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.

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