Island Blog – On Golden

This day it is warmer, even warm. I awaken into the morning, light already, the wind light and the sky bright. No flat grey this morning and no cold wind and I am thankful. It has felt for a while now that this island stuck out into the great Atlantic has been the fulcrum for conflict, as if Summer and what we expect clashes with Autumn and what we don’t expect, and in June. Even the sea is a restless woman, plucking at her coverlets when opposing currents and wind patterns argue loudly with the tide cycles. Tide over wind, wind over tide, it’s exhausting and I am mighty glad not to be out there on a boat.

Today would have been our 50th wedding anniversary. I am not at all sentimental but I cannot say I haven’t given it a thought. Quite the opposite. In fact, I choose to think and a lot as I look back down the years of anniversaries and of 365 days in between each of them. So many and over such a long time, a time of growing children, of laughing and crying, of loving and hating, of warm easy peace and big storms, of wind over tide and tide over wind and repeat. Not many marriages make such an arrival into the harbour but we would have done, had he lived. In a traditional type marriage there is, or was, a lot of old fashioned claptrap, a lot of He is the Man of the House and She is the Little Woman who cooks and cleans and I can tell you I yelled and rebelled a great deal, but somehow we stayed where we were and where we were was together. This sunshine day I remember him as he was way back when romance was still alive and the pressures of adjusting to change flicked the feet out from under us. I sometimes wonder, now that I have time to engage with the wondering thingy, why it was so hard for him as an older man to accept change between us. I remember him questioning once, Why on earth would I want to do that? when I suggested that we both might consider this change. After all, wasn’t I fleet of foot and fancy free until my first son was born? I knew I had changed, of course I had. However this man who could accept all the vagaries of a capricious ocean found it very hard to accept any such in me, even as I knew I was 90% ocean.

But here I am alone now and remembering. I remember the times he surprised me with dinner plans, with roses and thoughtfulness. Romance was never dead in him. He just found me impossible and I know I was. The last anniversary card he gave me on this day in 2020, the year he died, he wrote in a very wobbly scribble ‘You know I have always loved you.’ I recall a mental snort, one I am not proud of, one I didn’t show. Instead I bent to kiss him on his withered cheek and smiled. We did ok, I said.

Happy Golden my husband.

Island Blog – A Gentle Circle

When I write I feel better than I did with all those words and feelings and observations twinging about in my head. They circle like planets, a circumcircle within triangular sharps. As I move to sit here at my desk and lift my fingers to the qwerty keyboard, I sense freedom. From here I can fly my words , no, not fly, because flying is random and words must needs sentence up, find rhythm and then there’s grammar and punctuation and la la tiddly pom, all sharping their own sense of self, of importance, of an importance to the whole and quite right too. The one who drives the forward beast, horse, bus, train, plane is no good on his or her team. Every other who takes a part takes a vital part. I mean, just imagine the world without full stops or question marks or spellcheck? Well, I can, actually. Many and I mean ‘many’ letters (did I sound old fashioned there?) or emails astonish me with their obviously random dance into the world of grammar, spelling, sentence building, the verb in the right place, ditto the noun. For me this is basic material but, and but again, I am one who believes that language moves on and changes and so should we, even as I squeak at grammar ghastlies. But I am not a grammarphobe. Jeez no. Life needs to move on and btw She is not moving on without me.

No matter the day or the previous night. No matter the weather or the to-do list, or lack of one, I find joy in so many things. No, not things, although the things are things. Like the rose bush outside my window. I watch it. I see the blooms bud, open and fall in just 3 or 4 days. Something I could miss if I wasn’t watching. I go out barefoot (it is essential to feel the wet grass under my feet) and smell the fragrance. I know is isn’t perfect for these sentient plants, they know the climate is changing and that they need to burgeon quickquick before another and unseasonal gale wheechs their beauty into nevernever. I walk and see 3 bullfinch, such a gasp of beauty, lift from the undergrowth, chirping danger and warning to their one chick. They are teaching it to fly. I knew it. I hear gulls in a frenzy and know I will find a big bird somewhere out there, a sea-eagle, a buzzard, maybe a kite. The dingdong goes on until they wild into the sky, the big bird and the hecklers, white white against a grey skyfold. And then I write. Not about the missing, about the emptiness or the triangular sharps, for within is a gentle circle.

Like grammar. I must move on.

Island Blog – Candy Floss Tastes like Clouds.

It seems like yesterday I foraged for wild garlic in the Fairy Woods. Now I couldn’t get there if I tried, not with the bracken man high and laden with ticks. But I did go before the bracken woke up and the woodland floor was a carpet of gentle white flowers and strong green leaves. Now, the big jar of pesto in my fridge is almost empty for another year. It thinks me of how quickly Time and her inhabitants pass. When children grow they do so whilst, it seems to me, we are not watching. From a little girl or boy to a strapping, strongly independent individual in moments. The catch of their sweet and awkward 5 year old selves to this girl who decides what she wears of a Tuesday school morning and it is SO NOT THAT! From the boy who played with toy boats in a puddle to a the lad who can ride his bike no-hands and way too fast. Gone times. But I saw them, I watched them, I noticed and there’s the key, right there in my hand, and yours. Those of us who remember no television, no social media, no media in fact, no streaming, no downloading and a finger dial telephone knew of a different world, a very different time. We can smile at our memories, laugh at the puzzlement on the faces of our grandchildren or we can hanker for the old. Don’t do that. It’s boring.

Today, on Father’s Day I celebrate my sons and my son-in-law. There is no big daddy here now and even though such a day meant little to Himself and for many years, I remember. I remember him at Tapselteerie, strong and with no thought of any sort of demise and I smile at my rememberings. I was there, oh lucky me, I was there. I saw. Adventures, meltdowns, angst and hilarity, all of it and more. What a privilege to be able to remember and to have been there because I know our shared life was way more bonkers than many others. We were wild, spontaneous and sometimes reckless but we really really lived. I don’t ever remember feeling bored. There just wasn’t time.

This afternoon I walked my grandgirls and the Poppy dog down to the shore in a rare burst of warm sunshine. We skipped in and out of the water, played word games, watched duck fly in, a heron land, oystercatchers twirtle overhead, a sea-eagle surf the sky. Conversation can fly too and I sat on a rock listening to the sisterly interaction. I began. I go to the shop and in my basket I put……..Oh, I know this game, they cried. Good I said. Play. Ok, I’m first! No, I’m first. No, you’re always first. What is so important about being first, I said from my rock seat, genuinely interested because I get it but never questioned it till now. They both rolled their eyes, unified once more. Gaga! they said. First is best. Ok……well I will go third. Why? they asked, mystified. Well, because that way I can hear all your mistakes and learn. Long pause. You go first Gaga. Ha! So I put sausages in my basket and the next one put in a Rainbow Dragon with a Big Heart. The Redhead’s turn. She went through the list and added Candy Floss. Of course, says Big Sister, you always choose candy floss or other boring things! Quick as a flash the Redhead is back. Candy Floss, she announces importantly is not boring. Besides, it tastes like clouds.

And that was that.

Island Blog – Captured in Words

Today I awoke to a gale, a Sou’Westerly blast and birthing rain. Good Morning, chirruped I, wheeching back the blackout curtains to see goldfinch flying backwards and the mouths of my wheelies opening and closing in excitement. Here we are again. We did this, I said to my first frock as I pulled it over my head. It’s climate change. My frock said nothing as it fell in silent acquiescence over my body. Once dressed I downed the stairs and made for the coffee pot, noticing the time. 04.30. Great! Another long day just bursting with opportunities to notice and to learn something I didn’t know yesterday. The wind ruffed up the rain-stabbed water on an incoming tide making the fretful waves popple irritably. I didn’t share the mood. I don’t get irritable, not any more because there is too much to wonder at, to watch in peaceful silence and too many opportunities to learn something new.

I work through Book 2, drafted some months back and in serious need of distance (from me) and revision (by me) throughout the morning, discarding much and slashing my red pen across swathes of utterly indulgent nonsense. I was too close to it. My agent was right. Later, after reading for an hour and listening to a podcast on grieving, I decide to wander. Wander! I admonish myself as I note my fast pace, feet going like the clappers as if Himself was still back home and without a grasp on the concept of time. For him, 45 minutes, the length of my walk, was more like 3 hours and counting. I slow my pace, watch the thrust of my right foot, then my left, noticing everything as I go. The bark of an Alder. Must pull some off to make a yellow dye, I say out loud, very probably startling said Alder. I swear she pulled her tummy in, holding tight. I laugh and she softens. Just a little bit, I soothe, and not all the way around, I promise. Sunlight dapples the track into negative space. I stop to admire the ever shifting mosaic for the wind, now westerly warm and more like a caress, still lifts the leaf-heavy limbs of beech, oak, alder, birch, hazel, chestnut and the conifers I cannot name, although I know a pine. Everyone knows a pine.

A snapshot of the now calmer sea-loch shows me sparkles as if the sun is melting golden drops. Dandelions answer with butter yellow, speedwell with indigo, oxeye daisies with snow, stems swaying as if in time to the music, all faces turned sunwards. Turning down to the shore, a path I haven’t walked since my baby sister was here with her husband some weeks ago, I gasp at a crowd of foxgloves. They stand as tall as me and in that disco pink Himself loved best. Bumble bees fly in and out of the bells sounding like tiny dirigibles but without the threat. I stand awhile and tell them all how beautiful they are, out here where only a few will ever see them. We don’t mind that, they say. We like our isolation and besides, the bumbles will always find us and that’s what matters. Out on the shore the wind whips at me, warm and westerly and full of stories. I smell seaweed and salt, stories and history. Men rowed out from here once to fish for their families when to catch fish was to stay alive, at least for one more long winter. Seaweed in rainbow colours cover the rocks, the 200 million year old rocks that line the shore, the seaweed lifted and abandoned by the recent full moon tides. Rust, lime green, yellow ochre, kettle black, it looks like art to me. It is also draped over the old Alpha Beta pier, now just a skeleton made beautiful with mermaid hair and shells, random, natural, passing. Soon it will dry and break up and be gone. Such is the life death cycle.

Wandering (yes I am still mindfully wandering) back home, I see a broken egg shell and stop to study the crushed coloration. It’s a big egg so not a blackbird, robin or thrush but it is blue, striated grey, silver, rose gold. A heron’s egg, it must be. I lift my eyes to where the herons nest, just over there among the bow-backed hazels that flank the shoreline, frontliners, protectors of the woods and they can take it, have done for centuries. How sad, I whisper. This little one didn’t make it to life. I pass the pigless pen, move through the gate and step onto the home path. So much I learned today but what did I learn? Ah, I know. I learned that disco pink foxgloves grow at the shore for the first year since the bracken was cleared. I learned that they can stay dormant in the earth for 50 years just waiting for sunlight. Such confident patience. And see how they they gasped me and changed my whole day and poignantly because in a few days me and Himself would have been married for 50 years. When I drive the switchback I look down on his gravestone. Golden script. Sun-melt, captured in words.

Island Blog – Innovator Generation

For all that we might berate the ways in which our lives are susceptible, nay wide open to corruptive influences, we should also notice and admire the benefits of that wide openness for it teaches us. Everything teaches us, both the perceived good and the perceived bad if we acknowledge that nothing is as it seems viewed from our own limitations of fear. Yes, there is ‘bad’ out there but there is far more good. This visibility also allows us to see further, look deeper and accept our small place in a very big world. We might be tempted to hide from being so seen and I am not saying this is wrong, not at all if it is mindfully considered, but if it comes from a place of fear, we are forgetting to love, to love the way our young are finding their stumbling way along paths we have never walked, at least not as young innovators. We might remember that we were just that once, recalling the tuts and the warnings of our own elders and so-called betters whilst dancing off into what, hippiehood? reckless decisions? risk taking? And more, and more.

This day at midday on Radio Four, You and Yours, my son Ruari is being interviewed. From oil broker to One year No Beer entrepreneur, founding a business to encourage and support anyone wanting to cut down or quit alcohol, risking everything, he and his wife are finally finding recognition and I am so very proud of their passion and their determination. It has been a rocky road, and still is, the one they have chosen. Losing the income they enjoyed, moving home more than once, building on through Covid when the consumption of alcohol elevated considerably according to stats, when nobody wanted to think beyond just coping with the restrictions, the fears, the tension, they persisted, changed shape, adapted, kept going. I have followed every step and I feel nothing but admiration. To stand for something you really believe in and then to walk away from comfort and predictability in order to lead from the front takes a great deal of courage and then to keep walking out front as followers fall away presents a test many would fail. This isn’t working. Where is everyone? But they didn’t give up. They kept walking and now their followers number thousands and worldwide. Wild tundra is being tamed, not from the desire to control, to develop for personal gain but from a passion for people, a belief in the individual’s ability to rise from circumstances as a powerful game changer.

I wax lyrical on this in order to show the good side of wide openness. Without social media, without vulnerability, this entrepreneur would have struggled to gain such recognition. In my days of no television, bad radio reception, no Facebook, instagram and other animals, how could it rise in the way it has? It would have taken decades had it been limited to the paths well travelled. Yes there is risk out there as I know all too well, but without risk and the opportunities that come with it, it is impossible to discover the extent to which we can adapt whilst still moving forward. Fear is a killer as we know. Instead of retreating behind our protective walls, saying nonsense things like “It was better in our day,’ we might take a moment to seek the good in this generational change. And, when we do this seeking thingy we will amaze ourselves. I write a list at times when I am confounded and afraid of wide openness and as I note a negative, I consider the positive aspect of that perceived negative. It laughs me because one comes almost immediately. I decide I have a choice about how I see what I see. It takes brainwork, yes. It can feel almost impossible at times but I am determined to employ my innate intelligence, to thwack the sleepy dwarf into a tall and wide open woman, to stretch those mental limbs, to flex, to look around at the very big world, one I am more than happy to be a tiny part of.

Good or bad? Retreat or walk forward in vulnerability? Learn or refuse to listen? The choice is yours.

Island Blog – Scatterfry and Meaning

I collected my scatterfry of grand girls from school this morning. Early, although unannounced, I was welcomed, as I always am. I remember so well the possibly fraught minutes through waking a reluctant sleeper, encouraging pyjamas off, breakfast proffered, rejected, recreated, rejected again, the whole flipping tiredness of motherhood. I remember it well and am glad it is no longer my role. This child needs to eat before school. Am I failing? Did I get him or her wrong? No, no no, my wonderful young mothers and no again. This is motherhood. Welcome.

Then I went back to my life. An hour long call with my counsellor, strong, challenging, compassionate and funny. He is a strength for me and weekly and lucky me. However, he didn’t just appear like a white knight, no. I seem to be No-ing a lot here. Hmmm, moving on. We spoke of many things, not cabbages nor kings but of the questions we ask ourselves, the doubts we do or do not challenge, the foundering on rocks and the maybes and the what ifs and the option to lift above all of our circumstances as a sentient and choisic being. We choose who we are in any set of circumstances. I have always believed this, not always managed to show it out, not having the confidence to find the words to deliver my belief into those circumstances. I did cower, I did hide, I did, I did.

Back to the scatterfry. I collected them from end school, arriving a bit early thus giving me the chance to chat to the young mums and dads on collection-duty. We spoke of many things, of foraging, of ferry halts, of weather and of school brilliance, which is a very big thing for us. The Primary School here is second to none and even none can leave the room. It is a magnificent school and no mistake.

As we left, the scatterfry and me this morning when all our hats were askew and our breakfast half eaten something big erupted. Let me explain. I was to take them to school to help mum. No issue there. However, in the porch, whilst pulling on trainers and backpacks, something feral wilded. Who is to sit in the front of Gaga’s car? Eish, you might think, who cares? But the care manifested in tears and more. The young girl just knew, just KNEW that her older sister had been in the front the last time. She melted on the steps. She was sure, she was certain. I waited by the car with the older one, already in the front seat, however, her face in that front seat was downcast, sad, somehow. I asked her, what are you thinking? She said, I don’t mind being in the back seat Gaga. Ok I said, good for you (thinking compassion learned at such a young age). She quietly back-seated herself. The wee one got in. We moved to school and I said I would collect them. Your big sister in the front next time. She agreed. We came to me, ate crackers and watched Sponge Bob. Well I didn’t. Then they went the scatterfry and the silence of their Go, thinked me.

The ‘wee one’ remembers everything, is a sponge for learning, forgets nothing and remembers everything, more than anyone else. And I wondered. Was she right about who sat in the front of my car last time? Was she? Well, maybe she was. There is the likes of me who really doesn’t care. And then there are those to whom such information matters a lot.

Island Blog – Needs, Things and Each Other

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I need, what I think I need and what I don’t actually need at all. What I need is one thing and what I think I need quite another. What I need is what we all need, love, community, friendship, social encounters, a roof over our heads, food for our bellies, heat to warm us on cold days and nights. We need a bed to sleep in, a pan to cook with, a plate to eat off. And so on.

The second need is the one ‘I think’ I need and thoughts, as we all know, can be fickle friends. As I dash to re-purchase this thing online, or jot that one down on a shopping list, I pause to question myself. Could I manage without this thing? Do I really need to Subscribe and Save on mascara for instance or Evening Primrose oil or Dog chews? Could I find, perhaps, an alternative once the one I have turns solid or runs out or better, learn to live without it at all? The answers are all in the affirmative (although stepping out without mascara is a scary thought) so I make myself wait a while in order to stop my knee jerking. The absolute necessity of most ‘things’ fade into mist eventually. It is astonishing how very much I can easily do without and, I notice, these apparent needs that caused me momentary panic not so long ago, are always just things. After all I never need to write down, Call this child of mine, remember a birthday, send a card or letter or email of encouragement. I never forget the not things in my life. But in the realm of things lie all the troubles. Things need us too much, and not the other way around. They matter disproportionately, our material needs, the number of ‘Likes’ we get on Facebook, for example or the followers on Instagram and so on.

But it is people who matter, not things, never things. Rich or poor, surrounded by ‘things’ or without them we have a choice when it comes to sharing ourselves, our light, our conversation and our interest in each other. All the not things worth everything cost absolutely nothing, not a penny, not a sou. So next time you are assailed by a sudden need for a thing, even to the point of complete panic, breathe out that breath, blow it away and with it all the nonsense thought-chatter because inside that huge brain of yours lie a million neural pathways, each one leading somewhere you may never have travelled before. And, given enough quiet breathing in and out, enough space created between the apparent need and that sweet but infuriating voice of inner intelligence, you may well discover, as have I, that whatever promised to make life perfect is a liar.

The issue of what I actually don’t need at all lies entirely inside my own head. Now that I have learned to stop and to question the knee jerk, the have-to-have thing, I am laughed at how faithfully I have responded to date. I was a sheep, in truth, following the flock even if each one ahead of me fell off the cliff. How ridiculous! But once aware, always aware and I am busy awareing, particularly so since the hacking when access to any purchase slammed a door in my face, when this hacker infiltrated my social media, broke down the very walls within which I had felt completely safe. It is freeing. I can feel myself rising from sheep into intelligent woman and it’s not a new feeling. Each time I have noticed my fall into mindlessness, in whatever area of my life, the thoughtless following behind the others, it has laughed me. Good lord, what the heck am I doing, or, more likely, not doing? I think we can all be mindless at certain times in our lives when we find our ship foundering on the rocks of trouble, when the walls fall down and we stand naked in the wind and rain. In desperation we try to grab hold of all we held so dear, all that, we thought, kept our walls firmly around us. And although we might blame the ‘hacker’ initially, we can be honest with ourselves. We needed this rock-founder in order to think as an intelligent being, to reconsider the way we are living our life. But we are normal, we are human and all of us want our life to continue just as it did before. However, Life never goes back, only forwards and if we can accept this, embrace Change in her attending discomfiture, then we are the ones who are truly alive. We are adventurers, we are brave, we are mindful beings in a mindless world.

So let the stop stop you. Let time go by and ask yourself, as I asked my own self, What is really lacking here? Is it the thing I feel I cannot live without or am I just lonely, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, sad? When a person has the courage to ask those questions, the patience to wait for an answer and the trust to address the real issue, a way will show itself. Not the old way but a strange new way on a road heretofore untravelled, at least by us. On this road, this path there is laughter. On this path everyone makes mistakes, founders and falls down but all around are those to lift, to encourage, to make you laugh, to hold you up until you once more find your footing because all around you are others who know, have learned themselves, that what we all really need is each other.

Island Blog – Runkled by the Mighty Hacker

Well we all do at times, feel runkled, creased, all runnels and sideyways, slanted and holey like a web created by a spider with seven legs and with gout in two of them. Wonkychops in fact. All the flies would just fly through.

That was me, or is it ‘I’? I would have to check with my Pa and he is busy in Heaven these past many years so maybe not, not if I want a quick response. I guess it’s a long old way and if St Peter has a problem with the Arrivals gate then what chance do whispered questions have? Being a mail deliverer up there must be a very full time job.

To be hacked in the way I was hacked, my emails, bank account, social media and so on felt personal. If I lived in a city or even on the mainland where everybody seems to know nobody, I suspect it might have been more alarming, but I don’t live in an alarming place, am not open to the threats, the real and realistic fears of those who do. No. I live in a wild and glorious place but this information means nothing whatsoever to a cyber criminal. Beyonding the immediate fear of this invisible enemy, I sit up straight and think like an intelligent woman. It is random, it is not random at all, but it is just a wake-up call to the me who has become a tad comfortable in her choice of connections. It doesn’t matter where I live, where anyone lives. The invisible enemy is watching, waiting, offering the chance to click on or to not click on at all. I have come to this place now, the notclickingon place. Not that I ever did, no. Even a link sent from a service provider turned my head to a No swing. But somehow this hacker managed to get into my Amazon account, to change my login details, ditto my email address and that is/was/is deeply scary.

However, I am not going to let this confound me for long, even if I did feel like the spider with seven legs plus gout for a few days. The hassle is one thing, a not-thing really because hassle is life and life is hassle but it felt personal and threatening. I thought ‘I don’t need this in my widow-ness, but who the heck does, widowness or no widowness? Nobody. The wind left my sails and I doldrummed but as any sailor knows, this is not a state to allow for long. Even without oars, I have arms and hands. Even without knowledge enough I can watch the sky, listen to the wind, soften my panic enough to allow a reconnection with nature, with all she is whispering to me. I can find a new way, a different way, a simpler way to move on. And so I have.

I am not on Facebook for now and the peace is gentle and ordinary and I know it, recognise it from my own olden days at Tapselteerie, where there was no television reception, no such thing as the interwonkyweb, no mobiles, no social media. Like many of us I have enjoyed what the aforesaid(s) have to offer but since the Mighty Hack my thinks are shifting. Instead of just going along with all of it, or some of it, I have pulled back to base, not the base that was but a new base, one created intelligently, consciously, mindfully. Instead of living my life vicariously, I am choosing empty space, for now. I watch my old fingers type this out and chuckle. I will not dash to Facebook to find likes or comments and please forgive me for this my loyal friends. It teaches me something, this not dashing thingy. Did I rate my own self on the number of Likes? Maybe I did. In a lonely life, it makes sense but not the right sense. Sense is a doing word, not a being one. A sense of self is a choice and that is what my sisters in feminism (which does NOT mean a hater of men btw) would have known and taught all the way back to inhibiting corsets with enough lacing to rein in a six of wild horses. I had floated away from sense, following the rule of Now, the overwhelm of social media that brought in a wry acceptance. It is as it is, and it is, it is, but that doesn’t mean I stop conscious thinking. Which I obviously had.

So, here I am. Bowed somewhat, straggled and rickety but rising in a new shape. And I am thankful the Mighty Hacker shook my foundations. I sincerely am. Because, in life, although such a Stop when we think we are chuntering along known tracks, through recognisable countryside, heading for an expected station is confounding, it is a very good thing to find ourselves alone in the dark and the rain in a place we don’t recognise on a moonless night and in a freezing wind. Only in this place of fear and doubt do we encounter Reality and his partner, Change. Only then. Nobody really wants either of them but that doesn’t stop them and they come when they come, when the syrup and honey of easy-know living has gotten into our bones. I now believe it’s a gift, a compliment if you like. It is almost as if the Mighty Hacker has clocked this sweet confection of a mindless life and has said Oh Hell No! This woman, man, is sinking, is circling in a doldrum, is accepting the 7 leg gout thing. No! Stir her up, him up. I have plans for them.

That’s what rises me. That’s what lifts me. And the Mighty Hacker has no power over me. Or you. And, for now and for a while, I will watch the wind temper the pines; I will hover over my wildflower garden like a mother bee; I will stand at the beginning of yet another path, walking slow, listening to the stories on the wind as she shifts and changes; I will listen and I will hear. But as I do, I will also accept the way it is as it is. And the runkles? Well, I have a sturdy iron, should I decide to employ it.