“And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen”
It has been two weeks since I received my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one if you count the subsequent confirmation of my behaviour by the doctor with my partner. In all matters I am currently heavily aware of this elephant in the room, and I feel my legacy of inadequacies chasing at its feet.
I am autistic.
I am an autistic person.
I am a person with autism.
I have a developmental disorder called ASD.
I am Aspergic…
…and so on, navigating the acceptable descriptors that don’t describe all of who I am, while the person that has for forty-six years darted around my scaffold like a clown fish guarding its reef knows that who I am (to be) hinges on the meaning in those words. They are a relief of sorts.
I had been looking at this possibility for months, perhaps a year. For several years prior I, partly oblivious, had been given some gentle hints by a kind individual with some experience in this area. Eventually one of the hints took, and I began to look, and some things resounded, and before diving further I asked my careful friend the question: “Were you hinting?” [These are of course not the precise words – I would not be me without paragraphs where a sentence would do]. And she said, “Yes”. [she said more, better, kinder, gentler, cautiously, but, “Yes”]. And so I dove deep.
With each flurry of investigation I unmasked more of myself – behaviours, gifts, quirks, faults, unaccepted blame, causes, reasons – and uncovered more forgotten memories – little tragedies and comedies that we write in hindsight and live through oblivious to the narrative – and reached a wall rising in front of me. Self-diagnosis is a field of foot-traps, and would never satisfy me, who has a need for formality and qualified assessment. Which eventually, after much procrastination, sent me to Sydney, and confirmation of ASD.
One thing that gives some potential for relief is the possibility that my experience with chronic depression and anxiety for much of my life may have been at least partly as a result of ASD, perhaps exacerbated if not caused by not having that diagnosis, though I was born years too early for early diagnosis to be possible (and so likewise for it to feed the temptation of regret). Having the diagnosis actually kind of validates some of the negative feelings and thoughts lived in the midst of my depression and anxiety, and yet, because of that, simultaneously has some kind of inoculation value to these illness-bred thoughts: fear and despair at difference, at social shame, at my broken machinery and misaligned cogwork, at indecipherable codes, manners and meanings beyond my ken… alone in drowned woods deciphering the disappearing flicker-whispers of will-o’-the-wisps for… or just alone.
Aside from that, there was and is some relief in the notion that the sense of unreality and depersonalisation I constantly feel may also be a product of long-practised conformation of my character (as opposed to its innate adoption) to what I’d observed as being “normal”. This conforming, rehearsing, scripting, “acting” (if not completely conscious, having by now become “muscle-memory”) subverts both what is real (“all the world’s a stage”) and my innate differences, my concept of self (I am merely a player on the stage). But I did not until recently know this (that this is not normal) because, as I frequently said during assessment, I don’t know what I don’t know.
It sounds a bit twee to say that relief was mostly found in the possibility of being an actual “me”, but the $64 question is, what does that actually mean and entail? The psychiatrist unfortunately agrees with me – that this is the $64 question (though she added that knowing the question is far, far better than not knowing what I don’t know, and she is right). Diagnosis is good, but also like being, well not even at the base of Everest, more just stepped on to a landing in Kolkata having taken half a life by lazy boat to get here, with the sudden realisation you had to, wanted to, climb a really big mountain.
“and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen”
I sometimes, well mostly always, have felt misunderstood. I know this is probably a universal feeling, but now, with that mid-life, medical diagnosis elephant-in-the-room, I think this feeling might be partway valid in a different form to the “neurotypical” feeling: I am misunderstood, or had people wary of me (Peter frequently says against my frustration at not being heard, “I think people are scared of you”, or “They don’t know how to respond”) because I misrepresent myself, or rather present in a manner that does not integrate with a general understanding of meaning. I don’t see things the way they see things. I don’t use words the way they’re meant to be used for best communication. Or I use them to say things everyone already knows and doesn’t say or doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know. Or I use them too much. Or I use all the words all the time, systematically selecting them from my vocabularic grab-bag and hurling them at the wall. Or I am, or my words are, “just a bit too weird [for them]” (Peter’s words again). This, especially the “scared of you”, is a deep shock to me, that what I say could be self-alienating, that I am “separated by a common language”, and ironically against the desire to communicate.
Perhaps it is just that I need to know that words are not my thing. Perhaps I just need to find some of “my own kind”. Perhaps I need to take my own photographs of the things I see, write my own misunderstood meanings for my own edification. I do find meaning, find commonality with others, in photography, which I do. I do find it in poetry, which I listen to. A friend, a different friend, a poet, drew parallel between a photograph and a poem and it rang true: a poem or a photo is not a representation for a thing, it is a thing itself, woven through with meaning and connection [and in a language not clouded by neuropsychological difference]. I understand. In both I can see what things look like.
One of the things that I am finding complicated is that, relative to and by the vast neurotypical majority, it could be, and I think often is, considered through lack of awareness (of which I myself must own prior) that those on the Spectrum have “partial” personalities from the assumed and perhaps apparent presentation in the area of feelings and emotions – that is, that these are lacking. As you would imagine, I would now find this assumption particularly problematic. Any comparisons to “normality”, even prior to neuropsychological consideration, that had as their assumption greater diminishment the further you were from the mean, always ground my teeth – they seemed to celebrate literal mediocrity as good mental health, deviation from it as deviant.
My feelings and emotions, my perceptions of feelings and emotions, my priorities and values I place in feelings and emotions in assorted circumstances and among assorted people, my understanding of feelings and emotions, are quite likely significantly different to the mean, in a manner that a majority’s shared, general language of perception might interpret, through different neuropsychological structures speaking different “language”, as being absent.
But I’m a whole person. Decades of conditioned compliance and concentration at conscious, learned, frequently pre-scripted societal interactivity may have subverted and clothed that whole person in a suit fit to let me mostly pass in an infrequently-visited public space – costumed bones cosplaying character so well that I am now swimming in a lack of surety as to where I begin and how to begin being it – but there’s a whole person there, somewhere, now vastly more than there has ever been, regardless of any possible apparent lack of emotions and feelings. I may not demonstrate them, and not seek them in others, and seek less others than most (it can come with the diagnostic initialism) but I’m definitely whole. And if I can stretch to talking in the form of “us” for the first time… we are whole.
But my Now, this moment, is that everything has changed for me, against a self-centred momentary surprise that the world didn’t change with me (the psychologist called this “normal for everyone”). I was a fish around a lattice, calling the lattice “me” and the fish… also “me”, I guess. And not knowing which was which… metaphorical constructs of misaligned machinery. But now I am diffuse, a cloud, woven with and weaving within my own ossified scaffold, seeking a way in, seeking to absorb, an alignment, a fusion…
I want to sink into my bones. Become.
“and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws”
I am in Sydney. I place some change, fifty- twenty- ten-cent pieces, in the requisite Tower of Hanoi form, in the drawer of the hotel bedside table.
I am a child sitting on the floor in my parents’ bedroom by myself and by Dad’s bedside drawers. I open his top drawer… his wallet is front left, behind that his stacked and ironed handkerchiefs, to the right of his wallet his very heavy, gold metal face-and-band Citizen watch. Two pairs of tubed socks are at the back. In the front right corner is a dodecagon stack of fifty-cent pieces. This memory repeats, different houses, different childhoods, his drawer always the same, no matter how many RAAF moves misplace other familiarities.
“I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord,
But you don’t really care for music,
I am home, his home, from his funeral. I am thirty-two. It is a Catholic Church service in Stockton, where they live, where Mum was born, a small steel and coal workers town five minutes and a million miles across the rivermouth from Newcastle city. We bury him in the cemetery near the giant, ship-high, arched, concrete bridge that replaced the old town punt and which seems to glance askance from its landing at the Stockton turn-off, rushing past the exit with a bare side-eye. Dad is interred in the sand behind the dunes, a simple white cross, sand heaved over into temporary barrow long before stone formalities. I am sitting on the floor in his bedroom and I open the drawer to the familiar tableau, and I am comforted.
Everything is in its place.
I am in my hotel room in Sydney. I am forty-six. My book is inside the drawer next to my Tower of Hanoi. I am two days after my neuropsychological assessment. In John Elder Robison’s book “Look Me in The Eye” there is the following recalled memory:
“John Elder, we’re going to move back to Pennsylvania,” my father announced one day when he came home from school. I was more interested in the pile of silver dollars I had just discovered in his drawer.”
When I read this the empathetic vibrations rang through my body as I laughed like a loon. I am assessed as “autistic with high functioning”, formerly known as Asperger Syndrome. A pulse of light illuminates my now and runs both forward and back along my timeline’s finity.
I am sitting at a garden table in Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, at the entrance to the fernery. I am forty-six…
…I am forty-six. The trees are human. I am under the geometric shade of a tree fern. There is a wasp on my leg, confused by my presence – I shouldn’t be here. It is quiet and noisy, wind and children’s voices. It is quiet and I can hear me. All is green, real. I am forty-six. If I was eleven and was made real again I would not be here. I do not know how this makes me feel, if you could swap a lifetime of might-have-beens for a life of now. Regret draws far too long a bow for that which it would sacrifice. I am real now. I am forty-six.
“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
It is morning. I fly. I am home. I am with my loved ones, dog and a man. I will prevail.
I am forty-six. I am forty-six. I am…
Its head is removed cleanly from its body. Third time lucky.
Peter finishes and takes Teddy inside, noticing that he is salivating. But Teddy eats bees, gets stung by them. We once noted four bee stings in his tongue, his obsession defeats our shouts. Some minutes later, having come to see where I was up to, Peter notices Teddy is limping a bit in his back legs. I come in to see, check his legs… he is definitely swaying. Peter and I both know, this is very bad.
Second time, I aim right, and the hoe hits it a few inches below the head, though doesn’t sever it. It is hurt, probably mortally, but not dead.
We go out to check the yard. Under the silver birches, Peter draws back suddenly: a snake, a brown snake, moving but seemingly semi-incapacitated.
Urgency sets in. We get Teddy to the car, Peter takes off to the vet, I press the quad bike hard and in trailing dust follow and open and close gates down the driveway for him. Peter’s instructions: deal with the snake. Maggie is confused.
I lightly throw a rock at the snake, trying to get it to move off, away from the hoe. It panics, slips off the handle, but does not, cannot, move away.
I wait at the computer, near the home phone, with my own phone next to me, a picture of the snake in a box in case identification is needed. But I hear nothing, even though my phone shows me that Peter is at the vets.
I am down close to the ground, dangerously face-level, trying to recover the hoe, its end buried in the ground, the snake striking at it once, body draped over it. A small part of me wants it to strike at me — I am here alone.
The nothingness, not knowing, builds in my chest. I have to do something, and so I go work on the picnic table, distraction, I can finish it off, take its photo, post it on social media: success, look what I have done.
I do not panic. It knows I am here. The hoe’s blade hovers several feet above, guillotine, ready to fall. I bring it down, my heart registering an anticipated if ignoble satisfaction during its fall. It is watching. It will die. I miss by several inches.
Peter calls from the vet. Teddy rallied with the anti-venom, then his heart stopped and he died. Arrangements are made, Peter is coming home.
I grab the long-handled hoe from the garden shed. I steady myself, cautiously approach the snake, seeing if it is able to make an escape, knowing that escape or attack will come fast. But it moves its forward-half around and no further, hurt, paralysed. It must be killed.
The house is quiet. I walk around with one hand over my eye, sound comes through deep water, my heart beats once, the air from a lung whistles through a hole in my chest. Everything is surface-deep. I fear here and now. I wonder how to protect what remains. I crumble to dust.
An epilogue to the end of Jennifer: her mother, Hermione, presents little Jen-jen.
[some quotes here are lightly paraphrased to improve clarity from casual internet conversation]
On ask.fm (a social media site built around asking others questions, usually anonymously) a young guy asked me (and others) the following question, in his usual seeming manner of encouraging conversation:
Does suffering “create” wisdom, in your opinion? (Shahaf)
I responded in the negative:
“The more I dwell within my dank well of self-abusive melancholy and anxiety; the more I understand of it; the more I look in resigned horror at its inevitability and its deepening, purgatorial “agonies”; the dumber I get. Suffering creates suffering. It is its relief that unburdens the mind of the monomaniacal choking on its own tale like some kind of perverse ouroboros, and lets the mind tell and see with for itself, with clarity, more vivid and edifying stories.”
I worry the English language like a puppy at a very ornate shoe, pretty shamelessly to be honest, but my dogged bedraggling of semantics and grammar come up against a person (Shahaf, the questioner) who understands English as a second language very well, but does not necessarily understand English as a plaything of obsessively distracted whim. I feared, upon further questioning, that I’d said the opposite of intent, and asked if his was so. Shahaf responded, quoting me:
“It is its relief that unburdens the mind of the monomaniacal choking on its own tale like some kind of perverse ouroboros, and lets it tell and see for itself, with clarity, more vivid and edifying stories.” Although you clearly did say it makes you dumb, the last part of this part makes me think that you meant that through suffering the mind becomes more clear and is able to see things more clearly, gaining wisdom from what it has gone through, in other words […] The first part seems to speak from the outside point of view, of viewing suffering. But the second part feels more like it speaks from the sufferer’s experience. (Shahaf)
And I am glad I asked him, because I was right: I was wrong. I had lost the understanding of the intended audience, and said something that was taken to mean something unintended.
The following is my response, slightly edited for general consumption…
I will pull my own teeth and try for succinctness…
Suffering does not create wisdom. Wisdom, whatever that might be, comes in the absence of suffering. That is all I meant when I talk about the clarity of relief from suffering. Not “as a consequence”, not “We learn through suffering”, certainly not “What does not kill us makes us stronger”. Pain is pain is pain is pain, and wisdom is wisdom is wisdom is wisdom.
I will reinsert my teeth, and chase my keyboard…
(Note, my own suffering comes from poor mental health. My responses to questions of suffering have the statistical value of the anecdote. However…)
For me suffering is consuming. It allows no contemplation other than on itself, even if that contemplation is the gentle meaninglessness of forced distraction from and suppression of its consciousness. The nerves, thoughts, fibre of your being responds to suffering with the observation that you are suffering, a feedback loop that entangles all thoughts. There is no time for accumulating the wisdom of the sound of one hand clapping, or whatever is the difference between a duck, there is only suffering, or suffering imposing its deafening static on meaningful or mindful contemplation.
This is not to say that suffering, when relieved, might not provide some meaningful insight, if only into your own nature, that one might categorise as “wisdom”. But when I hear the wisdom of those that have suffered, I don’t think “Oh, something good was created by their suffering”. I’ll put this in the context of hypothetically going up to someone who has generously provided their edifying response to and experience of and subsequence relief from the most awful things a vile world can have a person endure, and saying to them, “At least something good came of it all, hey?”. I’d expect to be rigorously cock-punched, and more, by a justified queue.
You see, in the presence of the kindness and beautiful character of people like, let’s say Kim Phúc, I begin to think the “what doesn’t kill me” thing, the idea of wisdom from suffering, is offensive. I think, choice given, those who experience such suffering would rather lose the suffering, have its causes negated, lose the unfairness and cruelty that brought it about, than have any subsequence wisdom borne by others as an ennobling experience. It is pain, it is horror, it is not a good – it not being is a good. To bring this over to a mental health context, but still not within my wheelhouse of experience, I wonder how those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) feel about the fetishisation of suffering. Are they made to feel less of a person, to feel inadequate, to feel they have failed, to feel “unwise” through the unwanted reliving of their trauma, to feel insufficiently informed by its continued disabling of their lives, to feel a loss of opportunity in their purported inability to become wise via the awfulness inflicted upon them. To, as a victim, feel blame for not being made “stronger”?
The idea that suffering creates wisdom feels like the kind of secondhand motivational memetic idea offered by people in the advantageous position of being able to “experience” suffering through another’s account, and from it “learning” to “be grateful”. Except I usually think they haven’t secondhand learnt anything, except maybe how to obtain a momentary feel-good flush, and to share their wisdom-boners on Facebook for Likes.
No, the fetishisation of suffering is an ill-thought, unwise analgesic for the lesser, necessary pain that comes from innate empathy.
But to my mental health…
I do not want to get into comparison shopping for suffering. I am aware that as horrors go they reach far, far deeper depths than any I can internally plumb in my own privileged psyche. But it is what I have, and so…
The entanglement of anxiety and chronic depression (or, to go terminological, according to my former psychologist: a lifetime of mostly untreated chronic depression, social anxiety and general anxiety, interspersed with frequent major depressive episodes – that is, I has a sad, a scared, and a suicidal)… the entanglement of these things with what I perceive as “me”, my character or personality, can make me think that these disorders are an essential part of my self. A person so acquitted with this concept of self can think that any particular skills they have, any innate talents, the who-they-ares, are entwined, even caused by, the mental illnesses. Thus we get the “tortured artist” trope, for example. Although I am not advocating for him as an advocate for mental health (if anything I’d take an oppositional footing on some things), Stephen Fry in his documentary on bipolar disorder (of which he suffers) expressed the opinion, or wonder, that maybe his bipolar disorder was the font for his and many others’ creativity. This is, for me, relatable, but under strong protest.
The tortured artist, the manic artist, the madman, the crazy, the deification of those who create from a pit, the aura of wisdom with which we imbue their internal agonies, the bravery we see in them, the iconification of so many self-imposed endings, “only the good die young”…the ennobling of insanity, ennobling of suffering, the being “grateful” for others’ pain while letting them fall into the nothing, the dark, in your stead… that isn’t wisdom, that is creation lost, that is a swirl of blackness, that is a scream drowning an aria, that is a person that could have been lightness and thought, that could have been wise, if it wasn’t for the suffering, if the suffering wasn’t held as an origin and an end, if the suffering was instead held as an abhorrence to be alleviated, if the babbling clamour of anhedonic internal cogitation was made to let the person inside it out. If relief, clarity, was provided.
So, I don’t hold with suffering creating wisdom. It is a concept fuelled by a fetish, an excuse, a repressive (self- and external), surrendering response to the feeling of inadequacy, of impotence, in the face of others’ pain. People who have suffered see with the clarity of those who haven’t, once the suffering is relieved – that is all I mean by “clarity”. Their experience, like all experience, their knowledge, like all knowledge, may enable wisdom to be presented in the midst of said clarity. But we should quest for the clarity, not its contrast. Don’t smack your head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. Don’t let someone be smacked by a hammer because you get something from it when it stops. Don’t smack people with hammers because you think it is good for them when it stops.
Just put down the hammer, okay?
I live at 1300m above sea level on about 285 acres of mostly bush, about two kilometres off a rural road to near-nowhere in the Snowy Mountains. On three sides of our property we are similarly forested. We have all the flora and fauna advantages of a predominantly natural Australia landscape, but also quite a few feral animals, some of which are brumbies (feral horses). Brumbies are largely unwanted as ferals, negatively impacting on farming, fences, and native animals, plants and landscape. They are particularly threatening to our Kosciuszko National Park, in which our state government wants to cull (shoot) them. Horse lovers don’t want this. Anti-cruelty people don’t want this. “Historical legacy” fetishists don’t want this. One of their arguments makes a significant, good point – the shooting of them has been demonstrably cruel when previously done by the government in other parts of the state, and there’s little reason to assume or trust that their methods have changed.
But the brumbies multiply and in winter some starve, and in feeding themselves they cause other animals to starve (this goes as well with the feral deer, arguably a greater problem in most areas). They foal, they feed, they starve, they break legs, they get sick, they die. I’ve a brumby skull from a gully down-valley, where the rest of the bones remain – it must have fallen into the gully a couple of years ago, possibly broken or dislocated its leg, then slowly died – there’s no-one down there to know how it all happened, just me discovering the sun-bleached bones the following year when down there to spray weeds. It can only be conceived as quite a cruel way to live and die.
We’ve a small herd that is often up near our house yard (the bigger yard, about five acres). Their names (as named by us) are Harry, Hermione, La Toya, Germaine, Ginny, and Sunny. Until a few days ago there was also Jennifer (mother of La Toya). La Toya and Germaine are young, born about two years ago. Harry is the stallion. Hermione is the matriarchal mare (possibly mother of Ginny and Jennifer). Sunny is Ginny’s adorable foal of this year. There is movement – occasionally we don’t see Sunny and Ginny, I think them occasionally moving to another herd down-valley. Jennifer has always lagged, and we would not see her for a couple of weeks. They all have their characters, and physical characteristics. They are “ours” insofar as feral animals that won’t come close and always remain nervous of human presence while still retaining sympathetic connections to domesticity can be ours.
But Jennifer has always been a bit sickly. She has long had a bad wound on her back, sometimes ugly weeping pus and frequently being scratched at. And last year she went down for a small bit, seemingly uncomfortable and kicking out regularly, but occasionally getting up and moving a few metres. There are no real resources to deal with any such sickness – you cannot get close to them, and they are “wild” in that, as ferals, they are quite dangerous (stallions, like Harry, and dominant mares, like Hermione, might attack you). So for a sickness that still allows normality we mostly just hoped she got better, because despite being feral animals nobody wants animals to suffer.
A few days ago Jennifer went down and stayed down. La Toya hovered, grazing but close. Initially we thought Jennifer was foaling as certain aspects of her physical condition seemed to indicate that was possible (and certainly Harry often has it on his agenda). But when she didn’t foal or get up overnight, when I was able to actually get up close to her, to pat her gently on her nose without her lifting her head, we were made to realise we would need to call in our local, rural vet. When he arrived he diagnosed her as definitely not foaling, and certainly terminal, likely infection, possibly one that had made it into the spine from her back wound, and would need to be euthanised.
La Toya hovered, nervous, concerned to the point that we needed to watch her closely in case she got defensive.
The vet had already suggested I could leave it with him, however though I knew she was a feral animal, a wild animal, an animal that may have died anywhere else on the property “naturally”, I felt somehow responsible for her and said I’d stay – if it was “my” brumby, on my property, whose death was effectively called by me, I felt I owed it to her… something, I don’t know, I had to watch that death take place.
But the vet couldn’t euthanise her with sodium pentobarbitone – it stays in her body for many months, after which, her body unable to be moved to anywhere other than elsewhere on the property, it will then possibly kill any animal that feeds on it.
And so he sedated her, twice, which didn’t shut her eyes but calmed her to non-awareness while her muscles twitched – her legs, her tail, her lips – and her teeth ground together like they were chewing cud, and her eyes remained open unresponsive to a vet’s checking touch. He then anaesthetised her neck, to ensure no pain would be felt in that area. And then he exsanguinated her with a scalpel. This was not a neat process – it was clear there was deep hide, sinew, much anatomy that required cutting. It was probably much shorter than it felt long. And she bled strong from this open gash, her drug-slowed heart still pumping her blood like a small fountain, a splashing noise made as squirted from one side of her broad wound upwards to the other head-side of it. Until it didn’t, and eventually her movements stopped, though her eyes remained open the entire time.
La Toya had moved away slightly, but stayed close. We left her to investigate, for whatever that gave her.
This was not an experience I’d had before, relieved from experiencing its rawness by chemical euthanasia used on late dogs. It is not one I wish to experience again (though I would if necessity and responsibility required it).
(Later Harry was up there, grazing near La Toya. I saw him walk up to her, and they nuzzled lips. I do not know what this means, only that from an anthropomorphic perspective it was heartening.)
There was no way to move her suddenly large, heavy body. She’d lay down in an awkwardly accessed part of the property, where everything but wrapping a rope around her neck and dragging her behind our ute was not feasible. Last year we’d had a large Eastern Grey Kangaroo die inside the houseyard in a similarly awkward position, and only discovered it by odour, and when the start of decomposition had made movement impossible. So we covered it with a large pile (two foot over and around was the recommendation) of snow grass and mown grass clippings, burying it in a composting grave. This, with a bit of top up, was effective at eliminating the odour, and going from the pile’s appearance now, effective at composting the body.
So these last few days we’ve been piling snowgrass, grass clippings, compost on Jennifer’s body. We’ve emptied a compost heap onto her, mowed grass clippings into the catcher from the push mower instead of our usual ride-on, collected cut snow-grass off the tracks we started making last year. We fenced her with five old internal doors on their sides, bolted together, to try hold her and her pile in, and protect it from our inevitable wind-warning winds. We’ve started digging out around the house water tank, where the previous tenant had piled plant matter and dirt near half-tank high. And we’re hand-mowing the house yard. And we’re piling loads in the back of the ute – driving out and around and up the hill through the trackless snowgrass and avoiding deadwood and exposed granite – and piling it on top of her. Our backs are pained, and there’s so much chaff in our eyes and yet there’s still more of it to do tomorrow and…