Island Blog 196 Keep Talking


The morning is crisp and peaceful, a slight frost holding to the grasses, making them look a bit startled.  Nothing moves but the smokey grey clouds in a pink peppercorn sky.  I walk out to join the dawn as a soft breeze begins to ruffle the sea-loch and a noisy line of curlews pipe in the new day.

I fill the bird feeders.  For a few days now I have heard the change in bird song.  There is a spring in their voices now, and feeding time is a mad dash of grab and scuttle as male blackbirds fight for their dames and little coal tits play a romantic hide and seek among the the little trees, ghost bare for now.  I know it immediately, when the song shifts from winter minimalism to a spring aria, and it smiles me.  There are snowdrops flowering, a bonkers daffodil or two in a sheltered spot, crocuses and even primroses, butter yellow jewels along the old drystone wall.

I get to thinking about language and communication.  It seems effortless between bird species, the pecking order clear, submission and deference, fight or flight.  Not so with humans.  How someone says something often overrides and negates the initial issue as a discussion declines into a battle of wills.  Semantics cause endless strife, the understanding of a word, what it means to each individual, what its root source is in their own past, how it filled their young ears.  I remember calling my much younger husband a slob once.  To me it meant he was being lazy when I was rushing about doing all the domestic chores.  To him it meant something very different, a label he refused to wear, pertaining, in his mind, to a useless lummox who hung around street corners pinching handbags and spitting and being rude to old ladies.   He was upset for some days after.

As we learn to live with dementia, he and I, language and sentence delivery require a greater consideration than before.  It is a test of the powers of adaptation, and a welcome one, for it has taught me much about being careless with word usage and timing.  In my own birth family, we learned from our mum how to outdo each other with sarcasm and sharp wit.  There is no place for that now, and what I have found is that I am far more respectful than ever before, quicker to apologise for being rude or dismissive, humbler. I wish I had learned this sooner, for it sits well with me, being respectful and kind and patient instead of flashing my talons in defence of my small corner. It all seems so silly now, with hindsight, such a waste of time and energy.

It is true, because I know it from experience, that when I need to adapt my language and behaviour because someone else has changed their song, or it has been changed for them, I find myself at peace.  The rythym of the day is a soft beat, soothing and calming, sort of calypso, my favourite.

All we have to do is listen for a change in someone’s song, and find the harmony.

3 thoughts on “Island Blog 196 Keep Talking

  1. Perhaps getting older brings a new dimension to communication, that of saying nothing, when to speak or give an opinion now seems unnecessary. I’ve noticed this in myself increasingly and I accept it as an interesting and curious gift. Thank you for your beautiful writing which I have only recently discovered.

  2. Your words are so true. I have had to learn to curb my verbal talons, usually only visible when I have been hurt, which is usually the only time I give way to anger. A self defense mechanism I learned many years ago. In the past 16 years I have learned that I am very much loved after many years in a very negative marriage.I love to hear of your comings and goings and like you, this morning has been spent sorting out bird feeders and enjoying having the patio doors open and listening to the water feature.I have watched the male blackbirds chasing the ladies and the robins suddenly becoming territorial after sharing the same garden all winter. Such joy.

  3. lovely as ever. You ought to write for the RSPB! I’m going to put in in this month’s magazine, we all need to communicate better and kindlier. All love Janie

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