Island Blog 191 Earth, Wind and Fire


You know what? We get gales is what. Something about sticking out so far into the Atlantic. I like sticking out too far so that works for me, although my sweet peas are behaving like windscreen wipers and my pretty garden pots keep falling over. But, bashed and flapped about, petals ripped and stems broken is just life up here, and not just for the flowers. We are survivors, more, celebrators of life. I see it everywhere I go. Women with co-op bags flying like dog’s ears but, like dog’s ears, firmly fixed; mack tails flying, puddles avoided or landed in with a chuckle, tights spattered, hair all over the place. We burst through doors into the sudden calm of a shop looking like we just played a bit part in Back to the Future, our eyeballs still swirling in our heads and we need to take a minute to centre.

Builders and roofers smile wry smiles as the wind stops play, or the rain, and they make new plans. The lifeboat shoots out in seconds to save someone surprised by the power of the our weather up here. Shops find sandbags and strengthen their seaward doors to cope with the blast. The ferry runs or it doesn’t. The ferry doesn’t mind if it is critical you get to Tesco’s today, nor if your appointment with a specialist has taken months to finally arrive. It doesn’t mind anything much when the gales come beyond the question it may ask itself…..Can I safely dock? If the answer comes back NO then there is no ferry. But we are luckier than other farther-flung islands for we have two ferries and, thus, more options. Some islands could run out of bacon at gale times or midwives or newspapers. Huge international events could happen whilst the island remains unaware. Sky TV could be down, phone lines, anything that might upset event management, like that man who still thought the war was going on long after it had ended.

Life is not easy for anyone, but we have so very much to be thankful for. The community on this island is strong. None of we incomers moved here because we had to. We chose it. Oh, we might find some aspects of life here difficult at times, hard even, awful perhaps, but those of us who love the salt and sweat of island life feel we have come home. Not home as in birth roots but home where our spirits can fly with the birds (backwards in gales). Where we can find something from what appears to be nothing. Where we can relocate our own common sense, apply enterprise, find the smile that says I can do this, even though I have just landed in a puddle, lost my co-op bag to the winds or got myself soaked through because this heavy shower never told the sky it was coming.

In short we will take the weather and find a story inside it. We will put on our waterproofs and go out anyway because the skirling of the wind dance excites us, if it doesn’t blow us clean over. We will burst into shops with a chuckle, our hair electrified our mascara blotched and we will find the laugh, that laugh that loves to laugh, to catch the dance of surprise in other eyes, to know that, whether we like it or not, we all need each other.

We were never supposed to be hermits although I am not knocking hermits for they have oft times come up with some observation of genius; one that floats into the future, prompting one of us to capture the thought and to weave into our own fabric of life. That powerful concept is just right for a time in a life and it can become a bridge over troubled waters or the door into a secret garden. We use it to ease and facilitate our own journey. But most of us live cheek by jowl with others, even others we might rather not sit quite so close to. Life has handed us an opportunity here. How many times have I thought one fixed thing about this person who gets in my face, only to discover something about them that humbles me, something not obvious at first sight. Often I will find a hermit wisdom and the phrase knocks my socks off. Gosh! I say, and Wow! And then I change, not my frock, although I did have to do that one day when, bending over to dig out some bird seed from the barrel, my retro skirts flew right over my head, just as the bin lorry appeared. No, I mean change my mind. It’s easy when you know how, when you allow yourself. Changing a mind is a good thing, even when it proves awkward for those who don’t want to change their own. It takes courage to change your mind about a person because that change requires other changes and we need that courage, and the subsequent and uncomfortable rush of humility, to learn how to live together.

When a new wind blows across the island, causing the trees to dance and frolic, pushing the birds backwards, twisting the sea loch into a hissing turbulence and shredding the flower petals to confetti across the grass, I look out and just know change is coming.

And my feet can feel the fire of it.