Island Blog – Natural Friends

It is one thing to find friends among other humans and quite another to make a friend of Circumstance or Fear, of Change and of Time.

To elucidate, I have finally cleared out the last of his shirts, the plaid ones, the ones I kept just in case. In case of what? I asked myself, somewhat irritably, just yesterday morning. In case he returns from the grave? Well no, I hope not as I doubt he would be in good condition after all these months in a wooden box. Well, why then? I find myself infuriatingly persistent at times. I thought I might cut them into patchwork squares for my baby mats, I say, whilst flicking through the big pile of clean and folded items, all blues and reds, lines of colour running through, the material soft and warm. Time steps into the room and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. I know, I whisper, not turning around. Time is invisible after all and isn’t expecting me to look her in the eye.

I go downstairs and pull out the last black bag. She is right. Time is right. Time is my friend and kindly even if she does nudge me forward when I often want to stay stuck in the mud. I take a deep breath and begin to load up. Black is a good colour for this task as I don’t have to see any of its contents once swallowed up by the dark. I tie the top of the bag and harrumph it into the little reading room. I still have to drive it to the charity shop but that will happen when it happens. You can’t go back to it, warns myself as she stands in the doorway like a prefect. I bat her away, head back down the stairs and prepare my bagel, avocado and poached egg breakfast. The first mouthful sticks a bit but I keep going. Thank you Time, I say.

The wind has howled and battered against my windows for days now. Wind at night, that big, noisy crashbang of a thing, has always scared me. Fear comes up to attempt sleep when I do and she stays all night long, waking me often. She, Fear, is an insomniac after all. Everyone knows that. By the morning my bed looks like I hosted a wrestling matching it, the sheets all twisted and the duvet turned around until the fixing buttons clack against my ear piercings like a tap dance. I avoid thinking about the night ahead, the next night in this hooligan of a wind. I lash down the wheelies, close the garage door, watch the birds ding about like shuttlecocks, pretend I’ll be fine. In other words, I am resisting Fear, pushing her aside, singing la-la-la a lot.

My little sister calls. I call her that even though she is a grandmother twice over because she is a lot younger than me and the size of a dart, tiny, feisty, accurate in her projections. She talks about the full moon, how it upsets her sleep every single month, how her fed is right up on all things moon. She asks me how I am sleeping and I tell her just fine, well fine for me which means about 4/5 hours of a night. No moon trouble for me because I’ve got her number. Great! she comes back. Send it to me so I can tell her to eff off. I chuckle. Ah, No, that’s not the way. You have to befriend her, not fight her. She tells me she slept fine the following night.

It thinks me as I realise that I am fighting Fear of the big wind and this is what wakes me, scares me, upsets my sheets and twists my duvet around. I listen again to my own advice. Make friends with the moon and she will stop bothering you. Ha! So if I make friends with the wind I will free myself from the Fear of it. I do exactly that and, although the wind, which must surely be exhausted by now, keeps up her crashbang, sleep comes and stays a while.

Then my mind turns to Circumstance. I think she is a different matter altogether because of her unpredictability and her tenacity. She is going nowhere, no matter how much wishing and whining goes on. She is no respecter of wealth, colour, age or choice. She is solid and she is flighty. To make friends with her requires a lot of inner thinking, because to be able to accept her inevitable presence inside a life is the key to peace and we all love that one. I have enjoyed glorious visits from my siblings and now they have gone. My days are my days now and I must approach each one with a Tigger and a Pooh in my mind. I will begin a new landscape tapestry. I will settle forward into my solitary life once more. I will walk the Poppy dog, catch a falling leaf, watch the colours rainbow as they die. I will laugh at my imaginings and write down the ones that laugh me most. And, every time Circumstance or Fear, Change or Time appear at my side to ruffle my feathers, I will say Welcome, come in, let’s chat my friend.

Island Blog – Dark to Light

Sometimes there is dark. Not the outside dark which comes this time of year, but the inside one, the one with more fingers, more legs, more traverse. I know this dark. So do you. It never gets to hold ground anymore, nor the chance to grow roots, although I remember times when it did exactly that, and so, and so, I flap it away, move beyond it, turn my back. But I remember the hold of it. In the winter months there is an awful lot of dark beyond my window. Nights begin early and hang on like there really might be no tomorrow. I light a candle in my warm conservatory to eat a breakfast of half a toasted bagel, half an avocado, squished, and one poached egg. I can’t see any of it but I can see the outline of the plate and thus am able to centre in on the food. Once nourished and almost without a spill, I can do the ironing, light the wood burner, wash the dishes and change the bed, all in well lit rooms. What is it, I wonder, that so intrigues me about the dark? Although there are times when I wait impatiently for morning to wake up, in the main, I am calm with my candle and my invisible breakfast. By now, once the light is lifting the birds and showing me my overgrown garden, I am prepped for the day. I am dressed, my slap is on (although I did apply it pre dawn and therefore might need to check my face before a trip to Dugie’s shop), and my fingers itch for writing.

The darkness within is not my enemy these days. Nonetheless I am cautiously un-smug about that, remembering the winters of discontent and my inability to lift my boots from the suck and pull of an imaginary swamp. It is beyond me now to see how I could have sunk so low, what with all those bright and energetic children hurtling like missiles throughout the walls of Tapselteerie. But I did and others do and there is no quick light-fix for the darkness within. Those who have never experienced such a state can never know how lost a person can become. And it is a slow process, an insidious creeper, as if the damp, cold cave is swallowing me bit by bit. My mind becomes dull, my body slow and shivery. I cannot get warm physically or inside my mind. Nothing anybody can say or do will lift my spirits until gradually I see little point in getting out of bed at all.

On the other side of such a state, I still cannot proffer a solution. So how did I rise from that swamp and when? Was it because I decided not to allow such a state to form and how did I recognise the first signs of its planned invasion of my self? Perhaps, although I do believe there is a lot more to it than that. What I now practice can be written in just a few words. If I feel just a bit down, I look for something, anything to be thankful for. Sometimes I can only come up with one or two things but, and this is critical, I tell myself that two things are better than one is better than none.

Another practice when feeling slow and sluggish is to do just one thing, any one thing, inside such a day. For me it might be, and has been, that I swept the floor. That’s it, that’s all I did, but, again, I congratulate myself on that one achievement. I refuse to listen to the judge in my head, that smug smartarse who is quick to remind me of all the things I haven’t achieved, of all the things I used to achieve, of my lack, of the high standard I have always and heretofore expected of myself. Oh Go Away, I say, out loud. What do you know of me, I mean really? You are just a robotic voice in my head, the critic, the emotionless automaton. Whereas I am blood and bone, living, loving and temporarily lost in the dark. No comparison, just saying.

In my family and in my life I expected much of me because that was my conditioning. No ironing till the afternoon. No television or sitting down in an armchair until the evening. No slacking ever, not never, not even if your body and mind are frazzled and exhausted. Certainly not. Always be available for everyone else and put yourself last, eat the smallest portion, be the first to rise from the table while others remain comfortably seated and engaged in conversation. No washing up until everyone has left the room, or the building and it is an irrelevance to mention that it is way past 11.30pm and my day begins about 3 hours before anyone else’s. If the baby cries, it is my job to uncry it even if I too am dressing for a dinner date. If the children have measles, noisily and all night long, scratchy as baboons and hot and miserable, it is my job to soothe and ease their struggle. And so on.

It helps that it is only me here now, of course it does, but I somehow managed to fend off the judge long ago. I do remember a sudden realisation that the only person who was falling apart was me. The rest bounced like Tigger through the days, through the dark, turning it into a grand opportunity for hiding games and mischief. Understanding that I had, and have, the power to stand against the inner darkness was and is pivotal to healing. With that understanding comes a new energy, an excitement and enough curiosity to seek a new way. I will not let this darkness subsume me ever again. I have no idea how I will achieve this but ‘that’ is not getting me again. I will notice the first signs of tiredness and announce that I am going for a rest. I will iron at dawn if I so choose. I will watch Cinderella at lunchtime if that’s what I want to do and what is more I will watch it from within the comfortable folds of an armchair. If someone pings the doorbell, you go, you make coffee and listen to their inane blether. I am busy. Busy being myself. Busy living just as you all have lived and I will do this living thing without a smidgeon of guilt because guilt is learned and I am awfully busy unlearning it.

Island Blog – To be seen and heard

The tide is pushing out from the sea-loch in such a rush I wonder if it is late for something. As the tides change to fit the pull of Mother Moon, everything, including we humans, respond, even if we don’t know we are doing that responding thing. The light is lower in the sky, the skyscape more dynamic and suddenly there’s a chill out there, a chill of clarity. Against a Payne’s grey this afternoon, just as the rain stopped and the sun appeared, 12 hooper swans cut through the sky. Such beauty, their white wings on slow-flap, their pattern not for my pleasure but for their ease of passage. Nonetheless I can marvel at their passing as they curve the sea-loch, change leadership and fly on to God knows where. Moments like this come suddenly and, I have realised, only because I want to witness such moments, such passing beauty, and that means refusing to spend too much time inside the limitations of my own head.

A nature walk with two of my little granddaughters yesterday took us along the same track, the Tapselteerie track, the one that offers a glimpse of change every single time I set foot on it. This particular walk was one that required a deal of looking. Naturally, there were two of us who needed to run, to jump in the puddles, to throw laughter up into the Autumn air, but old granny just walked, just looked. We found acorns, beech nuts, brave wee oak saplings, rowan berries, autumn coloured leaves, lichen, old man’s beard on an alder, shells on the beach, bits of sky, reflections, a change in the wind. Some of these could be popped into their collecting bags, some just wanted to be seen, to be noticed, as we all do.

It thinks me. These little ones are already forming their view of the world as they know it. They are learning to win, to be bigger, faster, kinder, brighter than someone else. It isn’t that parents teach this. It is survival and the wee ones are hungry for it. Although they are dependent for now, they long for a degree of independence. They want to be safe and they want to be free. They want friends and to be alone and above all they want to be noticed. As I watch them and the others grow and shape themselves, I know that my role is to observe and to learn, to bear witness and to really see them, for each one is longing to be him or her self, and that self is as delicate as a candle in the wind.

On the final leg of our walk in Nature, one girl ran far ahead, the other calling for her to wait. Being the older sister she reluctantly stopped and waited only to watch her sister run right past her and on. ‘She just wants to beat me, she said. She ruins my fun.’ I thought about this, about what to say. ‘What do you want to do right now?’

‘I want to run all the way to the gate.’

‘Do it’

‘What if she cries?’ (kindness. I’m impressed)

”Let her cry.’

She took off with a big smile, running running past the wailing sister and I just watched whilst I caught up with the ‘left behind’. Holding her wee hand I told her about a snake her uncle had found in his swimming pool. Although it looked scary, it was non venomous. It’s not a snake natural to Spain, I told her and it isn’t good for the snakes that are.

She thought for a moment and looked up at me, not a tear in sight.

Maybe it came in from South America, she said, skipping along beside me.

She is five in November.

Island Blog – Talk to Me and Brother Days

I must have said this a gazillion times over the years of my almost half century of marriage, yelled it, screamed it, thought it, dreamed it. All I achieved was indigestion and a sore neck. Don’t bother, that’s what I say and did say to myself but myself kept hoping for a breakthrough.

Now I am widowing my way through hours and days, through dark and light times, through back-lit frustration and regret, sadness and happy memories, I still can feel my gut clench, as if those iron fists are just waiting for permission for this clenching thing. They have no moral standards, these iron fists, no emotional intelligence, I know that and if I am able to pause my racetrack of thoughts I can swerve away, refuse to engage with such thoughtless metal. It doesn’t always work.

And then he came, my brother. I haven’t seen him for so very long and even then it was never just us, or not for longer than a walk through the wolds of Norfolk, the trees, across fields that go on all the way up to the horizon. For five days he was mine, just him and just me. Big sister always teaseable, slightly younger brother, big man, good man, the best. For a few days prior to his arrival I freaked out over food. After all I cook pasta and eat salad day after day and with added bits to lift the whole plate out of the ordinary, so the thought of presenting (omg) and arranging delicious food on a plate, such as pork chops that aren’t as tough as his walking boots, and beans with something, al dente of course and potatoes, oh lordy, I haven’t bought them in a very long time. The whole thing indigested me big time. I called our sister, a professional and hugely talented chef and she flapped me down like she would a plane coming in to land too fast. I slowed my heartbeat. This was not about what I cooked, nor how clean my house was, she said. This visit was about him and me, as rare as an original Picasso and equally easy to destroy with the fire of fret. So, to hell with that. Thank you Fifi.

Every single minute of each day was an adventure. Just as I sat my old ass down for a rest, his bright light was shining on the next opportunity. I loved it and it reminded me of what I had forgotten, the times with him so very long ago, his wicked humour, the way he finds something in anything and everything to celebrate and to investigate, his kindness, his interest in things other people ignore, his curiosity and the way he picks up on something I say and steps alongside to understand more. We laughed our way through rain, tussocks and hummocks (he actually said, and over his shoulder, Remind me never to invite you stalking with me, as I fell over again in the bog) and I watched him across the table drinking tea and munching on a biscuit and I drew that picture into my very self. We may never, and probably won’t, have this again. But I don’t mind that because such is more than a stepping stone for me, and maybe for him. As I fight the awful and dreadful lonely moments, the fear of ageing alone, of sickness, debility, all that shit, I will remember that time, every single moment we shared.

The early morning he left, in the dark, I was surprisingly emotional. I haven’t cried one tear since my husband died. I was choked and so was he. He talked to me and I to him. The day he left was not easy but I know that everything passes and so it should. Instead of holding on (so not my thing) I let go and hold to the memory and that memory will feed my soul and calm my gut for a long time to come. When I was unhappy back in time, I brought adventures into my mind and lived there until the pain passed, which it always did. I would laugh again with someone over something, find myself on the Tapselteerie track with a few dogs, more children and a walker I didn’t know but who made us all laugh despite the rain. I flew with the geese, swam with an otter while she showed how she could tackle a whole ocean effortlessly. I will do the same with my brother days. I know he is gone. I know I face alone but I have the gift of his visit, our time together, the laughing, the jokes, the sharing, the family bond. I am rich beyond all worldly wealth. My brother showed me how a man can communicate and that I can feel hope for the women of the world. For me he was the fresh spirit that frees the one bottled too long. (not my words)

Island Blog – Wave away

I write, now, from a distance. It reminds me that memories are hot just once and that they quickly cool. It takes conscious effort to warm them up again, to pull them back into touch. I’m busy doing that.

I met some beautiful people on the cruise, all of us strangers to each other even as some were known to the captain and crew. It awkwards people. They are suddenly unsure about how to move, where to stand, what to ask and when. There is hesitation around the dining table when dinner is called. I see it. I feel it and hear it in the flutter of an elevated voice whilst navigating the steps from one deck to the next, from the saloon down to the cabins. I feel it myself. I know, as the wife of a sailor sea-dog that nobody in their right mind ever attacks decksteps facing forward. Reverse is the way. Arrive at the steps, turn, locate step one and repeat until you reach the new horizontal. Well, we all long for horizontal but aboard ship this is never a given. But on this trip, once we had all got ourselves over the ‘trip’ thing, one that didn’t only apply to steps or dining table navigation, we knew we only faced sea-lochs, and, even if they can scoosh up a stooshie in a storm, the waters upon which we bobbed promised the odd rise and fall, like when you flap your hands in a bath tub to make the bubbles froth. And, we had a very skilled skipper who has taken many trips out to St Kilda where there is no land for generations and no promise of safe anchor. Looking at it this way, this cruise was like bobbing across a puddle.

The young chef did not fail us, not once, not even with a burned biscuit. The guide, far too experienced for her lovely youth, kept us intrigued and informed and although I did try to catch her out, I failed. The stewardess who did all of the caring, and I am not going to list her tasks because she was just always there should anyone want anything from a cup of tea to a glass of whisky, from another blanket to a reassuring and pro-active response to any question. And always with bright eyes and a smile. Jeez, I thought. How in the hellikins do these givers keep giving over so many months and to so many people, especially the ‘challenging’ ones? They just shrug when I pose that question. Most, they tell me, are lovely people, interesting and interested. I nod. Good, I say, and sheath my sword. I do this because these cruises are unusual and so thoroughly planned for the complete comfort of every single customer and it does mess with my sword action when someone complains, not because the cruise or the crew fail them but because they need therapy. Just saying.

The standard of service, the quality of the cooking, the service, in my opinion, was 5 star, if not 6. Catering to guests on board ship, facing ocean squalls and angry horizons is something we, as guests, might wonder about a bit, whilst we hold tight to the rails and reverse down deck steps but what it must mean to the captain and crew is a mystery, just as they want it to be. Our white faces may turn to ask, Are We Ok? and the answer will always be a smile. Of course we are! I remember it way back in Tapselteerie days and I mean way back, when I might be crew and the boat was something you could make out of lego and the sea huge and the prospect only just short of dire because at the helm was the auld bugger and he knew the sea and never ever felt he was in control of her. He negotiated with her, he told me. Work with me Lady, he would whisper but if any soaked and terrified passenger hand-railed him or her self to the bridge to seek hope, the auld bugger turned, grinned and reassured no matter the patter of his own heart. I digress, again.

The guests and I got over the awkwards pretty quick. Soon we just moved and flowed and navigated steps and so on as if we had lived together for longtime. Conversation began to flow and in that flow I watched hangups float downstream, those protection rackets that protect and confound incoming, friendly or not. I watched shoulders lower, eyes stay on another cross table, hand and arm movements flow freer. T’was a delight to see, like a dance. By the end, oh shame, the end, we were looking each other eyeball to eyeball, no shift, really pleased to have known what we have known of each other in four short nights. Humbled, or I was, encouraged and uplifted, astonished at times for the stories that lifted like roses from the dark ground of a person. As we waved farewell to each other at the end, I walked on with a new lift because of those stories. I may forget them but I will never forget the storytellers.

Thank you James, Lynz, Kat, Jordan and Hebrides Cruises. I thoroughly recommend.

Island Blog – From Four Stone Walls to Wild Places

I have been too scared to go anywhere beyond the safe confines of the little village. Most days I spend right here within my four stone walls (best song ever, in my opinion, by Capercaillie) or out there in the out there-ness of a wild place. I can walk a whole walk and meet nobody. Well, nobody with two legs and coated in either lycra, weather permitting, or waterproofs. I meet plenty of other-legged creatures of course. Spiders spinning, deer bolting, rabbits wiggling noses, an otter or two and plenty seabirds. I chat with the trees, imagine their long strong roots and know they help keep each other up, much as we humans could do if we just understood the power of it, instead of jousting at windmills.

I am mostly content with my life, the island wife without a husband. Mostly. Some days are black as the soot in my flue, some days bright as a lighthouse and I never know what will be which. It doesn’t matter what I do or do not do the day before the soot day, it dogs me like the shadow of a giant and no matter how fast I move, I am always in the dark of it. I have spent over a year searching for an answer to this upsy-downsy nonsense and find no answer at all and this is why. It is not a question with one answer at the other end of it. ‘Why’ is never a good question. ‘Why’ is a journey within, a quiet and solo traipse across a mind, not one to be voiced because any answer will fall short of the mark. The voiced question invites opinions. The one who receives this Why question can never respond with a solution. Not never. No other person in the whole wide world, across a zillion continents across all those wild oceans tossing stories and songs into the air, through the air that blows around the globe, can ever know the answer for someone else, because each one of us, like snowflakes and zebra stripes, is unique and therefore alone. So don’t bother with a ‘Why.’

I digress.

I am fearful, yes we got that. I am mostly content, yes, yes. Where is this leading? Ah, thank you. It leads to a phone call from one of my marvellous sons, one of the skippers, the skipper who skippers right here. Would you come on a cruise mama, a loch cruise for four nights on board? We have had a cancellation. My heart takes off but I catch it before it makes a hole in the conservatory roof. I hesitate, visualising massive waves, those ones I remember in a small bouncy thing of a boat crossing to Coll in a hooligan, the ones that, when they rose up like my swimming teacher in a furious mood with her eyes on me, blocked out the light. Then the fall, the slow slip down the other side in the sure knowledge that we would just keep on going down all the way to Atlantis. Or Hell. I breathe. Yes, I say. Yes. And then I twist to look at myself in horror.

I have days to organise things. How many things, I ask myself, noticing my endless pacing and the 2 pages of A4 lists. Well, not much in truth. Just some loving person to look after Poppy dog and my four stone walls. At short notice. A text to friends, a link, a number and she is found. Yes she can come, yes no worries, yes yes and yes. Committed now and planning my approaches, my frockstock, my beanie, socks (never wear socks) my underpinnings, enough for 4 nights. I wait for the fear to giant-shadow me. Nothing. I wait for indigestion, doubt, sheer terror, nights dense with 40ft waves and not a mermaid in sight. Nothing. Momentarily I wonder if I am finally going the way of the senile, that time I remember with Himself when nothing really mattered beyond his clear traverse up to bed. No, I am not there yet. But this is odd, this is strange, strange and rather wonderful.

On the day, Susie arrives, Sunshine Susie and she beams just like the sun which is a timely reminder that there is one at all, a sun I mean. I had quite forgot inside all these days of endless rain and cloud cover. I depart and manage the ferry thing just fine, staying outside the minute I board and arriving on familiar concrete, knowing my way. I keep my new mask firmly affixed to my face but find I am struggling to breathe, so efficient is it in keeping out all breaths, coughs and sneezes including my own. I walk around the harbour, among the visitors, along to the North Pier where the boats will meet and greet us. There are two boats ready for us this wet afternoon. The company is Hebrides Cruises and I recommend an online check. We, the guests, gather atop the pontoon and begin to introduce ourselves to each other. Some have travelled the length of the country for this cruise and me? Oh, me. Well I live over there, I tell them, waving my arm towards the island. I can tell they are amused, interested and disappointed all at the same time. I notice this and turn the conversation back to them, their tales of train changes, delays and clogs on the motorway. I just stepped on and off the ferry after all, did I not? They, on the other hand have much to say and much to share and I listen in pleasure because other peoples’ stories are always a fascination to me. They live a life I just don’t remember, one of limitations, of traffic, of timelines, of restrictions and rules whereas I am always free. Leaning against some metal thing that appears to have no reason to be there, I listen and watch and wonder. These lives, a glimpse. Just a glimpse. Faces, eyes, body language, baggage, all of it a wonderment to me.

Then the metal walkway rattles and we all turn. The skippers are rising like gods from the pontoon, together with the guides and the squeaky baggage trolleys that nobody ever bothers to oil. Relieved of our cases, we walk down the narrow ramps, back in our own thoughts, moving ever closer to the shining bellies of the boats that will be our home for the next 4 nights. They gleam, the superstructure white and all aglow. Our confidence rises yet again although it did already once we met the skippers. This one for you, that one for me. We separate on the floating pontoon and turn to the steps that will lead us all in to an adventure. I don’t know who is scared, who is dealing with something sad, who is hoping that this time will teach them something new, open a new window, show an escape. But as I wave goodbye to those on the other ship and move into the arms and the safety of my son, I know I made the right decision. To go or not to go? Always, always go.

Welcomed with pink champagne, cake and introductions, we heave-ho as the skipper turns the snout of the ship seawards. Into a pink cloudlight, into a blueing sky we move smooth as melting chocolate. Everyone is on the fly deck, binoculars at the ready, looking, searching, hoping for the wonderful.

And so it begins.

Island Blog – Circle, Cheat and Language

I write much about the circle, the cycle of life and death. My belief is that we are too afraid of both. We take life for granted, afraid that the life we know will be taken or destroyed and when that life is threatened or stolen, we cannot accept it. Well, I get that bit. When someone beloved dies it is nothing less than catastrophic. But death? If we could step back a bit we might just be able to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever, no-one lasts for ever. That sounds sensible, as long as I am not the one with the beloved who died. It doesn’t matter how it happens, expected, sudden, too young, too soon, it always cuts like a knife and that wound takes forever to heal, if, indeed it ever does.

So how do I walk my talk? I have no answer right now because each time I hear of a young life snuffed out before that person had a chance to shine, I feel a punch in my gut. This is not right. This is not the order of things. Life is a cheat. I look for reasons even if I really don’t want to find them. I hesitate and dither. I want to see that vibrant person laughing across the table from me, that snapshot that I take into my heart and fix on my wall. I don’t want to think about any pain or struggle. I don’t want to know that someone as young or younger than my own children has gone. I cannot imagine the grief of a parent in the face of a young death, their chances of ever recovering. It is a stone too big and too powerful with ripples that go on and on and on.

So, I am not so smart about death, it seems. As much as I would like to be as peacefully accepting as those in cultures who are taught about loss and about death as an honourable and inevitable place of spirit and connectivity, I founder on the rocks. I know those damn rocks and have foundered and foundered, not when my husband died because his death was sort of natural and his age made it all sort of okay, but when a child dies. A child dies. It is too much to bear. I sit here, useless and sad, wondering and clueless. I can do nothing, say nothing because I know nothing about this and I pray I never will. My mum died first and that is how it should be, but it is no given, as I know.

I honour anyone who knows what it is like to bury a child, however old that child was. I know a few and when I think of them I stand on tippytoe, on the rocks, waving like a fool because what else is there to do in the onslaught of such a storm? They are alone and will always be, in that grief. I ache for mother, for father, I wave for them but I am not them. I am a million miles away with all children intact and with a heart full of sadness. Life is a cheat, but so is Death. We just don’t know the language of either.

Island Blog – Fickle Dance/ Wonderful Hearts

Some days pass, a few in quiet silence bar the rattle of my fridge. She is an old girl, second hand when she came to me oh so many years ago. At times I think she feels like she is part of the wallpaper and I recognise that feeling myself, so I don’t mind so much when she stops her mindless humming and thinks herself Eminem, even as it startles and then concerns me. I thump her fat belly as I pass and she halts for a second or two only to resume once I have moved on. I smile. Go girl, I tell her. I am so noticing you now. You are not just a ‘white good’. You are my ‘white good’ and I appreciate all you do for me. It seems to work for she has hummed now for quite some time and in a somewhat merrier way, a key or two above her usual drone.

While she maintains her position (thankfully) Life moves on. Someone important dies. Someone important is born and someone important is married to her lover and friend. Across the world this dance goes on, second by second, moment by moment and we who are bothering about who did or did not empty the dishwasher have the chance to get real. So which is fickle, you might ask, the fridge and dishwasher thing or the comings and goings of breath life, the strangles of it, the insecurity of it, the risk the fall the rise and the sudden full stop or full birth? I think all of it is both important and fickle but not either/or, never that. Within each moment of our living we can easily be upset by a grumpy fridge or the fact that the dishwasher was not emptied which then causes us to anger, to resentment and to rage. We will be late for work. According to the rota, this one clear upon the wall, it is your turn but you did not bother to complete, nor even begin the task. Inside a family life, a team life, this really matters and I remember it. If one person does not turn up for their part the whole play is pointless. It collapses. This much is obvious. Juliet without Romeo would look like a right ninny. Moving on.

We are so very quick to hook our grapples onto Either and Or. I should be doing this, I should be feeling this, I should not be thinking this way, I should not cry in public because my fridge died, not when thousands are being maltreated, trafficked, abused. Not when ethnic cleansing is alive and well across the world; not when there is poverty and war. But wait. Wait. We who can afford a fridge, or a wedding, or any such choices are bound to have invested our trust in that thing or that experience. It isn’t something about which to feel guilt, false guilt (in my opinion). As long as we keep our minds wide, think laterally and allow the whole world with all her joys and all her pain to flow to us and through us, we are still saying You Is Important.

I know, I know that there is an imbalance within our world, the divider between lack and wealth. It isn’t new, people, no way. This imbalance has lived and thrived for millennia and I cannot see an end to it. So, to those of us who do stop to notice, who refuse to get caught up in Either/Or, I say this:- Let it flow. Let Life and living grow to dying and Death. Let us open the eyes of our wise hearts and let us see beyond the pale. Forward, backward, up, down and around. Let us breathe it all in, notice everything and most important of all, not make it all about ourselves. We are small, we are finite and yet within our living years we can be powerful just as long was we leave our own little agendas behind and walk together into new observations, no judgement, just looking with the eyes of our wonderful hearts.

Island Blog – Some Time and the God Mother

Recently I have watched change develop, a responsive change to what is happening with the season. Local dog walkers are now clad in jumpers, one or two (jumpers) I recognise from last year, at a similar time. They sauntered by in teeshirts and shorts, it seems like moments ago. Was I asleep for days? Did I miss something and, whilst I did this sleeping thing, did the weather send these goodly folk into their drawers for a wheeching out of warmer kit? No, I didn’t sleep, rarely do, so it wasn’t that. Maybe the gods of weather flipped a switch, laughing at us down-belows and deciding to stir things up a bit, because body language speaks volumes. Instead of ‘sauntering’, these folk are bowed, bent and clad in plastic. Where before they walked with jaunty air companionable with time as if it was a holiday stretching out for days, they now march, get out, get back, wet and longing for a hot cuppa, teeth gritted, defences up against the sideways rain avoiding puddles deep enough to sink a vicar. I feel it myself, the oh-god-do-I-have-to thing pre dog walk. I resent, big time, the reach for the plastic covering, the boots. I feel irritation as the doglet pauses to sniff at every other blade of grass, yanking her on and then carrying the guilt of grumpy yanking for another half mile, at least. Walks are shorter, faster, marchier. Dammit.

Then I remember the discomfort of change. Ah…….yes. Every time a season changes it feels too soon, even when the coming season is Spring and this is why. I like to know where I stand within my environment, my life. I want ‘ordinary’ to remain so, even as I absolutely don’t. Eventually, I get comfortable with the change until it isn’t change at all. It just is as it is. The in-between time, when I am on the cusp of things, I swither, feel out of sorts, resistant. It’s not anticipation of a seasonal change because it slam dunks me. I don’t know what it is, and I get bored of myself looking for reasons. I work not to be crabbit. I poke about in my insides to find some explanation and find none. This finding none thing also irritates me. I like an answer, that lovely well-honed explanation, much like a well-penned musical phrase that jitters, lifts, curves and flows down to an Aha. Nothing. Dammit again.

When dressing these chillsome mornings, I paint my way through my frock layers. This, yes, that, maybe, and this one onatop. No, try again, and again and again. What is wrong with me? For many lovely months I just rose from beneath my duvet, picked up this or that for its colour, or shape, or layering power. Now I am a snivelling child of a morning, with no power at all. I realise, I know, as I write this, that it is a First World problem. I remind myself of that as I stomp down the stairs to yet another dark morning. Is it morning at all?

There are so many who dread mornings. There are so many who have left their last ever morning behind, lost like a full stop in the dark. I have frocks and choice. I have Autumn and change. I have rain-soaked dog walks. I have Christmas ahead, visits from family and friends, my children, their partners and the grandchildren. I have my eyes, my ears, my legs, my face, my arms and a choice for dinner. I have enough money, enough warmth, enough light, enough dark to remember the full stops for others. Again I ask, what is wrong with me?

The Soft Voice comes to me. Nothing, she says, this God Mother, Nothing at all. You are but human (the ‘but’ bit clicking me into pause. And, she continues, there may well be another day, another morning. There may not, but there may be. Keep living, not just breathing. Keep fannying about with your frock talk, keep dithering and swithering and be grumpy if it helps. All is allowed, is normal. But one thing……

Yes? I ask.

You have one time, some time. Use it, dance with it, in it, play with it, have fun with it, make it hilarious and precarious, vicarious, salubrious, nefarious, whatever. But notice which and what. Choose from your own ground, your own roots, where and when you will spread and when you will flower.

She’s wise, the God Mother.

Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.