Island Blog – Fickle Dance/ Wonderful Hearts

Some days pass, a few in quiet silence bar the rattle of my fridge. She is an old girl, second hand when she came to me oh so many years ago. At times I think she feels like she is part of the wallpaper and I recognise that feeling myself, so I don’t mind so much when she stops her mindless humming and thinks herself Eminem, even as it startles and then concerns me. I thump her fat belly as I pass and she halts for a second or two only to resume once I have moved on. I smile. Go girl, I tell her. I am so noticing you now. You are not just a ‘white good’. You are my ‘white good’ and I appreciate all you do for me. It seems to work for she has hummed now for quite some time and in a somewhat merrier way, a key or two above her usual drone.

While she maintains her position (thankfully) Life moves on. Someone important dies. Someone important is born and someone important is married to her lover and friend. Across the world this dance goes on, second by second, moment by moment and we who are bothering about who did or did not empty the dishwasher have the chance to get real. So which is fickle, you might ask, the fridge and dishwasher thing or the comings and goings of breath life, the strangles of it, the insecurity of it, the risk the fall the rise and the sudden full stop or full birth? I think all of it is both important and fickle but not either/or, never that. Within each moment of our living we can easily be upset by a grumpy fridge or the fact that the dishwasher was not emptied which then causes us to anger, to resentment and to rage. We will be late for work. According to the rota, this one clear upon the wall, it is your turn but you did not bother to complete, nor even begin the task. Inside a family life, a team life, this really matters and I remember it. If one person does not turn up for their part the whole play is pointless. It collapses. This much is obvious. Juliet without Romeo would look like a right ninny. Moving on.

We are so very quick to hook our grapples onto Either and Or. I should be doing this, I should be feeling this, I should not be thinking this way, I should not cry in public because my fridge died, not when thousands are being maltreated, trafficked, abused. Not when ethnic cleansing is alive and well across the world; not when there is poverty and war. But wait. Wait. We who can afford a fridge, or a wedding, or any such choices are bound to have invested our trust in that thing or that experience. It isn’t something about which to feel guilt, false guilt (in my opinion). As long as we keep our minds wide, think laterally and allow the whole world with all her joys and all her pain to flow to us and through us, we are still saying You Is Important.

I know, I know that there is an imbalance within our world, the divider between lack and wealth. It isn’t new, people, no way. This imbalance has lived and thrived for millennia and I cannot see an end to it. So, to those of us who do stop to notice, who refuse to get caught up in Either/Or, I say this:- Let it flow. Let Life and living grow to dying and Death. Let us open the eyes of our wise hearts and let us see beyond the pale. Forward, backward, up, down and around. Let us breathe it all in, notice everything and most important of all, not make it all about ourselves. We are small, we are finite and yet within our living years we can be powerful just as long was we leave our own little agendas behind and walk together into new observations, no judgement, just looking with the eyes of our wonderful hearts.

Island Blog – Some Time and the God Mother

Recently I have watched change develop, a responsive change to what is happening with the season. Local dog walkers are now clad in jumpers, one or two (jumpers) I recognise from last year, at a similar time. They sauntered by in teeshirts and shorts, it seems like moments ago. Was I asleep for days? Did I miss something and, whilst I did this sleeping thing, did the weather send these goodly folk into their drawers for a wheeching out of warmer kit? No, I didn’t sleep, rarely do, so it wasn’t that. Maybe the gods of weather flipped a switch, laughing at us down-belows and deciding to stir things up a bit, because body language speaks volumes. Instead of ‘sauntering’, these folk are bowed, bent and clad in plastic. Where before they walked with jaunty air companionable with time as if it was a holiday stretching out for days, they now march, get out, get back, wet and longing for a hot cuppa, teeth gritted, defences up against the sideways rain avoiding puddles deep enough to sink a vicar. I feel it myself, the oh-god-do-I-have-to thing pre dog walk. I resent, big time, the reach for the plastic covering, the boots. I feel irritation as the doglet pauses to sniff at every other blade of grass, yanking her on and then carrying the guilt of grumpy yanking for another half mile, at least. Walks are shorter, faster, marchier. Dammit.

Then I remember the discomfort of change. Ah…….yes. Every time a season changes it feels too soon, even when the coming season is Spring and this is why. I like to know where I stand within my environment, my life. I want ‘ordinary’ to remain so, even as I absolutely don’t. Eventually, I get comfortable with the change until it isn’t change at all. It just is as it is. The in-between time, when I am on the cusp of things, I swither, feel out of sorts, resistant. It’s not anticipation of a seasonal change because it slam dunks me. I don’t know what it is, and I get bored of myself looking for reasons. I work not to be crabbit. I poke about in my insides to find some explanation and find none. This finding none thing also irritates me. I like an answer, that lovely well-honed explanation, much like a well-penned musical phrase that jitters, lifts, curves and flows down to an Aha. Nothing. Dammit again.

When dressing these chillsome mornings, I paint my way through my frock layers. This, yes, that, maybe, and this one onatop. No, try again, and again and again. What is wrong with me? For many lovely months I just rose from beneath my duvet, picked up this or that for its colour, or shape, or layering power. Now I am a snivelling child of a morning, with no power at all. I realise, I know, as I write this, that it is a First World problem. I remind myself of that as I stomp down the stairs to yet another dark morning. Is it morning at all?

There are so many who dread mornings. There are so many who have left their last ever morning behind, lost like a full stop in the dark. I have frocks and choice. I have Autumn and change. I have rain-soaked dog walks. I have Christmas ahead, visits from family and friends, my children, their partners and the grandchildren. I have my eyes, my ears, my legs, my face, my arms and a choice for dinner. I have enough money, enough warmth, enough light, enough dark to remember the full stops for others. Again I ask, what is wrong with me?

The Soft Voice comes to me. Nothing, she says, this God Mother, Nothing at all. You are but human (the ‘but’ bit clicking me into pause. And, she continues, there may well be another day, another morning. There may not, but there may be. Keep living, not just breathing. Keep fannying about with your frock talk, keep dithering and swithering and be grumpy if it helps. All is allowed, is normal. But one thing……

Yes? I ask.

You have one time, some time. Use it, dance with it, in it, play with it, have fun with it, make it hilarious and precarious, vicarious, salubrious, nefarious, whatever. But notice which and what. Choose from your own ground, your own roots, where and when you will spread and when you will flower.

She’s wise, the God Mother.

Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

Island Blog – So Will I

This day, in a fallout of death, I am aware of Life. I decide thus, Let me feel every single minute of this day, every soigné one. It is dark when I wake but there is a slither of light around my blackout curtains. I know the colour and my heart smiles. T’is not the moon, no, for this light is golden and the moon is never thus. She is slice white, cold blue, lemon if indeed she ever gets anywhere near anything yellow, which, she rarely does. Maybe in her summer coat. Maybe. But now, in the days of incoming cold and threat, she is clear in her colour. So, I am delighted to see that warm glow framing my blackout curtains and I just know is it morning. Oh glorious morning. I love mornings and have little regard for their start point as I ever did of the mother of boys. Boys have no start point, in my experience and just lift and run just whenever they feel like doing so. I have found confusion, then allowance, then engagement with the lunacy of boys. And, in girls too, although I only had one, yet she was match for any of her brothers since first she clocked her situation. She never looked back.

Back to me. It is so strange to walk into a familiar world knowing that someone, younger than my eldest son, is dead. I cannot conceive it, nor allow it and yet here it is. It is not my grief, primarily, not at all. There is a big and grieving family right there in the thick of it all, those who will, for many years, try to make sense of a daughter who died too young. They might question, they might take a dose of pain to their own hearts, they may confuse and dissemble. I would. if my own daughter had died within her 40 years, I would. I cannot, nor can anyone who has not gone through this, say anything. I can say nothing at all and perhaps that is just as it should be.

This day the Rose Bay Willowherb dispelled her seeds. I watched those seeds flit by my window. As the sun pulled pliance the seeds tipped and flowed and moved on as if they knew where they were going. All my spider webs are revealed, beneath chair, above curtain rails, over stairwells. Highlighted in a mist, snowflakes encaptured. I move out for a walk with the doglet. Breathing, honestly, today was a tricky thing. Any breath swooped in seeds. I am not going to let that stop me, not in the face of young death and my olding life.

Coming back into land, into my own home space I think this. I know that Nikki lived her life with wild and colourful dance. And I know this too. So will I.

Island Blog – A Friend Gone

It took a while. She wasn’t well for a while but inside that ‘while’ she stayed lively and strong.

Now she is gone. Too soon, too young, behind me by two decades, ages with my own children.

It snaps me. Confounds me. And then I land and allow. She was a light. Now her light has gone out.

It is a shame and a longing hand reach for her friends who remain on the land of life. Watching her float away is tough.

But let her go. She was light and lively and red blood rebellion. She thought to gift at times when nobody else thought. She came when nobody else did. She was not afeared in the face of sickness or decay. She came. She always came. And now we need to free her.

Salut my lovely woman

Island Blog – Thinks and Daddy Longlegs

I have too many of them. Thinks, not Daddy Longlegs. I wonder how the name was gifted. I often wonder that. Was it something to do with the One Who Discovered? If this discovery had been made by a woman might it have spent all eternity being known and recognised as Mummy Longlegs? I wonder that about God too. I know, I know, too many thinks. My thinks might be my undoing for as often as they travel through my mind in the hours of daylight as questions begging answers, they do not sleep overnight. I feel sometimes as I did as a child, excited and bunked in Cattle Class on a sleeper from York to Inverness, so awake to every sound, every shunt, pause, toot and groan of the carriage, one more redolent of an old woman in ill-fitting stays than the sleek, spirited (and grubby) fast train of today. I barely slept and this has not changed. I don’t mind, not often, nor usually but just sometimes I wonder what it might be like to go to bed, hit the pillow and drift off into the night, waking at first light with no idea what just happened.

Inside my home for the last few days I am Daddy Longlegged out. They are everywhere and here am I marvelling at their obvious confoundment. This morning at some pre dawn hour I met one in the kitchen, just by the kettle. It flapped at me a bit and I said hallo and waited till it had done with checking me out. It landed on the wall, spread in all its fragile beauty, six legs splayed, until I filled the kettle for coffee spilling a drop of water on the counter. Immediately it lifted and landed by the water drop. I ran for my specs, my magnifying glass (no laughing please) in order to watch this extraordinary and so short-lived survivor bend for a drink. It has a snout. Yes, it does. Like a hyena only way smaller. It also has a number of eyes which makes sense considering the short lived/predator thing that is ever present. Humans swatting, birds snatching, spider webs waiting, wind slamming and so on.

I watched it drink, wondering should I put it out or should I not? I make coffee taking care to keep it out of the way of the killing steam. It finished drinking and seemed revived. It lifted all the way up to the ceiling. Should I leap about in my goonie in attempts to catch it, to set it free? Into what? Danger? I Googled. I often Google. What did we ever know before Google? I learn little.

I go through the to the conservatory and light a candle, sip my coffee and wait for the dawn. You came in, I say. Your choice. Who am I to make a decision for you? Then I slide back over my Night Thinks. I decide to set them free too. You came in. I repeat. Your choice. But here I can make a decision. And I do. I choose to move into my day, into my daylight, into the new and I leave my thinks behind me. After all, they were only thinks.

Island Blog – Autumn, Our Gift.

I almost didn’t go to the pier today, to sit on the flat rock and to watch the tidal activity. Almost. Waking twirly and feeling it as the day slowed on, I conversed with myself as though to allow such a falter, to give it credence and approval. I will walk the short walk today, I said. It’s fine. I am allowed. But, as I moved closer to the exit opportunity, the rebel in me drew blood and stood in my path. I could see her in my mind’s eye and she laughed me. Ok, ok, I said, I will walk on. She withdrew to allow safe passage. I would so not want to challenge her.

Leaves are turning. Above my head, beech, alder, hornbeam and birch show me tip. That tip into Autumn, that acceptance with a rebel of colour shouting at them. No dying without colour, she says, no dying without that glorious dress of swish and ruby, of gold and speckles, that differentness that comes only now, only as Summer with all her flounce and confidence yawns like a princess and takes a first class flight across the world. There, she can astonish as only she can, lifting tired human minds, human bodies into swimsuits and flowing wraps and barbecues and beach encounters, but Autumn is pragmatic. She speaks to the dying light, to those on the cusp of change, she is change. And she does it well. Even though the storms may come and the light give way to a big dark, she is clever with time, for those who are watching. She is not one to sleep in.

The light lifts as I walk. Although it seems that the sky is closed, all grey and without comment, there is a shift. I can feel blue coming even if I cannot see it and it comes, with dissonant clouding and cerulean blue. For now it is just sweaty and cloying and my frocks clamp my skin. Then home again as Father Sun finds his spot and beams hot and sweaty after a jumper and boot day. I roll my eyes and peel off morning layers, damp down the fire. The temperature flips from nothing much to 27 degrees in a matter of moments. My neighbours suddenly barbecue. It is what we do if we are working with what is on offer, much like Autumn. I like her. She is feisty and determined. She is beauty in the face of death only it isn’t death. Death is forever, whereas she, Autumn is just one of four and playing her part. She is that jazz singer with a whisky/cigarette voice you hear whilst walking home, one that draws you in to hear more. She is nuts and berries, vibrant and wild, offering a harvest that comes only to her. She is preparation for the winter months when we all lose the plot, light endless candles, and pretend we don’t mind the dark and the cold. She is a herald, nonetheless. She is saying, get ready, pay attention, get real about this time, in particular, This Time, for we are all afraid, all wondering, all peering out at a world we are no longer sure about nor confident to walk in.

I won’t do the cheesy and say that this is nothing. It is not nothing. But we humans have survived, lived, loved danced and made a difference over and over for thousands of years. None of us know what will happen next but next is out there and we are right here, right now and this is Autumn. Our gift.

Island Blog – I Dare You and Defiance

There’s a natural space in the woods that always looks me in. It’s as if I lose control of my eyes for they slide to the right even if I am captivated by the left where wind-bowed hazels dense the hill flow down to the shore. The gap shows me promise, hope, a further on, an invitation. I know, because I have gone in before, that a rise of scrub grass and big rocks will lead me, puffing like an old Billy, right up to the top only to show me a short down and another challenging up. But today I don’t accept the invitation, not least because of……what, I ask myself and myself as ever has a quickquick answer. Because you are scared of falling and of lying up there in the silent depths of the wood where nobody will find you for days, maybe weeks. I silence her with a sharp hiss which alarms the walkers coming towards me on the track. I feel that overwhelming need to explain that I am not mad (really?) and not a daft old woman talking to myself, which, of course, I am. I roll my eyes and once far enough away from the looking-back walkers and after checking the wind direction, I ask myself why it is that I always have to explain my actions. I yearn, and always have yearned, to be one of those women who can beatifically smile at sudden encounters that encroach on private moments and to not give a monkeys whatnot as to their reactionary thoughts or whispers. I have a long way to go on that one.

Not going in doesn’t mean I cannot pause and send my eyes scooping through the darkling gap to rise and rise again to where the top of the first hill hits the sky. I notice the grass that has fought its way into a piddling light all summer. Now its fronds are bending over and soon they will die their yearly death, kidding on that they are done for good. I smile. I know their root system. I have met that root system in my own little garden. There is way more of that below the surface, below my seeing, than there ever is above ground. The fallen beech tree just within the. wood still sends out leaves, clever limbs reaching reaching up into whatever light sustains the ancient fingers below ground, the ones that garner every bit of moisture they can find, and year after year. It is a long time fallen, this old beech and yet still it blooms. I step in and put my hand on its belly, its trunk, thick as a planet and as long as time. Well done my friend I say. You inspire me.

Fallen I am not and yet when life changed for ever just over a year ago, I can feel a bit fallen at times. Perhaps Nature is teaching me. No, Nature is definitely teaching me. The flower that blooms between paving stones, the cowslip that grows butter yellow and flowers for many days perched atop a big fence post and this beech. It is never about perfect growing conditions, never. I have known so many who seeded, bloomed and blossomed in impossible places under appalling circumstances, defying loss and pain, and who did it anyway. It was never for show, but to shout to the naysayers or to those all settled and comfortable in those perfect conditions, Defiance. Shout Defiance. Shout it. But do something. Shouting alone gives your throat a horsewhip and achieves as little. Choose, instead, to bloom. Go on. I dare you.

Island Blog – The Usual Route

As I walk today, the usual route that never stays usual, not even day to day, I am thinking. And noticing, and the noticing part shows me changes, little ones mostly, shifts in growth or movement from earth to sky, from tidal flow to a tree canopy painting a season. I have heard people say that they need to change their walk route, and I respect that, but it does wonder me. How much noticing are you doing my friend, because even if you walk through the same terrain every single day, you will always see something different. It can depend on your mood, on how you feel, on whether or not you carry anger or sadness or other pains; worries can flutter around your head like picky terns when you get too near a nest and they can hurt and hinder any other noticings . You can march on a fitness thingy, or be plugged into music with those nifty white ear pods. You can be aware of ouches in the body, sharps in the mind, bothered about wishing excess weight away, aware, too aware of your body.

I leave all that behind, but don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a natural state for me. Hell no. I had to do this marching, musical oblivion, too fat, too floppy, I hate you and the world thing for, well, too long, until some wise person suggested I ‘notice’. Notice, schmotice, I snapped. What do you mean? He explained and I listened, thinking this:- what I am living with, the me I am living with, is not working. I am not working. I am fighting against demons and doubts and hate and distraction and I am marching, marching, marching. To where? he asked. From what? he asked and I had no answers to either.

To free a mind, even if the body is imprisoned, is completely possible. No, it is probable, if the inner work is taken seriously. Now the word ‘seriously’ gives me shudders and always did. I had, have, no plans to be serious. Serious speaks to me of knuckling down to latin syntax or of playing goalie in a lacrosse match in temperatures that would freeze a seal. I want to be light about change, tender with transience, open without fear, fear of my own lack. Who teaches that we have to be everything in order to gain everything? T’is a lie, my friends, but the lie works because we all buy into it. If ‘They’ say this is how it is, then, by definition, most of us are failures. I digress, but with no apology.

Back to the walk. It is like slowing down time, walking and noticing. I don’t need to march. My keeping fit and my belief about keeping fit does not require my body to be something unnatural to me. I have met so many people who have lost stones only to put them right back on and thus to feel an even bigger failure. They worked on self control and denial when the real pain was deep inside their mind, their body memory. As was, is, my own. When a person understands that, the prison bars squeak a bit. They know what is coming if this noticing human begins to take in everything they see, slowly, gently and with respect for our beautiful world and they know their own rigidity and impermanence. They are but metal where we are blood and sinew, mind and soul, heart and transience.

All it takes is acknowledgement. A first walk, slow paced and with looking eyes.

‘To long to live in a state of perpetual contentment is, in truth, to accept a frozen life, one with no eyes on the future.’

Island Blog – Cusp

I like being on the cusp of change, even as I sometimes am a fearty. This day I walked beneath a billow of grey clouds and thought, well, at least the sky isn’t flat. I’m not great at flat, unless it refers to my midriff, in which case I am delighted. The sun is closed and already lowering in our skies which brings a change of light. Another cusp. As Summer concedes to Autumn, I wonder if they discuss when and how and if there is any resistance or if all the seasons are good students and just know their places. You go, no, You go, No you, or something, or is it silent, peaceful and are the four of them friends? I have met Autumn in the mornings, a thrill of chill, a shiver, a rush to light the wood burner, only to end up with burned skin in the afternoon. In the laze of Spring, for she is lazy up here, I can dress in thunder resistant woollens, mighty leggings and at least four frocks plus jumper and be trounced and bounced into stripping off by lunchtime, only to fall back into shivers by wine O’clock. The seasons are capricious.

It can frazzle me. And then it thinks me. Perhaps the seasons are like us, ditzy and unpredictable. Perhaps they too are unsure of their roles, of who they are are in the now-now of now. Old people in my young days and in my middle age could bore my tonsils loose going on about how long the summers were, how on time the snow fell for Christmas, how floods never flooded and how we never knew what a hosepipe ban was. I can hear myself now, telling a young granddaughter about the ‘simple’ days but I notice and pause and erase and laugh for this is memorical nonsense and so very flat sky.

I walk the same track, the Tapselteerie track and it never bores me for it is always changing as the seasons change. Today beneath the yellow, umber, Payne’s grey and white of the bumpy clouds, the scabious lights up. Peacock butterflies show me wild strong colours and sea-dandelions are so yellow I want to spread their buttery gold on my toast. I peer into the woods and see the green slowly change from lemony lime to deep wine bottle. Summer in there is moving out. The grasses are dying and so they should for we will need them next year. Nonetheless it is a gasp, the watching of it, of their turning. Where sunlight lifted and tousled, danced and elevated these emerald fronds, he is abandoning them now for he cannot reach from his louring face in the western sky. And it is right and it is time and it is preparing us if we just care to notice. Bracken stems copper and begin to fall, to fail. Different birds fly over, birds that will leave us soon for the north, for the south. Go safe, I call out. Come back to us.

Mushrooms and toadstools stand like sentries along the track, big-chested, bullish, almost scary, some tempting and beautiful. I touch nothing. A choir of temptresses, all perfect and come-eat-me have erupted overnight on a tree stump. Hallo, I say. Not interested, I say, and not because I don’t eat mushrooms but because I have no knowledge of the safe and of the deadly. I do look back. They are beautiful. I walk to the old pier and sit a while. The wind is snappy, cooler but the tide is gentle, ebbing but softly. Two herons screech at each other like women at a WI cake sale and I smile, rest on a basalt rock and look out while someone across the sea-loch pushes out a dingy and heads for his fishing boat. I stay as they spin by and wave, heading out to catch dinner perhaps. The coolth lifts me from my rock and I wander back home. I check the fire, bring in logs, close a window. I slide down the cusp and go in search of my boots.

Hallo Autumn. Welcome. In you come.