Island Blog – Perspective and this Island Life

I am aware that my perspective is a tad off kilter just now. I am glad to know that I know that. Having seen my old ma stumble through Alzheimers and my husband through a slightly kindertothemind type of dementia, I imagine I know how completely awful it must have been to have thought, no, known as an absolute, that my perspective is the perspective, lucent, clear as meltwater and equally as honest. To have experienced, as both my beloveds must have done in the early days as they mentally tensed to that fragged, jagged, sharp-toothed bite of inner doubt, well, it must have felt devastating. Momentarily. So, when I know that I know that my perspective is off kilter, I am, I believe, working with a marbled up mind. For now.

So what do I do about this, one might ask one? Ps as a btw, you do know that only the British use such a detachment from actually admitting that the one is me and that me is one? Ridickkerlus. Just say I, for heaven’s sake. Or don’t. Anyway, back to me. I have found since the old guy took his permanent leave of this life, his life and of me and mine, my anxiety levels have escalated. Initially I could not even go to the shop, first customer in, all masked up, all hand sanitised with a piddling list of salad equipment without freaking out about leaving the dog for all of 20 minutes. What, you might ask, could possibly happen to one small, breakfasted-up border terror in twenty minutes? Nothing. Obviously. But this logic did nowt to stem my rise of anxiety. I was in similar panic mode when the awful and nearly-done-now sAdmin that comes with all deathness, came through the mail. I don’t try to explain it, but instead, honest up. I say, yes I have anxieties now, to Pooh Bear, to Dugie at the Dervaig Emporium, to anyone who passes by my fence. It is freeing, to be honest and even Pooh Bear responds with his lovely smile.

However, and isn’t there always one of those, I find not that these anxieties and irrational flapdoodles are waning, but more that I have found my boots. I push myself a bit more, make myself face the complete terror of going into Tobermory, even into a shop to buy a (takeaway and delicious) coffee, plus pesto and other such delicious pots of goodness. I might even venture to Calgary beach someday soon. Calgary beach, empty, huge, ripping with wind, virus free. Anxious…..honestly? But anxieties are very big monsters when they barge in through your front door with enough luggage to tell you, without words, that they plan to stay a very longtime. They stretch out their legs, accept a drink and food, take the best beds and spend half the night, if not all of it, talking loudly so you cannot sleep no matter how exhausted you are. I know them all, even as I refuse to ask their names. You won’t be staying long, I tell them in my Big Girl voice and they eye each other and snigger. In the porch, my big boots are doing a wee tap dance. I can hear them calling to me. Come on woman! You have survived a long term marriage of turbulence. You have raised and set free five extraordinary independents. You have built businesses. You have buried your husband, your favourite horse and endless beloved dogs. You have lugged, hauled, separated, reconstructed. You have done this for 50 years. And now you are scared of going to the local shop?

I get it. Even Pooh does. I can see the smirk, although he is loving enough to hide it quick. But, Pooh, I say, because there is nobody else to talk to here, logic does not explain away feelings. He knows. I know he knows. And that is how and at what point I address my anxieties. No logic. Don’t think it through. Don’t ask, why the hellikins am I feeling this when just over there lies sensible, all smug and booted up and ‘what are you going to do about this, hmmm?’ And there is a place for ‘sensible’, I know this too. He, must be a male, might irritate the bejabers out of me, might meet all the furies in me rising like wild women with weapons, but he has a point and a place. I suspect he has appeared because I am rising from the grave. I suspect he is saying, enough now, you marvellous talented, strong woman, it is time to boot up and to step out, even if it is just one step. Actually, I made up all those compliments. Never heard them from a real mouth. No matter. I can say what I like now. And it isn’t just about me being a black widow. No and no again. It is about any woman/girl who feels deep anxiety for whatever reason. I would love to scoop the lot of you up and bring you here to stay with me, in this wild place with nothing but walks, trees, shoreline, tidal flow, extraordinary light and the village people, the community, this island life.

Island Blog – A Man/A Woman to be admired

This day I mourn. I never knew the man, only that which was proffered, edited and packaged by his advisors and, less so, by the media, which has way too many opinions for my liking. I admired him in a million ways, even as I knew little, or nothing, of the real himself. When someone is so protected and so controlled, it would be unusual for many to say they ever knew this man. No matter. What I gleaned and gathered over many years was enough for me. He followed a strong woman. Now, I don’t know about you but in my experience those men are super rare. He did that. He was difficult (men) angsty, I am sure, wanting to run for the hills, but he did not.

And she is now alone. I am guessing right now she feels grief and relief. After all, he has been pointing himself to the skies for a few months now. His going might be a good thing. The waiting is awful, the watching, the waking in the nights, the wondering, the checking on breathing, all of that. Gone now. Gone. Him gone. For ever.

And then she, the woman, will begin to fall. Of course she will. No matter the flowers, the family support, the International support. She is now a woman alone after so many decades of living easily and uneasily beside her old mate, of many, many years and I feel strongly for her. I even had a weep. I know how you feel at this time even if I know absolutely nowt about how you feel right now.

And just think of the public requirements now, my lady. You, after this, the worst loss of all, are still going to have to rack up, as you have always done, despite the collapsing within. I feel so much for you. I can recognise the clutching dark of loss, of not wanting to go upstairs to bed, of the awful silence in the rooms, of no laughing about lumpy porridge or of someone’s hat or their startling remark. No more sharing at the deepest level that only ever comes from two who know each other front and back, inside and out. Yes, they well might have loathed each other at times, resisted contact, fought to get away, yelled opinions across a room, but we still knew each other at that deepest level.

There is no replacement for that. Not ever. It is history and history takes decades to become such.

My respect and appreciation for my Queen and for Prince Philip.

Island Blog – Curiosity and Attitude

I love mornings. Always have and I don’t mind early. According to my ma I could lounge about in bed till lunchtime as a grumpy teenager but all that changed once I floated up the aisle in my Edwardian frock and made my vows, sans obedience, for the record. I cannot imagine the damage that vow has done to so many women of generations past. Well, actually, I can. It was hard enough sticking with ‘in sickness and in health’ or ’till death do us part’, which it eventually did of course. I never thought I would manage that bit having been infuriated for decades. I had wings but they were clipped, or maybe I clipped them myself. Who cares. What I feel good about now is that, in spite of me wishing I had been born a greylag goose with all the challenges and thrills and freedom of migration being quite acceptable in all their circles, I accomplished the whole shebang. Let us not dig too deep into the way I accomplished this massive accomplishment. A lot of the time I slammed doors, ran away, hid my secrets and spat into his coffee. That’s enough for now on the subject.

Mornings. Curiosity. Opening like a flower to each day. Sometimes I am like a daffodil that needs de-heading, sometimes a vibrant rose, smelling divine and perfectly formed. I never know what way the which of it will be. I just spring out of bed, ping into the bathroom and out again, pull on a frock or jeans and scoot downstairs towards the coffee pot. Since himself flew to the higher realms I haven’t always been the rose. Sometimes I sprang, pinged and scooted just to outrun the mare of the previous night, but didn’t always manage it. She has four legs after all and I only two. But, in the main, it was my decision not to repeat the mare even to myself. Always the same theme, wanting to run but stuck in glue, wanting to scream with a mouth full of silence, the usual. At least I don’t meet an overrun of rats as my old ma did. I told her she deserved it. All those years of criticism and judgement. And we laughed about it because she thought I was making a joke, which I wasn’t.

Each day comes anew, obviously, and with potential. A deal of the unfolding of that potential lies inside me, in my attitude, my list of ‘ways to live again’. There are many. But the most important start point, the blocks from which to leap, ping and scoot through whatever the day brings, is my attitude, followed closely by my action. I like A words. They are beginnings and that’s a favourite B word. A and B. Much better than beginning sloppily midway through the alphabet. I mean, do I go back or forward now? I never do that. I start at the beginning with a big fat A. Or two.

I notice, have oft noticed, that without himself to ‘correct’ my diction, choice of clothing and sound levels, I am surrounded, enclosed and flailing at times within a new freedom. Freedom, another favourite word, and, as a word, it is the call of the wild, a heart thriller, new lands, new skies, new choices, independence and excessive sound levels, but to actually live in freedom is quite a different flower, sometimes a daffodil needing decapitation, sometimes a rose. I swing from one to the other, sometimes hour by hour. I don’t know what to do with all this freedom. Could someone hem me in please? I know how that feels, how to live as a reactionary, how to slam doors, swear like a fishwife and throw spectacular tantrums. All that pent up energy has nowhere to go now. It can feel like a phantom pregnancy. No chance of birthing. How bizarre.

I am learning to step out of myself, just a few steps back, and to observe. I am rather interesting, I decide. A query in a frock, someone worth further investigation, more study. I am curious about who I am just now. The overstory is still me, looks like me, sounds like me, laughs and jokes and cries like me but beneath what you see, what I see in the mirror, lies complexity personified. Both dead daffodil and vibrant rose. Very confusilating. But I know enough to know that it has only been a few months after almost 50 years of having my diction corrected and my sound levels on mute, so patience is required. That’s a P word, yes, but I know that attitude and action are my ways to be patient, so I’m allowed a P dash. If I am thankful for all of my life, all of it, the memories, the darkling times, the fear, love, misery and joy of it and I let it all settle within, patiently, then this gratitude will grow a new flower in me. As will action. Not the sort of frenetic action that hides me from the grieving process but the little insignificant-in-themselves actions I take daily; a little sewing, a bit of reading, a lot of bird watching and a moderate amount of walking in the wild, all actions that lift my eyes off myself and into the real ‘out there’. These actions create my attitude and as the circle circles, my attitude creates more action, more interest in ways to live again, to flower anew and to keep moving on through the alphabet, letter by letter.

Island Blog – The Understory

It snowed this morning, the real stuff that floats like duck down to land, and to stand. The depth of it wasn’t much, just an inch or two, but it did coat the shrubs, the daffodils, my mini and the bird table until the outside of things told a fairy tale. I can be whomsoever I like and whenever I like, the outside of things seemed to be saying and hearing it made me smile. A couple of hours later as the sun built into a fireball and the goose grey clouds parted to form big puffs of cotton wool in the blue blue sky, the outside of things changed completely.

I walk towards the sea along the road well travelled, past the elvish woods and on. I dither for a minute. Shall I enter the elvish woods today? I decide no. From where I stand, walk, the abundance of moss seems emerald denser and more coverate than just yesterday. I shall watch it as it passes me by, notice the way it clumps like fists to the drystone, the thick tree trunks, even that fence post, turning the whole wood an eerie green. I also know there may well be a tawny owl nest under construction in there somewhere and I am the last woman standing who would ever intentionally disturb such a critical process. I hear the owls at night, the twit and answering twoo. The cries both disturb and smile me. Life, after all, is so very precious whether you are a woman who wants to continue sleeping or a nocturn who does not.

The sea is a milky turquoise with choirboy ruffles, wind over tide, and this wind is razor sharp, straight from the very north of Siberia. Such a contrast between the front of me, face scoured as if by wire wool, and the back schmoozed into believing that Spring is really here now. Buds burst into life overhead, all around me as I walk. Lady Larch swings her greening skirts at me and the mighty horse chestnut is opening her leaves to the light. It may be freezing cold but these beings of nature know a thing or two about when it is safe to show themselves vulnerable. Perhaps they take risks. Shall we? Shall I? What do you think? Yeah, come on, let’s risk it friend. The way this planet is going, what do we have to lose? And so, they open their arms in welcome as I welcome their courage and strength and persistence. I could never be a tree. All that repetition, predictability and the same uniform every year. Oh no, indeed. But the funny thing is that even as they ‘same up’ every year, they always appear fresh and new. They are the overstory, as is the colour of the sea, the tension in the wind, the way the wee burn turns into a furious teenager after heavy rain or the return of the siskin. All of this is what I can see and, if paying attention, notice and appreciate. But what of that which lies beneath, the out of sight parts of everything, of everyone? I see what I see, I assess, judge, explain and tidy away. There, that’s sorted! But no, it is far from sorted, doesn’t ask to be sorted, doesn’t need to be sorted. It thinks me.

On days or at times when I feel I am not enough for this life, this new one, the one ‘without’ himself, you would never know. I show you the overstory, the one rehearsed and practised a zillion times over. I am fine. I am good. I’m doing really well. My overstory. But beneath that tippytoed breathless exuberant response I am a lump of dough, dense, greying and with no chance of a rise. Just feeling this way is both understandable and lazy. If I allow these feelings to develop more strength I am choosing to do so. After all, I am in control of what happens with my feelings, am I not? They may fall like sudden snow in my heart, but I can be the sun that melts them or I can allow them precipitation and gravitas. It is my choice. One method is to pretend they aren’t there, the snow feelings. I can feel them, allocate them the best room in the house and choose to present a contrasting overstory. I can tear open my breast and display them to the world thus halting all conversational flow, or I can stand at the door and refuse them entry. Why would I ask them in, let them stay, anyway? I can invite any guest I choose. I can smile a welcome to the best dinner guests, the fun people, the ones I trust and admire for their characters, their way of really living their lives. And I can do the same with feelings.

We all have times when a sudden knock at the door causes heart flutter. Who might this be? A welcome face or one I really don’t ever want to see again, let alone now, at this hour of the day or night? It takes balls to turn someone away and I am far too well brought up to be rude to anyone even if this is precisely what they deserve and always have. It is the same with feelings. They just come and oftentimes at the most inconvenient moment. We are unprepared, make up half applied, grubby pjs on, we don’t want a visit, but they don’t give a damn, frankly. They, feelings, are pushy wee tricksters with immense powers of deceit. You can’t stop us, they chortle as they cross the threshold. That is where I get them. That is where my good girl politeness grows teeth and claws, now that I know who they are and what they plan for me. None of it is good, not for me. I tell them they are not welcome for I have a house full of happy people with happy intentions for me. They don’t like that. They don’t like the light of the sun, preferring, instead, the Siberian wind upon which they ride like Valkyries. They might peer beyond me for sight of such weirdos but they won’t see anything or anyone. There is only me here but it does no harm to show them a glimpse of my understory and, in truth, the overstory is looking a bit like a car boot sale. No matter for I am doing the work and I know what I know, as they do not. I know that in order to fend off the snow feelings, all I have to do is to accept that it is as it is and that I have considerably more power than I had heretofore understood. I am in charge not of incoming feelings, or incoming people, events, circumstances, but of my response to all of the before, my attitude, in other words. I can look at the scouring wind and think, cold, turn back, or I can notice the sun warming me , and keep moving through. It is all about attitude and response. Life sucks at times and not at others. When it does, the laziness of me might fold, lie down, get snowed over till I disappear and freeze, but I have never been lazy and will not be lazy now with my understory.

I cannot explain what goes on beneath the sea, beneath and road well travelled, the rocks that tumble a wee burn nor the how of a siskin’s return from Africa. I cannot answer any questions about why a tree stands tall or dies, or suddenly falls. I cannot see their understory. I can only guess. But I know my own, the both, the over and the under of me and I can keep learning, keep my heart open, keep practising acceptance, response and quality of attitude and in doing so, I won’t save the planet, but I just might save me.

Island Blog – Sunlight, Marriage and a Sparrow

Sunshine begins at first light. For two days this island has languished in it, drunk it in, absorbed it and made good use of it. Larch buds grow daily, the pink male buds first, as always. They remind me of my sort of wifedom, always following a few paces behind. The larch is a whole, both male and female conjoined by limbs and nature. Just like a marriage. I remember well asking himself to slow down so we could walk together but we never did. Later on, as his illness began to take over his body and his mind, I was in the lead and not just on walks. Gradually other requirements of leadership took over the whole that was Us. Finances, the relocation of furniture, the separation of bedrooms, the answering of the phone, the door, the questions inside each mail delivered envelope. All became my responsibility and with that came both a sense of freedom and of fear. As in many old school marriages, I was permitted little freedom of action. I could make the small decisions, he the big ones, he told me, and I nodded, being, as I was, very wet behind the ears when it came to anything big at all and recently sacked from my first job. I knew nothing of the world and he, the worldwide traveller, the young man who had ‘manned the hog’ in a Canadian lumber camp in below freezing conditions, had slept rough on Californian streets, spent days in an U.S jail and travelled right across the states into Mexico, crossing the border in secret as an illegal, knew everything.

Each day I see new life bursting through the ground or sprouting from branches and bankside shrubs. Hallo, I say, I remember you now, even if it feels like an eternity since last you showed your lovely face to the sun, to me. The track has bubbled up or fallen away in the recent frosts and persistent rains and I must watch my boots, check where they land. I am wary, now, of falling out here. Who would find me and when? I find a reassuring image. Poppy dog would eventually go home, wouldn’t she, and someone would see her outside and wonder at my whereabouts? I am well known now, as the widow, alone and vulnerable, even if I don’t see myself around the latter word at all. But they do, the village people do, my neighbours too, my family up the track. Famous by connection, first by being married to the Whale Father, the Admiral, the Chairman of the RNLI and now because all of him is gone. Is this fame at all, I wonder?

The recent cold winds dash the long stemmed daffydowndillies and I wander out each evening to pick up the fallen to pretty them into a vase with maternal murmurings and fresh rainwater. I have always picked up the fallen. It was something I could not not do, not ever. A bird, a wounded animal, a child, an adult. Gathering a fallen one into my warmth and mothering them back to strength is essential to my purpose in this one lovely life. Oftentimes it caused irritation. We have to go, we have to leave it, him, her, the fallen one. No, I would say. We stop. Perhaps this was a small decision made big. Perhaps it was I, in that moment, who led. And then I ask myself what did it matter who led and who followed and in what area of life? Now I feel a little foolish. It doesn’t matter, with hindsight, but hindsight was way in the distance in those moments. It seemed like the whole balance of nature lay in those moments, pivotal, essential and needing resolution and acceptance. I don’t think we ever found any of those. It was aye a competition. Is this marriage and for all of us? No, not all of us, but it was for me and himself. Conceding the other’s point was more about exhaustion, giving up or magnanimity, but I never felt we met in the middle. I asked him once about meeting in the middle, about one of us thinking it through and stepping down, sword re-sheathed. Did that happen? I asked him but answer was there none. Now, in the silence of widowhood, this question hovers over my head like a hawk, circling, wheeling, calling out but never engaging. Coming to terms with a conundrum lost forever in time is, indeed, my work for now.

Rainbows scatter across my desk as I write. The plastic film I have affixed to the window prevents the wee male sparrow from dashing himself to death against the glass. What he sees is a reflection of himself and, thus, competition. The fragmental shapes on the plastic bend the sunlight and make rainbows. They also cloud the opportunity of clear reflection. The male sparrow can do what he needs to do without an imagined male to upset his daily routine. I recall the jealousy that consumed Himself. Any male, any age, any shape was a threat. It made going out a tricky thing. Despite the fact that, however bright my glad rags, however dark my kohl, however much I laughed and chatted, I had no interest in any other man, this suspicion and jealousy came with us as an unwelcome guest. I am naturally gregarious, shiny, bright and friendly. I watched him fly at his own reflection so many times, unable to calm him, to reassure enough. I wonder, sometimes, is the female sparrow feeling the same, as she watches her crazed partner dash against the clear glass over and over again, to no avail, for no point and is she rolling her sanguine eyes or is she afraid of the repercussions once she and him are back in the nest? I am glad I can ease her troubles just with rainbow plastic.

Bumble bees fill the air, their buzzing big like the lorries of the bee world. They are all over pieris japonica just now and my neighbours have one, my family too. I stop to watch their fat little bodies as they effortlessly lift and land on the copious blooms. They know when the nectar is gone from a single bloom and when it it still awaits them. Pollened thighs glint gold in the sunlight as they wheel away to their singular homes. They live alone and with purpose. I look forward to learning that.