Island Blog – My Home, Music, Changes and Fun

Today the sun shone like it was in a competition. Brazen, warm, loud in the sky. The pufflet clouds moved around it, I think deliberately, because it showed them in their best light. Edges like fire and brimstone, smokey dark below. Quite the picture.

I did a bit of this and that. I lifted some paintings to the walls of the rooms that used to be his and are now not his anymore. His bedroom, a tangle of hospital bed, aids, plastic receptacles etc, all gone now. There is a king sized double for visitors, a new carpet, a blackout blind and curtains. In the office, now not the office but instead a wee kiddies room, a new carpet flats the boards, soft and cool and slightly sea coloured. I joined an online church group and it was very lovely indeed. Then I marched out, plus wee dog, to corral some beech leaves, soft limbs, gentle emerald leaves, for preservation. I watched my old and ferocious mother-in-law do this thing. Glycerine and water mix, pop in the limbs and wait. The stalks draw up the mix into the leaves that take on a shine and are preserved for ever. ish. I can hardly believe I am truly becoming Granny at the Gate, and if you haven’t already read my book then do it now. The replication of a life in every single sense (only I am never ferocious) is bizarre. God bless you old girl for your powerful spirit. It lives on. As you can see from your vantage point.

As I re-designed the rooms that were his, I felt a falter. Although he is gone and this lovely home is now mine, there is yet a sense of notmine. It never was when he lived. It was his or it was his mother’s and I find it quite hard to brush that legacy away. As I arrange for my friend, an antique dealer, to come when he can to remove the old maple dresser, the mahogany thingy full of ancient leather bound books, I get the whiff of traitor around my person. This would never have been countenanced when he lived. Now he lives not. Now this is my lovely home and I crave white space, minimalism and the moving on of old, maybe valuable stuff, that will bring money in for my kids. For our kids.

I chose music that kept me in the bubble of me and him. Sibelius, his favourite. The Swan of Tuanela, Valse Triste, and Grieg, Peer Gynt. I played them loud as I worked. Then I brought in my favourite, thinking, this is my house now and my music is also important. Beethovens’ 6th, the Pastorale. These have been on a loop all day as the sun beats in and the birds sing like they were the choir for the Second Coming.

A good day. A day of change, of down and then up. And I look around my lovely light, bright, open home and say to myself, How fortunate am I. How lucky, how glorious is this island place. And my neighbours have just come back, all children and garden talk and fun.

Island Blog – Balance, Demons and Sightlight

I watch a paddle boarder skim up the sea-loch. She is travelling at one hell of a lick on an ebbing tide but I know her and she is experienced in such matters. She stands straight as a die, the salt surface flat and unruffled. I can’t see her smile but I just know there is a wide one on her pretty face. Balance. She has it, knows it, holds it. I find myself envying her, not for the paddle board thingy, but for her ability to balance. I have never been balanced, not like that. I am not saying I am clumsy because that wouldn’t be the truth. I am a dancer and know my feet, the ground beneath them, my space available, my pivot, my spin, or I used to. I don’t mean that sort of balance. I mean mental balance.

I know we have weeks for things, for awareness, for an alert that shows us, to a degree, how others are living, the others we might not think about much at other times, or, at least, not with a mindful engagement. Last week was Mental Health Week. My ears pricked up. I am all over mental health, being, as I am, essentially unhealthy in that arena and with a backlog life of working to control, manage and accept it. In my youth I saw people with obvious external evidence of mental compromise. So did you. But what I did not see were those who look just fine, are beautiful, kind, high functioning, holding together what looks like a normal life and who are really going through inner hell. Now I can see them, when they let me. Having noticed the PTSD in my own father, my father-in-law, my uncles, my mother, my aunts and a load of other relatives, myself included, I know how incredibly exhausting it is (and was for them) to maintain that ordinary life, the one that gets you out of bed, into clean clothes and down the stairs to live another day.

When I had the hand of Life always at my back, was the IT for absolutely everything inside a day, I paused not for thought on mental health, mine or anyone else’s. There was no time for pausing. It was go, go, go from the second my tired feet touched the floor and all the way up to the moment they finally lifted back into bed. Sleep was an exhausted one and not always refreshing. Days wove around me like ropes until I honestly believed I would drop strangle-dead half way through making soup. I remember driving down to collect children from school with an evening ahead of dinner for 16, gourmet, plus at least 10 for a kitchen meal plus children to bed, cocktails to pour, bright chatter and lift-light required from me, the hostess, the mother, the wife, the IT, and seriously considering driving on until I ran out land. Often. The inner strength of a human being extraordinaries me.

This day I walked a corridor. On the one side was exhaustion due to poor sleep (again) the tears like a rising wave behind my dry eyes, the feeling of failure, of alone-ness, of pointlessness and on the other side my always ready clean page on which I dutifully write what I am thankful for, what I did today, that sort of nonsense. Of course, it isn’t nonsense at all but it can feel like it sometimes. I do it anyway. I do it so that my demons won’t get me. What I really want is a lobotomy, even though I don’t. Some of us seem to be born with demons, or we readily pick them up as children. I am not good enough. I fail. I don’t deserve love and when it comes I push it away. I do things to make someone happy and when they thank me I brush them off. No matter how much I appear to succeed, I fail according to me. Whatever I start, I don’t finish. When I have the sudden inspiration to do something the demon comes in to remind me it will never work. These demons have big voices, are so believable, and it seems to me that no matter how many daily practices I employ, no matter how good the going can be for a while, they are just patiently waiting for me to get a bit tired, a bit down and in they come like a West End show I can’t not watch. (double negative, sorry Dad). Like today.

However, and the cheerleaders out there will be waiting for this, for me to present the positive even if I don’t really believe in it. I did achieve quite a few things. I played music (to drown out the demons). I welcomed the carpet fitters, cleaned up after them, re-assembled the bedroom, changed the sheets, potted 15 seedlings, walked the wee Popster, completed 3 more baby quilts, washed clothes, hung a few paintings, ironed 3 frocks, lugged wood, spoke to one of my lads, did some paperwork.

And I am thankful for quite a list. I forget my talents at times. I forget who I am and writing this list, even as the pen wiggles in my fingers and my eyes roll and I sigh the biggest sigh, I make myself write. I am thankful for:-

My singing voice (even if the song is what……resting just now.

My home

My kids, my life, my friends (name them), my ability to cook (don’t feel like it much these days), my sight, strength, the way I can repair things others would throw away, my new carpets, the way I can pick out a tune on my piano with chords first time off, my gift of writing. Even my demons.

Because what I have come to realise is that strong demons are just one side of the coin. The other side is a sort of lift-light brilliance with no idea how or where to shine. They say it is not failure we fear most, but success. Although I am still working through what the heck that means, I am beginning to get it. I know I have a very high IQ. I also know you don’t want that. It is a lonely place and a place where confusion reigns. In a school environment it is just fine if you have a high IQ and behave yourself, but if you have that high IQ and rebel you become a monster. I was the latter.

I write this just in case there is some other beautiful, kind, high functioning humanoid who relates to demons and lift-light. I just know there are many, even those who would tell me they aren’t bright, aren’t this, aren’t that but, in some deep place, relate. I salute you. We have a great deal to offer the world but first our single task is to shapeshift from demon rule to lift-light rule. This is not simple. I have a counsellor, no, two counsellors because I know, as I know that I cannot take apart a tractor engine and reassemble it effectively, that I need help. I may always need help. It bothers me. I am 68 for goodness sake. I should know my way by now. After all, don’t all other 68 years olds, other 40 year olds, other 20 year olds, know their way? (They sure look like they do) However, the answer is an unequivocal NO. Just because others look like they know their way and appear completely happy with it, is one socking great delusion. They are just good actors. You are you, unique, as am I.

However if you, if I, are one of the ‘tapselteerie’ ones, then let us learn ourselves. We may have mental health issues, according to the world, be awkward around the rule book, feel lost in an inner silence, but maybe, if we can flip the coin, we can be the ones with vision who can fly over the ordinary, the limitations of life and be the ones who might, just might, see further that Debenhams closing or whether or not the one way system in Edinburgh is causing everyone to be late home for their tea.

Island Blog – One Mum and her Dog

I have a grainy big ass photo of my mum sitting in brogues and tweeds with a stick and a border terrier at her feet, smiling, and somewhere in the Cairngorms. I say hallo to her every time I descend the stairs and touch her face. That border terrier is long gone now and mum is dead these 3 years, yesterday. It thinks me.

As we get older and our mum dies, it seems like it is okay. It is never ok. Even though the mum in question could be difficult, ornery, awkward and refusive, she could also be, when I expand my memories, loving, supportive and actional. She was decisive, immediate when required. She could slap, she could say the most awful things, and she could say the most longed for and fabulous things. She was, in short, a human being, who had gone through a great deal of awfulness in her life and yet still stood. Not only stood, she walked, she led.

This day her beloved and current border terrier, aka hearth rug because she was never stripped on time, died in the arms of the lovely woman who took her on when mum faltered towards Alzheimers. I spoke with her, not mum, obviously, but Jayne who took Scally on, and she was devastated, numbed. The name Scally? Well it came from the name my dad had as a Commando. Scallywag. I would love to be remembered with a name like that. When I saw Scally at mum’s funeral, she looked grey but still lively. To hear that she is gone is like the last dot on mum’s line. That, at any age, takes a hold on time. It means something. This day is not an ordinary day, not now.

Hey Ma, you old eejit, you party queen, you ridiculous old slapper; the one we always came home to, even the grandkids, just to enjoy your welcome and your well stocked drinks cabinet. Thank you. For all of you. And Scally, btw is on her way.

Island Blog – Silence, Shape and Change

I notice everything these days in sharp butts or gentle whispers. Funny how it happens. I notice new and surprising ‘friend’ requests from widowed men. I notice kindness from friends I know and trust. I notice how the expanse of life both confounds and cuddles me. I never noticed such dynamics before, busy as I was with marriage, with kids, with letting go, with caring, noise that took up my whole hearing. Now there is silence. I never got to know silence. It never came to me. there was never silence. Now there are hours of it, days of it, eons of it, both outside and inside me and we are learning each other. A greater part of me thrives on silence. I have craved it for my whole life. Stop. Talking. Stop. Telling me what to do. Stop thinking you know me. Just Stop. And now the stopping is here, like a shout, like a whisper, like a sharp butt. Well, there is work to do my lady. I know, I know. I am ready and I am open. The shape I have been for decades is no longer my shape. I can feel it shift, lift, split and become fractal in a whole new universe. It is very weird, very odd, very confounding, very welcome. Two opposing thoughts, held. A bit, no, a lot, like a marriage.

I walk today beneath cuckoo flight and an encounter with a pair of bullfinch. They, the bullfinch, are such an astonishment, such a gift for anyone, those big blood red chests, that black head, that unmistakable lift and flight, that hurries away. The Cuckoo also gift. I am guessing the same bird, for the location is always the same, but, nonetheless, a gift. The raindrops on the leaves make diamonds. It lifts the light, the shine of green, making each blade of grass like a newborn. The rain came on heavy, like way too loud for me to hear my audio book. I had to shut the doors to the sunroom with its plastic roof, as it sounded like the end of the world. Once quieted, I watched the way sound muffled and it reminded me of parents talking behind doors. An almost hearing but not enough to explain their concerns and not enough to make any sense at all. And there is a yearning there, to know more even as my hands back then were twists of troubled meat and bone. This doesn’t change. I know the Cuckoo is an adventurist, a taker, not a giver, but I still thrill to hear one, to even see one fly over my head. The ultimate human confusion. We want to hear and we don’t want to hear at all.

The rain popples the search. There are diamonds in patches, in swirls, moving but not with the tide. These patches are individuals. They hold, shift, move on and then concede and become a part of what must be. I like to think this is what I am. For ever I have conformed (not just me but all women/wives/mothers) to the ebb and flow. And yet there have been times and will be again to flash popples and diamonds just for a moment, just for a time. How wonderful is that!

Island Blog – Ebb and Flow, Days of Minutes

This life without himself can feel like a loss even thought he was (often) a pain in the ass. As, I imagine, was I. The days are minutes to be filled, and I am advised thus:- to write my list of things I want to do in this new life when nobody ever asked that question in the old one. Not never. It begs the question. What do I want? Well, I don’t know. Can someone tell me please because I know that place, a place of ‘no I don’t agree’, of ‘seriously….what?’ of ‘okay then, if I have to.’ This is my comfort zone which btw has abandoned me. The peripheries of my world are blown like a bubble burst and the world beyond is one scary zero. I turn back. I oftentimes (love that word) do. But what I turn back to is a day of minutes and there are many, oh so very many. So, I don’t like this minute thing. I don’t like this nothing, nowhere, nobody thing. So what? Hmmmmm. So what.

I was once alone, for about five minutes having been expelled from school(s) and college and my first job. Sacked. I was, so they told me, a muttering disturbance, a rebel in the corridors of whispers. Had I been not me, I probably might have led a revolution but I was never that courageous and I laud the ones who did, who will do in times to come. I was taught to be a lady. Not to upheaval, not to upset, but nobody taught me the wisdom of being such a creature. It isn’t about being a doormat. No. Being one of those lady women is to be wise living with attitude. within structures, confines and male domination without aggression, without fight, without loss of self, but clever enough to get what this lady wants. I wish I had learned it from my mother’s milk but she had not the skills to help me there. I am learning them now.

So, I walk, run, dance, play within the minutes of days. No, it is more than that. I am loving the journey. Yes there are times I wring my ankle on memories, on moments, but I am still a dancer. I watch my bone-awkward fingers as I work my keyboard. I say, hallo, swollen joints, well done you. Just see what you have done, achieved over the minutes of days in your life. My toes, bent and bony, my body skinny and scarred. Hallo you all. Well flipping done.

And then, suddenly, as though my thinking has been heard and taken to heart, in comes the painter to redecorate the upstairs rooms, ridding them of short term history, the falls, the clutches at cupboard doors pre a fall, the rust, the grease smears, the smoke of an old pipe. All opened up in brilliant white, fresh, the promise of a new future, a new strength of days. Then comes the gardener, to cut my grass. I kept my grass long, my dandelions fierce for the bees and butterflies till now and he gets that. Now the bees and the butterflies are sucking from the bluebells so it doesn’t feel so bad to cut the heads off my favourite butter yellow sun-followers.

This is the flow. People come in. Someone leaves the table. Nobody else can take that seat, but the loving hands that reach out can somehow help the day of minutes into something else, something that has new life, that can move on into more days, more minutes and can, with their investment, change everything.

Island Blog – On Being Vulnerable

I watch the far shore disappear behind the rain. It’s a little warmer this afternoon although it was a mere 5 degrees earlier. Going out to collect the wood required a few warm layers, but the burner is strong and cheery and lights like a firework every time I spin a match. I don’t mind the cold, nor the crazy west coastal weather. I am well used to it and still wear my frocks, my legs bare, my boots sheepskin lined. I walk in the early hours when most others are making tea or accepting a warm cup from a proffered and loving hand. When we get warm here, we get rain, and an islander or someone who knows this place well through regular visits, accepts and accepts again. I remember a visit to Iceland where the cold is frightening unless you have sheepskin knickers, or, as nowadays, thermals. I am pre thermals. I also have never worn sheepskin knickers but that is by the way. And Iceland is so beautiful.

I see the birds shelter and then flit when there is a wee break in the rain. I watch them, think I want to live this way and then remind myself that I already do. For long years I have dived out into such a break, grabbing with open arms the light and the bright of it and, sometimes caught on the other side. Sometimes. But not often. I have rarely found myself right out there in among the ancient rocks, the wild open space, and realised my poor timing, my poor understanding of how Nature works. Perhaps, I tell myself, after 43 years of living this wild place, of breathing in her breath, of hearing her voice, I am able to notice her offerings of sudden space to live, to really get out there into a language I am only just learning to speak. Sometimes I will say, let’s go, but by the time the ‘let’s go’ team have coated and booted up, the clouds are downing once more, the wind rising, the weather talking, saying, uhh, too late mate. Maybe this is why and this is how I am beginning to love being alone, because a wee Poppy dog needs no coating or booting. She just needs a wheech off her resting place, a touch that tells her something is afoot and that something is us and right now. It thinks me.

Being vulnerable is a very present thing. I know that being vulnerable can be seen as a weakness. What? There is nothing wrong with me. I am fine thank you. And, sadly, I am happy (not) to be seen as doing ok. When I am not. There is a distinct lack of congruence here, of authenticity and yet we persist in keeping the game going. Well, not me. I know who I am and I know my vulnerability. I know where I am weak and where I am super strong. I know that my mind, the dizziest broad you will ever meet is a part of me. I know I have black spells, I know shame and I know regret. I know I am a woman, long lived who still fights demons, her own, and I know how consuming they can be, given space enough to develop.

The hills that disappear when rain sheets them over are vulnerable. Are they really there when I can see nothing of them? The birds, the wildlife are vulnerable when unexpected cold continues as they work to fledge their young. I see young birds, tails short, flight a whole new thing to them and sorely compromised under sheets of rain, lift and fall, moving just a few feet to land again, puffing like bellows. The trees that trusted the early warmth are pushing out blossoms, only to find petals at their feet. They are vulnerable too, for without the bees and other flighty things, they risk their future. And, yet, it is how it is, how it always was and how it will be again. This is vulnerable living and we are all in this living thingy. Together.

Unlike the trees, birds and insects, we have an intelligent choice. To seek help. I get that it is super difficult to reach out to someone who has the experience we lack. The internet is full of quacks and crooks. But, if you want to heal then I say Keep Looking, because every single one of us knows how it feels at any age or stage to be sick of being sick. I am one. Aged 68, a grandmother, a woman of great experience, a woman who has gone through many hurdles. I like saying I am vulnerable because I always want to learn a better way for me. There is one out there and I know it. There are many of us, particularly now, who seek help, who want change. But, first off, we must admit we are vulnerable to whatever haunts us. There is talk of Mental Awareness as if it was a new thing. I scoff. It has always been a ‘thing’, but only now is it noticed. I hate the label. I hate all labels. But, if it is, at the least, being accepted as something that will eventually become accepted then I can go with it. I had a dad who came back from the war with obvious issues that he ignored, pushed down and which only came out in anger and excess. He was a wonderful man but broken and not least because being vulnerable and admitting ‘fault lines’ was not acceptable. Now things are different and yet not. Still the question comes. So, what is wrong? Well, nothing and everything and where does anyone start with that almost judgmental question? I never got it and always reverted to silence.

So, I will continue to be vulnerable, and yes, I know it is easier for women #flakes to speak out. For men even now it takes balls (sorry) to admit such a thing. But it is key and there are going to be young men out there who will fly the flag, who will push through the What is Wrong nonsense and who will broad the walk for those to come. Because we all know it. All of us. At some time in our lives.

Island Blog – upper, Lower case

I love to mess with the way things ‘should’ be. Accordion to whom, is what I want to ask? Although I do recall, clearly, the easy hours of English Literature at A level, the rule book the size of a small country and berating my errors like a crowd of elders blocking any off roading. It isn’t that I don’t respect the construction of a good sentence. I absolutely do. In fact, I am the very first to throw a badly written book out the window. However, the essence of good writing is not a perfection of grammar. But, wait. This may not reflect my own truth. As a student of the language, of the best way to construct a sentence with noun and verb, avoiding adjectives, adverbs and other ads and coming into land on the line to say something remarkable, I appreciate that the only time anyone can play with a structure is when they know it very well. Perhaps this is why, when I read bad spelling in an official piece of writing, I cringe and throw. There is no excuse, these days with every help available online. Grammar check, spell check, information check, all is there. It is a case of not bothering and not bothering is, well, cringe and throw.

But, and this is key, the person who dreams about writing a book, essay, short story or children’s book, should never ever and ever again bother with whether or not they have a diploma in the complete labyrinth of English language, and it is. A labryinth. You can get lost in it for weeks and nobody is looking for you. You have to get up, dust off and keep going with your eyes crossed. and your brain a bucket of worms. It is important, nonetheless, to gain understanding of how language works and this is why. We have softened the borders of our language and let in some ghastlies. We have allowed in the complete change of a single word’s meaning, losing, on the way, a g or an h and this does matter, not necessarily to hold on to the old, onto what was, but just to know it was there, once, a part of the scaffold that lifted a writer higher. We, the Brits, are still celebrated world wide for our writing, our films, plays and tv series. We are strong with our understanding of our language, and its structure. And sometimes that confines us, especially if we did not do ‘well’ at English in school or have been ridiculed and mocked for our ‘wrong’ use of words in a sentence.

Bin all of that. We need writers and not just those who have gained degrees or diplomas and (often) done little with that stored knowledge. We need enthusiastic passionate writers who don’t even believe they are writers. The works, the classics, the honoured novelists, I revere and respect. But, people, these times are new. We are living in a conundrum (look that up!). An anomaly, a confusion, a splitting of the ways, a confoundment on boundaries and with a big hole in that wall which offers an opening into something new and scary. If you have that drive, do not die with your song still in you. Do not accommodate old rules, confinements, mockings or perceived prison bars. Fly. Do it. Write. The experiences each one of us have tucked under our belts over this past year are fuel for Talk, for Story, for Ideas that break boundaries of space, time and language.

Come on people. I know there are many out there and I will tell you why. We have so very much to say now. We have gone through loss, grief and struggle, pain, abandonment, sleepless nights, eating up, eating down, evasion, confusion, anxiety and identity crises. In the old days (I remember them) we knew who we were, where and when we met. We collided, avoided or we came together. We knew parameters and levels and the land on which we stood. We knew the way forward and the way back. This all came from the ‘elders’. They spoke and we believed, well, not me, but I went with it anyway because there was no other direction on offer. Now we are spinning like tops. Circling each other, unsure. And it is a writer’s perfect space. Use it. Talk about it, write about it. Let the pain rise and the sky fall. Let the anger out and watch it turn into rocket boosters. Let it out. ‘out’. because it if doesn’t ‘out’ we, as dynamically creative individuals, will just join the ranks of those with mental health issues who have gone beyond inspiration, inventive creativity and a Sunday dinner with pavlova instead of tinned custard; those who will bury this year of troubles and sink down into a permanent Lower case.

Just saying.

Island Blog – Still Snow

This morning I walk at 07.30, marching out into the freezing wind without a jacket. I test myself. Just walk, I say, get on with it. Once you have gone a short way, your ice blood will click into action, to warm you. And, it does, although I am very aware of the windwhip with its icy fingers going where nobody goes but me. I am fit, strong and wiry. I can do this. However all this ‘I can do this’ thingy does distract me somewhat from paying attention to the trees, their brave change, their pushing out of leaves and buds against such a chill. Spring is playing games with us, I tell them, once I forget myself and connect with them. One of them replies with a creak. I hear you, I say, even as I know that I have a cheerful woodburner to welcome me back into the warmth. It is a sycamore, all leaved up and hosting a zillion little birds who, with no respect at all, are tweaking off the buds to get to the juicy snacks. The floor of the track is a rainbow of colours. I roll my eyes and, yet, I know that this tree and others have allowed the Spring snatch for centuries and it doesn’t affect their subsequent growth and development. Good for you, I say, to the sycamore, to the larch, to others whose first burst of excitement ends up on the ground, for they know this game and have learned the ways of it and grown into acceptance. How wise is nature and how far behind we are in this. It thinks me.

A cuckoo flies right over my head and rasps at me, looping away into the beyond. Did you choose a finch nest, a warbler, a pipit, some poor overworked mother who will probably lose all her own babies because your fat chick will wheech them overboard before they can fly? I wander past banksy flowers, huddled to the ground, primrose, sorrel not yet open to the sun, anemones, bluebells, celandine, speedwell and self-heal. the colour they add to the ground, a heart lift after such a long winter. A winter of change, of doubt and of fear, of connection and of precious moments on zoom. Further, and I come to the huge beech trees, silver limbed and spread wide across my walking. The ones in sheltered places are leafing up now, the ones facing a sea blast are holding back, for now, but they are ready. Blackthorn explodes into blossom, pinkly white and frothy like vanilla milk shake. The larch trees are dancers, long fronds of emerald hanging from their ancient limbs, ebullient. I watch sheep rise on hind legs to grab a morsel of green, graceful and surprisingly so considering their short fat bulk and even shorter legs. The sea rushes up to greet me and I can smell the coconut gorse, the salt and the seaweed, fresh as a hit of sudden joy. I stand awhile to savour the wild smell, to take in the stories, these ones from the northern lands and I remind myself to take note for soon the winds will swing and only the southern tales will barrel in for me to hear and to learn from. These stories are centuries old and I don’t know the script. I just know they are coming to me, to anyone who has the ears to listen.

I hear trouble. It sounds like a domestic. Moving on, I see starlings flitter and scream between the branches of an oak and know there is a predator nearby. I stop to watch. One tawny owl lifts from the branches, a young fledgling in its claws. Another follows, empty handed, but I know and the starlings know, it will be back. It is daylight, 3 pm. Owls hunt at night, don’t they? It thinks me again. If owls are hunting easy meat in the daylight, they must be hungry. On this island of many predators, the sea eagle, the buzzard, the osprey, the hawks and the owls, perhaps there is not enough food to go around. I don’t know enough to know that but what I do know is that I was lucky to see the gentle lift of two magnificent tawny owls through the trees and, also, to witness the pluck and collective determination of, well, about 8 starlings in their collective defence and attack on those who would steal their young. I watched those starlings spin and dive against the owls in a way that taught me. It doesn’t matter how small you are, you can still stand against injustice.

And there is still snow on the Ben.

Island Blog – Avoiding Collisions

The big window is speckled with raindrops, held in stasis and they glisten. I look through the children’s doodles, the glistening raindrops, my eyes moving into the garden and the brave early flowers. Grassland flows down towards the sea-loch and up the other side, up and up until I find the clouds, a tangle of them, I think at first, and many shades of grey. Watching most closely I can see the layers. Up front, the cobwebby dark fast moving clouds, see-through and spitting rain. Behind them the fat blowsy white ones, lazy, taking their time too respond to a rising wind. They are weighty with knowing and in no rush, not see-through at all, like old professors who know they have a job for life. Further back, the clouds that don’t seem to move at all, flat like naan breads, backlit by a little flash of sun, and beyond them just whispy white sky, acres of it. Acres. How many layers are there? How far back, up, across do they stretch? For ever? I see these levels as closely bunched, micro managing their individual trajectories, but I am wrong. There is only accord. Room for all of us, they seem to say, effortlessly avoiding collisions.

The birds are more than ready for me this morning, one of cloud and cold rain. Many goldfinch, greenfinch, redpoll, siskin, sparrow, blackbird, robin, hawfinch, thrush, starling and rock dove. They line the fence, balance on shrubs, flit and flutter like music notes blown off the stave. Time to reel them in before the wind speed confounds and the rain turns weighty. I fill each feeder as the braver musical notes play around my feet, my head. Two goldfinch watch me from the inside of an ornamental maple, red now, red as good claret. The second I leave, they are down like a swarm of bees. As walkers pass by they rise back into the air, flitting between the feeders, between the shrubs, between each other, to land down again the moment the coast is clear, and all the time they chatter. Some feed young on the fence, some feed themselves, and in all this flitting and lifting, fighting and feeding, rising and landing, there is perfect precision. We know what we are doing, they seem to say, naturally avoiding collisions.

This land is walked on, now, by many more feet. The ferries are booked, the accommodation scrubbed and ready. In the air around us, anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear layer up, cloudlike . We are grounded and can only go on, steady, determined not to hide away any longer. Peeping through fearful curtains, opening doors that squeak from lack of use, scrubbing doorsteps, we emerge tentatively into a world that barely recognises itself. Who am I now? Who are you, now? Do we still know our way around each other, feel the same way about this, about that, about all the important things that ran strong within us but whose names I have forgotten? My sense of import has changed, my value rating. Has yours, and, if so, will we know each other, have anything to say in this changed world? We know we must brave up and out for we are not moles or worms to need the dark because we have no seeing eyes. We need the light, crave the light, the sky the birds the clouds the sun the tidal moon shift and the story-carrying winds that blow from one side of this planet to the other and back again. We need each other, even if the otherness has become a hesitation when we meet once again. Like all other members of our natural world, we can adapt. We are not going back to normal, an eye-rolling ghastly grammar-makes-no-sense contradiction of a sentence if ever I heard one, because that ‘normal’ is light years behind us now. There is only forward and we are all unsure of our footing. Let those of us who refuse to bring the past along with us hold fast to not having the faintest clue about what happens next, what the ground is like, what clouds will come, what shape the future. Burn the old book that speaks of separation, segregation, prejudice and domination. That book needs to go. It has been outdated for many many years. We might write a new book together. Meantime let us step out, step in, step through and around, consciously avoiding collisions.

Island Blog – Open and Close

Because I live at both ends of the day, like the animals, like the flowers, I see much. At 5 am the dandelions are closed, the daisies too and other sun-following flowers, the intelligent ones. The hybrids, I notice, just stay open, to night, to cold, to frost and I do, I confess, roll my eyes a bit. Your mummy didn’t teach you things, I think, but you are still beautiful. Maybe not long living, not survivors, not canny, but still beautiful short term. And that is how some people are, how youth is, supple and without dents and the lashes of life, the experiences. An one show. We have all had one of those had we just noticed we were having it instead of wishing we could just get to the next bit.

Slowly, and with the sun, the dandelions open, cautiously. I so get the cautious thingy as we have frost most nights. Just putting my nose and toes out there draws me back in to wait. That’s what the knowing flowers and birds do. They have centuries of experience in the fickle dance of nature. You say it is May? Ha…….let me play with you awhile. I think of the patient understanding of this. These flowers, these birds, adapt. It thinks me.

As we floundering humans with more intelligence (apparently) than the flowers and the birds, adapt, or attempt, to our release back into what we once thought Normal, we are foundering. The way things were will never be again. We are facing a new and uncharted terrain. How glorious. How natural. But we may have forgot the ‘Natural’ within us, that ability to adapt, to confound the voice of May, of any month in our given situation. I hear so many folk say they are relieved we are going back to normal and I recoil, like a snake. Hopefully unnoticed. How can anyone go back, first off, and then back to normal when normal is far from herself. She is ways off what she once was and we need to get that. Okay, I get the yearning for what was, what we understood, what we knew as absolute, the very ground beneath our feet, but that ground is no longer there so don’t think it will hold you up. This Covid has been a warning and one we must pay close attention to. I am no catastrophist other that the times when I have been. But not on this. We are perennials. We know how to follow the sun, our faces lifted and glowing in the light. We also know how to close and to go within, in to the warm, in to the loved ones, away from the cold and the winds that could blow the walls of Jericho down in a nanosecond sans trumpets. Are we paying attention? Life from now-now is not normal. It will be about acceptance and compassion. It will not be about waving fists at camper vans. It will not be about exclusion. It must be about the opposite, about sharing, about kindness, about, let us say, learning how other people work, those who do not have the mummy training that we did.

I watch the dandelions slowly close. I can see it happen because I can sit long just to watch. No other agenda now. Time? I have plenty. No interruptions. I recall agonising about the lack of it, yearning for it, shouting and raging for it. Now it is here, in abundance and if I am not engaged with that state, I can get angsty, fretful. But I am learning and in the main I know it as a gift and I am thankful, although not all the time. I remember my days as a thoughtless hybrid, dancing the light and believing it would last. I remember the sprinter in me and I also remember the long distance runner and my vote, now, goes to the latter. I am with the dandelions and the daisies, even as I love the short term glorious flourish of those blooms that have no flipping idea what they are doing.

So. We open and we close. We might like to think about that, as the borders open, the doors open. We are going to meet others who have really struggled through this past year; those who were stuck at home with those they were, before, able to live with only because they could get away to work. We are going to meet angry, upset, resentful, pressured beyond what we can imagine, on roads, in cafes, in pub gardens, in doorways and outside our safe picket fence. Let us allow everyone to regain some hold on what it is to be a part of the human race. Let us be kind, pull back, let forward, offer, pause, consider and, most important of all, deal with our own anger and frustration within ourselves and all by ourselves without projecting our pain on someone else who has more than enough to deal with anyway. Who said that if we really want to heal the pain the world, first we need to heal our own pain? I forget, but it is worth saying again.

Let us close to what we knew, what was and let us open to whatever comes next. After all, not one us has a scooby.