Island Blog – This Day, This Ice, This Learning

The morning almost capsizes me. I blame the ice. There I am, all ready to venture forth in the arm-crossed and defiant black of a winter’s dawn, one that seems unwilling to appear at all, and I find myself confounded. Mornings should be mornings. That’s what I think. Winter has no respect for human comfort, nor for early venturing. I find my car an igloo. Beneath my skittering feet, slip-ice threatens to upskittle me in a most undignified way. I keep thinking, what if someone comes along, eventually, after some hours considering the unwillingness of the day to appear at all only to find me all spreadeagled, my skirts around my ears and my body cracked and held in frozen gravitas? Well, that’s not going to happen. I turn but slowly, holding onto gate and fence and inch my way back into the warmth of the house. You should not have gone out, said the house. You old eejit. I concur.

Light comes, and most welcome. You are, late, and I don’t do late, but it seems you are quite fine about it. We may need to have a word. It is always intriguing, nay infuriating, when things or people feel quite fine about not explaining themselves or at the very least proffering apology. Perhaps Dawn is above such rulings. I may have to accept it. I turn towards my ordinary tasks. Clean out and light the fire. This requires another traverse across the slip-ice to the wood stack. I know the rules. I studied, if you can believe it, Posture Control now renamed Adequate Motor Output (if you don’t mind) at school. I know, scary. Keep your body directly over your feet. Heel first, then toe, no flat foot. I hear the voice in my head and it comes to me now because I am one who is utterly determined to remain upright for as long as she possibly can. We manage it, me and the wood, even though it distremebles me somewhat as I take in the humph and lumph of a lift of snow laden logs in my arms. This imbalance requires intelligent correction for it is not just me keeping me directly over my feet. I now have a big armful of insensitive logs to accommodate and before me, thus altering my centre of gravity. See how complicated life can be?

The morning passes without incident. I sew and listen to an audio book, warm in the firelight and, later, blazed by a sun who is thankfully melting the slip-ice, I watch it melt, hear it crack and fissure, leak and then disappear randomly. Why this hole and here? Why not there, or there? I walk midday. The ice, it seems, is having fun. The chutzpah of something so fragile and yet so powerful during its short reign! I admire it even as I dint and divvy my way over the stumbleground of latent snow fall, still crisp but not as ice distilled as this side of the track or that where the wide tyres of massive vehicles have rendered walking an impasse, even if I am learned of Adequate Motor Output and a confident student. I am always looking down. Watching, heel toe, no flat, catch the stones, heel, toe, no flat.

Beyond this, once I am no longer engaged with the ice control, I walk more freely. Here is mud, pine peat sludge, ridges melted, squelch, and I follow the dog. When she is not sniffing every trace, every track, she is bonhomie. She is my guide. Even without any school training, she is in complete control of her manifold feets. She can skid and correct in the face of any ice challenge. Here she chooses a lift to the left, a change of choice there and I follow her. I know that animals have instincts that we have allowed ourselves to forget. Some places on the track lie frozen, still, silent. Others lift back into exhaling ridges of peat sludge, airy when I tread them, rised, it seems, by frost and then abandoned to their thawing fate. Prints are widening. That big dog is now a wolf. That confident bicycle track the backbone of a Titanoboa. The ground is spreading out, losing definition, becoming a new self, becoming nothing until it reforms into another something.

I love this about life. Something is here, yes, it is here, for I can see it, and then it melts and is gone, and something new comes in its place. Unless we are watching we will miss this. Perhaps we don’t mind the missing, nor the rebirth, but for me, to see it is essential. This is why, despite my eye rolling and my puffs of derision around Adequate Motor Output, I will remain upright for as long as I possibly can and I will keep watching and learning.

Island Blog – Point Full

Two days of snow. Most unusual for this Gulf-streamed island. Warm we are and wet, windy too and almost always dripping, the washing included. I am thankful for a wish washer machine as I have been since I took delivery of my first. Any woman who has had to wrangle with the inner workings, or not workings, of a twin tub that stretched everything and who was, overnight required to grow longer legs and arms and a larger bottom will know how exciting this delivery was. I will never forget it, my first independent helper within a mainly unhelpful household.

I walked today, reflecting. The snow is softer today, sloppy like a slush puppy but without the violently coloured additives. I stopped at a the dog prints. Big. Slightly jaunty-legged but heavy and purposeful. Not many deviations for sniffing off track. Annihilated sticks in neat piles along the track. This big, slightly jaunty-legged, heavy and purposeful beast paused in his work. I wonder if the humans waited for him. I wonder if they stood over him saying….Aw look at him. So purposeful. Or if he had to chop chop with his chop chopping and belt after them. I think not. The paw prints do not show me belting. There would be a skid or two, the legs working less as individuals and more as paw gallop. I continue. The slop of snowfall falls around me as the sun warms Snow White and it falls lumpish and slightly grey. Holding on too long, I tell it, remonstrating. You could have fallen Snow White if you had thought this through, if you had really wanted to make an impression.

It thinks me. Making an impression is something I can do well, because I think about it. Although the pointlessness of my life now, for now, weighs heavy and litters my dreams with even more pointlessness, I endeavour not to show this to the outside world. For ‘outside world’ read ‘the odd neighbour’. Well, it is the world for now, and not just for me. How small we have become, despite growing bigger on cakes and lack of exercise. A young jogger shoots by me running confidently across the snow and the slush, making her own tracks. I hear her dog heralding her arrival, her voice following shortly after, reassuring. Oh ignore her, she puffs (actually she wasn’t puffing at all despite her run of many miles, and over slippy snow), she is all shout and no do. A mere pup, a collie, bouncing in excitement, confounding any sleuthing I might bring to bear on her footprint analysis.

The wild honeysuckle is leafing, brave wee trailing thing, wrapped like a delicate cobweb scarf around the trunk of a fallen pine, the leaves tiny and frosted with icing sugar. Be brave, I tell them. Don’t give up. You are showing the world (the odd neighbour) that you are punch-strong and still green despite the cold. If you can do this, so can I. My sister calls. She is one of my favourite people. She combines strengths that in others might argue. A genuine warm and instant compassion combined with a steel confidence in her core self. She is who she is and can still gift compassion whether or not she shares an experience. She, unlike me, her much elder, knows exactly who she is and is always ready to make laughter and to share it. We came from the same familial home but our experiences were very different. I was first. She was last, but that was the last time she has ever been last in her life. She can make me feel pointful.

So am I? Point Full? It doesn’t feel like it much these days but I do have faith in hope and hope in faith. I do believe that time heals, that being open to the Universe, God, Dust, Startalk and other things not one single soul can present as an absolute, is key. There are answers not enough down here beneath the clouds and above the snow, in the In-Between of life, the place we inhabit. That place we need to explain and justify. The way we live in that place, the how, the where, the what and the why of it. Myriad confusion reigns, like a bad king, all shout and no do and at times we all butt up against this regent, find ourselves in his eye-stare and are stopped in our tracks. It’s ok, we tell ourselves, are told by counsellors and wise men and women who know that all you have to do is blow a raspberry at this bad king. He won’t be used to raspberries, not the blown ones. I do it even now when something bad-king-ish upsets the balance of my footprints along the track of life. I have been taught this by my youngest son. Another of my favourite people. It makes me laugh and, as I do, the bad king disappears. Pouff! gone.

Homing, and I see blackbird tracks. Deeper than I would have expected. Then I see him. A male blackbird with a black beak. A first for me. The light is changing. Brilliant snow light, billowed clouds, grey shifts of oncoming sleet or hail above the hills, a blast of sun, coppered, fiery, pushing through for a glimpse of us. No time to grab a camera, just watch. See that perfection of heavenly firelight and take it in through your eyes and down down into your heart and let it rest there. Let it rest alongside the paw prints, the slush snow, the brave green honeysuckle and the black beak, and see that everything is point full. Everything.

Island Blog – Pock, Shot, Falling and Holding

Early. I am up for the silence. The silence of snowfall. I hear something that sounds like nothing. A flip and a flop against the roof, the window, like something soft landing, politely. I know rain. I know hail, the blatter and scattermongery of it, the slap and splat against doubled glass, the alert of ice. Rain is easy. Like a friend. A well-known. It may cause me to sigh or raise my thinning eyebrows when it comes in the night but I know it nonetheless.

Waking, too early. Darkness with cold fingers, pre my ineffective central heating set for 0600, those ancient radiators puffing like old women losing the will to breathe, the ones affixed below windows as if that was ever a good idea. Hunkering behind thick, light refusing curtains, they pump their lightbulb warmth into a wide open space. But, I tell them, thank you. Good for you, you little cobwebbed fatlings. You do your best. If I had the money, I would sentence them to the metal tip, to landfill, and buy myself those svelte flatscreen daughters of effective heat. I don’t tell them that.

Walking in snowfall. It feels cold but is, in truth, warmer, or there would be no snow. My boots pock the elevations. I am old enough to know that it is wise to walk upon the elevations, the fresh-fall, where other booted feet have been equally wise. Where the tyre marks ride lie ice and a potential slip. I don’t beckon a slip, potential or otherwise, with my spindleshanks and my old bones that, apparently, break on contact, first with gravity and thence with a landing. We are not so good at landing as we age. Too much caught in the fear of it, tense, awkward, doomed.

My boots follow the high riser boots that have gone before, invisible walkers who only came today. I am enough of a tracker to know this. Pock, pock, scrunch, scrunch, my boots louding the sound of distant gunfire. I think of the trenches, of war. That sound must have brought such fear to listening hearts hiding in the dark. I notice the tracks. A man here, a bit overweight, or maybe just confident and well-balanced, his head and body strong above his striding legs. A child here and another, a bigger child. but both walking at ten to two, as we were always encouraged (enforced) to do. Here, someone, a woman perhaps, lighter of foot, and distant from the familial group. Or, maybe she walked alone and the other prints relate not to her snow traverse. I will never know. The scoot and slush of a bicycle, hollowing out the resistant mud of the woods, easy to slop and skew, wiggling and re-founding on its passage through the trees, beneath the moss-covered trunk of the massive Elvish Beech. Rounding back onto the other track, I study a flush of blown snow from last night creeping up the almost fallen trunk of a massive pine. It has fallen, but not quite, against another somewhat weaker tree. It makes me think of family, of sisters and of brother. I am huge. I falter and fall, but you are there and I know I am putting an inhuman pressure on you, but look at you……you are holding me up.

Do trees brace? Do they make a decision when they are fallen against, to hold and hold and hold for both? I like to think so. In human terms I know this. I can fall, but I will be held. But, as I watch this ‘a deux’ I can only see a final crash to the ground. The roots of the holder are still beneath the goodly earth, but the ‘leaner’ is showing her underpants and is so much bigger. Time will tell.

Today I did not feel great at all. It was a big thing to walk at all in the sunlit snow where most folk are out sledging and laughing and being eejits. But I did walk and I did track and this has to be a tick in my box of who-the-hec-am-I-now. There are so many fears. Fears that were possibly always there but were swashbuckled away by Himself, and, now, my kids. But the bottom line is just me. And that is my biggest ever learning curve and not one, if am honest, I really want to learn. I gave my final statement to the police this evening. He tells me the abuser has been located and will be contacted. I said, Oh, just a warning? No, he said. This is a crime. They will let me know once they have knocked on his door, but to be honest I can only guess at what the Met has to deal with on a 24 hour basis, real dreadful crimes, real imminent fear, and I am patient. Nothing has come since my number change.

How bizarre that it unnerved me so very much; made me fear shadows, look for footprints at ten to two or not; when I live hundreds of miles away from the caller, the sad, lost, angry man who, randomly (obviously) targeted an old woman.

The snow stands. The light it gifts to the evening, the way it answers the inside twinkly winky lights, marvels me. I will not shut the outside out. Is that a double negative?! I will embrace the inside and the outside of my life. I will not live in fear. I reach out, right now to anyone who is afraid. I won’t say Don’t be Afraid, because you might punch me as I would you if you said that to me. I am just waving. Just saying Hallo. I know how this feels and I so wish it wasn’t happening to you or to me.

Salut.

Island Blog – What I Miss

Freedom to travel. Not anywhere in particular. Even going up the track or down the road invites caution, even fear. I never knew that before, and nor did you, bar the obvious. It limits. A man sawing a fallen tree, a walker, a passing car that halts to expend greetings for health and well-being. All that breath. Anyone who turns towards me, even a metre or two away, brings a shrink. I can feel it. And it works not naturally with me. I halter, falter, dither and the questions in my head look like a wealthcome of a nervous system, as I always see in images. I might have said Spaghetti Junction but I will not, because that place is all about finites and endings and beginnings we can actually see, however lost we may become during the dive into its complex depths and twists. This is different. This is confusion and random chaos. This twangle diverts and complicates and migrates and deviates in an attempt to founder our race, to bring us to our knees. We can run to books on wisdom. The dictionary; Roget’s thesaurus; innovative books written in their times that yet speak truths we understand, for they still apply. But this is Dante’s Inferno, for us, now.

I miss being able to text or call a friend and to know I can meet them for lunch. I miss inviting them up for a glass on an evening when the clouds are arguing and the light is fabulous and I just want to share the whole kit and caboodle with someone who shows me light in their eyes and give me laughter from their mouths. A sky shared is a sky affirmed. It is not the same just me doing this affirming thing.

I miss saying, on a moonlit night, meet me half way. I’ll bring the wine. Lit, backlit, by Mother Moon, the single track is elevant, guiding. I find my way, as I always have. I miss sitting on a wet mossy settle and not minding at all. I miss singing songs way out into the night, across the sea-loch and out and up into the sky thinking that maybe our melody actually. meant something.

I miss seeing basalt rocks and knowing that once they were lava and sharing that. I miss the ordinary meets I always took for granted; young mums, school collections, high fives at the salad counter . I hate the fear.

I’m not going to schwack in a ‘fix’ there. I’m just saying what I miss.

Island Blog – Thought, Feeling, Action

This day I have spent in my bed watching an otter take on a sea-loch. I saw the briny surface break and explode as the creature chased down salmon. I saw the flash of silver as the fish leapt to escape, caught by gravity and doomed to curve back down into the ready jaws. I sipped beef tea and listened to Hilary Mantel’s book, the Mirror and the Light read by Ben Miles. It is captivating.

My reason for being so indolent is one of the aftermath. Although I know that my home telephone number has now been changed and that the police have located the abusive caller, one who, thankfully I do not know and who lives hundreds of miles away, I am left upset and sleepless. I am a child now, afraid of the dark as I remember being when my shoes were mouse sized and sensibly buckled up. I lock my doors at all times and have to check the surrounding area before going out for wood. The fire burns all day long, a friend to warm and a living light to watch. I hide from phone calls and conversations. I am momentarily caught in the gravity of the situation.

However, I am not a salmon and I no longer have an otter-like predator stalking me. I am not bound for doom and probably never was for if this perpetrator had known how old I am, I doubt he would have persisted as he did. I also know that these fears and frets will ease over time. They are all, of course, in my imagination. Where he left off, hung up having delivered his explicit threat or promise, my mind took up the line and held on to it. Even waking in the night, something I can easily do at any time, I no longer feel confident about going downstairs to make tea and to sit awhile in my cosy kitchen awaiting further sleep to soften me, to lead me back upstairs and to hold me till morning.

As I lay in my bed today, I realised how much I miss, and have always loved, the sound of someone downstairs, someone pottering about doing this or that. The sound of the kettle coming to the boil; a door opening and closing, the radio chattering quietly in the distance. Any incoming phone call or knock at the door would be answered by someone else, and I could safely lie watching otters take on a sea-loch without a care in the world. As a child I could only go to sleep if I could hear my parents beneath my floor, the television on, their muted voices. Were I to awaken into silence, the fear would grab me at my throat, refusing to let me go. I had to speak firmly to my jangled nerves, unravel them enough to walk along the darkened landing and into my parents room in search of a hug or a story.

As dusk begins to fall and the otter, sated and spent, is back in its holt, another night lies ahead of me. But I am safe. I know that now. My thoughts, bellowed into flame by my own unrealistic imaginings, will not imprison me. I have been offered only kindness and action from the police, from Victim Support, from friends and family, and I am mindful of the fact that to allow any theatre to develop inside my head, inside my body, is the short walk to madness. My old ma would immediately respond. You are already mad Duckie. And maybe she is right, but fear will take no root in me. No flag will stay in the ground for I will see it and remove it. However, for now, the aftermath will be my companion, for a while, until this thing passes as all things always do, and if I decide to watch an otter take on a sea-loch, drink beef tea and listen to Hilary Mantel then I will do just that.

Island Blog – Bindings and Absolutes

The other day I took delivery of a new shower curtain in pale grey with black dandelions leaping up from the hem. Well, there wasn’t actually a hem, nor weight to prevent the whole thing flying towards me as soon as I and the hot water became a team. I admonished it, the curtain. Social distancing if you don’t mind, I said as it wrapped around me like a clammy hug. Hmmm.

The old shower curtain, white and weighted, I removed because of memories and stains that won’t quite wash out. This curtain is the right length and the correct width for my disabled shower. It hangs quietly, and without any rush of affection towards me, against the lock-and-load glass panelled defences which keep the water both in and out depending on which side I stand. I decide to attempt a removal of the length of plastic hold-me-down from the white curtain and to affix it to the grey one with leaping dandelions which, by the way, is not long enough. I am not too concerned about that because of the lock-and-load defences. The water will still remain in its allocation. I am also not surprised. If I ever have to measure anything I always get it just a wee bit wrong and sometimes a big bit wrong and this failing of mine has irritated me, but not taught me, for decades. I am just not interested enough in measurements. That’s what I tell myself and it is okay. I am very good at plenty of other things after all, but there have been disastrous times, such as that time I took up the hem of Himself’s smart trousers and cut off the residue material before he had tried them on. That wasn’t a good moment.

I bring down the grey curtain with leaping dandelions and lay it across the sitting room carpet. I carefully remove the plastic hold-me-down strip from the other one and find it to be 2 inches short. No matter. I turn up the hem and pin it. Then I call my sewing machine into action. Come on old girl, we have a job to do. I can see her eyes roll. She knows, as do I, that her accurate brilliance will, once again, be confounded by my lack of ability around straight lines. Making encouraging noises as I take my place at the table, I insert the start end under the needle and we are off. It looks like a range of gently rolling hills but I do manage to avoid the needle connecting with the thick plastic which is definitely a ‘Good for Me’ thing. As I work, as we work, I scoot back to sewing classes at school and the frightful mess I was making of a knitting bag. Who on earth wants a knitting bag anyway? I loathed ever single minute and obviously showed it. The teacher, who could have made anything from a space suit to a pin cushion with perfect, neat stitching, even with the lights off, called me to the front, to her desk. She sighed. This stitching is quite dreadful, she said, in a louder voice than I felt necessary. I hung my head. I just don’t enjoy it, I ventured, bravely. I must have been reading Greer or Woolf or Wollstonecraft at the time, although Miss Seamstress wouldn’t have known that. I concealed such insurrection within the hollowed out bindings of The Holy Bible.

You don’t enjoy it? She gasped, her eyes wide as saucers and her breath coming in distressed pants. I shook my head. Class? she yelled and heads snapped up. I would like to make it very clear to all you girls, she continued, banging her hand on her desk, that learning is nothing about ENJOYMENT!

It can take a lifetime to unlearn such absolutes.

Island Blog – Voices

I’ve been quiet for a week, which is odd for me. I can barely be quiet for ten minutes, but that has exponentially changed since Covid and then Death. In the days when I took everything for granted, like someone there, a recipient for my bolt of chatter or question or demand, I let fly my words, barely taking time to assemble them into the sort of order my Dad would have admired. Then came Dementia demise. Then came Covid and the silence of it all. Not just here, inside this home, between jabbering me and talkless he; not just because carers no longer came with their bright cheerfulness and their kind competence and their chat of pets and kids and road surfaces and the weight of their work, but because the world stopped. That’s a big silence and such a sudden quiet where there was always a noise we might have berated, and which, over a period of time, lands as a loss in a human soul. We might have scrabbled for any noise, anything, just noise, just life, just chatter, any something that says Yes Life Still Lives.

My reason for being quiet is that I have had a week of abusive phone calls and texts and all from the same mobile number. Initially, I answered the phone, for why would I not? The first was sexually explicit, the second (on answerphone) was threatening, the third, the same. That was last weekend. These came to my landline which seemed odd. I called the police and they were gentle and supportive and encouraging and, considering they are dealing with front line ghastly, and in the winter rain and sleet and in the darkest hours, so very remarkable.

The calls continued for a week. But the police were working at it, heaven bless them. They located the guy and his mobile, which doesn’t make him sound all that intelligent and they will knock on his door. I was helped another way. My son took it upon himself to speak to the abuser and kept calling and calling until he got through to admonish him and to let him him know he is known . I also called a friend who came out of hours to fix a bolt to my back door. What I feel is loved and supported. Life can be tough at times, at many times, but there is going to be somebody who racks up for you, as they did for me. Son. Police. Friend. Lucky, fortunate me.

Although I did have a week of fear, No. Terror. But this was my imagination working overtime. The chatter, in other words. Had the old dude been here, he would have laughed me out of it. I know this. So, brave up, look out, do NOT give in to fear (no caps), but just keep moving, one wee faltering step at a time. We will chatter again. We will meet and ps, btw, the snowdrops and daffydowndillies are pushing like rockets through the earth and headed for the sun.

Shall we join them?

Island Blog – Memory Thinks and Flying Colours

As I light the candles in my lovely sitting room, I remember how oft I have done this over the years, and not just here but everywhere I have settled. My home is a sharing place. I remember the faces of all the young people who have barrelled in after a pub visit or for a party here and there was always a party here. We were known for it. Always a welcome. A candle or 20 at the window beckoning. Come in, come in and rest by the fire; eat, share, drink, laugh, settle that tired body right here. Music played then and music still does.

However there is no sharing now, no candlelit welcome, no visits at all. How extremely bizarre is this time in our life. I sit alone beside the merry woodburner and I reflect. I remember. I can hear the music and the voices, the laughter and the fun and, more important of all, I can say thank you that I have known these times; times when I could hardly cross the floor without tripping over somebody; times when young people chose this home to visit, knowing, as they always did, that there would be a warm welcome, refreshment, friendship and the chance to dry off. I know that everyone left feeling better. I know that we gave that, me and Himself and I feel a rush of happiness flooding through me. We didn’t live with a stricture, nor a fixed structure; rules were rules of course and there certainly were times when I waved my stick at bad language, or poor behaviour, but apart from that, freedom reigned within these walls and the ones before and the ones before that. I like that. It is not how I lived as a child. There were so many rules it was hard to move at all. A bit like those laser security beams, criss-crossing every room. Only a spider would get from one wall to the other in safety. Perhaps that is why we did it differently.

Now all these young people, the marine biologists, the geologists, the cetacean experts, the ecologists and many other ‘ists’ have grown into their own worlds, have their own families, their own four walls. They will not come again. But they did once and I am glad of it for I have an ocean of memories to warm my cockles. I can hear their voices, see their faces wreathed in smiles. I remember feeding the five thousand on huge pots of refried beans or bolognaise or chilli con carne (chilli sans carne for the vegetarians) and just loving each shared meal. I see steaming bowls in cupped hands and bodies on every available horizontal surface. Even now, after so many years, I still cook too much and my first thought when someone visits is of what I can give them to eat. So strange to know for certain that there is no chance of anyone visiting anyone and for some time to come, and when that time does return to us, will we really connect with the gift of that freedom or will we just take it for granted as we did back in the normal times? I did, take it for granted, I mean. It is natural to do so, until that ‘natural’ is removed, forbidden, wiped out. Only then do we consciously think.

I have enough roasted vegetables and pasta for at least 4 days. As I sit alone by the merry woodburner watching the candles flicker and dance, I let the memories float through my mind and I say a thank you; thank you that I can remember; thank you that I experienced all that youth and colour and fun; thank you that I am still alive, can still use my brain, am well, happy and absolutely certain that we will all get through this time of strange estrangement with flying colours.

Island Blog – Love, Belonging and Happiness

I have been thinking lately of what it is we all long for in our lives. It isn’t an abundance of money, even if we think it is. It isn’t a bigger house or a motorbike or a puppy. It isn’t a holiday in the sun or new clothes or to win Britain’s Got Talent. What we all long for above all else is to be loved, to belong, to find in another/others all that confirms we really really matter, not for what we do, but for who we really are. In other words, to be happy and truly, deeply so.

We learn from childhood to design ourselves in a way that is acceptable to others, to parents, friends, siblings or teachers. We want to fit in. We long to fit in. It is a primal need. And, yet, in designing ourselves according to others’ ideas of who we are, we lose ourselves. We all do it. If the way we want to be conflicts with their ideal, and if we are strongly convinced of our own way of being, we will come up against the rocks. We will be labelled naughty, bad, impossible, awkward and Trouble. It is mighty exhausting to live this way and not many of us keep it up for long. After all, who wants to be sent to their room over and over again until they come to their senses? In other words until we conform and submit, and we carry that need for acceptance on and on throughout our lives unless we notice, see and call a halt.

But how to relocate a self, hewed by many into a shape that has no connection with who we are is indeed a big challenge. We may have walked under clouds for decades, behaving as we ought and as we should, all grey and soggy and with no idea why we ever let it happen at all. We may well have imposed the same on our own children and that is a sobering thought. The key, I believe, is to notice what we do in order to please others, whilst displeasing ourselves. We give, teeth gritted. Well, how about not giving that way? How about saying, gently and firmly, No, I cannot do that today/now/for you? Would that be so very hard? Yes, it would, the first time, but not thereafter, as the words come more easily. You notice how your shoulders come down and your back tension is less; your teeth no longer grit, your stomach is calm and you feel you are honouring yourself for once as those soggy grey clouds lift and the sun streaks through like honey drizzle on porridge. You begin to find out that, contrary to your entrenched belief, you rather like yourself. You don’t waste a moment beating yourself up, well maybe once or twice, for letting this all happen as you begin to re-design your own wonderful self. You are wonderful just as you are right now and the only person who will take some persuading of this is you.

You may not have a clue as to the road ahead, may not even see it through the fog, but, trust me, a way will show itself once that decision to be who you are settles within. You just know you will not longer live through other people and their opinions, through the currently acceptable shape and form of being someone who ‘fits in’. That sister who talks over you, so certain is she of how it should be done; that parent who wants everything to be as it always was and who will loudly and powerfully berate your resistance; that friend who expects you to give as they give. If none of these roles sit easy with you then Do Something to effect a change.

We only have one life. How about really living it? Therein, my friends, lies happiness, one that will, in time, light up not only your own self but will bring surprising joys once everyone gets the hang of you and comes to admire your courage. Which they will. And it all begins with you and with me.

Island Blog – Rain Light

I walked today with my eyes open, as best I could in the slanty rain showers. I need to see, and everything, not just the odd one or two things of spectacularness. Actually, if I look with intent, a great many things take on such a quality. Marching past, thinking ‘rain shooting up my frocks or stones kicked inside my boots to irritate my bare toes’ I can easily miss something I should not miss if I want this walk to mean anything more than a mere mindless exercise for both myself and the Poppy dog. She, needless to report, has no issues with frocks or stones in boots and I am glad of it, for her sake.

Lifting my mind from the aforesaid, I steady my gait, slow my footsteps, turn my face to the rain and all the skinly benefits it has to offer me, for I know it does, I can feel it prickle and stipple my wrinkly face, making it really quite lively. My mascara will not run, and if it does, I won’t mind because the feel of this heavenly water is so much more refreshing than the slosh of chlorine controlled tap water. I look about me. The leaf mulch is like burnished copper and the stems of strong-backed bracken think me of bare trees in a fairy forest. Rose Bay Willow Herb (such a mouthful of a name) stems are of similar beauty. I wonder when they will all finally fall to earth. Perhaps never. I forget.

Moss coats the trees. Beech, Alder, Sycamore, Hornbeam, Oak. All of them gleam and glow, luminescent, elvish, the tiny moss tops holding the droplet diamonds. Thousands of them, on closer study. The sycamores or plane trees patched like the necks of giraffes show me burnt siena and umber. Some trees are bald and the rain has shone them into beacons of light, like wraiths among the living, standing without breath. All sung out. The flash of a Jay overhead, the greyling light illuminating its colours, the translucence of its wings in flight. A buzzard hums the air, holding it, balanced to perfection, almost still as punctuation. Poor rabbit, I think, or mouse. You will see nothing coming as you scurry from cover to cover, always hiding, hiding for a lifetime.

The track is puddled, the extraneous rain pitching down through little gullies, down, always down, as freshwater will always down to the mother sea. The loch popples, tiny drops peppering the surface whilst beneath, salt meets fresh and the inevitable collision shows me a frothy curve of resistance and attack. Sticks lie here and there, thrown perhaps for laughing dogs with play in their mouths and dance in their legs, abandoned like dropped kindling on the path of a forager. I remember each Autumn walking up here on dry days to forage for kindling. There was something wonderful about knowing who lit my fire. Buying bags of split wood never felt the same. I like provenance, stories, meaning behind things. I felt the respect owed and due as I lifted, carried and then lit my fire with something from the woods of Tapselteerie. So much of my life lived there. It matters. Thank you, I breathe, as I lay the gathered sticks, marking, in my mind, the tree they fell from, the one still living, or the wraith that once flowered and spread, following the seasons and just begging to be noticed.

Almost home and I hear the chatter of a very busy household. I can see the evergreen shrub shaking with all this noise and bustle. Hallo Sparrows, I say, but quietly so as not to disturb or alarm. I toss up a prayer of thanks for their safety in concealment. I like that they can live together this way, as I absolutely could not. A commune never attracted me but sparrows seem to love it. They are safe for now, for this time when the sun, barely able to lift his head over the horizon offers a shortling day in which to feed or to forage. T’is the season, I tell them, as I walk by and they, having paused at my footsteps, in an alert concern, relax and chatter back to me. I know how to move around birds; slow and with a soft, reassuring voice. In the mornings as I fill the feeders, the birds come close, even the male blackbirds and that was my best delight for they are the biggest panic merchants I have ever encountered, screaming alarm at the slightest twist in proceedings and frightening all the other birds into bushes and over fences, their little hearts beating like a drumroll, and oft for nothing.

Another day passes. This one with rain light in its eyes. I meet those eyes. And I see.