Today, the 23rd June, is the Fête de la Saint-Jean. Every year a fire is lit at the top of Mount Canigou, and tonight the fire is brought down to all the villages around the mountain, ours included, and villagers celebrate, and leap over the flames to celebrate the summer solstice, and the spirit of our community. The Mount Canigou is a mountain sacred to the Catalan people. There is something magical about it.
I had a friend who loved this mountain. This week he died on it.
This friend, this man, he loved the mountain. He knew the mountain and spent a lot of time there. It was his passion. Two days ago a storm fell as he was climbing to the peak. He was struck by lightning and died instantly.
Today I find myself immobilised by this news. Today I should have been writing. But I cannot even find the right words to express my condolences, never mind a scene in a novel. People say that you can write through grief. That you can turn the emotion into something positive. That writing can be therapeutic, or a tribute to someone we loved.
But this is not my grief. The last time I properly chatted with this person was last year at his 50th birthday party, although I see his wife most weeks.
Andrew’s death makes me feel mortal. It makes me terribly sad. It reminds me that I am profoundly grateful for my own family. It makes me want to reach out to his wife and help her in any possible way I can, and I feel helpless, because I know that there is no real way I can comfort her. But I feel, rightly or wrongly, that writing about the tragedy that has left a friend devastated, would be disrespectful in the extreme.
I don’t feel bad creating fictional grief from my darkest fears and imaginings.
I don’t feel bad creating fictional grief by drawing on feelings of grief that I have experienced personally.
But I find someone else’s grief impossible to approach through writing. It’s personal. I don’t want to write about it.
Although maybe I just did.