I was out walking Hope yesterday, near my parents’ house. It’s a quiet country walk at the best of times; yesterday, it was as still as could be, no wind, no road noise, just a little bit of birdsong and the sound of my voice. (I am incapable of not chatting to whoever I’m walking with, even if they are a greyhound who doesn’t say a lot.)
It was beautiful. The catkins are coming; there are beginning of buds on trees and bushes, and my beloved snowdrops are nestling between tree roots. The air, while not exactly warm, wasn’t as sharp-edged as it has been. “Isn’t it glorious, Hope,” I said, “and apart from us there isn’t a living soul.”
Because I am writing a second draft, and therefore every word must justify its presence, my brain snagged on ‘living soul’. I walked and wondered whether there is such a thing as a ‘dead soul’? I know it’s an expression sometimes used as a more poetic form of describing the dead; but for me the point of the soul – my idea of the soul – is that it’s perpetual. I think of my soul – the part of me that loves, and hopes, and understands that Stephanie is a tiny insignificant dot and takes comfort from that, and can connect without words to other souls and to snowdrops and to the sound of the sea – as something unending.
I suppose the time will come – I suppose it isn’t far away – when surgeons will locate the bit of brain where the soul resides. I suppose it might become less of a mystery; although I don’t think it will ever be less of a miracle. But for now, I will stick with my idea of a soul, neither living nor dead, just itself, and ready to find a new place when my living body doesn’t need it any more. I think Hope agrees with me.