Island Blog – Just For Today

I can do anything just for today. I can think what I like, just for today. Today is all I have in truth and tomorrow never comes anyway. Everyone knows that. So how will I inhabit this day? What will I decide to do or think? How remarkable it is that I can choose these, no matter what ‘luck’ does or doesn’t come my way. Inevitably, there will be moments that happy or smile me, and moments that seek to trip me up, to send my frocks a flying. Feeding the birds holds both. I am happy and smiley to feed them even as I absorb a cloudful of rain and feel quite whisked about by the horizontal blasts of a damp wind flipping my hems. Chopping wood smiles me and I like the comforting crack of axe success as the big log splits in two. Lifting the log basket tells me my stomach muscles are in good working order and I am thankful for that.

Radio Two plays me happy encouraging tunes but the news is pretty dire. I choose not to let it bother me. There would be little point in bothering, anyway, as there is diddly squat I or anyone else can do about it. However, there will be an opportunity for me to do something for someone else, to lift their spirits. All around me, faces are doing their best to smile out but I see the worry in their eyes. I don’t know what disappointment they may be dealing with, what despair has taken root in their hearts and minds, but I can offer a welcoming smile. Smiles pass through windows after all, saying a great deal without words. I am looking out as they are looking in and we can share that moment, that distant connection. Just for today I will think of someone to call and then I will dial their number. Even if they don’t answer, I can leave a cheerful message of upliftment.

Just for today I will do 2 things I don’t want to do. One of them might just be hoovering. Or it might not. I know that Henry is lonely in the cupboard under the stairs and it’s dark in there and this knowledge alone might spur me into hoover action. Might. I make no promises. After all, there are other things I don’t want to do such as wiping out a kitchen cupboard or digging up the dahlias for a winter dry out. It’s a bog out there, slimy and heavy and I will need to be quick-quick in order to catch a dryish moment between showers. I could do my exercises, which aren’t mine at all, to be honest. Someone else designed them and mostly I ignore them as much as possible. It seems such a waste of time, stretching and bending and rotating my shoulders, but I hear it’s good for me at my age to keep supple. Or, I could sort out the mound of legal paperwork that comes when someone dies, something I have managed to ignore for quite some time. The thing about doing something I don’t want to do is the feeling of personal success once the task is completed. I will focus on that, turn up the tunes and get the heck on with it.

When my mind strays to the gloomy, I will notice and take action. I have become quite good at noticing and taking action. This is something to do with a refusal to allow misery in. I have let misery in oftentimes during my life and I can tell you, it is a most unwelcome guest. It doesn’t come alone either. Misery brings self-pity, despair and loss of self-control. Well who on this goodly earth wants any of those lurking about inside their head? Not me for sure. Although I cannot control what happens to me, I can always control myself and my attitude. Sometimes I get frustrated when a person refuses to see that no matter what happens to them they can choose their reaction to it. But, I remind myself, I only understood it when I found I was seeing mud instead of stars through the bars of my life, and, besides, all of us learn new truths at different times. It is not for me to preach but only to uplift and encourage.

Just for today I will follow a programme. I will waste no time in moithering. I will be decisive and prompt in whatever I undertake. I will not moan, grumble or show irritation, no matter what goes wrong. I will be happy all the way through the day. I will decide to take time for myself even though this is rather irrelevant nowadays because all time is my own. There are no distractions, no calls to arms, no interruptions beyond the tring-a-ling of my telephone. However, there is much to be said for 30 minutes reflection and rest. I would have killed for 30 minutes reflection and rest not so long ago, after all. If I stop whatever I am doing to spend 30 minutes somewhere peaceful, such as on a wander into the fairy woods, my thinking will change as I stand in marvelment beneath the bows and branches. So much bigger than me. So much older and wiser. So much to say without words. Look at us, they whisper. Aren’t we majestic? Then I will bring that majesty home with me and it will filter through the house, lifting, uplifting, freshening the air. It may take me the afternoon to dry out, but I will have achieved much more than dripping skirts and the onset of trench foot. I will have made myself get up and out and into what is solid and strong, loyal, beautiful and ever-changing, qualities I want for myself.

I know that some folk think that when things go wrong, they are doomed, either momentarily, or forever, and that my way of being, of thinking, is just nonsense. Perhaps it is. Perhaps I am deluded, mad, even. But if I have learned anything of value in my life it is that to focus on what isn’t, what cannot be and what isn’t there, is just plain depressing. Looking instead at today, just today, and deciding that I will see whatever happens as an opportunity and not a stumbling block (poor little me), tells me I have complete control, not over the events but over myself and my attitude. And that feels just fine.

Island Blog – Disappointment Reversed

Suddenly there is change, a huge change, a life change. Some say, mournfully, that Christmas is cancelled but that is a load of tosh. Who can cancel an inevitability, after all? The day will come whether we mourn or celebrate. I have questions here. Are we still breathing? Did we wake up this morning, heavy with disappointment or did we wake, our minds buzzing with ideas for what we can do, whom we can celebrate? Perhaps a bit of both, in truth, but which thinking will win? If we grieve for what cannot be, for the ones we cannot be with, either because of the new ruling or because they are buried six feet down, we make a big mistake, for Christmas will not come again until another year has passed beneath our feet. The benefits of wasting time are nil. We have no time to waste, people, and no right to do it. If we have time, this time, any time, we are custodians of that time, as many have no such luxury. There are sick people, lonely people, abused people, dead people. If we do not find ourselves in any of those categories, we are indeed blest.

I imagine there will a lot of food left over this year. A big turkey or goose or nut roast that sits uneaten and un-shared; treats and gifts still with us, ones we now need to post and ones that will not arrive in time; little faces who won’t see grandparents, aunts and uncles; games that won’t be played; quieter homes. Next year we will talk about this time. Some will say it was the worst year ever, that Christmas was a disaster. Others, those who don’t waste time moaning about what cannot be, will say how thankful they are to have made the best of both the year and the strangely empty Christmas. I know which I will choose. Confusion has surrounded us since March. March! It is the longest time, yet not long enough to confound us, not as it might have done in times of endless war. We have no idea how fortunate we are. This past year is not the worst ever. It is just a year within which a lot happened. Just one year. And during this year, what do we remember of the good and great things that happened? The random acts of kindness, the surprising messages of support and encouragement, the way we learned to zoom or hug virtually, the phone chats, the waves and smiles of passers by, the food left on a doorstep, all happened because of this so called terrible year. Surely such gifts are worth remembering.

If we are fortunate enough to still be here, to be able to eat well, to be free to choose our attitude before the inevitable, then we can still celebrate Christmas, life and those we love. We just need to think, and right now, how we will do that. We have 4 days of 24 hours left to re-design our plans and our attitude. Learning how to be adaptable and versatile is a by product of ‘tough’ times. In easy times, there is little need to employ either. Why would we? When what we expect comes without troubling us much, we just float along like sticks in a river. But when the floods come and the water swirls and twists and lips over the banks, we can get stuck in eddies or stranded on rocks, wet and going nowhere. In our minds there is tremendous power. By choosing not to lie, wet and going nowhere, we can change everybody’s anything. If one person decides to shine their light into a roomful of darkness, then everyone can see. The light may not illuminate all expectations, but it will, once eyes grow accustomed to the brave flicker, allow others to find their own light and before you know, the room becomes quite magical.

And disappointment is reversed, in one single decision to celebrate this wonderful time.

Island Blog – Night Cap, Egg Yolk and Laughter

Well here I am once more waking bright and ready for a new day. At 02.30. Oh bother! Yesterday I spent the hours till dawn completing a commission for Christmas, a quilt for a little girl’s bunk bed. It was a hefty thing to shove beneath my obliging sewing machine needle, and the stitching is decidedly wonky chops but I believe it will hold together. For a while, anyway. The brightly coloured patchwork squares look so pretty as they lie together in no particular pattern. Particular patterns are for particularly minded seamstresses, and I am not one of those. I am way too random for ‘particular’, although I do have standards and am in no way sloppy. In fact I am not sloppy about anything at all, with the exception of one thing. Hoovering. T’is my nemesis, my pet hate, the thing I put off and put off until I cannot recall the colour of the carpet. I’m not proud of this.

Today, if, indeed, it can be named such, at 02.30, I was rather unsure of what to do till dawn, which, up here, is about 08.30. I knew I had to cook some sausages for the dog, so I did that. Then I ironed the patchwork quilt, with some difficulty considering how wonky chops it is, folded it as best I could, then whacked it into submission so that it could fit into a posting bag. I sat on the parcel to get rid of the air in it and taped it firmly. I will post it this morning at 0900 when I go down to buy a few bits and bobs from the local shop. Although I go nowhere around people these days, it is quite safe to go that early, because most lucky people are still snoozing at such an hour, especially on a Saturday, snuggling back under the duvet or sitting up, looking out at the rise of light and sipping a big mug of hot tea. And, I will be masked up like Batwoman anyway.

I light the fire, feeling the slight draught on my bare legs. I don’t mind a slight draught these days, even if the double glazing should keep out all draughts, even slight ones. Of course, I remind myself, I always leave a slit of window open overnight, for a healthy airflow. I open the big curtains and tell the draught to stay outside, please as I close the window with a satisfying click. Into the garage, I flick on the light and chop more wood, apologising to the night creatures for the racket I am making with the big ass axe and the solid blocks of pine and fir. The sausages, now cooked and smelling delicious, awaken the dog, who trots downstairs for breakfast. It’s 04.30! I tell her, but she doesn’t mind what time it is. Her belly rumbles, she wants food. Simples. I think on that. The ridiculous length of my waking hours propel me into strange mealtimes too. Breakfast can be, and often is, around 0500. Boiled egg and an oatcake. This means that lunch can be rumbling my tummy by 11. At first I told myself it was way too early for lunch, and then I remembered that I go nowhere, see no-one and, now, live alone, so who flipping cares what time I lunch?

Now what? It’s just after 5 and I have done all the morning work, apart from hoovering, naturally. I know the carpet is a grey fleck and as nobody will see it anyway till next May at the earliest, who is to judge me? I decide to do something for Me. I know, I’ll dye my hair. Good plan! Up I go, apply the bleach and return to faff about with washing on the pulley. Folded, stacked and returned to their rightful places in drawers and cupboards. Time goes on and I quite forget about the bleach on my head, until I suddenly remember and flee upstairs in a right flapdoodle to read the instructions on the packet. I am 20 minutes overdue. Oh Lordy………

Now I have plenty to do. Not only does my head resemble the yolk of a very happy free range egg, but I am running out of the blue stuff that de-yellows. I squeeze and press and swear and shake until I manage to collect enough blue stuff in my hand, ungloved, naturally, to coat the short stubble I call hair. My fingers, now purple, are crossed.

I have been here before, I remind myself calmly. I have looked like a blueberry, a sickly strawberry, a conker and, once, a gooseberry. That was not my finest hour I can tell you. Longing for the dye to fade is a pointless waste of time. You just have to live with it, take the comments, watch the raised eyebrows and laugh at yourself. I have oft needed to do that and not just for the reasons above. What I have worked out overtime, and thanks to my wise old granny’s advice, is that if I stand tall, pretend I am delighted with the ghastly hair colour or the orange tan or the outrageous frock assemblage, then I win. Nobody can say another word or look another look or raise another eyebrow because I am standing tall, owning what appears to be a disaster, as if it was precisely the result I wanted.

I look out on the stars. Orion is loud in the black sky. The wind howls, as it always does here, squealing through the cracks and moaning around the corners of the old stone house like a restless ghost. I light a candle, watch it flicker. The fire pushes out a goodly heat and the little Christmas tree sparkles in the corner of the room. All is well. And, soon, I will trot up the stairs to see if the blue conditioner has transformed me from a yolk-head to a member of the blue rinse brigade.

Either way, I will own it, stand tall and laugh at myself.

Island Blog – Independent Christmas

Well, this is a fine kettle of fish indeed! We can meet up for Christmas, no we can’t, yes we possibly might be able to, no we cannot, absolutely not, unless we…………. It’s a wonder any of us know which way is up these days. However, it seems clear enough to me, as the fog of confusion dissipates, that each one of us is required to employ a great measure of common sense. As we all know, this ‘common sense’ is anything but common inside a society that waits for Someone Else to tell us what to do. Independent thinking has slowly been erased from our brains until we become almost robotic. Or that is how it looks to me. Even when a goodly person ferrets about for an answer to that tricky question “How do you feel about this situation?’ and even more alarmingly “What do you plan to do about it?’ these two simple questions can create chaos inside a mind. I know it myself. First, I pull back; then I begin a sort of dervish twirl that can take my frock skirts over my head and leave me mighty nauseous; this swirl thing can go on for days, weeks even, as I repeat the questions to myself and find answers none.

I have now worked it out. Making an independent decision in the face of a national, nay global dilemma, is a big ask of a small woman, of all of us. Listening to the news, the rising numbers of those falling prey to the virus, alarms me greatly. The rise, it seems, is directly connected to ‘gatherings’ such as shopping for gifts and supples, or meeting together in pubs etc. Well, if that isn’t a ‘duh!’ I don’t know what is. Obviously, when folk gather under such a cloud of mean-spirited virus, that virus will spread. It is silent. It is lethal. It is not going anywhere with all these willing subjects just ignoring the danger. Who would? If I was a virus I’d be laughing my head off right now. So now, when I ask those two questions, the answers are simple. I feel alarmed and because I feel alarmed, I am not travelling anywhere, nor inviting all my friends in for a hoolie. Simples.

Yes, it is Christmas time and yes we have been locked down since March, afraid and isolated. Some of us have seen death in that time; some of us have, thankfully, not. The good news is that Christmas is an annual event, not a once in a lifetime thing. It will come next year, as many good things will. When we look back over this last year what will we say? Will we bang on about how tough it was, forgetting all the myriad and unexpected things wonderful that came our way, or will we be deeply thankful that we got through it, and together. I have never known such a unity in the world, seen or heard of so many random acts of kindness or learned of so many heroes and heroines who snuck out of the woodwork of their ordinary lives and became extraordinary. And all this because why? Because of the virus, that’s why. In times of peace we get complacent and idle. In times of war, such as this time in which we live right now, we find an inner strength and resourcefulness we never knew was inside us at all.

Whittling down the stick I find the wooden heart. If I do the same to the swirling dervish of confusion I find my own heart, the mind of my heart, the true voice of independent thinking. We may be advised not to travel. This is not a rule and there are no road blocks out there, after all. However, when I consider my part in the healing process of a whole nation or two, it is obvious to me that travel is a risk, so I won’t be doing that. It won’t be easy, seeing no family on this, my first ever Christmas alone, but I can do this. Anyone can do this. It is just a matter of independent thinking, of having a deep love and respect for life itself, and vision for a collective future. Once an independent decision is made, it is surprisingly freeing. The swirl and confusion slows to a stop. Try it.

And the chance to share Christmas with those we love will come again next year as long as we get our thinking straight for this one.

Island Blog – Birthday Hallelujah

This day my wild son Ruari turns 40. Nobody, especially he himself, ever imagined he would make it thus far. He was bent on self-destruction from the get-go. Risks were normal for him. Frying bacon at the big hot Aga at 4 am, stark naked, aged 2, and balanced precariously on a chair I had no idea he could even shift, never mind climb on to. He was making us a surprise breakfast. He would think nothing of setting fire to anything that took his fancy, or climbing onto the highest roof and, once, shinning up a lamppost in the centre of Edinburgh after a boozy dinner, all the way to the top, like a monkey. My eyes rarely stopped rolling around him and my heart was always in a state of turmoil, because whatever came next never entered the heads of anyone else. It was too dangerous, after all, but not for him.

Now look at him! Shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year Uk, married to a beautiful, feisty and very tall Viking and with two lovely wee daughters; launching a global business that innovates and supports any who choose to leave alcohol behind and thus to become fitter, happier, healthier. Check out OneYearNoBeer to see for yourselves. I am so very proud of him and not just because of what he has achieved, but of how he has turned his whole life around; how, through walking his own talk, he has generated a huge following of all ages who were lost once, and are no more. There is no greater leadership. Experiential wisdom cannot be bought, nor learned like a script. We do not follow a talker. We follow one who is leading by example.

I wish him another 40 years. Who can say where his lunatic road will lead? I am happy to say he is considerably less reckless these days although I know that light in his eyes, the one that twinkles like the North Star, the one that tells me he is still the wild child and always will be. Delivering a child so unique and impossible, so fast and so enterprising may sound like the most wonderful thing, but it had its consequences. I was never not worried about what he was up to, or planning to be up to, and he was baby number 4. But, despite all the eruptions and chaos he brought to bear, that fabulous face, that gloriously cheeky grin could, and still does, melt my mother heart. I could see, as could his dad, the extraordinary talents he was born with and we both wrung our hands as we agonised about the chances he had of living to this age. We knew that, given the right protection and the right guides, this child would rise to stardom, hopefully feeling happy and proud of who he is. We just had to wait and see, like all parents of a genius.

I honour him. I also honour the beautiful, feisty, very tall Viking, for without her, he may well have spiralled off into the stratosphere. She through love and support has helped him to grow into himself. I don’t know if he likes himself now. I don’t know many of us who do like ourselves. But I can feel a peace around him these days, a confidence born from his own self belief, one no longer rooting from the naysayers, the bullies, the neglectful teachers, the cruel bosses. He is becoming his best self.

I know his dad would have been so happy for this day. He would have growled out a happy birthday song and he would have told this crazy boy how very proud he is of him. As am I.

Island Blog – After the Facts

Recently I had cause, and pause, to think on how things are and how I feel after the facts; how I notice what was what and then what arose from those facts. Fact was I had a notwell thing, the details of which are quite irrelevant, and it lasted one day. However, the hit of it was like a sandstorm in the desert, or a tropical raincrash in Africa or even, if I look at it as a thing of change and possible loveliness, the birthing of the Monarch butterflies. The timing is the same. It stopped me in my tracks. It levelled me, decided for me, flawed me. All this is good, I tell myself whilst in the thick and the thin of it. It will ‘pass’ and I will not.

However, in this thick and this thin, it is sometimes tricky to see so sensibly. It is all ooh and ow and oh dear and will this take me out kind of nonsense. The day was slow and difficult, the dog un-walked. The only reassuring consistent was the rain, for which I was grateful. If there is a constant to hang onto whilst riding a roller coaster, or when crossing an ocean that refuses to stay flat no matter how loud the pleas, I recommend holding on to it. Later in the day, one that felt as long as a trip to Mars in a balloon, I thinked. I could just say, well I had this thing and now it is gone and I am thankful beyond measure. Or, I could notice the slow rise of my strong goodly health into her rightful place and I could communicate with her. Where did you go my lady? I went down, she replies, and you came with me. Oh, I know that, for sure, I might snap. She smiles kindly. We are sometimes caught by storms, she says. Some storms are stronger than us, but know this; they are short sprinters, not long distance runners, as we are.

I find that reassuring. Now to the next bit. In the re-tell of my crashbang day, I could major on the superlatives. A horrendous day; So much pain; I thought I was going to die. Or I could pish-posh that melodrama and notice how I feel today, this day, the day after the facts. Facts will always come in, will always stun us like a tropical storm, soak us, fry us, fell us. Are we always to be at the whim of the facts, or might we learn how to accept them as they come, welcome or not, and then to notice ourselves within those difficult times, however long or short they are, and, as the shock of them dwindles like a fire without wood, to see ourselves rise up again, thankful and somehow stronger?

Well, how-in-the-hec am I stronger ps and btw? Well, says I, it is all in the eye of the observer. To notice thoughts and feelings, no matter what facts come stomping in like an army of boots and weapons and ghastly days, I will rise from the whatever and into new light, the light of learning, the learning about me, about my resilient strength and ability to accept and to move on, empowered, bizarrely by the facts that sought to bring me down. And this is not just me. Every single soul can do this. I am tired of hearing about awful days, bad years and terrible this and that. Once the facts are broken down, it was nothing so bad. Sob stories make me want to ask So what now? That happened last week, last month, 10 years ago, 20. What are you doing to alter the facts?

It does not mean that I don’t appreciate grief and loss and stories of abuse, neglect and desolation. I really do, but I have met too many people who have survived appalling things and who have decided to rebuild their lives and it changes my thinking. I see one woman, one child, one man, one tribe, one nation, one religious sect who still keep their faith in the light of life, and it alters my thinking. If we are to live life to the full we need to notice and pay attention, not to the facts, beyond being ready for the ‘sudden’, but to the beyond of them, the beyond in which we can relocate our own strength, a strength we may not even know we are brewing.

Island Blog – Ice and Fire

The past 3 days have been glorious. Cold, freezing, in fact, with clear skies and sunshine. T’is rare on this rainy promontory to enjoy such clarity on joined up days. We mostly slop through puddles, our frocks flying out like sails and our wellies musty with damp. Although the faithful rain returned last night, somewhere in the middle of it, and the wind rose to shouting point, it is enough to have had those 3 joined up days. People’s faces shine with light, cheeks pinking, noses dripping, as they stride out along the track. Even the dogs bounce, no slinking, no wet backs, chasing sticks and each other. The stones hold fast to the ground and the puddles are all but gone. Stands of pooled spring water show me a tapestry of ice lace, greened brightly by the strangled mosses. Long grasses, now the colour of sand, stand proud and stiff, frosted with crystals and the cobwebs white-lace in between. I watch the sky through the branches of the trees, lit as they are by sunlight in shades of red and gold. Songbirds chitter all around, a musical accompaniment, their colours brighter, their flight light-hearted in the absolute stillness of the air. Ducks fly fast just above the surface of a sea-loch, cloudy with ice. Water sprites shimmer like mist, ice maidens dancing. Geese lift into the cold sky and I wonder how high they can go before their wings freeze, Oystercatchers twitter down by the water’s edge and closer to where the sea-loch becomes the sea, I watch curlews and herons and scan the water for sight of the resident otter and her cubs. A bright red fishing boat gentles its way back to harbour and I consider the haul of lobster and crab on board. It must be cold work for those human fingers, bringing in the fleets of creels in such low temperatures. I wish them hot tea and safe home to the fireside for the sun is sinking now and the sky is taking centre stage. The cold sharpens, nudging us all back home, reminding us that darkness is coming and she will bring a billion stars for our delight. Even when the sun has dipped below the hill, the colours remain. Blood red, platinum, gold and silver twists of cloud like angel hair, slowly disappearing into the darkling air.

Walking out in the night I see those billion stars, recognising only a few constellations, which doesn’t bother me one jot. What difference would it make to them, to me, to anyone if I could rattle off each name? Zip, that’s what. I don’t need to know, don’t need to photograph, don’t need to understand or explain any of this majestic beauty to anyone, even to myself. I simply need to watch it, notice it and to move into it, fully engaged. All bothersome things, all worries and concerns are not welcome as I meander along. I am intensely focussed on what I see, what I hear and smell, the sensation of extreme cold and the clarity of the air I breathe. And, after it is gone, blown or washed away, I will be able at any time to take myself back into those 3 days and to feel as I felt inside them.

This day, the day of rain, I will walk again, this time my frocks flying out like sails and my boots bravely rejecting water ingress as best they can. Ice stands will be puddles again and rising, birds will need to look to their flight plans and trees will drip. The fisherman’s fingers will thaw and the wind will cause my wheelie bins to buck and dance. I will notice the beauty of raindrops held in the branches and shivering on the tall grasses. I will feel the bite of cold wet wind on my face and hear the wind singing the pines into melody.

It is as it is. This day, those days, all just days, but there is nothing ‘just’ about any of them. Whether ice clear and light or dusky with rain and grumpy clouds in varying shades of grey, each day is precious. Many won’t have this day at all. For some it might be their last. All that really makes us truly alive regardless of weather or worries, ailments, lacks and losses is the noticing of each and every day. To mindfully walk through the minutes and the hours, paying attention to every small thing, is how to feel well. If each day is noticed and engaged in, mindfully, there is no waste of time, no ungrateful thinking and see that chattering jibber jabber of bothersome worries and concerns?

Fire it.

Island Blog – Lightcast

The clouds are curved like greying lips, white mountains frothing up at their backs. Light, always strong, pushes through in slits and slants and sudden glories, whole and holding the sky for just a few moments. Further back the blue is stern and cold, sullen and persistent. To my right, seaward, the grey carpet threatens. More hail? More soggy snow that lumps to the ground only to melt into an unattractive slosh? But it is all fur coat and no nickers and comes to nothing. A comment unheard or ignored by most, like a swagger. I watch the sky, gulls white against the grey, lifting, luffing, tilting the breeze above the sea-loch, now calming down from the full moon rise and diminish. Must be restful for the saltwater, the times in between new and full moons, when the snitchy witchy fingers rile the waters up, rile us up.

My walk today was soggy. I notice big paw prints in the mud and remember the wolf prints I saw from the cable car in the Alps. I almost laugh. Big here is not big there. Wolf prints are huge and pronounced. Captured in the snow, they show me every part of the pad, the claws sinking deep, clear and almost musical. I think about this. Do the individual ‘fingers’ lower at different times……the outside first, then the next and so on or is it a solid and uniform punch to the ground? As I walk, I consider my own toes inside my own boots. For me, it is a rounding from little toe to big, but almost instantaneous, happening in a few seconds and without my conscious connection. It kind of changes how I walk, thinking this way. The dog prints are slurry, slipped and shifted by the bog and the mud, slewed and stretched into unreality.

The bracken still talls copper aside the track. It is amazing how strong those stalks are. I remember gathering them with a friend, every day, in the cold and snow-wet, as bedding for her dairy cow, their only source of milk, living as they did a great distance from help, or milk. We gathered in armfuls and tramped the hill ground to the stall that was the cow’s nightlay, laying out the bracken until the layer was thick enough for a bed. It took both of us a daylight. As I left I wondered how she managed it on her own. But she was tough and determined and loved her cow so I guess she managed. No lorry would deliver straw or hay, not down that precipitous fall of a track, the length of it, the fall away just there and the drop over 60 feet. When they moved, the furniture van came so far and then stopped. No chance, they said. So, they shifted their lovely furniture from van to tractor bed and had to hump and shift and position each piece by themselves. As I already said, my friend was tough. There was a light in her that no arrogant grey could snuff out. Salut Jenny.

Light thinks me. It is a constant. It is there when it chooses. No dark can ever defeat it. Once light is cast, darkness defers and retreats. It is the same in a person, in a nightmare, in the dark reaches of a night. Light will always win. Always. However, we can seek light in things that are not of us. In various and ‘ya-di-ya’ instant lifts, like buying more stuff. We can find it, momentarily in a new relationship, in the trust of it, in a something or a someone and that could well be real. Or it could be the dark, kidding us. Because we, as humans, and particularly now in this covid restraint, are hungry for light, any lights we can make a mistake. I tell myself this….remember who you are, who you have invested in, whom you have learned to be and when that lightcast comes at you, in whatever form, pause and then pause again.

Then decide.

Island Blog – Buzzard One

Earlier in the Summer, there was a young buzzard that wheeled and crash landed in trees, all a-feather and gripping talons and noise, floundering, gathering itself together as if nobody had taught it how. I marvelled it didn’t flip 180 degrees at times and considered how interesting and how bizarre the world would look like when upside down and hanging on to a tree. I remember it. Not as a buzzard, but as a child, upside down, held fast by my knees, on our metal climbing frame at the end of the garden, far enough away from the adults so as not to cause them noise. It was beside the hut, that place where apples and onions sat on wooden slats to keep them air-flowed and individual. Individual, it seemed, was critical to survival. As it is, now, for this buzzard, as it is for me and for you.

In the world of buzzard, the parents have flown. Or, is it that the mother and son/daughter have flown, or the father with a ditto combo? Who knows? The buzzard does not speak to me. However, I can report that it no longer lands all a-feather and with no speed control. In fact, it is mellow and effortless in the air, lifting and luffing with the capricious winds and the bend and flex of the sea-blown trees, as if it had learned their language and can now speak it easy. It leaves me behind. I can only watch it lift and luff and spread its glorious wings to protect it from both the ground and the sky. I watch the way its feathers flex to deflect and to catch the wind. Flowing down from the hill on which I live, it will meet catch-winds, sideways blasts, warm air rising and cold air pulling down and it adapts to that with barely a murmur, without a sound.

Where did that sound go? It mewled and mewled every day in the early Summer. Was it calling for mummy or was it asserting its dominance in the reign of the sky, taking its place, demanding it? The mewling sounded so plaintive, so pathetic and yet my ears don’t know what they hear around animals. I cannot speak their language. And, yet, it teaches me. And I learn this; that life lives herself on, moving from an old body to a younger one, and that is it life herself that teaches. We all have to crash land, all a-feather in our lives and, some of us many times, as things change and as what we knew as fact crumbled into dust. Now, this magnificent creature is silent. I watch it every day for it seems to want to stay and that tells me this is the young one sticking with what it knows, what is familiar. It flies low. It flies just above me in the trees as I walk, just watching. It might stay there, watching me, watching it, if the noisy terrier didn’t chase it along the track, barking as if barks would scare it away.

It thinks me. Barks, wind, lift and luff, life and being alone. I’m ok with all of it for it reminds me of me. If I can do all of the above and still hold on to who I am and what the world is, then I have all that I need. If, in my grounded mind, which, btw, has never been all that grounded, can move through the air, through the change and the moods of wind, sky, tide and tree-stops with. conscious grace, always learning, always adapting now matter how old I am, then I am akin with the universe. I know that I know nothing. I know that I must always be open and ready to learn. My old ma would have sniffed at such nonsense. In that generation the telling was that you learned, then accepted and fixed. I think, like the wild things, that my generation is different, more aware, more ready to live mindfully. And I celebrate that. I may be alone, as many are (or feel) alone, but this does not take our strength from us. In fact, it might just make us wilder, more questing, more adventurous.

The mewling buzzard is silent now. Not subdued, not at all, but living completely, in itself, in this world, as it is and as the world is right now. I’m in.