I just walked down to the shore to cool off the little dog after a surprise afternoon of hot sunshine. I just hope it will come again tomorrow for our Island Show, although it will make the cows, horses and sheep overly hot in their judging pens. It is quite a sight, all those scrubbed beasts, polished to a high shine, captured together on a small field just above the shoreline. People, even now, are scrubbing and polishing and not just the beasts, but also the hens and cockerels, the dogs, the artwork and the produce, although I’m not sure you can polish a cauliflower. Judges from far afield are making their journey towards us, and families are planning a day out, making picnics, sorting sun cream and midge repellent and wondering when it will be best to arrive.
As we pushed through the tall bracken, the hazel scrub and all those wild flowers and grasses, I watched butterflies pirouette among the blooms. Red Admiral, Painted Lady (my sort of girl), spotty ones, white ones, blue ones, I paused to notice their fragile beauty. Well, actually their beauty isn’t fragile, but they are, and yet still they breed and multiply year after year to lift our hearts if our eyes are only looking. I watched two in a game of chase and laughed out loud as they tumbled into the dense foliage. Ladybirds, red ones and black ones with white spots, whizzed from leaf to leaf and overhead an eagle slid across the wide blue sky.
Arriving on the rocks, we startled a pair of curlews, who lifted into the warm air calling out in alarm. I hear them calling all the day, but rarely get this close. Perhaps they were feeding on the mussels, if, indeed they eat mussels. I can hear families of greylags chattering to each other and the sound of cockerels, not being polished, but just competing with each other as men always do. The echo of their calls bounce back at me, for there is a great echo here and it distorts sound so that sometimes one thing sounds like quite another. Two cormorants fly lazily overhead on their way out to sea and a lone canoeist moves along the coastline towards me, his bright turquoise paddles as vibrant as new paint in the sunlight. Behind me, the whin bushes pop their seeds in the heat, sounding like a boy in the bushes with his cap gun. The rowan is turning, the witch’s tree, and the red is the colour of new blood, although soon it will darken as each fruit matures and then it will heavy the branches, waiting for the redwings and thrushes to fill the sky with a whirl of wings and chatter as they fly in to garner Nature’s Autumn larder. The smell on the sea breeze is of seaweed, salt and within its invisible flow I can hear voices of others, from far-off lands, and it matters not one bit that I don’t understand it. It is enough to know it is there, and that I can take it with me, all of it, as I wander back home again a different woman.
In my younger days, caught up in the to-do lists of the day, I might not have given all this magical beauty its due attention, for it is not that they are all there that fills us up, but that we notice them, mindfully. These days I find myself stopping often to breathe it all in, to notice and to watch and to marvel at Mother Nature in all her abundant glory.
Last year at the Island Show, I watched those who had entered their animals to be judged. I felt the flanks of a highland heifer, her coat brushed and shining and it was as soft as baby hair under my fingers. As they are led around the ring, I could see the flat backs, the good distance between the back legs, the handsome heads and proud gait of each beast and I felt admiration for their owners. We never entered anything for the show in all our years here, but I honour those who do take the trouble and care enough to make the effort. Each judge takes time to make their choice of winner, and I honour them too. I stood to watch the iron worker creating his filigree rolls, effortlessly, ran my fingers over the mosaic on the mirror frames, all the while marvelling at the care and concentration that had gone into each and everything on show.
Mindfulness. People who care.
In a busy life it is easy to stay indoors. Not just inside the house but inside our small lives and never to reach out, take a risk, make an effort to do something different.
I once visited an old house on another island, a small one, not rich looking at all, until I walked inside. There, in every corner, lay beauty. The cushions were not new, but recovered by hand in an patchwork shout of colour. The table, old and wonky, was laden with jars of home-made jam beneath brightly coloured waxed material never bought in any shop. Hangings and drapes were made of blankets, to keep out the winter chill, and decorated with fabric paint and adorned with shells and driftwood bits and pieces so that drawing them at night meant music. Wherever I looked I saw effort and mindfulness. The owners had little cash to buy their furnishings, but it obviously didn’t stop them. It was a welcome in itself and one I won’t ever forget.
We can all make beauty, if we have a mind to, regardless, either of our circumstances or the government currently in power and it has nothing to do with whether or not we are ‘good’ at this or at that, and everything to do with effort.