Island Blog – A body and a spirit

A body that has lived is a beautiful thing, not necessarily to behold, but it is beautiful nonetheless. Once, when it might have been beautiful to behold, I hid my own, never believing I could bare much of it to the world, or, to my small world of people. Even among my much younger (and fitter) sisters, I was cautious, making sure I had a dressing gown coveration when departing the shared bathroom or the shared bedroom. I was never shy, not that, but I had to be fully clothed to allow the ‘not shy’ in me to fly out into a room. I could do legs and loved mini skirts of the Mary Quant/ Carnaby Street era, but watched others bare cleavages and bellies and just knew I was way out of their league.

It didn’t matter, long term, much as nothing of vanity matters, long term. Eventually we get to realise that it is who we are to others that does last, that matters and sticks. Beautiful bare skin is nothing, after all, if the owner is a pain in the aspidistra, flaky, selfish, insincere. Now, to the body perfect. This body survives endless knocks and bumps, asks and denials, flak and cruelty and yet it works with a spirit to rise into another day, and another. And, the spirit is thankful it does and is ready at every point to help. Two parts of a whole, like an apple.

This body has adapted to endless demands, birthed children, kept itself awake throughout extreme exhaustion and still kept going. How did you do that? I ask, my spirit asks, because I could not have done this alone.

Well, says the body, you wanted me to and that is enough for me. I obey your command.

But what about the many times I didn’t care for you as you deserve?

I managed. I knew you loved me really. You were just distracted.

Yeah…..for decades. How is that ok?

It is as it is. Still is btw.

Even now, even now that I see the papery skin on my gnarled twiggy fingers? Even as I see you sink downwards? Even as you sometimes find it tricky to get out of bed without a grunt, or to lift from a chair, or when you are extremely cautious on hillsides? Even then?

Even then. We work together.

But when I am afraid of falling, of sickness, of living too long, of dying, are you?

No, I am always alert. I may obey your commands but I am way ahead of you when it comes to getting older, or more papery, more gnarled, more afraid of hillsides.

I think that reassures me. I think.

Listen, we have worked together for 68 years. Do you really think I am leaving now? Just look at what you have achieved, just look. You moved like a dancer through the demands and rejections, through the depressions and joys of an extraordinarily adventurous life. You held and nurtured five wonderful children. You lifted them into the world and set them free. You cried a lot. You doubted even more than a lot. And yet you, ditzy brain, crazy reckless dreamer, free spirit, risk taker, mistake maker, you stuck with me too. You didn’t, as I sometimes thought you might, head off the rails and into the wasteland. You are still here with me.

So I am. How wonderful, old body. Thank you.

You, my best friend, are so very welcome.

Shall we continue?

Island Blog – Little Giants

As the rain and wind continue for us on the island, I hear of sunshine weather on the East. Conflicted am I in my response to this for we are so very sick of soggy sheep, no grass and battered daffydowndillies. We are now officially up-fed of jumping in muddy puddles. They have, quite simply, lost their first flush. Our wellies are as wet within as they are without. Now just listen to me! I have lived 40 plus years on this, my beloved rock of ages, and the weather has aye been thus. I say that the weather doesn’t bother me. I speak it from my mouth, let it spurt from my lips. I snort derisively at all weatherly complaints, but there are times when what comes from my mouth bears little relation to the words in my heart. This, I tell myself, is living positively. My filtration system is strong. I am in control of my words. Feelings come, despondency comes, hope escapes to warmer climes, vision blurs and I can sink into the circumstances. But not for long and this is why. I see myself. Look, there you are you eejit, with your insidely wet wellies, all puddled and, well, stupid, that’s what. First I chuckle at the very sight of me. Then I grab my puddled self by the oxters and heave. Get the flip up, and right now. The little giant in me is back in charge. I apply more mascara, blusher and liner to remind myself how I can look when I de-puddle. Not bad for an old girl. Not bad for a little giant.

I like feeling little, with potential. I don’t actually want to be a giant on the outside of me but I am more than happy to nourish the one within. She, btw, is uber strong, indomitable, open and beneficent, even to herself. She has weapons but rarely employs them. They are more for a swashbuckle show to be honest but she loves the whoosh of a razor sharp blade cutting through the air. She loves to hit bullseye. She enjoys leaping fences and boundaries if someone else is in trouble. She loves to be ready. On the outside of her, she looks as she always looked but within…….oh the within is busy honing hope into ploughshares, ready for every twist, turn and puddle of life.

However, it is very important for her not to waste time wishing she never puddled in the first place, for she is as likely to catch a chill as anyone else. It thinks me, well, both of us. We could do with getting closer to each other but not to make anyone else feel they have got it all wrong, that an innate giant comes as a gift to some and not to others. This is bullshit. The thing about the inner little giant is a simple decision to believe there is one in there somewhere, no matter how much puddling has gone before, no matter failures, mistakes, regrets, shames and lost opportunities. It makes no odds to this sleeping power how long it has been required to sleep. In fact, the longer the sleep, the more refreshed is this inner self, the one who can always be called upon, once awakened. All that matters is to awaken it, to awaken her, or him. To say a tentative ‘hallo……are you there?’ To believe in her. And, the wonderful thing is that, once awake, this little giant needs no further sleep. Not never.

‘Little’ suggests potential growth and development and this is the best news of all. We all begin little, peering up at big people, watching their every move, learning daily by example. The little giant is the same but with a twist. This little giant has already learned whilst asleep, has absorbed every single thought, feeling, action we ever made in our whole life and her only purpose is to build on our strengths. The giant is not interested in wasting time over failures, regrets, shames and lost opportunities. Poof to that load of whatever! This inner power is ready, only, to educate us in who we can become from where we are right now. We might to begin by sharpening a pencil and writing one sentence. We might choose an online course that excites and terrifies us. We might decide to embark on a healthier way to live. But whatever we choose begins with an idea, a tiny baby of a thing, with no surety of success, whatever that means. We will still puddle, we will still hear the skittering of past failures, regrets and shames across the attic of our minds, but once the little giant gains purchase, they will just run away, because there is no point remaining if they are never listened to. They will just scoot off to find someone else in a puddle.

So, the beginning is now. For me the beginning is every morning. I can still flip from puddle to sky and back again but the little giant is one hell of a woman and I want her at my side. The skitterers can not helpful to me anymore, if, indeed they ever were. Oh, I still hear them in the attic, little feets across the boards up there among old black cobwebs long devoid of living spiders. I roll my eyes and smile at my giant and, together, we frock up and descend the stairs into a new day of god knows what.

Island Blog – Waving

It laughs me, this does. Here I am with a pulled muscle in my back for no good reason at all. I was not grabbing a ewe, or is it ‘an’ ewe, who planned to hurtle away from me with half her yet unborn lamb swinging like a water bomb from beneath her tail; I was not hefting half a tree from A to B; I was not saving someone from drowning. No. I just rose gently from the outside bench to move elsewhere. Elsewhere has a lot to answer for, let me tell you. That was five days back and still the muscle is playing games with my walking, my sleep and my patience. I mentioned it to someone. Twice. Two different Someones. I said, I tweaked a muscle in my back the other day. The other day being anywhere from two days ago to last month. Neither person asked me how. Instead they both, in their different ways, told me of their mishaps with muscles. I hurt my back too, said one, again, and smiled such a lovely smile I could almost see myself leading him centre stage. Oh? I said. and the polite woman in me invited more. He gave it, blow by blow and then he left. I stood, gobsmacked for as long as it took for the next frickin hail storm to hit, and then returned into my home with the full description of how I tweaked my own back still held behind my teeth. The second scenario went much the same. I got full description of how her particular muscle had let her down and how she couldn’t sleep and how painful it was and so on and on and on. Gobsmacked was I, once again. Neither of them have a scooby about which muscle is hurting me, nor of my sleeplessness, nor of my pain. This is what laughs me.

As I reflect on these encounters, I swing from fury to empathy, to understanding, to compassion. Perhaps a therapist might tell me this is the wrong order but they might just get a punch for saying so. When a person tells you, or me, of their pain, whether it be emotional, historical or muscular, there is, and I admit it, a desire to counter their story with a better one. Oh, let me tell you…..I know how your feel (no you don’t), because my mother’s late sister’s aunt had the same thing. What…..in 1948? Seriously? But, the polite woman in me will stand there, inviting more, feeling-compassion-fury and kindness. I won’t hold up my hand and confront. I am just not that person, even if I wish I sometimes was. And, let’s be honest, I have done this myself, this “I have a better story” thing. Where I wanted someone just to listen to my whole story, they could not and who could blame them because it would probably have gone like this:-

Well, so (two utterly unnecessary pre-responsive words) I was sitting on the outside bench (as if I had an inside one) drinking tea with my friend Sarah, no, not Sarah, it was Helen, yes Helen (who is Sarah?) and she had just brought me my birthday present of – oh such a lovely bag of gifts and so thoughtful. Well (unnecessary) there was herbal tea bags, dips, crackers, chocolate and flowers! No, wait, were there flowers…..? Oh I can’t remember. Anyway (unnecessary) where was I? Oh, yes, the bench and Helen. Well (!) we were sitting in the sunshine and it was warm (is sunshine ever cold?) and we were chatting about this and that and I just got up to go elsewhere for some reason I twisted at the same time and ping! that was it. The pain began and it hasn’t stopped no matter how much I tell it it is not helpful to me right now.

But nobody ever heard that. We just don’t listen. But I get it, I have done this myself. The impulse to counter and to win over another’s story is within us all. My pain is bigger than your pain. My dad is bigger than your dad. My life is tougher than yours is. It seems to be natural within us. How to change that is what I am loving learning. Noticing how my instant and thoughtless responses rise in me with such power as if they just know they are right, is intriguing. Makes me curious. These responses are from my brain and my brain is a computer and I am the pilot. I am in control. Easy as it may be to believe that what my brain tells me is the truth, I would be a fool to attend that class. No. I am one of those, expelled from school, expelled from college, sacked from my first job. I am a corridor walker. I move in between and initially it was not a conscious decision. I just knew I was not one of the mob, the shoal, the pack. It was, I admit, a very lonely place but with age and experiential learning I have come to celebrate the ones I meet in corridors. They look like lurkers to the pack, but not to me. Once I realised I needed guides to show me who I really am at my core, I found them. In books, mostly and I was hungry for them. They showed me how to notice, how to step back, how to allow, to stay quiet, to understand the human need for recognition and love. I won’t say it was a doddle because I fight it still, but it makes such sense to me that I cannot give up this path.

There are many broken people out there, me included, but I have learned to celebrate my brokenness and to turn it into flight and sight and light. To all of you who know what I am talking about……I’m waving.

Island Blog – Shining the Light

When I write about my dark days, my darkness, I don’t do so to elicit sympathy. I don’t write out of self-pity, nor do I write to say how much tougher my life is than anyone else’s. No. I write to shine a light on the truth we all experience at times. In our culture of stiff upper lip-ness, we might forget that the lower lip is wobbling, and it is the larger lip. We might feel that we always have to show our positive attitude towards our negative emotions. We can tell ourselves we ‘should’ not feel this way considering that socking long list of blessings as others keep reminding us. We can beat ourselves up for walking in darkness when all we have to do is to reach out for the light switch. In short, we are terrified of feeling utterly lost inside a life we ‘normally’ control perfectly. Perfection is our enemy and perfection is unattainable for every single one of us. Once we get that little nugget, we free ourselves from its chains and bars. I can put out to the world that I am always ok because I decide to be ok but it is a lie. So, when I write of darkness, I write to connect with anyone else who experiences the clutching fear of failure, the self-doubt and the loneliness of that darkness. The words ‘mental health issues’ make us run for cover. We don’t have them after all. They are for people who have lost the plot, are locked up, are to be pitied and avoided. Well, aren’t they?

No. We all have them. But it is only some of us who have the courage to come out from hiding and to say It Is Ok To Feel This Way. I know it is not easy to see sadness, loneliness and the dark in another’s eyes. We immediately want to proffer upbeat hopeful words, to fix their ‘problem’, when, instead, a soft smile, a virtual hug, a kind silence shared is all anyone needs at a time when their world looks dull and hopeless. For the one in pain and sadness, just to know there is someone who cares and who believes in them, means everything. During these lockdowns and without knowing when our current restrictions will ever end, there are many of us who experience days of feeling lost and hopeless. We can help each other if we are honest about our own pain and and this is why I write honestly, in order to shine that light on our hiding from the truth. There is no shame in feeling down and we don’t need fixing, nor reminding of our long list of blessings. We know them already. We just can’t access them right now and if we speak them out they sound like platitudes at best. However, we have had a million sunshine days so we know they have not abandoned us for ever and we will find our feet again once we relocate our big boots.

This day is bright and welcoming. A complete change from the darkliness of yesterday. I never doubted it even without a map. Although the sky is still goose-grey, the clouds all tapselteerie and pregnant with yet more rain, it doesn’t matter today. Something has shifted, lifted back into light. I don’t have to hold onto it. It is bigger than I, stronger, wiser, less human. Buffeted by the winds of change, rolling with the clouds, flying, falling, failing, worrying, laughing, moving, watching, sliding, running, slipping, arms wide, eyes open, heart full of only love for the turbulence of this precious life, I walk on into the next moment, my blessings fluttering around me like chirruping birds.

Island Blog – Mountain, Tomorrow and Me

Not every day can be positively thinked. Some days, randomly, it seems, come slam dunk, presenting little positive, no matter the incoming. Could be a card through the post, a gift, some encouraging words in a text or just a lift of light in a dark place. On those days these gifts mean little or nothing at all. The sun might be doing his best, huffing up to the top of the sky and beaming like a beatific parent but all he does is blind me and I blink or shade him away. I am impervious to positive on those days. I read that I am supposed to accept such times in such times and to ‘allow’ myself to do whatever I can and to not do whatever I can’t. Enter my ingrained teaching. You do not give in my girl. You get on with it, whatever it is. You present as positive and not only to the outside world but to your own self. I am up and down on those days, battling with guilt and shame. I am lazy. I am giving in. I am not presenting the positive. I avoid speaks. I avoid texts that ask direct questions about how I am. My finger hovers over the answer bit and slides away. I put the phone on silent and avoid mobile calls.

Tomorrow will be different, I tell myself and together, me and tomorrow, will deny and forget this day. We will. But a part of me knows another will come slam dunk and both tomorrow and I will flounder like goldfish outside our bowl. We will gasp for an air that is denied us and we will both think back. Could we have prevented this unpleasant situation, this day of nothing, of no purpose of no point at all, with an ending that doesn’t bear thinking about? I say no. I have worked through this before, many times. The days of nil point are just that. All we can do, me and tomorrow, is to really celebrate those random gifts of words, texts, flowers and smiles and make them bigger, in order just to get through the very long hours of pointless. Because that is how we feel. Pointless. Our purpose, our plan of action, our very raison d’ĂȘtre has died, is gone and with this gone thing, he took us too. We don’t want to believe it. We don’t want it to be this way, but this way it is. For now. That’s what tomorrow tells me. But it feels like a life sentence. These gifts that come are lifts for sure. They move my heart, jig me into thankfulness and light but they don’t last long, not on those days. I see them as hold points on the mountain I am climbing. That rock that juts out just enough for a foothold, that sturdy branch, that ledge. But they are not enough, never enough because I have to climb this flipping mountain and it looks to me like it touches the sky. I go through cloud, ice, snow and darkness, through fear, loneliness and loss. It is just me up here. Tomorrow stayed at base camp, wisely.

I know I have to keep climbing, accepting the giftly footholds, resting on safe ledges and then going again the next time dawn shows her light. I know this. But in my wildest dreams I never thought me on the flank of a mountain and certainly not one that is in collusion with the sky. Cloud covers me wet. Cold. Then the sun warms. This is how it is. One day at a time. Nothing I expect is what I get. I used to know who I was and where. Now?

No clue.

Island Blog – Butterfly, Change, Motion and Lift

This day my eldest son returns to sea for 10 weeks. In theory. Who knows what rulings will be in place as his supposed return date moves closer? Nobody, that’s who. Or is it ‘whom’? I don’t give a damn to be honest. All I do know is that my heart is a butterfly this morning. His time at home is always wonderful but this time tops the lot. The suspect in this has to be the death of his dad and said dad’s loud absence from life. And he has been so caring, so present, so available. Of course, it isn’t just me who has benefited from his being here. He has a wife, a family, a home and friends. But I am his only mummy. Just saying.

Funny thing, this mummy role. New birth is one thing but growing and developing a child and then letting go is a very different one. It is history in the making, memories captured or consciously lost. It is both good and bad, happy and sad, upsetting and elevating. It is butterfly lift, fragile, beautiful, dangerous and transient. A mother, well, this mother, is always, even now that all five glorious children have their own, vigilant and alert for danger, even when she is laughed at and teased about her state of alertness and vigilance. She cannot change. She cannot let go, even if she has done just that in real time, on the outside of herself, marking her own reactive behaviour, her choice of wordage and comment, denying her own longings for the greater good of which she is only one part.

Mother’s Day, my birthday showed me clearly how precious I am to my children and my grandchildren. I was celebrated to the point of exhaustion, requiring many naps during and after both days. It thinks me. We mothers are not born mothers. Our children birth us. Without them how could we possibly know such depth of feeling, such agony of concern, doubt and worry? And on the other side of those dingly depths, there are the highs, those gloriously wild lifts of joy, of celebration, of wonder and amazement. The threads that link us mean that every yank shoogles us. We respond. Change comes as it always does and just when we think we have found our balance. People leave, some return, all change in the face of change. We do so, or we find ourselves left behind on some draughty platform with not a train in sight. I have been there but only when I resisted the inevitability of change. If I stayed down, then I stayed down, flat, pancaked, immobile. Motion is required. Get up you plonker and catch another train. Find them. They are not lost. You are. I remember such times, the desire strong in me to give up, to hide, but the pull of motherhood always got me to my feet.

So, as he leaves for the long arduous journey, through Covid tests and isolation, and up up and away into another world, I will reflect thus. I have enjoyed a daily dose of him for 10 weeks. We have laughed and hugged, shared meals and stories. He has helped me re-jig my widow’s brain, celebrated me and helped me to find a new way of being bravely independent with kindness, encouragement and a lot of teasing. This is what I have and I am a very lucky mummy. I will remember all the moments and they will strong me back into my beautiful wings and into the sky along with the geese, the softer winds, the spring light and the gentle peace of this island life. And I will picture him safe, happy, important in his work as master of the super yacht, and, most important of all, home again safe in mid June when the flowers will be partying, the trees heavy with leaf cover, the young birds fleein’ aboot, and the sun high enough in the wide open sky to convince even the cynics among us that we are, once again, free to lift, change and move on.

Island Blog – Featherlight, Low Cloud and Lift

The morning comes all blurry, a white light, stilted, unclear. No sun to golden a dawn. I rise and go to the window. Low cloud is caping the land, disappearing the hills and the fir trees across the sea-loch, almost wiping out the water completely. I cannot see if the tide is coming in, going out, or slack and waiting. The garden is caped in a dripping veil, its soft folds blinding me to the contours of shrubs, daffodils, the bird table. Everything looks eerie. I remember a bad vampire movie and laugh out loud, waking the dog into a bark of startlement. In other parts of this country it might be named a fog but we don’t have fog here. We have low cloud, far more interesting and making us think of just how low a cloud can go when it decides to and how whispy thin it can become, the closer it gets to the ground. I remember flying through clouds. They appear so solid until a socking great plane cuts a dash and sops our little windows with wet. I also know that one cloud can hold thousands of tons of water. Such power and such a mixed message. I pad through the cloud on my way to feed the birds and feel the damp on my bare legs. It wets my frock and clings to my face, refreshing me after a sleepless night.

I didn’t dream of clouds, nor fog. I dream of falling or of not being able to move. T’is grieving, they tell me. It takes time to see through the clouds, the fog of loss. A year and a day, at best. I am looking forward to August 20th 2021. Perhaps I will awaken on that day and say Yippee it’s done! Perhaps it will take longer but I am gunning for a cloud shift around that time. It is what we tell ourselves, our brains, that alters facts. I know this. Meantime, I park my dreams upstairs. Stay there, I tell them in quite a threatening voice. It used to work with my kids so why not bad dreams? This is my game, if a game can be all but fun. Down the stairs and into the garden works for me, even if I am just filling bird feeders. Bird feeders bring birds and birds are life, movement, clarity in low cloud. They dart and swoop and chatter and sing and lift my spirits. The loch stays closed, the hills absent all day long. But now I can see the fir trees, silhouettes, hill soldiers standing to attention. Their tops are in the cloud, wispy, compelling, etherial. I know you are there, I say, for how can a bottom be without a top when you were altogether just yesterday? Well, they reply, so were you. Oh……yes so I was. Ok an off day for fir trees? Mmmm, they say and I catch it over the water, words pushing through the cloud. It is reassuring to know that even trees can have an off day.

A pair of snow geese fly by. The sound they make is soft and considered, not like the hectic honk of greylags. It is as if they have learned how to distil their words into haiku. I watch them with respect. You know where you are going and what to do next, I say. Like a good poet. Not like me. I haven’t a scooby. On my walk I was joined by my little granddaughter in her ‘puddle suit’. It is bright green and makes her look like a burst of Spring with her pale skin and long red hair and her big wellies on the wrong feet. She skips and chatters, runs ahead, challenges me to climb hills, giving me information at every step. Daddy’s new haircut is terrible. Mummy is putting Nina down for a nap. There are disgusting frogs or toads in the pond. Did you know it’s your birthday tomorrow Gaga? That’s Lady Gaga to you, not ‘gaga’. Just saying. Her older sister named me thus and it continues. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps until I was breathless and losing every time, clambering up hills, over rocks, through the fairy woods and alongside the veiled sea-loch. Nothing bothers her and that lifts me too. A cup of tea on my return with her Daddy and his ‘terrible’ hair cut and her Mummy who put Nina down for a nap but obviously that didn’t last long as Nina crawls outside in her puddle suit, wheechs off her bootees and shares her cookie with one of the hens.

So, my night have been sleepless, again, but there have been many lifts from the sticky cloud. So many. I decide, as I always do, to hold on to each one, to put each one in my heart, because the nothing becomes something when I choose to focus on the cloud lifts. The low cloud will come. And then, lift.

Island Blog – Rethink, Balance, Begin

After I wrote down my whines and moans yesterday, I had a rethink. What my think discovered is that my self talk has been all tapselteerie for a while. Yes, yes, understandably so, what with Covid and bereavement and who-the-hell-am-I-now, and the darkness of winter. But once a woman realises something needs to change she must needs begin that change thing. Looking at the complicated mess within can be confounding. Where to begin? There is only one way to begin anything in this life and that is to take one step, just the one. Balancing can be tricky though. If I put one step forward, thus losing my centrifugal point, I may well topple. However, if I take one step and then re-align my feet, my balance is true. I am upright and steady. The symbolism of bringing my other foot up to join the other tells me I have committed to being one step away from where I was, in the dark. Although I am nowhere near the full illumination of a surrounding light, I am at least on my way and I won’t go back. Why would I? That place of Boohoo Poor Little Me was pants at best. Did I need to put myself through it in the first place? Perhaps I did, because there is no greater joy to be felt in a human heart than that of new light ahead. So, in moving forward I will not beat myself up for stroppling around in a flail of arms and anger, but, simply allow that it was as it was and keep moving forward.

It thinks me. We are good at taking ourselves and our situations too seriously. We are good at beating ourselves up, of hiding from Life herself. I know it isn’t just me. Unless we pay attention to the trajectory of our thoughts, we are all at the mercy of brain control. Now, I am glad I have one, don’t get me wrong. I am thankful, daily, for the way I can access information from her vast store and then plot my course, set sail into the new. However, she must not be my only guide. My thoughts are one thing, based on existential learning and experience, but my emotional intelligence, that part of me that can connect with everything I have not experienced, not yet, is vital. My attitude is not based on experience, nor on stored information within my brain. It is based on hope, on faith and on the strong belief that no circumstance can control me, not for long. My attitude to what happens is everything. If I can laugh at myself, lift my feet into dance, then it doesn’t matter what I am required to deal with, however irksome, however threatening. But I will need to be ready. If my way of being is always a response to external circumstance, my inner resources will be compromised at best, inaccessible at worst. So, I begin. Again. I have done this Begin Again thing most of my life and it chuckles me that I am still learning the how to of it. I already know the why. It is obvious. Who wants to remain in misery? Not one of us. So, today I tell myself I am quite marvellous, very loved, needed and important. It’s fun. I shush the demons and watch them lose their power over me. They melt into mist.

The sun shines. I see the birds wheel and dive in the garden. I watch the hills take on their pink sunrise frocks. I finger through the patchwork squares for a baby playmat, for a new boy due in May. Dinosaurs and other creatures from the Mesozoic era on soft blue and green backgrounds, all smiling which is probably something they rarely did, if ever. No matter. I buy offcuts of material for these playmats and love making them into a gift. New life is always a wonderful thing and there seem to be one heck of a lot of babies coming this Spring and Summer. I wonder why? The mist is lifting, both inside me and over there on the other side of the calm sea-loch. Music plays in the next room and I sing along to the ones I know, feeling lighter, mightier. I will engage completely with each moment this day. I will tell my brain she needs an MOT if we are to work effectively together from this moment on. You are like my new mini, I tell her. I need you to work for me not against me. Are we clear on that?

She rolls her eyes. Here we go again, she mutters, and then demands coffee.

Island Blog – Not One Word

Although I make a considered choice to live in the present and always did, there are times when my brain and I are not working in sync. Like today. Today I feel 107 and furious at myself. I ask, Why are you feeling like this? even as I know the only way to trudge through such a day is to allow the unpleasant feelings to come to me so that we can have a wee chat. I don’t want to, nonetheless. I want to bat them away and for them to go bother someone else. But they are ours, says Myself and I roll my eyes at her. So damn wise she is and infuriatingly so, especially as I know her to be right. I whine a bit and decide to write a blog on the whole fiasco because writing is my therapy. There is nobody here with whom I can discuss this, speak out my feelings and receive reassurance. Not any more. The ordinary little conversations of old are now firmly parked in the past as I would not assault a passer by with my whines and moans. It just isn’t done, duckie, I hear my old ma say to me and I bat her away too.

My way of meditating is to walk entirely in the present moment, noticing everything and so I trudge out for a walk, noticing. I notice that the hungry deer are stripping the moss from the base of the big old trees. I notice a new primrose and the fat slug of an incoming tide as it squeezes through the narrows. I notice the sky, flat white and remember I need milk. I notice that the potholes have been filled in and that my neighbour’s attempts to keep out the rabbits is failing again. By now I am bored stiff of noticing and my brain still whirls and whorls, chuckles and gloats. Shame, it hisses, guilt and shame, regret and a refusal to accept that it is as it is and it was as it was and it will be…….Stop! I yell, and startle another walker, causing her wee dog to bark. Sorry, ignore me, I say and she smiles kindly. We wander together, my brain finally silenced with its ‘you are never enough’ nonsense, its criticisms and judgements, its false truths, the lies it tells me about me. I tell her I feel ancient as those trees today and she tells me she is going stir crazy with being stuck at home. She also finds her meditation in walks and we laugh a bit together. It helps.

I listen to an audio book for distraction, empty the bin into the wheelie, lob the wine bottles into the glass bin, the empty ones, of course. I think about supper. Good lord girl, its miles till supper! I know, I know, I snap back but this day has lasted a whole week and I am bored of Time and her achingly ponderous walk, as if she’s in trudge mode too. Next door my young neighbour is busy with planks and angle grinders. He is doing up the kitchen or the somewhere inside the house and he is positive and occupied and productive. As you were once, says Goody Two Shoes. I sigh. I remember. I also remember wishing I wasn’t any of those things but could, instead, sit for a long while watching a sunset or a bird or the grass grow. How strange is this life, so full of care etc etc. Used to be my favourite poem. Nowadays my poems of choice are on loss and loneliness, empty days and long. sleepless nights. Perhaps I need a poetry rethink.

I know that days like these come unbidden and unsought, that they blindside me and that I am always ill prepared for their assault. I know I have to get through them and that they will, like all things, pass. I imagine I am stronger, have grown in some way because of them but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time. Acknowledging that I am only a newish widow, lonely, looking back on my life and the mistakes I now regret, is key. The judges are there and probably always will be but they will fade if invited in for that chat, or so the books tell me. I am not sure I can trust myself to be civil, however. What will they look like? My mother? My husband? That crow of a teacher who decided I was the devil in a frock? Probably all three and others too who helped me feel I was never enough. How does anyone converse with such a group without losing their cool? I don’t have an answer for that, not yet, maybe I never will. But wait……maybe I just let them in, pour them tea, sit them down and let them have their say. Once the tonguing is done, perhaps I rise with dignity, smile and show them out, saying not one word.

Yes, that’s what I will do. Let them think what they like. They think they know me but they don’t, not as I do. I check my brain. It’s asleep.

Island Blog – Heart lift

Soft, loving compost is heaped on my garden. I made it myself and it is thunderous with worms, not that any of them will survive this new exposure to light. They are worms of the dark, of the fetid warmth and gentle darkness of a dialek bin, creatures of a season and doomed to face change, one they won’t like much. Robin, blackbird and thrush gather as if they know there is a feast for an early arriver. Within minutes these compostian beings will have dug themselves deep, dug for death.

Heretofore I had always shovelled, laborious shovelfuls into a big bucket, then lugged said laborious shovelfuls down the back steps and into the front garden. Then came muscle man. He just wheeched the whole dialek off the ground and shook him a bit to release the dark, wormy soft heap of live-giving goodness from his interior. I was impressed. Now he can do the lugging and he did, hence my thoroughly over excited flower beds. They are giggling. I can hear them even through the regular hail shower attacks. I see an eggshell, a bit of cauliflower stalk, garden cuttings and they smile me. Go to work my lovelies, I tell them and together, we wait, even though they know more than I about what is happening beneath their butts. It is such a quiet thing, this growing, this birthing of new life and the mystery of survival no matter what frollocks happens above ground.

Primroses are showing sunshine faces along the drystone walls. No larch buds yet but I can hear them whispering as I pass. We are coming, they say. Keep watching. And I will. I do. As I walk, I remember. This time last year I shut down, locked out the world, kept vigil for any invaders. How strange to still be thinking the same way and, yet, not quite in the same way. It isn’t that I mind locking down in principle. It isn’t that I am afraid. It isn’t that I no longer have anyone to protect other than myself. It is simply strange, as if I, like the compostian worms, have become accustomed to a darkness, one that has proffered an unexpected sense of security, and now I am not sure who I will be. All through this past year my lack of desire to go out, to meet anyone, to entertain visitors confirmed me as a student hermit. None of the lockdown, bar the initial fear of an invisible and extremely powerful enemy, phased me.

But I have had enough now. Rising, unlike the worms but very like the new shoots, the daffydowndillies, the tulips, the snowdrops and with new leaves twinkling at me under the weight of thawing hailstones, I want to keep rising and that means forward into life. My fed is suddenly up. I want freedom of choice once again. My choice to go here or there, to this person or that should be my own now. How clearly I see the way a revolutionary spirit rises within us. Living under any regime is everything inhuman and that’s what this feels like now. Enough Covid! with all your tentacles and your new names and strains, your machination against the human race, the one I belong to, by the way, the one I seriously care about! I want to yell. Actually I did yesterday and it felt good.

However, there is little we can do than behave ourselves a bit longer and keep watching for Spring. She will go a long way in saving us, for now. However it doesn’t stop the fury at continuous imprisonment. I think of the ones who have died and those who couldn’t be there at the end of a loved life. I think of the painful separations, the people who will suffer deeply from this enforced isolation, those living lives of deprivation and of constant pain. Who will lift them into Spring, I wonder? Here am I frapping about renewing my passport and then there are they, stuck, trapped, broken, sick, dead. It is humbling.

Best I can do is write. Best I can do is keep living. Best I can do is to watch for Spring. Sometimes others walk with me. Not weirdo dead people, although occasionally they do, but those I think about, the ones I don’t know and will never meet, the ones who have found this past year a deal more than merely inconvenient. Hey, I say, come with me. I can take you to the fairy woods, show you the elvish trees, now a bit stripped of moss for the deer are starving here. I can walk you through where wild garlic will flower, take you to eider nests, show you oystercatcher eggs among salty basalt, lift your eyes to a skylark, watch your face soaked in salt spray and old stories, and watch you catch them, the stories ,and even if you don’t understand the language, your eyes will tell me you have those stories in your heart. A heart lift. A change for the ever-ness of life.