Anger, at last

My mother’s last photograph

Dirk emailed me two photographs this afternoon, saying that “Tessa had been inspired by Nan Shepherd’s book “The Living Mountain” to try and capture the clarity and sweetness of the water in streams on Skye.  These were her last two photographs (in Coirie Lagan, Cuillins) – taken perhaps three hours before she died.”

I read his email on my phone as I was strolling in the park this afternoon, Tristan racing ahead on his bicycle and Rhys merrily and messily eating a juicy plum in his push-chair. I smiled, and felt comforted.

As I stare at it again now I just can’t stop thinking, ‘What a beautiful place’. I feel that I should be thinking, ‘What a beautiful place to die’, but tonight somehow I can’t quite get there. I have been so calm and serene about her death; I have been ‘counting my blessings’ about the manner in which she died, of which there are many. I could list them now, and I begin to in my head, but tonight for the first time they feel empty.


Gone is reason, gone is peace,

Replaced by anger, and sorrow’s beat.


Empty, yet full of anger.

Why should she never be able to taste and feel water again? Why should her feet never carry her up another mountain? Why should this have had to be her last? Why did her appreciation of this magnificent place have to cost her her life? I ask why without hope of answer, as I know there is no reason. There is only hard, cold, unrelenting fact.

I have been floating along lightly, these past few weeks. Times of tears and gentle sadness, but confusion and wonder at the loss of my pure grief. At my worst, last week, feeling life’s responsibilities weighing me down – stressed, and sad, and mildly depressed, but no more than that, and even that for only a couple of days. Concerned that it seemed too distant, and unreal. Wondering when powerful grief would come again. And now, my body screaming against belief, my lungs crying out for it not to be true, I fight and fight and fight as anger tears through me. Blindly undirected, this foreign emotion that I have searched for and failed to find so often. Anger I was never able to tap into through so many of life’s bitter lessons and harsh upheavals. Anger at life, at its unpredictability, at everything that is beyond my knowledge and control.

Half an hour ago I was looking up The Living Mountain, and found this quote from it: “So there I lie on the plateau, under me the central core of fire from which was thrust this grumbling grinding mass of plutonic rock, over me blue air, and between the fire of the rock and the fire of the sun, scree, soil and water, moss, grass, flower and tree, insect, bird and beast, wind, rain and snow – the total mountain.” At the time I thought it magical, and appropriate, and understood how my mother would have delighted in reading those words, and exploring that place. Now it makes me resentful, but I thought I would share it nonetheless, and know logically that my appreciation for it will return, with time.

8 thoughts on “Anger, at last

  1. Dear Laurel,
    Your writing, and your labeling “Tessa’s last photograph” has me weeping. I am somehow pleased at your anger as it must also be a release; perhaps you can be angry for me because I cannot seem to go there. Would i be angry at myself? At life? At the incredible mischance of geology (and I have explored this and that is just what it seems to have been – a moment in geological time. Nan Shepherd could have added death to her catalogue of things between the fire of the earth and the sun. We were exactly there. love dirk

    1. Ah my Dirk, I wish I was there to hold you. We wept together so many times last month. I thought anger had passed me by yet again, as much as everyone spoke about it as being part of grieving, and as much as I observed it in others. It caught up with me at last, when I least expected it, and I do not doubt that it will find you too, with time. I know others have felt anger at Tessa herself, and at you, for the risks you took together (by being on the rock, with its uncertainties, however safe you were as climbers) – but I cannot find any anger at either of you myself, even now. Perhaps it is because I take similar risks, paddling on rivers and cycling London’s roads, and know the ‘adrenaline in fun’ that Tessa spoke of. Perhaps it is because (having lost the first two people I knew well to motorbike and car accidents) I have told myself for many years that anyone who drives a car (or, worse, a motorbike) had better not DARE tell me that I take a risk paddling down a river. I don’t know. Love you.

  2. I’m also taken by surprise on the day when suddenly the anger bubbles and is their tangible and pulsing in front of me. I think the hardest thing for me is recognising my anger is directed so broadly – at life, death etc etc that it can never be sated and it likes to jump and find other things to fix onto. I’ve been trying to feel it, look in the eye, see it for what it is and then let it ebb… it tends to leave me totally exhausted!

  3. Hmmm. Anger. Rather a constant companion for me. Fades sometimes, but rises at the smallest incident – road rage here we come…
    some days it just consumes me

  4. Such a beautiful picture, clear. calm, yet you can see the water moving, ever changing, just like our lives.
    Feeling like the water at the moment in my life, trying to find my correct path to follow.

    I feel your anger on loss and on life. I too feel anger about life and where am I going, what makes me happy. So many thoughts and emotions.
    I am trying to focus on why I feel these emotions, what is causing them. To stop and reflect, engage, challenge, and try to understand. Having someone there to support you and love you is such a huge relief.
    Thank you for your post

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