These jottings are dedicated to the memory and presence of a very dear friend, Peter Goode, who ‘passed over’ in August. Our discussions in the months before he died were increasingly squeezed between the demands of visiting care workers, nurses, and helpful neighbours, and periods when the physical toll of pain and exhaustion made thinking and talking difficult for him. But when we did talk, Peter consistently expressed the view – hopefully my words convey his sentiment accurately – that he would be more than happy to melt back into the living world, even perhaps to transform into some other-than-human life form, a Cat, a Silver Birch, a Pigeon, a Jackdaw, a Peony, any of the plants or animals that lived in, or visited, the garden that surrounded the prefab that he was only given during the last three years of his life, when too disabled by chronic illness to take care of it himself.
Peter didn’t have a rose-tinted view of the natural world, and I certainly don’t have a rose-tinted view of human culture, but it became clear that I was more of an unreconstructed spiritualist than he was. His conviction about metamorphosis made me wonder why I was resistent to the idea that he, or I, might become other-than-human. Did I not respect my animal companions as equals, after all these years? Like many of Peter’s friends, I understandably wanted to hold on to his memory in human form.
Wherever he went, he still seems to be ‘around’, not least in his life affirming art. I am devoting a page – ‘All Life Lives on A Leaf’ – to some reflections on Peter’s deeply animist work, and how the natural world responded to our shared appreciation of primal beauty.