This week, I again visited the Silvermine Dam for my nature solo. The intersecting circles of ripples in the dark water of the dam fascinated me. As I settled down to write, I realised that it was 14 March, my father’s birthday. Our relationship was not an easy one, but as I thought about him one hundred years before, celebrating his seventh birthday, it struck me that those most formative seven years had been some of the hardest of his life. I’ve been working hard to develop more self-compassion … watching those ripples meet, I felt the need to widen the circle of compassion to embrace my seven year old father.
a child until seven
One hundred years ago today
my father turned just seven:
the age by which, the Jesuits say,
your adult self is certain.
At seven months he lost his mother,
at three, the country of his birth;
his father bereft, in a strange new land
buried himself in work.
Cared for by a German nanny,
at seven the World first went to War
and so, his refuge of softness and love
became overnight his foe.
Only child, you lonely child
in a culture of stiff upper lip,
don your sailor suit, my son,
deny your heart’s deep ache.
The family wound has rippled out
from father to son to daughter
‘Be seen and not heard’ was all you knew;
to be heard, I became a fighter.
Here at the lake, our ripples meet –
my inner child and yours.
Come, let us play; wash our sadness away
in the deep sea of compassion.
In loving memory of my father
Harold James Ashwell
14 March 1907 – 24 June 1991