I always assumed Frost wrote this poem about himself, yet I recently read Hollis’s  biography of Welsh poet Edward Thomas, and discovered that Frost and Thomas were ‘besties.’  Frost had written the lines as a joke about Thomas’s depression induced indecision, which showed up on their long ‘walk and talk’ days together, with Thomas never being able to decide whether to take the path on the right or the left. When Frost sent the poem to Thomas, Thomas initially failed to realize that the poem was (mockingly) about him. Instead, he believed it was a serious reflection on the need for decisive action. At the age of 36, after much wrestling, Thomas felt compelled to enlist as a soldier in the Great War.

Gill St 4

 

He wrote of his decision to his friend Robert Frost  “Last week I had screwed myself up to the point of believing I should come out to America & lecture if anyone wanted me to. But I have altered my mind. I am going to enlist on Wednesday if the doctor will pass me.”  On the first day of the battle at Arras, Easter Monday, 9 April 1917, Thomas was killed by a shell blast.  His poem ‘Adlestrop’ was published in the New Statesman three weeks after his death and has since become a classical favourite of British poetry.

 

Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop — only the name

 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

 

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire

Life sometimes makes decisions for us. I don’t mean to get all Dead Poet’s Society here, yet I think T.S Eliot had something when he wrote “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” (Four Quarters) We get ill and have to take time to rest and get well, and sometimes we don’t always recover, we have accidents,  we don’t get chosen for that job or by that person and we lose people and animals we love and care for.

Where possible, make a decision and choose your ending and make a new beginning, whether it be the end of an unhappy relationship and the start of a happier one with yourself,  saying No to working for extra hours, when you could be saying Yes to spending more time with your family, or your dog or your garden, standing up to a bully and choosing to start being assertive and courageous, speaking out against something which you see is wrong and thus ending corruption or collusion, stopping trying to do everything by yourself and start asking for help -(getting a mentor through NES really helped me with this)  and putting a stop to being taken for granted and drawing new boundaries that put your needs first.

Gill St 5

I have taken a Non-Executive decision to be more accountable to myself in my life, to spend more time outside, to stop watching tv and read more poetry,  to save up to live in a place where I can have two donkeys, chickens and  another rescue dog and to track down some Rhubarb gin.

Gill St 6

Sorry if I did not see you to say Goodbye. I wish you well in your decision making and hope that your sigh is a happy and fulfilled one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

15 thoughts on “A Yellow Wood by Gill Stanyard

  1. So sorry to hear of the sudden shocking loss you have experienced Gill. Over 20 years ago I made a decision. I left behind my chickens, goat, sheep, hens and ducks and became a nurse travelling 46 miles a day to work. My life changed from milking the goat, collecting the eggs, growing my own vegetables and making food from scratch to supermarket shopping at the end of a working day. I understand the call of the chicken and the thrill of change. As T.S. Elliot said:
    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.
    Wishing you sun and shade to plant some rhubarb and, in the fullness of time, space and peace to sit and sip your gin.
    Val

  2. Val, the beauty of your reply has made me cry. I wonder if you will ever return to the call of the chicken? Much love to you x

  3. Gill, this is a really lovely blog, full of hope even with the sadness of your friend’s decision to end his life. I am sorry for your loss and I know it will be difficult to come to terms with,
    I hope, in making your own decision, you find it fulfilling and joyful…and I can help you with the rhubarb gin if you can’t find any!
    I have found your quiet questioning very useful and think it is brave to make a choice to leave and follow a different path when you could have stayed and “endured”

    I don’t know much about poetry however I hope you find something in this one:

    When I die if you need to weep
    Cry for your brother or sister
    Walking the street beside you
    And when you need me put your arms around anyone
    And give them what you need to give me.

    I want to leave you something
    Something better than words or sounds.

    Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved
    And if you cannot give me away
    At least let me live in your eyes and not on your mind.

    You can love me most by letting hands touch hands
    By letting bodies touch bodies
    And by letting go of children that need to be free.

    Love doesn’t die, people do
    So when all that’s left of me is love
    Give me away.

    Merritt Malloy

  4. Alice, that is a very moving poem. So much so, I have goosebumps running up and down my legs. I am going to send this to my friend’s wife, I am sure it will bring her and the two children comfort.

    Thanks Alice xx

  5. Thank you for sharing these profound thoughts Gill. Often I think many of us get increasingly unhappy with things and then gradually drift into changes rather than making clear decisions to change as you’ve done. All best to you,
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew

      Thankyou for your response. I have always enjoyed sharing thoughts and connecting with you. I think you are right about drifting into change at times, and sometimes I guess this is the right thing. At other times I feel we need to be definite and step out with courage and conviction.
      I wish you all the very best too. You are a lovely man.

      Best Wishes Gill

  6. Good luck Gill with whatever roads / paths you choose to take in future. It was grest meting you and working with you over recent months. Keep enjoying the gin and take good care x

    • Hi Lorna

      Thanks, I really appreciate your comment and I thinknof you often when I write in my shimmery peacock book 😊😊
      Good luck to you too

      Love Gill x

  7. What a moving post. Very uplifting too in that by making a decision too leave, is to take back control. Staying in a post that had run its course for you, is sometimes the easier option. Takes courage and insight to know what’s best for us sometimes. Lovely poems too

    • Hi Paula

      Thankyou for your response and glad you enjoyed the poems. Poetry always seems to have been the metaphysical jcb that has dug me out of some dark ditches.
      I agree with you, courage and insight are two great allies when it comes to knowing what is best for us and whuch road to travel down.

      I wish you well in your path, wherever you go.

      Gill x

  8. Very moving blog Gill, thank you for sharing. I hope that it doesn’t take too long until you are living with the donkeys, chickens, rescue dogs and of course, the gin!

    All the best in whatever path you take next 🙂

  9. Oh my Gill…as you know I’m just back from A/L and catching up…
    Thank you for your poignant, inspirational blog, may your friend truly rest in peace and may his wife and children be comforted by those nearest to them 😦
    You’ll know your references to beginnings and endings will have resonated with me. BTW, Frost is one of my favourite poets and I just happen to have a fridge magnet for you with some of the words from the awesome poem about ‘two roads’…some would say this is providence?!?
    An indecisive mind is never a peaceful mind and our decisions, whatever they are affect more than ourselves…consequences don’t have to be negative…we measure so much in the NHS with outcomes and I hope and pray that your four years being a non-executive director here in D&G will reap positive outcomes for you as well as those you’ve affected, challenged, helped, supported and encouraged, thank you from me to thee for as we used to say in S Africa, ‘speaking into my life’ – to quote Frost, “…it has made all the difference”.
    See you soon
    Dawn 🙂

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