Island Blog – About That Gasp

As I wander today beneath leafy boughs lowered by all the flipping rain, I look up to a bright blue sky. Not an ‘often’ thing here, not nowadays. Now that we have collectively and successfully stood against Mother Nature, she is bringing in the clowns. Oh she will survive, of course she will. We are not important to her future but she is very important to ours. The aforesaid boughs used to be way above my old head but not this summer. They bend and make me bend, even me, the shortarse that I am and I decide to engage. I don’t brush away. I touch and say hallo. Hallo I say and then (I say) you were way up there last year and now you come to greet me. How wonderful and I thank you. I say. The green is changing. The leaves in Spring are vibrant with youth, ebullient, reckless, much like my kids were, much like I was, pulsing with life and excitement and with absolutely no fear of the future, no care for an ‘old folks’ warning. No care at all. And now the leaves are turning, gentle soft, compliant. Aah, I whisper. You know the way it needs to be.

Mindfully walking, slowing my pace and this last is, I confess, a ruse to fill in the hours, I consider the way thinks change as age softly wanders in to make a home. I watch a second hatch of young blackbirds being taught flight control, see their wings elongate daily, hear and hear their little squeaks of panic, of search for parental guidance. I see butterflies, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Browns, Common Blue, although how this one could ever be called ‘common’ beats me; the black and yellow striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth (spectacular crimson beauty) on buttery yellow ragwort. I see the way endless varieties of bumbly bees with copper pointed tails, round black tails, rust striped, harlequined, big, small, huge and sounding like airoplanes, or the tiny wild bees, also an endless list of varietal marvellousness as they whizz and ping around me because I am in the way or, maybe, they just want to check me out. And there’s a thing that smallens the biggest ego. Just right there. Well it does mine, and in a way that creates and fixes a sense of perspective.

Walking in this ego bashing perspective thingy, I don’t feel small at all. I feel important. I may be a piddle in the oceanic vastness of the world, in the millions of years the world has been a world without me being in it, in the splintering of timelines and the ridiculousness of controlling prophets, royalties, presidents, prime ministers and influential powermongers, but a piddle can upset any gathering. At best, it is an apology on a floor. At worst, it can pollute a freshwater lake. Not that I want any of this, but it just serves to elucidate my point. What was my point? Give me a minute….

As I s l o w l y wander through the hours of days and the days of weeks and la la tiddlypom, I inhabit a lot of thinks. A lot of them I cast away like a burned pastry rim. Go! I say, lifting like Vesuvius from my bed coverings because those burned pastry rim thoughts only ever propagate overnightly or around 4 am. I am mistress of them, now. No need for a messy eruption. Instead I consider the wonder/wander of evolution, the evolvement of states of being, not just species. The slow walk from married to not married; the shucking of a long term marriage when one dies; the death of a child; the suicide of a child; the sudden rejection. There are many states and from the initial shock a seed is sown in the dark, in the cold, silent, silent, silent loving ground, and for some time. Then, one day, one day, it pickers up from the gravel and you see it and you gasp.

Life is all about that gasp.

Island Blog – To Self

I used to think I was myself. I thought ‘self’ rhymed with elf and that worked for me because I felt easy around elfish thought and elfish being. But I was wrong. Whom I thought I was didn’t fit with city life around a mum who wanted to fit in and I did not. Oh, I am not saying I didn’t enjoy the cityness of city, I did at times but there was always a longing for what, for something I did not yet know, nor understand. I watched my friends happy (it seemed) in their environs, around the lifestyle their parents had forged and fought for and I turned green at their easy joy. Like an elf.

Moving on, because this is not about me at all. My baby sister is famous for her internal bubble and fizz. She is still just herself as she always was, but I do admit my watching her was through binoculars as she turned from girl to woman. Nonetheless, she was herself. You might, had you been there as we grew and flew, observed that, as the youngest of five and as a very feisty pint sized girl, she retained her identity, when others of us higher up the line might have bent and bowed in order to avoid parental judgements, admonitions and flying hands. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there. I was firmly married and dealing with all the upsydowns of such conjugality. She was not afraid to speak her self out, stand her ground but always gently, not like me. I doubt she ever slammed a door or tantrummed out or performed any other such taradiddle. Maybe she did but it isn’t in her eyes, not when I look. And those eyes are still brightly focussed and merry, ready for a twitch or a lift or a dance or a spontaneous hug.

Over time and troubles we have learned each other as grown women. Although we shared parents, her memories are not mine. I remember one evening when the three ‘Little Ones’ remembered something. I knew nothing of what or whom they spoke, their happy voices and smiles lifting like birds or butterflies into the room. I had gone by then, moved away from self and it thought me, thinks me now on my peregrination to self and it is as wavering and wandering as the word because if you have bent and bowed for most of your life, how can you easily find your own self? It also laughs me and fill me with chuckles because I know Self is out there somewhere and she will find me too, one day.

I digress. Sorry Birthday Girl. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for being so beautifully wild and strong. You little pipsqueak, you tiny powerful woman, you know your self. And I think I always loved that in you.

Island Blog – Happy Birthday Little One

Today is my sister’s birthday, my little sister and I have 3. Of course they are not ‘little’ anymore but to me they are still little. I remember being ordered, and often, to keep an eye on the little ones and I would roll my eyes and grunt like Kevin because I was that much older with a brother in between and where they still giggled about rude words, I was wanting to kit myself up in mock leather hipsters or culottes (oh dear) or a mini skirt and jackboots in order to attract wolf whistles from builders. As the years rolled on and they all became women, our ages differed little and our lives diverted down different paths, we found common ground. Womanhood.

I have no idea how old she is today but I know she loves birthdays and not just her own. She is a woman who celebrates all dates important to those she loves and she does love actively. As we all dive into our separate lives, we can lose the connection we had in childhood, to a great degree, or it can become misty, hard to see in the harsh light of reality. Unless we are in touch with each other we won’t know what or how each other feel about things. About fish, or holidays, or cold winds or street entertainers. Or anything else for that matter. But it doesn’t matter, not if the connection forged in childhood has rooted. When we would meet as adults at first we were cautious around each other for how can we be sure of all we might say, that it might not upset or offend? We don’t. But now, as we move through our 60’s, we are less easily shunted off our rails. Ah, if we could know this gentle acceptance in our 30s what a world this one would be!

Back to the birthday girl. I know what she means to me and she knows what I mean to her. We have history. We have gone through pain together. We have fumbled, got it a bit wrong, come back and made it right. We are sisters and that bond is the tap root. She is a marvellous strong kind and loving woman. She is funny, naughty, mischievous and intuitive. She can laugh a grumpy room. She is a changer of moods, a shifter of darkness, a bright light and she can cook a symphony.

Happy Birthday Little One.

Island Blog – A Tundra Meet Without

Talking with an old friend today, I found my thinks coming into my mouth in words. It’s interesting how, when this happens, words can jumble like something as yet un-sorted through, like a crowd in disarray and in need of leadership and organisation, like kids in an unsupervised playground at break time. In both of these, the dominant factor is escape from a confined space. In the first, a big poly-bag, in the second the limitation of a desk, the well-breathed air of a morning’s lessons and the four walls that surround. It’s the same with the release of words after long hours of nobody to speak with beyond Myself (and she is always lurking) the dog, the geraniums and the disinterest of Radio 2.

My friend says something about her own loss and bereavement and there’s a tidal wave rising in my throat. I can feel it and I swallow down, mostly to no avail. I can blurt. The very best of us can blurt after all even as we may pretend we absolutely never do. It isn’t that I want to fix my friend, not at all. How can I ever know, no matter how much she tells me how life is for her, understand fully a sadness I cannot imagine? This applies to anyone I meet. We are all unique, in joys, in pain, in experience, in a zillion other ways. But the impulsive desire to connect on common ground is only human. If I care, I care, but my words need leadership. I am not a helmsman, nor helmswoman , nor helmsperson or whatever title is now socially acceptable. I am an excellent crew, Himself told me this oftentimes and he liked having an excellent crew for a wife. In fact, he liked it so much that I was never taught to helm at all. Funny, though, I do remember basking in the glory of being a First Mate as if the glass ceiling didn’t bother me one bit. I think differently now. I digress…….

I know I am more distant than my friend in terms of the death bit and by many months. I also know that I am planets away from her experience. But the grief we share, the common ground, is still tundra for us both and here we can meet. We fill in time, we tell each other. We do a little thing and then another little thing after the first little thing as we crawl our way through the days Without. And here we can help each other. We can laugh together about the extraordinary and astonishing things our friends say with good and loving intent. ‘Are you ‘there’ yet?’ ‘You should get out more, dress up, volunteer…’ All questions and suggestions are kindly meant, we who are crawling through the tundra, know this. But we can be lonely out there. We didn’t know we were going there at all but here we are, stumbling over the rocks of guilt and regret, passed the cacti of lost opportunities seen through the sharp looking eyes of hindsight. We trip over raised issues unresolved for ever. We shiver in the ice-winds of anger and burn in the sandstorms of confusion. We long for butterflies and an oasis of shade, the promise of an end to this timeless wandering only to find yet another mirage that shimmers and shivers into another day of the same.

And we laugh as we eat our lunch in the island sunshine. We sip our coffee and erupt into nonsense as our eyes connect and sparkle. We remind each other that, before this, we were girls, wild girls, brimming with hope and trust and now, now, in this swathe of tundra, we know we want to find that spirit once again. We take a wander around the island charity shop, laughing about what neither of us can wear again, but how we did once, oh we did once. And we part. I drive home left and she goes right. I know that both of us have been lifted this day. We found an oasis and it was no mirage. Although we both return to filling in the hours, we will remember each other and we will smile. We will both have learned a new something, a new way to look at an old thing and this, I believe is what life really offers each one of us. It is no easy ride for anyone. Not anyone, but the anyones who decide to be open, looking out, honest about how they feel and best of all, courageous enough to ask for help, well, they, we, have the best chance of moving onward. Not to forget, no. But, instead to learn to live on Without. There will always be a missing, no matter the relief initially felt (in my case) at the death. There will be months, years of just getting through each day, but one day, one day, waking up will feel good and the day ahead will be full of promise. I know it.

Island Blog – Otherness

Sometimes I dream. I did last night, although how my mind can keep a dream steady and linear whilst my body tosses and turns as if at the mercy of a powerful element, is a puzzle. On waking, I and my dream, or the whisps that remain, fleeting as mist at sunrise, descend the stairs and head for coffee. It is light, albeit an early light, the half moon waning above me and I nod towards her. She will balloon again, as she always does, a constant, a consistent. Without her no tides would ebb nor flow and that would scupper many an expected result. I consider what is left of my dream and wonder, as if from nowhere, if it was my dream at all. I recognised nothing, not even the storyline. Is it possible that this dream was not mine at all, but someone else’s, a dream that came to me instead? I know that dream analysis can alert many so-called ‘gurus’ who can (so they say) interpret them, bringing them into the reality of a person’s day. Portents, predictions, prophesies. I am, I confess, cynical, but my own dreams, the ones I recognise and identify with, I can accept without any external explanation. My own dreams, when going through a tough time, have always involved my children, or some children anyway, and I know, in this dream, that they are in danger and I am the only one to save them. But my feet are stuck and my mouth empty of sound never mind words. I don’t have those anymore, thankfully. I sip my coffee and let the whisps dissipate with the sunrise. It doesn’t matter whether or not I hold on, whether or not I can piece together the as yet unwhisped images, nor the linear. It was just a dream after all and in my sensible chair with my hot coffee and the gift of another day ahead, I have ironing to do, a cake to bake, tsaziki to prepare and a perfectly ordinary day stretching out before me just full of reality.

But, it is important to me that I engage with the spirit world. I believe it is perfectly right to walk with my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds. I have done it for all time. Yes, it can unbalance me, confound me, send me reeling. It has, it does and it will because this is who I am, but age is a wise old bird and she reminds me of both of my Roots and my connection to Otherness and there is no disparity between those old friends. The confusion is in the me in between. However, to accept that I do live between the two (actually we all do but many run from one or the other) is key. It might mean I stumble at times, get lost in the dream, but I am old enough now to know that whatever I fight against will only grow stronger. So I don’t. I chuckle. I welcome. There is tea and cake at my table for the ones I can see and the ones I cannot. Otherness is invisible, messages come from Otherness, dreams too, sudden understandings, bizarre knowings, intuitive perceptions. Without these guides, I would just be a someone who believes that if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist and that laughs me a lot. I have learned to be very thankful for my connection to Otherness although she, like the moon, can also disrupt days and nights. No matter. I need her. We all do. It is grand to be grounded, to be fully engaged with who we need to be in order to live well on the ground, but we forget the fairies, the angels, the whispers from Otherness at our peril.

Island Blog – Intelligent Adaptation

I walk this day around the shore of the sea-loch as the tide ebbs and fast as if there’s a great ocean sucker fish drinking deep. I watch the water startled, yanked backwards by some fierce mother as it is whipped back through the narrows, rock-squashed into a skinny rip tide. It thinks me of my grand girls when Mother decides on plaits and will not allow any escape from said plaiting.

I chat with the trees, the track, the sunlight and even the damn flies having been away for a marvellous four days during which I boarded a ferry, drove over 200 miles and spent 3 nights with my daughter and her family for the first time in too many years; when I left my island home alone, knowing she was empty of life until I returned (first time); when I found my inner brave and launched out into open ocean, as me, as one, as singular, as a widow, as me. Although I knew that it would be more than ok, that I would encounter only k9ndness, the thought of going any further than island rocks scared me. But and but again, no buts, no butts. On the ferry, good lord the slowest and smallest Calmac ferry ever, I sat with poppy dog on my lap and longed to turn back home. Called back to my little Pixty car waiting for me in the bowels of the boat I am safe again. I drive out through the open metal maw and my journey begins. I know it well but haven’t driven it long longtime. My fears? traffic. people. that’s all. (all lower case).

The stay was wonderful. I remembered easily the activity in this home, the go here now, the go there now, thing. We did it all. We checked horses in fields, walked dogs, skirted rivers, watched butterflies, played word games, cooked food, laughed, engaged in private moments, slept and went again. When I left I reflected on it all, the whole colour wheel in captured glances at how it was, that singular catch, the legacy of it. I drove back at my own speed. I am not slow but I’m not fast neither, or is it either? And this this thinks me into intelligent adaptation. Maybe a big jump but stay with me. I have 3 hours for thinks.

In my sudden (for death is always sudden, no matter how expected) widowhood, I find an identity. Initially I was a puddle. For a long time. Now, not. I want to be known as me, unpuddled and rising into a lift of wild water, connectable with the rain that falls from the great Up There. I never knew me. I never was me. I was daughter and then wife. ‘Me’ was for decades irrelevant and unremarkable, as if she didn’t deserve noticing much beyond her physical presence. And, although I have made many adaptations over time I didn’t really know my way through it and, to be honest, I am glad I didn’t. It would have caused fire without available extinguishers. Instead I just kept moving on, learning, adapting and repeat. But now, now that when I go away I come back to just-the-way-I-left-it; when I can go out without saying anything at all; when I can plan new encounters, new commitments, new anything, I feel a quandary of contradictions. I know the old way but that way is dead now whereas I live on inside this loneliness, this freedom, this nothing, this everything, this, this, this.

How to work with the hoo-ha of such contradictions? Intelligent Adaptation. That’s how. Oh, I sound so smart but I am not smart at all, not on this lonely road, not on any road. But I have learned that it is eminently possible to move on from circumstances and situations only if a human wants to. In my journey, particularly through the older years, I find myself the moving on person. It saddens me because I know that there are wonderful people stuck inside the dead past, unable, unwilling to accept the new. Not me. Don’t let it be you. Isn’t this intelligent adaptation? What I went through is peanuts to many. I don’t need to say anything because, and this matters, I found someone professional to talk things out. Private. Secure. My regrets, my pain, my fear, all of it conversationed in the right place; thus I can walk towards the village, watching eagles fly pre buying broccoli et la la, tossing my Hallo into the day, knowing that my very private angst is in safe hands.

I called my bank today. I was welcomed with Hallo Mrs Fairbairns. It jarred me. I am not Mrs anymore and never will be. Many thinks around that one. I think about intelligent adaptation and I know that I can adapt and then rise into the me of me. However, the online thing requires a title. Mrs, Miss, Ms. No. Captain, Brigadier, Princess…… No. Each one of those titles sound like ownership. I was Mrs. I am no longer. Titles bother me, labels confound. It’s probably my issue but I doubt this affects only me. Being boxed, labelled, leaves many of us on lonely streets, wandering, wondering who we are now and where we might choose to belong or to whom. And the wandering is of import because it is not possible to adapt to a whole new life in the wake of the old and familiar one. I might feel lost at times, probably will, over and over, but I am finding my way. My Way. I won’t inwardly growl at being labelled as Mrs because I know the title to be one of respect. I also know that our language is archaic in such an area as this. I want my first name and then my second. But, wait. My second name is now my married name, which is not my name but a gift from the rule book of Traditional Marriagitis. So I continue wandering, the conundrums flitting about me like swallows. Whether or not a definite answer comes, it doesn’t really matter because I am building the new me from the inside out, using intelligent adaptation as my thought and reasoning process.

If all this sounds confusing, it is. Even to me.

Island Blog – Some Days and a Dragon

Some days lift without me doing a thing about said lift-ness. Rising with the early light, everything flows in perfect synergy with everything else and there is no chaos within or without. My body feels lithe and supple, the music, Satie’s Gymnopedies, swims through the dawn, my home and me. Birds flit between the feeders, goldfinch, siskin, blackbird, sparrow, woodpecker, dunnock, chaffinch. No neighbourly cat yet to explode them into the sky, no sparrowhawk to bring them down, just soft reverence to Life herself. I dress, make coffee and wonder how everyone else feels about this morning. Across the sea-loch, mist ghosts the hills below what might just be a blue sky. I haven’t seen one of those for weeks and it’s a welcome sight, one not to be taken for granted as we don’t get ‘spells’ of weather on this island. One day may be all we can ask for, one day of dry, a gift and not one to be ignored but instead to be celebrated actively, mindfully, each minute thoroughly lived because tomorrow, that day that never comes, may well open grey and wet, the sky closed once again.

During these widow days I have known many mornings, many hours of self-doubt and fear, of loneliness and sometimes, despair. Although I know that I must, absolutely must, animate my inner poltroon, start believing and continue to believe that I am more than able to live not only a solo life but one which can still really live even with a missing part. It will always be thus because 50 years of marriage is a very big chunk of any life and to be left behind inside that life now empty of all that was familiar is discombobulating at best. It is almost 2 years now, no, more, because dementia eats a person up little by little and ten years of watching that monster nibble away changed us both. But still, the familiar remained. I knew him and he knew me and no matter the ancient battles fought, neither of us ever won. Now I am just me and sometimes I feel very small indeed. I can spend all night awake freaking out about absolutely nothing real, such as what I will do when my oil tank leaks gallons of oil into the garden, or a huge pine crashes through my roof opening me to the sky in the midst of a hooligan gale when it’s snowing and my neighbours are away in Tenerife? Now, however, a bit further along the road un-travelled I find myself wandering through interspace, a sort of misty corridor of in-between. I am moving, learning how to create a new familiar. Ignoring the clamjamfrie of panics, I sit with myself and we chat. What can you do within this situation, she asks. I close my eyes and let said situation settle into some sort of shape. Nothing about the being alone thing, I begin. She nods. Nothing about the gale. Ah, but I can ask a tree man to check the pines and I can call the oil tank man to check that. Good, she says. Get on with it.

There is nobody in this world, no matter how rich, how well-organised, how balanced who can avoid the big things. Things like gales, oil leaks, death. Nobody. So that means that all of us can learn new ways, a new familiar, but only having gone through the dark times, the rain days, the storms both inside and out. Courage in the face of ‘disaster’ has legs, a brain, strength and power. Fears flit like birds all the time but I can explode them into the sky if I think ‘cat.’ Imagining disaster is normal but not liveable with for long. This state demands action, not helpless panic. To ask, What can I do about any of this? is the question, followed by action and fuelled with courage, even if it feels as though courage seems to have gone off to India to find itself. The human spirit is unbreakable unless that human turns his or her face to the wall and I am not doing that, no matter what.

I was reading about Koi the other day, those beautiful Japanese fish (originally from China) we might see in lakes and ponds far far away from this place. Koi represent courage, the overcoming of difficulties, challenges, big horrible threatening life-changing things. It is said that Koi can swim upstream against any current. It can fight its way to the top of a waterfall and when it arrives at the top, will transform into a powerful dragon, not a destructive one but one re-shaped by all that life has thrown at it, all that it has learned on its journey. I like the idea of that. The thought lifts me, encourages me to face my challenges, make friends with my loneliness, and more, to keep on keeping on whilst engaging completely with it all, even the fearty times. I might become that dragon one day. What larks, Pip!