Island Blog – Swanlift, Labels, Honey and a Captain son

This day I drive the switchback to the harbour town. I only go there these days on a specific mission, never to wander nor to dawdle, as once I did. As I heft right down the steep brae and see the tongue of the Main Street sticking out like thirst, it is coloured up with tourists, the many who are here for a longing, an escape from lockdown. I am so not joining them. They wander, holding ice creams, takeaway coffees, bags of shopping, children, all loving the tidal sweep of the bay, the seagulls fly, the fisher boats, the chip van. I swing right into the harbour car park and meet a tailback. There are just so many places for the parking and I get it. You arrive and you want to park. That’s all, but it is not enough because all the spaces are taken so we tailback, hover, pause, exercise patience and not patience. I am here to meet up with my captain son as his boat is in the harbour for a couple of hours before turning seaward once more with his passengers. We bench sit for I cannot go aboard. He brings tea, a chef made biscuit wrapped in a paper napkin and delicious. We talk of our lives, his young family, my aloneness. We watch the in and out of boats, of visitors in yachts, of locals checking their own launches and sailors. We say hallo and I watch faces. Of the ones I know as friends, I see the toll Covid and isolation has taken on them. Some visitors come too near and my mask hand twitches. They laugh, cough, move on and here I sit scared as a mouse, even on a bench in the sea air.

What happens to us in such times? It thinks me, much, of those (including me in the past) who felt scared just being around people, never mind an invisible virus. We were labelled as those with mental health issues. Now, I am one who would fight to the death to blow all labels into the stratosphere, no matter the smug relax of those who choose it at some committee meeting and then tootle home delighted with the fact that they don’t fit the confines of any label. So, right now I am afraid. And then I am not. This fear is tidal. It rises, full moons itself and then subsides into seaweed and sand. It is real. Very real. But I would stand at the gates of Challenge and shout ‘ Don’t label us!’. I would. And I will tell you why. Any label fixes a person. It might be on medical notes. It might be a long term tenant in someone’s mind. Oh, he, or she, has mental health issues. How ridiculous and how wrong is that! Does this mean we who have gone down like a swan in a swamp, cannot find a way out? Of course not. We can fly again, lift from fear again, become wonderfully white and light and flighty once again.

It is a thixotropic place. In the language of honey spinning, that honey gift from the bees, this word means honey that refuses to spin. It is mostly heather honey which is why it is common to buy heather honey in comb squares, wax included. In life it symbolises the same thing. A refusal to spin, to melt and demur. What I find in these times is that I oftentimes need to remind myself to relax my shoulders, raise my neck, breathe and go forward, especially en route to what I consider the Big City, bubbling with way too much busy life, a life I felt so easy peasy in before. Suddenly it presents menace. My honey refuses to spin. It is still there but affixed in a wax hexagon that will not let it free. I am not saying I like it. I love to flow. I love people, connectivity, chance encounters, but now I am confounded, afraid and my body is telling me she is not happy.

I know that I am bereaved broken. I know that learning how to live alone after almost 50 years is not going to turn me into a confidently independent woman overnight. I know, because of this, that I have mental health issues. Fear, accentuated; sleepless nights; hypervigilance; squewed thinking. of course I flipping do. It thinks me of anyone who is so labelled and who feels less-than, diminished, isolated because of that awful label. (all labels are awful). When any one of us is in a dark place the last thing we need is labelling. We are not what ‘they’ tell us we are. We are just in a dark place, a dark well, looking up at the light and just a bit terrified of moving towards it because we have no idea of what that light might throw on who we really are now, in the aftermath.

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