Island Blog – Old yet New

Friends are here. Friends I haven’t seen for decades. One of them was a loyal and constant companion when the whale-watching business first began. Well, it didn’t actually ‘began’ all by itself. It was begun by us, by me and the sea dog who became known as the whale father. I remember a letter arriving back in the day when people actually wrote letters, addressed to ‘The man who looks after the whales, Scotland.’ That was all, and enough it seems to bring it to our door. How extraordinary it is to be old enough to remember a time when such a loose fit proved tailor made.

We have wandered down the lanes of memory together, these friends and I and there is a pride, a joy and a sadness in such wanderings because the whale father is gone. His presence peppers our conversations, our rememberings of old adventures lifted together into the light of the new life we now live. We visit the ‘old’ pier and the ‘new’ pier, both old now, ramshackle and holding on by a woodthread already compromised by the arched back of a repeating tidal march against the land. We stand and look out to where the boat had bobbed on her mooring, both boats, the old and the new, one gone to an old fisherman and northwards, the other to the bottom of the ocean. All our silence is loud. We stand together on the basalt rocks, watching geese, an osprey, oystercatchers, sandpipers and gulls and we remember. The bustle and shout of anticipation as offloaded passengers turn towards the vessel that will, they hope, they dream, encounter them with the shiny blowback of a whale, out there in the wild, working with the flip and toss of another tide, another wind, another sudden calm.

We see lichen on fallen limbs. Good air, I tell them, and they know it. We walk through what was the farmyard and on up to the big house, the one, the Tapselteerie of my life, now restored most beautifully to what she was when first she rose from the ground and on up and up and up. We only see her from a respectful distance. My friend does not remember her that way. In our day she was shabby (chic, I like to think) and mostly in need of a facelift, one she never got when we were her caregivers. I am happy for her now. She is respected and admired in a way the ancients (that’s before my time btw) would nod at, sagely, from behind their pipes and spinning wheels, I feel sure. You are doing the right thing, they might say and I agree with them.

We wander back through the old pines, past Lord and Lady Larch, whose son, I feel certain, has moved yet further away from his parents. About time, I think. You must be almost 100 by now. He doesn’t seem to mind my comment and just rustles a bit as I walk beneath his boyish boughs, as if quite chuffed with himself. Home again and we sit in the garden with cups of tea and chat. It thinks me. Decades since we sat together and yet the words between us flow as they did when we were young. I look into their eyes and see myself. We match as we did back then. The old and the new. How fluid we are, how easy it is to be, not who we were, but who we are now through connection to a time that impacted all our lives in ways we never anticipated. He remembered my sandwiches. I remembered his lion heart. I remembered them camping with their boys but they don’t. Who knows what part memory plays in memories! We laugh and it really doesn’t matter one jot.

Slainte Sea-Dog. We found you today, not that you are lost. It was a day of tide and talk, sea and memories, laughter and sharp poignance and you came too.

Island Blog – I am Woman

I am woman, my own woman, and yet all women.

I have been broken more times than could be repaired, had I been born a teacup.

I am soft as down and hard as stone.

I have loved with all my beating heart and lost and known it beat again.

I have run over hot coals to protect my children and even with a burned soul I run on.

I have faltered, failed and fallen more times than rain, have dawned and dusked, ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned a million times and I will do it all again.

I have drawn my sword and I have sheathed it.

I have been actively, consistently kind to those I didn’t like and don’t relate to.

I have welcomed my child’s choice of partner, not because I attended the selection process, but because I did not. They have taught me new lessons and I have learned to love them all.

I have read more books than Finland on self-development and applied that learning to my daily life.

I have run into walls, tripped over rocks, fallen off see-saws, swings and roundabouts and may well do so again.

I have fallen in love and out again.

I have nursed, nurtured, carried and cared for children, adults, days, months and years and they all got better.

I have cried ugly and alone for nights and with another until the smile came back to my face.

I have looked in the mirror and felt sick, delighted, upset and happy.

I have given away my last bite as my stomach rumbled.

I have run too fast and reached too high.

I have lived my life.

I am Woman, I am myself, and I am Every Woman. I don’t need to know the details of your life, nor hear your voice for Every Woman knows exactly what it is like to be one.

I honour every one of you.

Island Blog – This Goodly Day (even if it is Monday)

A bit sleepless for no good reason. I wasn’t bothered, nor troubled. I just experienced awokeness. When dawn tiptoed in around my blackout curtains I decided up was for me, so I upped accordingly. Coffee and a watch for the rise of light, the lift of garden birds, the backdrop of accompanying sounds. I heard the trickle of the burn. Trickle for now but in the Autumn its voice is wild with flood, catapulting over rocks and plummeting into the pool, then under the track and offski to the sea. The eternal flow. Rain falls, burns erupt in noisy excitement and then spend days splashing everyone on their way to join Mother. It is indeed a joyous sound.

I hear the tap tap of my complication of creepers, wisteria, jasmine, clematis as their floating fingers try to gain some sort of purchase. Might need help, I tell them, and they waggle at me. I see an otter fishing in the sea-loch, flipping silver fish against the morning light, the darkling hills. Geese set forth and fifth and sixth, in fact, make that double figures, across the flat water with goslings in tow. One parent leading (guess that’s himself), then babies, then mother. A line, no ten, twelve lines crossing together as the black backed gulls circle. I watch them. The airborne predators lift, and lower, tip and flip and by golly if I see just one of them pick off a babe, I swear I will finally wild swim. They all arrive safely and now, my coffee cold, I can draw breath once more. It is quite a wide loch and I am, on reflection, rather proud of my ability to hold my breath. I remember trying it in a bath as a girl and exploding back into the air after about 60 seconds in a state of snot and sneeze. Not something I put on my CV.

I weeded a bit and discovered a tiny clematis creeper (who planted that?). I madly cleared the grass and such like around it to give it space. The flowers are huge and magenta. So brave. Not just the colour, nor the size of the flowers but all that struggle beneath Aquilegia, and other tall things I cannot name. I affixed the stems to the structure that upholds the original clematis which is 30 years old and not flowering quite as much as she once did. I know that state. Then I remember who planted the wee magenta thing. It was I some 3 years ago and I allow myself the forgetness of such a birthing because I was thwack in the thick of caring during that year. Nonetheless it is such a relief to solve such a question, I find. Reminds me I am not losing any plot.

I walk beneath brilliant green boughs, dappled sunlit tracks and take myself, slightly resistantly, to the old pier. The pier that Popz built and from where he ran the whale-watching trips for many years. Latterly, when the trips no longer left from that pier and he was no longer captain of the ship, he took down a plank of wood to make a sitting bench. Using old stones to form the elevation, he laid the plank and many many times we went there. First, he walked, his little Poppy dog beside him barking at pretty much everything, and latterly, driving on his quad. Sometimes he could get off the bike and sit with me on the bench, sometimes he could not. We would take tea in a flask and biscuits and just sit, often in companionable silence whilst we listened to the geese, the oystercatchers, the curlews, the gulls, seals and herons, marvelling at dragonflies of electric colours, butterflies and various buzzing thingies. We talked over that explosion of Thrift (Sea Pinks) that fanned out from the rocks, the bloom of downy feathers here, the way the seagrass chooses where it wants to grow, the slip and slide of the tide. I sat there in the sunshine for a while and took it all in. I am glad I went today. I could see his smile, the Old Impossible, and we walked back together, even if I cannot remember him walking in my memory.

T’was a goodly day.

Island Blog – If This Life

I love audio books. While I sew or cook or fanny about, I listen to those who know a deal more than I. If I run water for washing dishes or flip the electric kettle on to boil I must needs whack up the volume or hold my phone to my ear, but you could never say I am not committed. Is that a double negative…….?

My books could be scientific, factual or fictional fairyness. I love love both. This began during covid and isolation even before himself left the planet. I love to read an actual book and do so at night, pre sleep, but the thing about an audio book, if I like the reader voice, is that my brain absorbs it in a different way. I couldn’t tell you in what way different, but I am aware that the information I can take in from a very factual book is something I could never cope with as an eye reader.

So and thus, I can listen to some tricky stuff on audible. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate. Why Love Matters, Sue Gerhardt. Eish I could never read than stuff in a book, stuff I want to hear because even at my age, I am curious and keen to understand and to learn. The former book is on addictions stemming from childhood abuse or neglect. The latter on the effect of parenting on children and its subsequent manifestations. Yes, I know, tough, and most of us won’t go there because we can’t face the guilt, but what I am discovering is not what I feared. We do the best we can, clueless like every new parents are, as they always have been and always will be. I have felt sharp heart bites and warm yesses. I have remembered being present yet absent (aka distracted with guests, husband etc) and that hurts, but I hope I gave the warmth and love and attention to my children at the times they most needed that from me. We mothers are so quick to take the blame, the blood red tsunami of it, upon ourselves. I know this.

With my own mother and many of her generation, there was no desire to look back over the child rearing years. What happened happened. What was done or said was done or said, belonging only in the past and the past is dead as a dodo. My own generation initiated a change in that thinking, deciding to do things differently because we knew we were damaged by a Victorian-ish upbringing to some degree or another, and wanted our own children to feel more obviously loved. Although that old nonsense of ‘this will hurt but it’s for your own good’ still came into my head when some sort of retribution for a crime committed was required, I remember thinking long and hard about a kinder way of getting the same message across. I wasn’t always so clever. Kids drive you bonkers and always at times when your own chips are down. I lashed out in anger at times and the regret and shame consumed me. I learned to say I Am Sorry, something my parents never said. Keeping that regret and shame quiet is very damaging to the self, to both selves in fact.

Listening to these audio books and more besides is not doing me any harm at all. When I relate to something the writer says, something either painful in recollection or uplifting and empathetic, I have the choice to take any action required. The intelligence, backed up by scientific research on children (and I was one once) helps me to smile at myself as a faulty mother. It also kinds me towards my own self as a little girl who believed in fairies and happiness and who was astonished and hurt to discover that her own mother was also faulty and broken. I now know why but I didn’t back then. She, who never got from her own mother the love she needed, did not have the benefit of information available to me and to future mothers and fathers. Knowing this as I do now, affords me the chance to empathise with her, to understand why she was who she was and to love and appreciate her backwards.

It does take courage and the willingness to be vulnerable to read or listen to such information, but if this life is the only one I get, then I want to get to the end of it knowing I have understood myself to a high degree, to have made amends wherever I could and to have learned that we are all broken humans with a huge capacity for loving and understanding others and ourselves. And it is never too late to learn something new.

Island Blog – The lift of memories

This needs saying too.

Although we would never have spoken this way when you were here, I am free now (and independent!) to say whatever I like to say.

I remember you, strong and lean, tanned and muscular. I do. I really do. Although for a long time I have only seen you as a difficult, sick and compromised old man, this was not always the you I remember now. You could flip my heart with just one loving look. You could melt me into soft putty. I would have fought all those who said you were no good for me and with all my weaponry. I would. I did. Even when you upset door knockerers, random visitors, anyone really who came without an invitation to our huge and freezing mansion house, even then. When I challenged your attitude later, you could turn it all around and bring me into your arms. I miss that.

Since you have left the planet, it seems that freedom is allowing my mind to open and my earlier memories to float in. They come unbidden and randomly and often very inconveniently. I suddenly find myself tearful and having to pull in when a song comes on that reconnects me with the you who, in truth, died years ago. Not that you ever went with lyrics. To hell with the lyrics, you said, batting them away like a buzz of bluebottles, I just hear the music. And you did. That is how you managed to balance so artfully the depth and dimensions of many musical instruments in the way you did. There are bands who honoured you for that skill. But me? I am a lyricist, through and through, although I do need good music behind those lyrics. If the words are great and evocative and the backing music skinny and full of electronic bips and clatters, music so obviously not composed by those who know how to physically play an instrument, then the words lose gravitas, at best and are quickly forgot.

So, images of you, bringing in the cattle, driving the sheep, recording behind your desk, all concentration and frowns, or smiling at me as we begin our escape for a break away, are coming to me now. I never thought they would. I never thought at all. We began our adventure as adventurers. Then we met Life and she tripped us up, she confounded our plans, she altered us, divided us. She didn’t mean to. We were just unprepared, two dreamers without feet on the ground that claimed us. Thus we lived on and we never ever talked about who we were in our shared past. Not once. But I can do it now and, oddly, there is a freedom without you because you would have flapped it, bluebottle style, away. I know you would. In my new life, my life without you, I am good to go, free to wander back, free to cry new tears in passing places (lay-bys for you non-islanders)for an old life so very far back in the past and yet somehow so close by now.

I am glad of it.

“Who am I, you ask?

I am made from all the people I’ve encountered and all the things I have experienced. Inside I hold the laughter of my friends, the arguments with my parents, the chattering of young children, the warmth of kind strangers. Inside there are stitches from cracked hearts, bitter words from heated arguments, music that gets me through and emotions I cannot convey. I am made from all these people and moments.

That is who I am.”

Ming Di Liu

Island Blog – I would tell you

This is for you my one and only husband. As you know (I am sure the angels will have reminded you) today is our 49th wedding anniversary. I can barely believe either of us stuck it out for so many years. I see you smile at that. Neither of us had a scooby about such an intensely complex relationship, speaking out the vows with all that enthusiasm and emotion and blissfully unaware that things would change. That we would change, not at the same time, which was always deeply inconvenient, but singularly and fully expectant of the other to adapt immediately, without a cross word spoken. How naive we were, how trusting in our own set of plans, dreams and expectations. We said we would do it different, remember that? We would never alienate each other, never endure long periods of stony silence, never break apart, never run away, and yet we did all those things. And we survived it all. Did our children, I wonder? Do any children? They are so aware of parental strife, of tension within mother, within father, it cannot leave them undamaged. I suspect we are all damaged, bringing into all our relationships the breaks and black holes from our pasts. As much as I look for the ‘perfect’, there is none.

I would tell you these things. Today I walked beneath the rain-heavy boughs and caught the raindrops, the water from heaven. I cupped them in my hand from a delicate larch limb and drank in the rain. I watched the grey above me, saw the light over the Isle of Coll, open as a window into the sky beyond. A beckoning of light. Look, I said to you, can you see? I wonder how it looks from wherever you are now. How I look, a pinprick dodging puddles in my favourite boots. Did I tell you how hard I have looked for a repeat pair? I find them nowhere. I found five orchids beside the track, no idea what sort of orchids but that doesn’t matter to me. Pink and sudden, for they weren’t there just yesterday and to see an orchid is to find myself in some foreign land. The walk today was the short one. I find walking in the rain jacket a cumbersome sort of walk. My frocks are curtailed from their desire to swish and they mutter beneath the waxed waterproof coat thing that weighs a ton and is far from a pleasant covering. As you know, my slim puffa jacket is as ready to absorb the rain as a sponge might be, although I have donned it pre a rainy walk purely out of vanity and respect for the swish of my frocks, returning drenched.

Then I showered and changed. In other times, this would have been in anticipation of an evening out to celebrate. Not this year. I walked barefoot through the garden to pick myself some flowers and you would not believe the rose you planted some years back, the one called Wedding Anniversary, the one that has heretofore only ever produced 4 or 5 buds. This year it is heavy with blooms and I hope you can see them. And I have been remembering past anniversaries, even as I do have to dig my way back before dementia to find the happier ones. I remember you saying, we are going out at 7. I held the excitement all day long, thinking about what I would wear, what we would talk about, where we would go. You were always the best at celebrations, thinking of everything. Even during dementia years, when you could barely eat, let alone drive me somewhere, let alone walk, you could still smile up at me and I would smile back, so much said, so much unsaid.

I want to tell you I am ok. Better than that, I am doing well. I am learning how to let go and how to make myself into a whole me. I am supported, safe and warm. I am also, finally independent. I know you hated that word, fought like mad against it, but it means something different to me. Independence does not mean a person needs nobody. Oh no. We all need somebody or we die of loneliness. What I mean by that word now is that I have confidence in myself, in my choices, my actions. I take full responsibility for everything in my life and I lay no blame, not even on myself. Although there are things I would have done differently given the chance, I am proud of who I am. And I am thankful. Thankful to you for being my broken rock, for protecting me and our children in the only way you knew; for loving and living as you did and you did your best. I can see that now, for all the squawking I did along the way.

I touch your face in a photograph and remember the feel of your skin. I remember your hands, strong, warm. I remember your smile and the ice blue of your eyes, a gift to our daughter.

These are what I would tell you this day, my husband.

Maybe I just did.

Island Blog – The Options Option

I never like being told what to do. Receiving that Tolding, I feel trapped. Trapped with No Options. This Tolding person is not asking me if I want to or even can do the thing he or she just barfed out and I am required to catch it whether I like the shape, smell, story or point of it. I am forcibly contained within four walls, either of the home, the relationship, the school, the playground or the workspace. Limited, big time. No, not limited, because limited suggests an option, even if that option option is as thin as web or as elusive as a down feather in the wind. Trapped describes more accurately.

As children we are required to cope with a deal of confusion when someone at least 4 feet taller than we are tells us what to do. It’s like smoke, pervasive and choking and equally confounding. We cannot see our way through this confusive smoke. We want to run, but to where? We are confounded, surprised, upset and paralised. But we move, we go, we do, because we trust the Tolding person and we do not, yet, trust our young selves. As we grow to adulthood, we may believe we can now, at last, decide for ourselves as to whether or not we obey like slaves. Bizarrely, a great many of us do not grab that option of independent thinking, nor do we grow appropriate courage nor the legs to stand firm when we do not agree with an order. How come? We saw our own parents barking orders quite the thing for a whole childhood and we are now old enough to be parents ourselves. But infuriatingly still we find ourselves running to obey doctors, accountants, lawyers, people-behind-desks, ministers, husbands, wives, teachers, and many many more. We might even obey without realising we obey. What I mean by that is when we find ourselves in a situation wherein we feel obliged to someone, duty bound to someone, owing a debt to someone; guilty around someone. and we do their bidding regardless of how it makes us feel. I could go on, but I won’t.

Options, that’s the ideal. And to know that we have options. Okay, so let’s pretend we know we have options, anywhere, everywhere, with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I like that. But if I am not prepared, and a trigger authoritarian figure commands the daylight, throwing me into shade, I will perform as an automaton. I will react as I have always reacted, confounded, blinded by their command of smoke, puzzled and wanting to run but stuck to the ground. So what is this ‘know’ thing, the one that sings us options? Perhaps she comes all angel like, winged up and offering freedom and and acceptable refusal to comply. Well, she might. But I cannot get a hold of her.

I am learning, through intensive study and research that the most influential mind control is birthed in childhood. And, I get it. These imprints on my mind will always be there and, unless I bother my butt to look at them, allow them and then release them, they will always and forever influence my behaviour and my knee-jerk reaction to current triggers. I may not remember each incident in childhood when I had to obey or face dire consequences, as fact, but I will always remember how those times made me feel, and at that time when I had no voice/no choice I remember feeling hurt, lost, dismissed, rejected, ignored and judged.

Well who didn’t! Maybe that should have been a question, but trauma in childhood, no matter how we brush it away in comparison to someone else’s appalling abuse and cruelty, is real, hence the lack of a question mark. The good news is that options are an option. Just ten years ago, depression was ‘all in your mind’. Now we know different. So many of our ‘now’ behaviours and reactions to others stem from those early days, not because they remind us of the actual events, but because we remember how we felt. So what to do? I believe there is only one way if anyone wants to stop feeling judged, criticised, put down, rejected or mocked. And it is simply Research. There are a zillion books out there now, penned by those who have found a way to shake off their past. We also know now that trauma does not just relate to soldiers coming back from war, or abused children, women, men. You don’t have to have witnessed something terrible. What was once brushed off as nothing much, or all in your mind, now has a spotlight on it. It could be a fear of being alone in the dark, a cold mother, a derisive grandmother or primary school teacher. It could be bullying, marginalisation because you had to wear specs aged 4 and everyone laughed at you. It could be you took ages making a gift for a mother who laughed and handed it back. Do Better. It could be anything. It is, without question, trauma for a child, and the feelings of shame, rejection, hurt and judgement will never leave no matter how long a life you live. What happens is that when someone meets the same feelings as a result of an encounter in the adult world, the welter of emotions is overwhelming. It seems bizarre. We talk it down and scurry on in the same old shoes. But if we want something to change then that change is not external. It is within.

And this is why it is so vital to prepare. preparation is everything. It isn’t about a clever rebuttal, nor a running away, and all about doing the inner work. I know it. I do it. It is the only road to the Options Option.

Trust me.

Island Blog – Flip-Scoot, and Go Scotland

I wake this morning to a great big thump outside my wide-open window. It is about 04.30 and light. Ish. I scoot out of bed, tripping over the tome I had been reading the night before and falling into the curtains. Fortunately the window is recessed and the curtains have the added gravitas of a black-out lining, affixed by myself I might add amidst a symphony of robust swearing. The whole scoot performance was definitely stage worthy and, once I have recovered from the giggles, I look out to see what sort of flapdoodle might require my proactive attention. Hawk strike perhaps? No, too heavy for that. Might be something falling over like a bird table or even a landslide, although no, it can’t be that. This was a major thump, not a frickadee tumble. I keen around the corners bumping my nose against the pane. There’s nothing to see, not even the birds, I having scared them away with my tome tripping. What I want to find, I tell myself as I rub my bumped nose, is something wonderful, like a heffalump fallen from the skies, or a whole angel with wing trouble, or a huge waterproof book I could read in the garden whenever I feel like it.

Disappointed and with my fed rightly up, I swing my cosy dressing gown around me and trip (not that sort of trip) down the stairs counting every one as I always do. There are 17. I plug in the coffee and flip on the radio. There is a great big star in the Western sky. What? We see no stars in summer. Venus is ahead of herself, if, indeed, it is She.

Then I think, what if that great big thump was a star falling? Obviously not in my wee garden because even at 04.30 I would notice a crater and smell the smoke dust. But maybe nearby? Stop it, I tell myself, coffee. We sit, coffee and me and study the possible Venus. The star is not the usual shape. This is more like a circle of brilliant white light and fixed, not moving. It is there for about 30 minutes, then gone. Could be cloud cover, could be magic, could be nonsense, but I know it is not the latter two. I know what I see when I see it.

So what was the heffa-thump? I, as always, scurry about inside my Alice brain to find resolution. I don’t care about so called realistic or rational thinking which, in my opinion is culture enforced and designed to control imaginations. I am one who works between the worlds, which is also nonsense now I come to write that down. There is no disconnection between the imagination and the logical brain. Fact. There is no disconnection between the spirit and physical world. But there are many who would have us believe that, thus marginalising the ones who effortlessly move between the two. Like me. I would not have been horrified to find a heffalump nor a fallen angel in my garden this morning. I don’t think I would have minded a fallen star not neither, although the mess might have required me to employ the services of a landscape gardener. The former two could have become my friends and just think of the stories they could tell, and the latter would have saddened me, made me think a deal about the poignance of a dead star and then had me with a bellyful of conversational material for years to come.

I move through the day, crossing the dapple mosaics of sunlight through branches, watch a mother warbler shout at me from her branch whilst her babies squeaked from within the safety of the nest. I don’t understand ‘bird’ but I got her point and moved on. I notice the way a spring seeps from the bank above me, rising from deep deep deep in the ground. I watch the trickle of of it through the cadmium grasses, the way they bend politely to let this ancient being pass, step over the outfall and wish the ancient safe journey, apologising for the way humans decide to plant a track, or build a home without a single thought for the ancients. Then I smile. Good for you old y’uns. You can suppress, break, contain and silence them, for a time. But they will rise, the deeply rooted. Always.

I never did discover the origin of the big thump. However, I did reflect on my current tome and was reminded of a recent chapter, based in County Cork where, like here, it rains for 300 of our yearly allowance of days, and wherein the chimney pot, exhausted and ancient, just decided enough was enough with the whole wheezing puffing thing and which, in all its brick and stone marvellousness finally capitulated to the inevitable and made a big show of itself on a quiet night when windows were wide open (for the midges) to land like a startling statement on the front lawn. Perhaps I was replaying the exhausted chimney thing. I will never know.

I like that. And PS, Go Scotland!!

Island Blog – Turbulence, Calm and Letting Be

Good heavens how life can tumble us! One minute I am tootling aboot inside my ordinary and the next I hear news of someone mid turbulence. It slams me to the wall and I can feel my breath hold as I try to make sense of the shock. It is not easy for me inside my ordinary to completely get what they are going through. How can I? I am not who they are; I don’t live in their home, have their concerns or know their joys. As I peel myself off the wall and breathe out, I find myself pacing a bit as if my pacing a bit will create a map that leads me to a solution, to the beyond of their sadness. But all I can see is a load of disconnected squiggles, in my ears the sound of another heart breaking.

It thinks me. Do we, do I, believe that the easy and ordinary days will always be here, holding us up, boring us to distraction, keeping us safe? Well, no. If I look out upon the natural world (interesting that we as humans appear to be separate from the ‘natural world’) there is nothing but turbulence with spots of calm. It is a constant whirlwind out there. There is life, there is death. There is freedom and there is entrapment. There is safe and there is danger. Nature understands herself and she has left us far behind. As I walk beneath the sky-tipping trees I stop awhile amongst the snatch-shadow of limbs, wind-buffeted. Shadows do not lie before me like palm branches for my walking. No, they are dinging about like disco dancers in a frenzy and the mud track lights and darkens strobe-like. The sky-tipper branches create mosaic of the blue sky, moving, shifting, dancers in the wind, waving their arms like longing mothers welcoming children home. Come to me, come to my arms, my mother warmth, my love. I can make everything better for you.

I hear the songs. Pines shoosh, beech leaves clatter and click, hazels and willows whisper. A whole symphony with the wind as conductor. I walk alone but I am not alone at all, not if I mindfully engage with everything I see, hear, smell, touch or taste.

Today it might be still. Today it may only be for those tree intuits to hear the voices of the trees and the soft wave sound of the wild grasses. Or, there might be a raging red blooded hooligan who decides, well, I am bored, It’s Thursday (Thor’s Day #God of Thunder) and I just fancy a rampage. I confess I never know. Himself always did. Batten the hatches, he would say. Bring in the sunshine chairs. I walk now clueless but mindful and noticing and curious and I am learning to connect as he did. I don’t know all my clouds. I don’t understand the sky formations that formation over me but I am learning.

I remember turbulence and calm. Turbulence was the norm and calm the odd moment, so that my ordinary days showed up as turbulence. I got the hang of it. In fact, I rather liked it. There was never anything boring about turbulence. I knew the language, met it head on in doorways and grew strong in myself, in the confidence of my elastication, my bounce back and I was strong enough to adapt and to resolve. Children returning from school brought turbulence, a hooligan, a hurricane of limbs and shout. I learned how to bring them down. Not literally, although it has been known. No, it was more about allowing, noticing, being patient and kind and a whole load of letting go.

In my now life, most of the turbulence is within. I argue with myself about who I am now, what is my purpose, where am I going, if anywhere and, if there is a ‘where’ left, how the hell I get there. There will be an answer, or answers, of course. To look back with a smile and with thankfulness across a long expanse of a life shared, of memories burgeoning with colour, sounds, sights and experiences, is crucial. The smile, I mean. Although there are things I think I would have done differently was it possible to address those situations with my now head (impossible) I am not burdened by regrets. I am practical, after all. I know it is a fool’s errand to imagine I could change anything in the past. I also know how possible it is to change things in the present and that is exciting. Playing around with frock-layering, tapestry landscapes, baby playmats, music, TED talks, audio books, walks in the wild, albeit each one worked on in solitude, gives me great pleasure. Within each activity I may be alone with my thoughts and memories but when I step into one of those memories I find the young woman I was, one who achieved so very much and who was so damn lucky in life. She always landed on her feet. She was loved and respected. She was good at negotiating with turbulence and she was kind. Quite a list. Now she needs to be kind to herself, the hardest thing for all of us because our inner critic appears to be in good voice. I have no clue why we listen to that voice above the other softer, kinder, more understanding voices, but we all do it.

So, frocked up, music on, sun up, rain down, I look sideways. I was never a fan of Either and Or. There is a vast expanse of opportunities between those horns and even if I must needs pay attention to the instant way I default to either this or that thinking, I won’t give up. I know I cannot sort everyone’s life out and I also know that they can and will. I begin from here. And the best I can do for those whose lives I would dearly love to put back in a happy order, is to just be there for them and to let be.

Island Blog – Rain, Alice, Getonwithit and no Cat

This morning as I rise from my sleeping quarters at some ridiculous hour I decide that enough is enough. From the moment I stumbled into the bathroom I knew it at gut level. This day is going to be my return to Getonwithit. I know the place well, have lived for lengthy periods of time within its borders during my long life and it offers considerable sustainability and protection. Its gardens are beautiful, long expanses of emerald grass tonguing into the distance, borders fragrant and blowsy with blooms in every colour of the palette; pretty arbours and trellises of clambering beauty, falling like waterfalls to brush against my cheek as I wander through. Birds flit and flutter among the shrubs and trees, butterflies of every hue, bees and other winged buzzy things sip nectar from open-mouthed blossoms, backlit by the nurturing sun, their stripes and wing patches painting magic on the garden canvas. I can wander all morning here, sit to rest on a garden bench whilst my eyes go deeper into the foliage to see more and yet more of nature’s life. In the evening I can watch the light fade to dark, the sun dip beyond the horizon, feel gentle sleep nudge at my edges.

The trouble is that my stay is limited and never long enough. The double trouble is that I am the one who decides to leave, my edgy gypsy wandering mind becoming bored of all this wonderfulness, for no reason the rest of me can explain, and clamouring for the bark and bite of everything harsh and difficult. From simple not-thinking to complex over-thinking. I blame my parents.

So, this morning I considered a few things. Swinging from Getonwithit with all its simplicity to Questions Without Answers is a waste of my resources. The key is to think Child. I had forgotten her, the wee Alice, the one who keeps falling down habit holes, sorry, rabbit holes, and who accepts a smile without a cat as if that’s completely normal. I find her. She is sitting on the stairs, half way up, half way down and I almost ping to the bottom in a tripcartwheel. I start a bit but I am happy she hasn’t abandoned me, me with my edgy mind. How patient she is, I smile to myself and myself rolls her eyes. Children, I remind myself, get on with it. They may not like the things they are ordered to do. They may not like living along the lines of a rule book they had no say in, but in the main they find fun in their lives. That is what Getonwithit shows me when I am there and this morning I am going back. Myself eyes me, knowingly.

It rains today and blows a hooligan. Stripes of heavenly water cut my window panes into slices and the wind batters the seedlings. Petals flee, birds scoot backwards and walking folk look like kites as they pass, their waterproofs flapping out behind them like wings. Dogs drench, woodpiles sigh and soften, the sky frowns and dumps on us. I can go back to Questions with no Answers, to a droop, to gloom, to the whom I had allowed myself to become recently, or, and this is my choice, I can remember Alice and fun and Getonwithit. So I do, we all do. Me, the dog-about-to-drench, Alice, and the rain, join as one this afternoon as we walk out into the wild, lowering beneath the wet beech leaflimbs , dodging the puddles, smelling the rain, the lovely scent of newfall . And there is a smile in the branches as we wander.

No cat.