Today it is not raining. Yet. We have enjoyed many days of heavy rain, enough to turn the seed in the bird feeders to a soggy mush, enough to soak dog walkers after a few steps forward, enough to flood the little roads around the village. The river burst over the bridge and the school car park became a pond. Luckily, for us, this island sloughs off water quicksharp and the ground can look like ground again in a mere day of dry. Built on granite and super lumpy in parts, there are few of us living in a flood risk. We just aren’t low enough for that. What we face at times of big winds and stair rods of heavenly water is that the ferries don’t sail. They sit fat and empty of life in their mainland dock. We, they say, are going nowhere today. Tough bananas if you don’t get your new sofa Missus, or your mail, or yourself to the dentist.
And so we remain at home, looking out at the blattered dahlias and the neighbour’s wheelie bin cavorting about the road in a macabre dance, spitting no end of interesting garbage into a field of startled sheep. And we make soup. That’s what we do, although I resisted the temptation, myself. Soup is IT when things like ferries don’t sail and the weather takes control of our day. I meet women, like me dressed up in crinkly damp jackets, somewhere near the leeks and carrots and we just smile at each other. Not one of is phased for long when we see the leek tray all but empty. No matter, we say, I’ll just find an alternative. And we do.
We need to find alternatives for our soups on regular occasions living on this island, and not just in the physical process of preparing a nourishing brew for lunch. We must use our attitude to find alternatives in all areas of our lives. And we are resourceful, rarely stultified, and I don’t think we even realise we are. It’s only when speaking to a person who lives near all possible conveniences, with alternatives on tap, that we recognise our experiential brilliance. Anyone who has faced Christmas Day in a power cut, cut just as the turkey was beginning to turn into dinner, knows what I mean. Being without newspapers or milk or mail is not a national disaster. There is always someone with milk enough to share and the mail will be just another bill, anyway.
I think what we depend on and learn to dance with is that we are a community, one that has known tragedy, loss, and deep potholes. We may not love each other all of the time but we are never alone in trouble and the more widespread the trouble, the more we rally. Those whose lives are superbly organised are easily confounded because Life, God bless her, is a proper little madam at times, and she can pull the carpet out from underfoot at a whim. Prepared for such is not being fatalistic, but sensible. Being aware that change boogies around our edges on a daily basis, change that can so easily stick out a tripping foot and bring us down, is showing respect for the forces of nature, of Life herself. It isn’t a gloomy attitude, for which there is no excuse, not ever. If we can learn to live in the moment we are in, right now, and then in the next, when it comes, light on our mental feet and solution-oriented, then we have learned the secret of Life. Many of us share the pearls of such wisdoms, quote them even, word perfect, but they are like dust in the wind if we cannot live by them.
It doesn’t mean being insistently upbeat all of the time. That’s just an act and I can see right through it when I meet it. But, to be open as a child, ready to jump in the flood puddles and to fall over and to laugh all the way home, to be able to make soup without leeks when necessary, well, now, that is really living.
And, in really living, whatever comes our way, whatever our past mistakes and regrets, however blattered are the dahlias, if we have eyes to see the rainbows, a pair of wellie boots and a hand to hold, this, surely is more than enough. And, it is the only way to change the past.
By making a new one.