Island Blog – Skitterlings, Venus and Mars

A skitterling of sparrows erupts from a dense thicket of rhododendrons as I wander by. I was in the harbour town this morning by 8.15 for a few errands. The sun blinds me on my drive, rising fierce and dominant into a vast expanse of blue. Earlier, like at 5 am, a wispy mist danced through the forest across the sea-loch as the tide slacked, paused and began to ebb beneath a gibbous moon and Venus. Hallo Venus, I said, even as I wondered if it was, in fact, Mars. It is a mistake to mistake Venus for Mars but the other way around just makes the heavens laugh. Venus is just fine with that mistake. She never got on well with Mars anyway and she likes to watch him huff and disappoint, as his ego flops somewhat.

The ground is hot to the tough, the air almost still but not quite. There is a quiver in the ferns, a wiggle and I feel sorry for them, the ferns. That one fat stalk holding a gay abandon of green fronds is compromised when the breeze hits it. All I can do is this rigid left to right thing whilst you fronds dance your dance, feathering the wind and sometimes I wonder if you are reaching for your freedom. The fronds chuckle. I can hear them and chuckle too. I walk to the old pier as I always do. Sandpipers call out in alarm, curlews erupt from the shore, an oystercatcher too. Herons screech at each other and I am tempted to tell them they both need counselling. The wee dog suddenly growls, turning towards the dense overgrowth behind me, up there on the rocks. If I was in Africa, I tell her, I would be very afraid. She keeps growling and heads for the dense overgrowth. She won’t go in. She’s a great big jessie after all. We sit awhile, watching the birds watching us, the oystermen at work and the tide ebbing away. Soon it will have its mind changed once again and the endless widdershins of a greater tidal flow will decide what these underlings must do, these inlets, these sea-lochs, these beaches and promontories. They are not in control but we don’t tell them that because nobody wants to hear such a truth.

Home again and music on and then an invite to dinner with my beautiful gift-daughter (Such a more truthful name than ‘daughter-in-law’ and way less of a mouthful) her sister and the three wee skitterling daughters, precious children, out future, our delight, my future, my delight. I did think of himself as I walked. I did. I thought I would never be so free if you were here. I thought, how much you are missing, even though you wouldn’t have joined me. I felt a Venus uplift, guilt at that uplift and then I laughed, not at Mars, of course not, but at the fact that still this separatist thinking lives on.

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