Island Blog – Memory Thinks and Flying Colours

As I light the candles in my lovely sitting room, I remember how oft I have done this over the years, and not just here but everywhere I have settled. My home is a sharing place. I remember the faces of all the young people who have barrelled in after a pub visit or for a party here and there was always a party here. We were known for it. Always a welcome. A candle or 20 at the window beckoning. Come in, come in and rest by the fire; eat, share, drink, laugh, settle that tired body right here. Music played then and music still does.

However there is no sharing now, no candlelit welcome, no visits at all. How extremely bizarre is this time in our life. I sit alone beside the merry woodburner and I reflect. I remember. I can hear the music and the voices, the laughter and the fun and, more important of all, I can say thank you that I have known these times; times when I could hardly cross the floor without tripping over somebody; times when young people chose this home to visit, knowing, as they always did, that there would be a warm welcome, refreshment, friendship and the chance to dry off. I know that everyone left feeling better. I know that we gave that, me and Himself and I feel a rush of happiness flooding through me. We didn’t live with a stricture, nor a fixed structure; rules were rules of course and there certainly were times when I waved my stick at bad language, or poor behaviour, but apart from that, freedom reigned within these walls and the ones before and the ones before that. I like that. It is not how I lived as a child. There were so many rules it was hard to move at all. A bit like those laser security beams, criss-crossing every room. Only a spider would get from one wall to the other in safety. Perhaps that is why we did it differently.

Now all these young people, the marine biologists, the geologists, the cetacean experts, the ecologists and many other ‘ists’ have grown into their own worlds, have their own families, their own four walls. They will not come again. But they did once and I am glad of it for I have an ocean of memories to warm my cockles. I can hear their voices, see their faces wreathed in smiles. I remember feeding the five thousand on huge pots of refried beans or bolognaise or chilli con carne (chilli sans carne for the vegetarians) and just loving each shared meal. I see steaming bowls in cupped hands and bodies on every available horizontal surface. Even now, after so many years, I still cook too much and my first thought when someone visits is of what I can give them to eat. So strange to know for certain that there is no chance of anyone visiting anyone and for some time to come, and when that time does return to us, will we really connect with the gift of that freedom or will we just take it for granted as we did back in the normal times? I did, take it for granted, I mean. It is natural to do so, until that ‘natural’ is removed, forbidden, wiped out. Only then do we consciously think.

I have enough roasted vegetables and pasta for at least 4 days. As I sit alone by the merry woodburner watching the candles flicker and dance, I let the memories float through my mind and I say a thank you; thank you that I can remember; thank you that I experienced all that youth and colour and fun; thank you that I am still alive, can still use my brain, am well, happy and absolutely certain that we will all get through this time of strange estrangement with flying colours.

Island Blog – Love, Belonging and Happiness

I have been thinking lately of what it is we all long for in our lives. It isn’t an abundance of money, even if we think it is. It isn’t a bigger house or a motorbike or a puppy. It isn’t a holiday in the sun or new clothes or to win Britain’s Got Talent. What we all long for above all else is to be loved, to belong, to find in another/others all that confirms we really really matter, not for what we do, but for who we really are. In other words, to be happy and truly, deeply so.

We learn from childhood to design ourselves in a way that is acceptable to others, to parents, friends, siblings or teachers. We want to fit in. We long to fit in. It is a primal need. And, yet, in designing ourselves according to others’ ideas of who we are, we lose ourselves. We all do it. If the way we want to be conflicts with their ideal, and if we are strongly convinced of our own way of being, we will come up against the rocks. We will be labelled naughty, bad, impossible, awkward and Trouble. It is mighty exhausting to live this way and not many of us keep it up for long. After all, who wants to be sent to their room over and over again until they come to their senses? In other words until we conform and submit, and we carry that need for acceptance on and on throughout our lives unless we notice, see and call a halt.

But how to relocate a self, hewed by many into a shape that has no connection with who we are is indeed a big challenge. We may have walked under clouds for decades, behaving as we ought and as we should, all grey and soggy and with no idea why we ever let it happen at all. We may well have imposed the same on our own children and that is a sobering thought. The key, I believe, is to notice what we do in order to please others, whilst displeasing ourselves. We give, teeth gritted. Well, how about not giving that way? How about saying, gently and firmly, No, I cannot do that today/now/for you? Would that be so very hard? Yes, it would, the first time, but not thereafter, as the words come more easily. You notice how your shoulders come down and your back tension is less; your teeth no longer grit, your stomach is calm and you feel you are honouring yourself for once as those soggy grey clouds lift and the sun streaks through like honey drizzle on porridge. You begin to find out that, contrary to your entrenched belief, you rather like yourself. You don’t waste a moment beating yourself up, well maybe once or twice, for letting this all happen as you begin to re-design your own wonderful self. You are wonderful just as you are right now and the only person who will take some persuading of this is you.

You may not have a clue as to the road ahead, may not even see it through the fog, but, trust me, a way will show itself once that decision to be who you are settles within. You just know you will not longer live through other people and their opinions, through the currently acceptable shape and form of being someone who ‘fits in’. That sister who talks over you, so certain is she of how it should be done; that parent who wants everything to be as it always was and who will loudly and powerfully berate your resistance; that friend who expects you to give as they give. If none of these roles sit easy with you then Do Something to effect a change.

We only have one life. How about really living it? Therein, my friends, lies happiness, one that will, in time, light up not only your own self but will bring surprising joys once everyone gets the hang of you and comes to admire your courage. Which they will. And it all begins with you and with me.

Island Blog – Rain Light

I walked today with my eyes open, as best I could in the slanty rain showers. I need to see, and everything, not just the odd one or two things of spectacularness. Actually, if I look with intent, a great many things take on such a quality. Marching past, thinking ‘rain shooting up my frocks or stones kicked inside my boots to irritate my bare toes’ I can easily miss something I should not miss if I want this walk to mean anything more than a mere mindless exercise for both myself and the Poppy dog. She, needless to report, has no issues with frocks or stones in boots and I am glad of it, for her sake.

Lifting my mind from the aforesaid, I steady my gait, slow my footsteps, turn my face to the rain and all the skinly benefits it has to offer me, for I know it does, I can feel it prickle and stipple my wrinkly face, making it really quite lively. My mascara will not run, and if it does, I won’t mind because the feel of this heavenly water is so much more refreshing than the slosh of chlorine controlled tap water. I look about me. The leaf mulch is like burnished copper and the stems of strong-backed bracken think me of bare trees in a fairy forest. Rose Bay Willow Herb (such a mouthful of a name) stems are of similar beauty. I wonder when they will all finally fall to earth. Perhaps never. I forget.

Moss coats the trees. Beech, Alder, Sycamore, Hornbeam, Oak. All of them gleam and glow, luminescent, elvish, the tiny moss tops holding the droplet diamonds. Thousands of them, on closer study. The sycamores or plane trees patched like the necks of giraffes show me burnt siena and umber. Some trees are bald and the rain has shone them into beacons of light, like wraiths among the living, standing without breath. All sung out. The flash of a Jay overhead, the greyling light illuminating its colours, the translucence of its wings in flight. A buzzard hums the air, holding it, balanced to perfection, almost still as punctuation. Poor rabbit, I think, or mouse. You will see nothing coming as you scurry from cover to cover, always hiding, hiding for a lifetime.

The track is puddled, the extraneous rain pitching down through little gullies, down, always down, as freshwater will always down to the mother sea. The loch popples, tiny drops peppering the surface whilst beneath, salt meets fresh and the inevitable collision shows me a frothy curve of resistance and attack. Sticks lie here and there, thrown perhaps for laughing dogs with play in their mouths and dance in their legs, abandoned like dropped kindling on the path of a forager. I remember each Autumn walking up here on dry days to forage for kindling. There was something wonderful about knowing who lit my fire. Buying bags of split wood never felt the same. I like provenance, stories, meaning behind things. I felt the respect owed and due as I lifted, carried and then lit my fire with something from the woods of Tapselteerie. So much of my life lived there. It matters. Thank you, I breathe, as I lay the gathered sticks, marking, in my mind, the tree they fell from, the one still living, or the wraith that once flowered and spread, following the seasons and just begging to be noticed.

Almost home and I hear the chatter of a very busy household. I can see the evergreen shrub shaking with all this noise and bustle. Hallo Sparrows, I say, but quietly so as not to disturb or alarm. I toss up a prayer of thanks for their safety in concealment. I like that they can live together this way, as I absolutely could not. A commune never attracted me but sparrows seem to love it. They are safe for now, for this time when the sun, barely able to lift his head over the horizon offers a shortling day in which to feed or to forage. T’is the season, I tell them, as I walk by and they, having paused at my footsteps, in an alert concern, relax and chatter back to me. I know how to move around birds; slow and with a soft, reassuring voice. In the mornings as I fill the feeders, the birds come close, even the male blackbirds and that was my best delight for they are the biggest panic merchants I have ever encountered, screaming alarm at the slightest twist in proceedings and frightening all the other birds into bushes and over fences, their little hearts beating like a drumroll, and oft for nothing.

Another day passes. This one with rain light in its eyes. I meet those eyes. And I see.

Island Blog – The Friend Ship

Sailing, as we all do, alone, and some of us more alone than we might like, I oftentimes find another sailing beside me at the most unexpected moments. Now, as a sailor’s wife I know this unexpectation to be impossible. In that vast expanse of flat ocean, even one in a grumpy or ferocious mood, I can always see someone coming, and from far off. However, in a grounded life, I don’t always see someone coming. I might be distracted, sweeping the floor, or suddenly in the wide mouthed conservatory, like a goldfish in a bowl. Someone might come walking by, someone who pauses to communicate affection and support from their friend ship. They move by in silence, the window glass between us, the Covid restrictions refusing a close encounter. Even as they pass me by, the feeling that they and I confabulate leaves me feeling like I just took something in something warming like porage or soup. More, it elevates my steps thereafter. I feel seen, acknowledged, noticed, of value. This friend in his or her ship may well move faster than I through the ocean, but it matters not, for this encounter has told me I can keep going, regardless of my slow pace. I may have a smaller ship, less crew, less rations, less focus on the whereabouts of my destination. They seemed to be certain of theirs, after all, or it appeared so. But they paused in their trajectory, just for me.

I notice that before this time, this time of isolation and the lack of our ships meeting as we did so gaily and with no thought of it ever being stolen from us, I took it all for granted. I might even have waved it away. Another day for this for I am busy with my own piddling thingamajigs and have no time for this friend or that. Let them WhatsApp me first, or call at the very least to ascertain my availability. Funny how all that has dissipated now in this lockdown fog. Funny, again, how much I have learned to value any contact. I may not instantly respond, but that ship that just passed me by with a friendly wave will not be as it might have seemed to them. I did not disallow, not did it mean nothing much to me. It meant very much.

It thinks me. Do I honour those friend ships that bother to slow and to communicate? I caught them as fish in my net in the abundance of my past life, whence I might think that life would always supply me with a big haul. I could afford to throw some back as unwanted bycatch because I never considered that I would ever be standing alone on a ship, the helmswoman, crew-less and traversing an ocean that seems to go on for ever. It also learns me. I may be alone on my slow ship in the midst of storms and slack-water, in the doldrums or riding on skyscraper waves but I am not alone. There are other ships out here, even if I cannot see them. Ships will gravitate towards each other in the ‘way out there’ of sailing. I know this. I have encountered this. Even if we are all sailing alone, we care for each other in the wild spaces, in the ride and crash of darkling skyscraper waves and it teaches me.

My analogy comes to ground, and still as a teacher. My loyal friends who still walk by, who still text, email and message, who still call, despite my carelessness, who communicate in silence through the window, I salute you all. I value your persistence and loyalty, the ocean depth of your always finding me no matter what I do or say or what I don’t do and don’t say as I hold this wheel and fight the ocean traverse.

Thank you for being my friend.

Island Blog – A Forest and Thinks

Outside it is still dark and will be for a while yet. There is no mangata, no moon reflection on the ice to sparkle rainbows at me, for the ice is all but gone. Just like that. All that effort over many crisp, cold days, melted in minutes. Today the sea-loch will popple once again with an irritation of raindrops and the wind, rising now, will lift its skin with pox. I light the lights and bellow the fire into life. I watch the lick of flames around the chunks of wood and I remember the forest. Hallo forest. Thank you for gifting me this instant (well, almost) warmth, for cheering my eyes with your dance of gold, of blood and amber, for your constancy. You will merry away the day as you reduce each log to charcoal, an artist’s tool and, in the right hand, transformative.

There are only doors, walls and windows in between the out and the in. I can inhabit both and I do. I am fortunate to have that freedom of movement, I know this. The ground beneath my feet is warm in here, and my bare toes connect and notice. I will need footwear out there, as I move into the rising light, and it will rise eventually for the dark is dazzled by any sun, however weak or clouded. I will work today on a new tapestry landscape, feel my way from the bottom up, choosing colours at what might appear to be random but is far from that. My quiet subconscious is always at work, for my good or bad, she is constantly seeking resolution. I am glad she is quiet for there is enough yammering jibber-jabber going on at the surface of my mind, as if there were about 60 mouthy chatterboxes inside my head. You should learn from the forest I tell them when it becomes deafening. A forest stands still and rooted, all together and each one alone. Sibilance with the wind and rain is about as much noise as a forest makes for it is bird-less and cannot wave its arms about like you are all doing.

It thinks me of us, of we humans, and our talking together. Competitive chatter, voices rising to dominate the space, sucking all the air out of other mouths, or perhaps quiet, contemplative reflection, even silence whilst together. All are possible and timely. There is a time for lightweight banter and a time for a soft exchange of thoughts. There is a time for a voice to elevate when the wind or rain of a situation irritates someone into pox, and a time to stand silent, to observe, to speak not. The trouble is it can be hard to get this right, driven as we are, by external forces and by our own internal dialogue. I have learned, sometimes painfully, that it helps to take a step back from myself when I dither on the periphery. To speak my mind or not to speak my mind. Ok, I say to myself, let us step back and merely observe. It isn’t easy when the blood, gold and amber of the situation is burning me. I can feel it scalding my eyeballs and my heart is on fire, but I hold my ground, rooted, like a tree in the forest. It takes practice and, to be honest, I haven’t had to do this forest thing for months and nor have you, I imagine, if you are as isolated as I am. In the olden days, when I enjoyed encounters with people on a daily basis, thought nothing of meeting a friend for lunch or of dropping in on my family, I took it all for granted. I appreciated it, for sure, was thankful for all of it, but I didn’t really understand that this freedom of movement could be taken away from me, and…. Just. Like. That.

So, once I/we get back among each other, will we be full of our own babble or will we have gleaned, from this time of lack, a precious lesson, one that will make us better listeners, more comfortable with a shared silence, less desperate to have our say, have our voice heard, fight our corner, demand our rights? It is up to each one of us, of course. It will take work to effect a change and not everyone believes in such work. But for those who do, think on this. A world, a street, a home wherein each voice is given space, is listened to and taken seriously. I suspect many of us have felt un-heard and disregarded but are we to perpetuate that which made us miserable?

The forest falls but it can grow again. We, on the other hand, cannot.

Island Blog – So Last Year

I notice that, since the first lockdown, little buds of hopefulness are emerging. Enterprising folk have taken on study and are now elevating the robots of Facebook and Twitter, and us. Although it can occasionally be quite marvellous to know what someone is cooking for supper, it does become a little dull over time. I have been a little dull over time myself, I must confess, taking a photo of a plateful of colour and texture in the sure knowledge that this will bring me likes and comments and schmooze. There are daily postings of children playing, of old granny’s birthday cake alight and looking dangerous when I find myself hoping that the old girl has enough puff residing in her lungs to avoid conflagration, and of colourful and textured dinners. Many update their profile picture and if I know them, I can see the effort and time they took to look particularly wonderful or hilarious or warm and smiling.

Enterprising people are finding things positive to spread hope among us, folk who, previously, might have worked at something quite different but who have realised that posting positive on a daily basis requires effort, demands regular tasking and stands alone in the fight against gloom and disbelief. I gloom and disbelieve too. Writing down my resolutions makes me snort at times. Who am I to think I can actually achieve this busy page of A4, and for a whole year? Each resolution requires breaking down into particles and I am not overly fond of particles being a woman who likes the finished work of art, the job done overnight. But there is a chasm, nay, a continent, in between me writing down my determinations and them inhabiting my mind, body and soul. When it thinks me, I can see that what I want is instant conversion to this new faith in myself, in life, in the world. I don’t want to do the work at all, even knowing that I must.

Becoming who I aspire to become is going to take me into the fog of inner change. I cannot see who I will be, nor where I should go. I cannot see anything at all and the fog is cold and damp and is making my eyeballs soggy. I cannot even see the path ahead. Who wants this? It would be so much easier to turn around and to head for home again, back to what I was but didn’t like much, to where the simple routine was both simple and lonely, where I can check my mobile for tweets and posts on other people’s dinners, children and fired-up grannies. But if I want to change, as I do, if I want to elevate myself from the ditherment and loneliness, that lack of hope and faith, of self-belief, then I must not turn around. Instead I must look at that flipping sheet of A4 and deconstruct each aspiration into those irritating particles. Although it seems a bit unfair that the year has to begin with a January when a May would be so much more pleasant, it might mean that it is I, myself, who needs to add the colour and texture so lacking in Nature. Thinking thus, I find I can respond to bright happy pictures that others post with a smile. I can see how they are also inside this January, have their own aspirations and change lists, are also walking through the soggy fog and yet still manage to find colour and texture to share. I can read the positive words scribed by those enterprising folk who used to do something quite different. From mechanic to coach. From HR to author. Well, why not? We need these people who have lifted themselves for our benefit and whose commitment to positivity and the promotion thereof gifts us a daily sprinkle of magic dust. Sometimes I mutter a Go Away with all your positive stuff. I am weak and weary, isolated, lonely and can see no end to any of it. But, I sneak back later for a peek and find that the daily attention I pay to my fog trek does lift me a little. On a regular basis, this ‘little’ can develop and grow. The fog can clear just enough for me to see my feet, feet I had forgotten were there, and it smiles me. That smile sends a message to my brain; my brain sends it on to my body and I straighten a bit; my body goes wild with it, pulsing it through my blood and all that messy stuff inside me and before I know what’s happening, a little song rolls into my mouth. I sing it into the fog.

On days when the fog is too much, I don’t, any longer, berate myself. I don’t say ‘See…..I knew you couldn’t keep this up, you big loser!’ I just stay home and cosy. The fog will wait for me, after all and if I really want to become who I can become then this trek is going to be worth the effort, an effort that oft feels pointless. Even on stay home and cosy days I hold on to the colour and texture, the positive and the elevating, and I silence the cynic for she is no longer relevant to me, to anyone, and particularly now when the whole world is in disarray and turmoil. Who I was, that woman afraid of everything and quite without the belief that she is worth any level of preservation, never mind development, is so last year.

Island Blog – Arrested

I remember one winter when the ice was added to nightly, and fixated itself on the job in hand, the taming of the flow of water, from fresh spring to confoundment, from easy movement to an arrest. It worked well for our pleasure. Kids, labradors and even parents scooted on feet or backsides right across a freshwater loch that could have sunk any one of us at a whim and the light was dipping, even then. The scuff of new frost shot up our trouser legs and under our jackets and fingernails. It hurt like hell but the laughter thawed the hurt, as did the shared laughter. It doesn’t happen this way now. Is it that the ice is not longer a jailor, or is it that we are so threaded with fear that we never scoot anywhere much, least across what might be an illusion?

Today I noticed how much more frozen were the grasses and the trees. Yesterday it was like the First Night of a show, a promise and full of hope for a duration of weeks but with no surety. Frost, tiptoed into her place, delicate and fragile, ever looking to her back. Rain can come any day here, without a warning. Rain flips the clouds, warms them like a mother with intent until they cannot but spill their load over our land. She has done this for decades, centuries, arresting us, because when rain comes it never comes for a moment of delight and refreshment, but for days and weeks, like a jailor. We have to change our clothing, our boots, our timings. We play happy around her. We pretend we are fine with all this rain, sogging our land, our gardens and out woodpiles, but we feel the wet of her, the insulting slap of her minions against our face and the way they insinuate themselves into our bins and paths and up our skirts.

Now, we have Big Lockdown once more and the fear is back. Who, what, when, shall we, should we…..? All of that. The weather matters. In this frostdown, we can play like kids scooting across frozen freshwater lochs without fear; we can remind ourselves of past times when this threat lay not over our heads and we had no jailor. But life goes on and we know what we know now and it is not as it was. Lambing comes, markets must open, growers must grow or we will not find any grab on to the circle of life we know and understand. Our voices are quiet now. Muffled, unsure. Mine too. The constants in which we trusted are floating away. When I see, as I did this day, a fallen tree breaking a fence, I got it. I thought, nothing is permanent and this is exactly what we don’t want to see. I study it. It is a deer fence. Quite pointless in this place. Deer have no boundaries. Then I looked at the fallen tree, an ancient larch, possibly over 100 years old. Timely old soul. You just decided you had had enough. Respect. Sorry about the fence but it is far from pretty and old and possibly rotting.

Walking today, I could see that the delicate fingers of frost and ice had become determined. The grasses were thicker with frost, their stem bodies more assertive, catching more sun rainbows. The tablecloths of open space showed me milieu and yet I knew there were was a rebel of individuals standing there in triumph against Winter’s rages. And yet we concede to what we know and trust. And so I did. and so I understand. We cannot fight this jailor, this arresting, but as we walk through our days, confounded, altered, scared and angry, we can still remember who we were before and how we might grow beyond this prison. ice

I know. I know. Get lost with all positive talk. I agree. But, as I scratch my head and look at my wrinkles, I still think there is a light and bright out there and it just might be be up to those of us who can still, albeit mentally, scoot across a loch in the dying light, just once, just for now.

Island Blog – Ice, Clarity and Skeletons

An ice-white day, from start to finish. When I awoke at 3.30 a.m. I walked out, barefoot, in search of the Aurora. She wasn’t playing, not yet. But if we are graced with such weather again, maybe next month, she will dance in the skies behind my home and I will watch her as my bare toes meld with the earth. I recall, well, coming outside from a robust and loudly musical ceilidh, to see her dance her lights across the stars, and for quite some time, until my mouth threatened to freeze wide open and my toes grew chilblains I wouldn’t meet till the morning. I will never forget that night. March 3rd 1993. Funny how dates can stick when others flounder grey and insubstantial within the soup of memory, like slime.

I walked the whole round today. I have avoided it for days, maintaining to myself that I am always tired and, thus, justified in my short walk which isn’t a walk at all, not really. Some of my friends, my sisters, my brother, speak most jauntily of a mere 7 miles and twice a day, and, whilst they cover this ground in my mind, I am left slouched and idle in my 20 minute trudge through a ‘not-walk’. So, this day, this ice day, this day of clarity when Ben Mhor, so clear and so near, looks like the whole mountain might suddenly appear in my kitchen, I decide not to agree with my trudge self, but, instead, to walk on. And, I am glad of it. I could feel the eyeball searing cold of the Atlantic hit me as I curved myself around the apex, even though there was not a stitch of wind, nothing even enough to shimmy a leaf. I paused, often, to really look. Striations of ice lay on the stand water, water that will, possibly, give birth to tadpoles in the Spring, whereas now it just reflects the sky in rainbow connections. The trees, skeletal and defying identification for I am great with leaves and considerably less great with bark and shape, lean over me like big sisters, strong and well rooted. The ground is caramel with fallen beech leaves, glowing eerily in the light of the sinking sun, sienna with a touch of ochre. The track is puckered with ridges of frozen mud, elevated by boot trudge, by the hooves of horses, the snatch-track of bikes and I feel a peaceful calm run through me. My pace is timpani inside the silence. A jay screeches, a woodpecker cuts the silence and I watch it lift and flip away. Ravens, their voices so confident, commenting on the day, black and slow in flight, flap lazily through the blue. Lady Larch, the queen of the woods, catches all the orange of the last sun. In a human world, she would be a model. She is certainly tall enough.

A constellation of star moss lines the track on my homeward walk. I stop to marvel at the frost-bright crowns each stem wears upon its head. On the track, the grey stones have grown an old man’s stubble, white with light, but, unlike an old man’s stubble, it melts beneath my fingers rendering the stones an immediate ordinary. I come back through my little wonky chops gate. The latch no longer meets its docking. T’is a winter thing. Come Spring, it will happily click shut again, but, for now, I must needs elevate one side of the gate in order to connect with the other. Inside the fire yet burns and as merrily as it always does, the smile of welcome; welcome home. I make tea and press play on my talking book, resuming my place as observer to another’s taut and well paced story. My story is not well paced. It is only in the re-telling of a story that any well-pacing can be brought to bear, as if distance from the drama matters. And, I concede, it does matter. In the thick of the drama, however undramatic this drama may be, everything is sharp, frozen even, and with no recourse to sensibility. On the other side of any story, the eyes of the observer are essential, even if the observer is she who lived through that story, or he for that matter.

Veg roasted, candles lit, fire encouraged into a new and warmer flame, I am content. I have walked further this day. I have watched ice halo star moss; I have laughed at my ignorance of trees without leaves and stood beneath those massive skeletons in awe. I saw the Atlantic buffet, albeit kindly, the basalt and granite shoreline; I studied the ice diamonds on the track, one I walked today. Walking on diamonds.

Every girls dream.

Island Blog – What have you done?

These are my thinks on the aforesaid. It is a tendency of ours to focus and to rest on what was wrong, what we did wrong (if we are honest) as we reflect on the past year. Oh, we will, naturally, blame covid and isolation and limitation and deprivation, but once we are done with all that tiddelypom, we find ourselves confounded. There is nowhere else to go but to ourselves. We have this irritating thingy-whatsit inside us that whings like a drone above our thinking, looking at us from the eagle eye and in a most infuriating and revealing way. This eye sees us like we never never would wish to see ourselves.

And so. How do we walk the same terrain, for some of us pavements, for others of us, tracks and wilderness, find something about ourselves that makes us ok about who we are, or who we have been over this time of limitation, isolation and confoundment? The shouty media is all about elevation and the celebration of those who have done this elevation thing. We all admire them. They have marked our cards. They have caused us tears and smiles. But, what of we, who have just been…..we?

What I did this day, with some homework a few days before (hate homework) was this. I decided to make five points of personal success this past year. Oh, there are many more than five, but I found it interesting that that ‘five things challenge’ afforded me such disarray. I find myself easily locating my crimes, real or not but real to me. If someone challenged me to speak out the things I feel I have done well this past year, I would founder. How normal am I. I watch so may good people defect such an acknowledgement. I’m doing it too. And yet, and yet, I know what I have done. And, so do you.

My five things.

I came back from Africa so Popz wasn’t alone as he was the year before, cold and without me.

I was with him with the greatest respect and love throughout covid, and happily.

I found my words again. I had thought them lost.

I found my safe place in this home

I am learning who I am . Can ‘t say again, because I am not who I ever was.

Can you write your five things of achievement? Oh yes. You so can.

Island Blog – Day One, Lucky Us

And so it begins. With this day. The only one we can ever be sure of, those of us who awaken into the morning of it. How shall we spend it, I wonder? For those of us of a merry disposition, the options are endless, for no matter our current limitations, we will see each moment unfold as an opportunity to smile. Even if the wood won’t split or the poached eggs slip off the spatula to land with a hot splat on the floor, spreading into a lake of liquid gold quite disproportionate to that of their polite containment in the poaching pan, even then a smile can be lifted to the face of one whose disposition is a merry one. But what of those who cannot find such merriment, at these times or, indeed, at any time? It must mean that life always feels cumbersome at best, vindictive at worst. I am sad for such people because I know that not one of us is born for such a life. Babies do bawl, yes, once the air hits their lungs but who is surprised at that? From that moment they are ready for anything, trusting and malleable and ready to learn whatever they are taught.

In my family, the teaching was not that the world owed us our lives, indeed not. If we wanted something we learned to work towards it and not to whine pleas through wobbling lips. We were taught to ‘get on with it’ should life throw us a curve ball and I am glad of it. This tuition, that sometimes felt cold and dismissive, gave us the chance to look to and then to develop our own aptitudes. When things went horribly wrong, and once the initial shock and panic had calmed a little, we found, and still find, ourselves looking this way and that for a way through, one that would, will, make everything better, if not best, once again. Damage is done and I would not argue with that, but to have a source of what is currently known as a Can Do attitude, is a much sought after blessing. I know this when I encounter souls who have no idea what to do next, and I am often surprised at the way they sink back in acceptance and defeat. I can make no sense of it, until I think it through, reminding myself of the look on their stricken faces, the paralysis in their bodies, the whimper of fear in their voices. They are not unable to find a way through, but simply were never taught how to dig the tunnel or scale the wall. Here is my chance to lend a hand. Here is my chance to offer support and encouragement to someone who did not benefit from the lessons I have learned from childhood. I have no idea of the constraints of their own, nor the joys nor the pains of it and I probably never will, but I can bring to them my merry disposition, my smile of encouragement, my shoulder to lean on.

Now that we are all, like it or not, landed in a new year, we can consider the gifts that we alone can bring to bear on a broken, yet beautiful, world. We can lift our eyes from our own piddling little life and offer ourselves to another in friendship, respect and recognition. No matter what colour, creed or disposition; no matter funds in the bank or a begging bowl; no matter that we live in a home with a view or inside a cardboard box in a shop doorway. What matters is this. We have made a massive balls up of collective living for long enough. We, whoever we are and wherever we lay our hats, are a collective. We may not be able to change the world, may not even believe that whatever efforts we make along that line are going to make one jot of difference, but we would be wrong in that thinking. Think pebble and ripples.

This year will be what we make it. A merry disposition is learnable, at any age. Life is not out to get us and nor does the world owe us a living. We are that Living.

Lucky us.