Island Blog – Featherlight, Low Cloud and Lift

The morning comes all blurry, a white light, stilted, unclear. No sun to golden a dawn. I rise and go to the window. Low cloud is caping the land, disappearing the hills and the fir trees across the sea-loch, almost wiping out the water completely. I cannot see if the tide is coming in, going out, or slack and waiting. The garden is caped in a dripping veil, its soft folds blinding me to the contours of shrubs, daffodils, the bird table. Everything looks eerie. I remember a bad vampire movie and laugh out loud, waking the dog into a bark of startlement. In other parts of this country it might be named a fog but we don’t have fog here. We have low cloud, far more interesting and making us think of just how low a cloud can go when it decides to and how whispy thin it can become, the closer it gets to the ground. I remember flying through clouds. They appear so solid until a socking great plane cuts a dash and sops our little windows with wet. I also know that one cloud can hold thousands of tons of water. Such power and such a mixed message. I pad through the cloud on my way to feed the birds and feel the damp on my bare legs. It wets my frock and clings to my face, refreshing me after a sleepless night.

I didn’t dream of clouds, nor fog. I dream of falling or of not being able to move. T’is grieving, they tell me. It takes time to see through the clouds, the fog of loss. A year and a day, at best. I am looking forward to August 20th 2021. Perhaps I will awaken on that day and say Yippee it’s done! Perhaps it will take longer but I am gunning for a cloud shift around that time. It is what we tell ourselves, our brains, that alters facts. I know this. Meantime, I park my dreams upstairs. Stay there, I tell them in quite a threatening voice. It used to work with my kids so why not bad dreams? This is my game, if a game can be all but fun. Down the stairs and into the garden works for me, even if I am just filling bird feeders. Bird feeders bring birds and birds are life, movement, clarity in low cloud. They dart and swoop and chatter and sing and lift my spirits. The loch stays closed, the hills absent all day long. But now I can see the fir trees, silhouettes, hill soldiers standing to attention. Their tops are in the cloud, wispy, compelling, etherial. I know you are there, I say, for how can a bottom be without a top when you were altogether just yesterday? Well, they reply, so were you. Oh……yes so I was. Ok an off day for fir trees? Mmmm, they say and I catch it over the water, words pushing through the cloud. It is reassuring to know that even trees can have an off day.

A pair of snow geese fly by. The sound they make is soft and considered, not like the hectic honk of greylags. It is as if they have learned how to distil their words into haiku. I watch them with respect. You know where you are going and what to do next, I say. Like a good poet. Not like me. I haven’t a scooby. On my walk I was joined by my little granddaughter in her ‘puddle suit’. It is bright green and makes her look like a burst of Spring with her pale skin and long red hair and her big wellies on the wrong feet. She skips and chatters, runs ahead, challenges me to climb hills, giving me information at every step. Daddy’s new haircut is terrible. Mummy is putting Nina down for a nap. There are disgusting frogs or toads in the pond. Did you know it’s your birthday tomorrow Gaga? That’s Lady Gaga to you, not ‘gaga’. Just saying. Her older sister named me thus and it continues. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps until I was breathless and losing every time, clambering up hills, over rocks, through the fairy woods and alongside the veiled sea-loch. Nothing bothers her and that lifts me too. A cup of tea on my return with her Daddy and his ‘terrible’ hair cut and her Mummy who put Nina down for a nap but obviously that didn’t last long as Nina crawls outside in her puddle suit, wheechs off her bootees and shares her cookie with one of the hens.

So, my night have been sleepless, again, but there have been many lifts from the sticky cloud. So many. I decide, as I always do, to hold on to each one, to put each one in my heart, because the nothing becomes something when I choose to focus on the cloud lifts. The low cloud will come. And then, lift.

Island Blog – Rethink, Balance, Begin

After I wrote down my whines and moans yesterday, I had a rethink. What my think discovered is that my self talk has been all tapselteerie for a while. Yes, yes, understandably so, what with Covid and bereavement and who-the-hell-am-I-now, and the darkness of winter. But once a woman realises something needs to change she must needs begin that change thing. Looking at the complicated mess within can be confounding. Where to begin? There is only one way to begin anything in this life and that is to take one step, just the one. Balancing can be tricky though. If I put one step forward, thus losing my centrifugal point, I may well topple. However, if I take one step and then re-align my feet, my balance is true. I am upright and steady. The symbolism of bringing my other foot up to join the other tells me I have committed to being one step away from where I was, in the dark. Although I am nowhere near the full illumination of a surrounding light, I am at least on my way and I won’t go back. Why would I? That place of Boohoo Poor Little Me was pants at best. Did I need to put myself through it in the first place? Perhaps I did, because there is no greater joy to be felt in a human heart than that of new light ahead. So, in moving forward I will not beat myself up for stroppling around in a flail of arms and anger, but, simply allow that it was as it was and keep moving forward.

It thinks me. We are good at taking ourselves and our situations too seriously. We are good at beating ourselves up, of hiding from Life herself. I know it isn’t just me. Unless we pay attention to the trajectory of our thoughts, we are all at the mercy of brain control. Now, I am glad I have one, don’t get me wrong. I am thankful, daily, for the way I can access information from her vast store and then plot my course, set sail into the new. However, she must not be my only guide. My thoughts are one thing, based on existential learning and experience, but my emotional intelligence, that part of me that can connect with everything I have not experienced, not yet, is vital. My attitude is not based on experience, nor on stored information within my brain. It is based on hope, on faith and on the strong belief that no circumstance can control me, not for long. My attitude to what happens is everything. If I can laugh at myself, lift my feet into dance, then it doesn’t matter what I am required to deal with, however irksome, however threatening. But I will need to be ready. If my way of being is always a response to external circumstance, my inner resources will be compromised at best, inaccessible at worst. So, I begin. Again. I have done this Begin Again thing most of my life and it chuckles me that I am still learning the how to of it. I already know the why. It is obvious. Who wants to remain in misery? Not one of us. So, today I tell myself I am quite marvellous, very loved, needed and important. It’s fun. I shush the demons and watch them lose their power over me. They melt into mist.

The sun shines. I see the birds wheel and dive in the garden. I watch the hills take on their pink sunrise frocks. I finger through the patchwork squares for a baby playmat, for a new boy due in May. Dinosaurs and other creatures from the Mesozoic era on soft blue and green backgrounds, all smiling which is probably something they rarely did, if ever. No matter. I buy offcuts of material for these playmats and love making them into a gift. New life is always a wonderful thing and there seem to be one heck of a lot of babies coming this Spring and Summer. I wonder why? The mist is lifting, both inside me and over there on the other side of the calm sea-loch. Music plays in the next room and I sing along to the ones I know, feeling lighter, mightier. I will engage completely with each moment this day. I will tell my brain she needs an MOT if we are to work effectively together from this moment on. You are like my new mini, I tell her. I need you to work for me not against me. Are we clear on that?

She rolls her eyes. Here we go again, she mutters, and then demands coffee.

Island Blog – Not One Word

Although I make a considered choice to live in the present and always did, there are times when my brain and I are not working in sync. Like today. Today I feel 107 and furious at myself. I ask, Why are you feeling like this? even as I know the only way to trudge through such a day is to allow the unpleasant feelings to come to me so that we can have a wee chat. I don’t want to, nonetheless. I want to bat them away and for them to go bother someone else. But they are ours, says Myself and I roll my eyes at her. So damn wise she is and infuriatingly so, especially as I know her to be right. I whine a bit and decide to write a blog on the whole fiasco because writing is my therapy. There is nobody here with whom I can discuss this, speak out my feelings and receive reassurance. Not any more. The ordinary little conversations of old are now firmly parked in the past as I would not assault a passer by with my whines and moans. It just isn’t done, duckie, I hear my old ma say to me and I bat her away too.

My way of meditating is to walk entirely in the present moment, noticing everything and so I trudge out for a walk, noticing. I notice that the hungry deer are stripping the moss from the base of the big old trees. I notice a new primrose and the fat slug of an incoming tide as it squeezes through the narrows. I notice the sky, flat white and remember I need milk. I notice that the potholes have been filled in and that my neighbour’s attempts to keep out the rabbits is failing again. By now I am bored stiff of noticing and my brain still whirls and whorls, chuckles and gloats. Shame, it hisses, guilt and shame, regret and a refusal to accept that it is as it is and it was as it was and it will be…….Stop! I yell, and startle another walker, causing her wee dog to bark. Sorry, ignore me, I say and she smiles kindly. We wander together, my brain finally silenced with its ‘you are never enough’ nonsense, its criticisms and judgements, its false truths, the lies it tells me about me. I tell her I feel ancient as those trees today and she tells me she is going stir crazy with being stuck at home. She also finds her meditation in walks and we laugh a bit together. It helps.

I listen to an audio book for distraction, empty the bin into the wheelie, lob the wine bottles into the glass bin, the empty ones, of course. I think about supper. Good lord girl, its miles till supper! I know, I know, I snap back but this day has lasted a whole week and I am bored of Time and her achingly ponderous walk, as if she’s in trudge mode too. Next door my young neighbour is busy with planks and angle grinders. He is doing up the kitchen or the somewhere inside the house and he is positive and occupied and productive. As you were once, says Goody Two Shoes. I sigh. I remember. I also remember wishing I wasn’t any of those things but could, instead, sit for a long while watching a sunset or a bird or the grass grow. How strange is this life, so full of care etc etc. Used to be my favourite poem. Nowadays my poems of choice are on loss and loneliness, empty days and long. sleepless nights. Perhaps I need a poetry rethink.

I know that days like these come unbidden and unsought, that they blindside me and that I am always ill prepared for their assault. I know I have to get through them and that they will, like all things, pass. I imagine I am stronger, have grown in some way because of them but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time. Acknowledging that I am only a newish widow, lonely, looking back on my life and the mistakes I now regret, is key. The judges are there and probably always will be but they will fade if invited in for that chat, or so the books tell me. I am not sure I can trust myself to be civil, however. What will they look like? My mother? My husband? That crow of a teacher who decided I was the devil in a frock? Probably all three and others too who helped me feel I was never enough. How does anyone converse with such a group without losing their cool? I don’t have an answer for that, not yet, maybe I never will. But wait……maybe I just let them in, pour them tea, sit them down and let them have their say. Once the tonguing is done, perhaps I rise with dignity, smile and show them out, saying not one word.

Yes, that’s what I will do. Let them think what they like. They think they know me but they don’t, not as I do. I check my brain. It’s asleep.

Island Blog – Heart lift

Soft, loving compost is heaped on my garden. I made it myself and it is thunderous with worms, not that any of them will survive this new exposure to light. They are worms of the dark, of the fetid warmth and gentle darkness of a dialek bin, creatures of a season and doomed to face change, one they won’t like much. Robin, blackbird and thrush gather as if they know there is a feast for an early arriver. Within minutes these compostian beings will have dug themselves deep, dug for death.

Heretofore I had always shovelled, laborious shovelfuls into a big bucket, then lugged said laborious shovelfuls down the back steps and into the front garden. Then came muscle man. He just wheeched the whole dialek off the ground and shook him a bit to release the dark, wormy soft heap of live-giving goodness from his interior. I was impressed. Now he can do the lugging and he did, hence my thoroughly over excited flower beds. They are giggling. I can hear them even through the regular hail shower attacks. I see an eggshell, a bit of cauliflower stalk, garden cuttings and they smile me. Go to work my lovelies, I tell them and together, we wait, even though they know more than I about what is happening beneath their butts. It is such a quiet thing, this growing, this birthing of new life and the mystery of survival no matter what frollocks happens above ground.

Primroses are showing sunshine faces along the drystone walls. No larch buds yet but I can hear them whispering as I pass. We are coming, they say. Keep watching. And I will. I do. As I walk, I remember. This time last year I shut down, locked out the world, kept vigil for any invaders. How strange to still be thinking the same way and, yet, not quite in the same way. It isn’t that I mind locking down in principle. It isn’t that I am afraid. It isn’t that I no longer have anyone to protect other than myself. It is simply strange, as if I, like the compostian worms, have become accustomed to a darkness, one that has proffered an unexpected sense of security, and now I am not sure who I will be. All through this past year my lack of desire to go out, to meet anyone, to entertain visitors confirmed me as a student hermit. None of the lockdown, bar the initial fear of an invisible and extremely powerful enemy, phased me.

But I have had enough now. Rising, unlike the worms but very like the new shoots, the daffydowndillies, the tulips, the snowdrops and with new leaves twinkling at me under the weight of thawing hailstones, I want to keep rising and that means forward into life. My fed is suddenly up. I want freedom of choice once again. My choice to go here or there, to this person or that should be my own now. How clearly I see the way a revolutionary spirit rises within us. Living under any regime is everything inhuman and that’s what this feels like now. Enough Covid! with all your tentacles and your new names and strains, your machination against the human race, the one I belong to, by the way, the one I seriously care about! I want to yell. Actually I did yesterday and it felt good.

However, there is little we can do than behave ourselves a bit longer and keep watching for Spring. She will go a long way in saving us, for now. However it doesn’t stop the fury at continuous imprisonment. I think of the ones who have died and those who couldn’t be there at the end of a loved life. I think of the painful separations, the people who will suffer deeply from this enforced isolation, those living lives of deprivation and of constant pain. Who will lift them into Spring, I wonder? Here am I frapping about renewing my passport and then there are they, stuck, trapped, broken, sick, dead. It is humbling.

Best I can do is write. Best I can do is keep living. Best I can do is to watch for Spring. Sometimes others walk with me. Not weirdo dead people, although occasionally they do, but those I think about, the ones I don’t know and will never meet, the ones who have found this past year a deal more than merely inconvenient. Hey, I say, come with me. I can take you to the fairy woods, show you the elvish trees, now a bit stripped of moss for the deer are starving here. I can walk you through where wild garlic will flower, take you to eider nests, show you oystercatcher eggs among salty basalt, lift your eyes to a skylark, watch your face soaked in salt spray and old stories, and watch you catch them, the stories ,and even if you don’t understand the language, your eyes will tell me you have those stories in your heart. A heart lift. A change for the ever-ness of life.

Island Blog – Woman, She Says

There is an old woman I know. She is not very old but she is definitely no longer new. She can feel it in her bones and her mind. Those arms that once could heft potato sacks from ground control to the bed of a lorry now find it quite enough to lift a few books onto a shelf. Her hair is silvering, with a stout refusal to do it uniformly. She hates that bit about ageing. Eyebrows salt one hair at a time, each salt hair stronger and with a complete disregard for the calm-down brush. She catches sight of them occasionally, when she has her specs on, and is horrified. Now she must, with specs remaining in place, locate said strong, disregardful hair, with slightly shaky fingers and her small tweezers. It really is not fair, she mutters, this unpleasant process. Recently she misfired and made a rather interesting gap in one brow. Huh! she says. See if I care, she says. I’ll call you a scar and own you. You won’t bring me down, she says, and once she removes her specs, the evidence has disappeared completely. A similar challenge arises at make up time. She is careful not to apply slap in the dark, or in half-light. The day must be well and truly risen before slap app. She remembers older women with orangutang faces, with MacDonald Red cheeks, lips loose with pink leak and alien eyes. She vows never to look like they did, just as they did.

She loves flowers and colour, frocks and boots. She buys too many of the latter. There are three pairs of glorious boots that stand in anticipatory waiting beside her back door, polished but never worn. She has had to expand her wardrobe pole oftentimes. She does this by wheeching some frocks, unworn for well over a year but retained, just in case someone threw a ball on the island or invited her out for a formal dinner. In her heart she knows this is never going to happen, but she bought them anyway for their gorgeous folds and perfect lines. The flowers she loves pepper the drystone walls and freckle her garden. She arranges them in vases around the house and breathes in their fresh sweet scent. She watches them close at night, open at first light, just as she does, following the rise and fall of the sun. She plays music all day long. She loves music. Sometimes she plays Vivaldi, sometimes Radio Two, sometimes her own playlist of beloved tunes and songs that yank her into rememberings, or strum her heart strings with their lyrics, their cadences, their rise, rise and fall into a pool of golden warmth that brings tears to her eyes for no reason at all.

She loves her dog and the way the windows keep out the rain. She loves her new bed and the electrically inspired mattress cover that warms her all the way up to number 6 and which turns off in an hour. She loves the way the curtains breathe like lungs on a windy night and the way the light turns moody when a grey day morphs into a greying night. She loves clouds and grandchildren, the way they laugh so easily and cry without embarrassment. She love spontaneity and change, boiled eggs and wildness. She loves nature, singing out just for the hell of it, walking in the fairy woods and talking to trees, stones, the men who delivered wood just as she ran out. She loves sea salt and balsamic rice cakes, tsaziki, Barcelona and Africa. She remembers holidays, moments, weddings, births and deaths. She remembers her life, a yawling wiggly line of a million wonders, of pain, of divine intervention when nothing human could offer help. She talks to God. She reckons he is there somewhere. In fact she knows he is, or she is, because too many things have happened to save her bacon. She loves art, from Michael Angelo to Banksy and even further back. She can easily listen to music from all genres, depending on ear tolerance.

She loves sewing things for others, repairing and patching. She loves moving things around so the room takes on a new song. She decorates things, any things. A tall standing lamp reminds her. Covered from toe to shade in patchwork material and dangling with pretty lights, baubles and beads, it shines its individuality to the world. Well, no, not the world, says the lamp. About 5 people pass this way on a regular basis. Steady on old woman with the ‘world’ delusion. Okay, she says, you are right. But I don’t do any of this for others to admire. I do this for me. The lamp is silent. She looks around the room at the family photos, canvases of captured moments. She is holding her first granddaughter in her arms at a wedding. Their smiles are rapt. She is sitting in a cafe in Spain and laughing. She is in Africa playing scrabble in a welcome shade whilst zebra, giraffe and warthog wander by the stoep in an evening cool. She is singing at a wedding, dancing at a birthday disco, eating sushi, playing with grandchildren.

All is well, she says. I am well, she says. I am who I made myself and my life is every colour on the wheel.

She says.

Island Blog – Monday, Monday

Mondays have always been the one day when I really felt like dressing up and going out. It seemed that the weekend fell about my ears most welcomely, bringing a drive of its own; the sleep ins, the pyjama days, the allowances. Then, well refreshed by all of that, Monday arrived like a stand-up soldier, bristling. I wanted to punch it in the face. No, I said, you don’t do this to me. You don’t ‘tell’ me I can’t want this or feel that just because, in your arrogance, you reckon you are Day One of a new week. All those groany rules. All those restrictions like you think its ok to pull in my stays and what…..I eat gruel or something in deference to your pedigoguery? This is World Women’s Day btw, so I am not playing, not that I ever did.

This Monday, as has oftentimes befallen me afore, I have a deep yearning to go out, to share a wonderful vibrant, candlelit evening with friends. I realise this will not be, as I spin fresh coriander, garlic, tomato and condiments into a bowl to mix with my pasta. Pasta again. Actually I don’t mind pasta again but on this Monday I absolutely do and a half. I remind myself there is a pandemic. Check. I remind myself that my dinner date is dead. Check. I remind myself that all restaurants on the island, along with the beautician and the hairdresser are shut on a Monday. Well, pants to that. I attempt to scoot my Monday longings into Tuesday but Tuesday is a very different creature. Tuesday is gentle and not combative. Tuesday is happy being where she is, after Monday. I would be happy too, if I was Tuesday and after Monday. Monday is a menace and she has way too big a sense of herself. She is almost male.

So, I fanny about with mending jeans, sewing things, watching birds, walking in the rain and making that coriander thing for my pasta. I also clear even more of my dead husband’s stuff and the binman waves at me and mouths something I don’t hear, but his smile is delicious and it almost saves the Monday thing. I check my geranium seedlings, haul in wood, mutter about the freckles on the butt of my car # toonearthepothole, respond to some lawyer emails, send a text, make tsaziki. I love tsaziki and it is an art form. Too sloppy a grated cucumber and it becomes mush. This one worked just fine and I flagged down my daughter-in-law on her return from school collection to give her some.

But I still have that yearning to dress up and go out. Of course ‘out’ is off limits and has been for considerable yonks, but it doesn’t stop the feeling, the yearning. It thinks me. I wonder, when this is all behind us, will we go wild? Will we have cowered in our darkened dens for long enough to have lost skin tone, pliancy and the connection with our wild spirits? Or will we, instead be much quicker at being ready for the excitement of an evening out with friends, even if it is a Monday?

Island Blog – Dark Light

The past few days have shown me things. Things I welcomed, things I turned away from like a girl from a stalker. The morning came and eventually went, turning into another long afternoon. I find afternoons go on for far too flipping long, not least because some people consider the hour of 5 o’clock as being the fulcrum of an afternoon whereas I see it as a thank goodness it’s evening at last, and no fulcrum of anything at all but more a springboard into the warm waters of relief. Now, at last, I can turn my tired body into collapso armchairo, thus making it okay to watch Line of Duty or whatever. And my body does get tired, but only when I notice it. Before I do this noticing thing, I am simply aware of confusion, a confusion of bone, muscle, emotion and tension. I ask What is Wrong with me? Me says nothing for she has no answer in her mouth. Perhaps her silence communicates her lack of any answer at all. Perhaps she is mocking me, eyebrow arched, snort at the ready. You should know the answer, she might say, had I waited long enough. Should. That most unfavourite word, that remonstration, that inference of judgment, the one that always shoots me back down the snake to square one.

I went to church today for the first time in over a year. I had lost my something or other before lockdown and didn’t attend, couldn’t face people, concerned questions that would have demanded answers for these are good people, friends. I had nothing in my head, nothing in my mouth but spit and poison. He was dying by then, fading, departing and with such good grace, that good grace that leaves the one left behind with a shit load of stuff to sort, organise, plan and implement. And he was fine about all of that. I recall the biggest trouble in the home was if the local shop had run out of apricot yoghurt, full fat. It made for an indigestional return to HQ. It was all he ate.

The church is beautiful with stained glass images sensitively painted, a curved dome ceiling, decorated in colour and flight, old oak pews and warmth. We spaced ourselves (distantly) wearing our masks. The organist, a woman, girl really, danced her fingers over the keys lifting us and the glorious music into the perfect acoustical space. It was a gentle time, and I hadn’t wanted to go at all despite volunteering to write an opening prayer. People? Gathering? Driving down the road in this rain? None of it. But I am so glad I went, for it proved to be a something I welcomed in. The ridiculousness of waving at each other when once we hugged and blew laughs and stories right into each others’ faces; the way we sat, not together, sharing tales of the week, but two pews apart, all mystical and bonkers. I hunkered into my warm jacket, wondered if it was clean, if my boots had mud on them, if anyone behind me was wondering How is She? Only 6 and a bit months since her husband of almost 50 years just yoghurted out. I thought, How shall I sit so as not to bother anyone? Head bowed, head up, legs crossed, not crossed? Will I falter as I read this prayer, will the music unravel me?

All of that happened but it didn’t matter. Why is that? because, despite a year of tribbling and swithering about God being in his heaven or even if either of those big things exist at all, I was among my friends, those who care about me as I do about them. I come home in the rain feeling different. This unwelcome thing became a welcome one. It thinks me of dark light. I know dark light. I met it this morning at 3.45 am. Oh good lord, I said, then swore. You again. And swore once more only better. I got up, pulled on warm stuff and made for the kettle. I sat in the dark conservatory, no moon, no stars, slow clouds, no birds. This, I said, is the dark light poets write about, this place between night and day, between welcome and unwelcome, between me and the next chapter, between fear and action, between anxiety and decision. I know you Dark Light, I whispered.

Hallo, said Dark Light. And we chatted for a while until the sun hefted his ass above the horizon. Can you tell me something? I asked, turning back to my companion. But he was gone

Island Blog – Standing, The Silent Tree

The trees are still today as I wander through them, beneath their arms, limbs and twigs. They appear to be waiting for something, or someone. Perhaps it is me. Here I am, I say, you know me for I am here every single day. Not every day, they say in a stilled silence. Not every day. Okay, maybe not every day. Some days are too cold, too wet, too dark, or have been thus for some months. But where are your voices now? I trunch through a boggy bit on the track, my eyes down, focussing on not getting my sauncy boots coated beyond the plumb line. They are still still. The trees. Not a murmur, not a whisper beyond that reproach at the bend where the track moves with the bedrock. Nothing. Rhododendrons giggle each side of me, stupid infiltrators who never did understand their beginnings, their birth home, who think nothing of claiming all the available space and the space not available too. The Tapselteerie estate manager can spend hours, days, chain-sawing these bullies down to their tippytoes only to watch them rise again the following Spring. They push even now through the others, the residents of this wood, between the oaks and the plane trees, the hazels, hawthorns, beech, larch, pines, birches and the jinks trees, those twisting ballerinas of the woods, the hornbeam, who find space that isn’t enough and bend and twist and lift to the light like some women I know.

The light is held this day, caught in the cold grip of loud cloud, penetrating like a voice, holding the room all the day long. I pull on leggings for my walk, boots, fur lined, a scarf, jacket and woolly hat. I notice how I pick the right colours for this walk, blending to match my current frock. How ridiculous. I meet nobody, nowhere, never, or, rarely and if any of the rarelies bother with my kit, they never say. I plan to walk further but my small wee dog stops at the cut off for a short one. I know she isn’t behind me as I push on through the silent trees so I turn. She cocks her head. This walk, she says without a word, is boring today. There are no dapples of sunlight, no word from the trees, no sway of the grasses and. even the tidal flow is being politely quiet. Let’s go home to the fire. And, so, we do.

Back home and still with a million steps left to step, I decide we will clear out more of my dead husband’s stuff. I cannot and will not chuck a lot of it. I want to wait for this flipping virus to die off so that his children can come calm, wander, reflect and choose. I could be waiting another year, I know this. However, I do plan to have his office repainted and carpeted as a child’s room for the familial visiting I hope will come. I sort, clean, lift, drag and box. In this afterworld of death and responsibility, I have been confounded, silent like the trees this day, standing, waiting. In one moment I just know what this son would want, this daughter, how each individual child might, might have connected with their dad, but what do I know? What I do know is that not one of them is easy around this thing, this waiting, this silent stillness. As in this room now. His office, one he demanded and one he never used. Very ‘man’ in my experience. I get it now, now that I remember and understand how impossibly impossible it is for any man to remain himself in the face of birthing his own children. What appeared a dream became a nightmare. I get it. It still pisses me off, nonetheless.

The room is all but cleared for the painter. It is a silly, pointy room with one small window and not enough air flow. It will only ever be good for a child sleepover, a child, or children who do not yet bother with air flow, lack of sleep, confined quarters. At least it is there for them when they come and I am glad of it, even if it is going to take Henry a while to suck up the ancient cobwebs. I touch the grease mark on the wall, once made by my lovely father-in-law for he slept here towards the end of his life. Hallo, I say. Old Tree. Old Silent one. I did love you and you knew that. We winked at each other over bossy controlling heads, didn’t we? You saw me a friend. Didn’t you?

Yes I did, he whispers. The silent tree moves.

Island Blog – All Rise

There is a rising. There always is one of those for we who believe that nothing and nobody stays down for long. Even the dead rise in spirit, lodging in our hearts and minds, refreshing our memories, balancing them. We rise from bed, from a chair, from grief, from a dark season. The moon is half herself this morning, shining like a beacon in a flip-flop sky of pink clouds and blue promise. In my garden green things are pointing to the heavens. I have no idea what some of them are, only remembering in a vague way what bulbs I sunk six inches deep, and where. Surprises appear daily and I stand at the window watching a little more green, a little more bulk, a little more determination to sprout in the goodly earth. Birds lift and flit among the emerald leaves, land, peck at the seed which will insist on falling off the bird table even without a wind blow.

I light the woodburner to ward off the morning chill. It is light already. I recall those endless darkling mornings, mornings that never seemed to un-darkle all the way up to tea time. They are behind us now and I am glad of it. Going too is that bitter cold, the threat of chilblains and spine shivers, frozen fingers and numb toes. We are rising, all of us, together, as we move into Spring. We are brave enough to come downstairs barefoot, leaving our fluffy slippers under the bed; soon we will no longer need our thermal vests, socks or pyjamas and we will be able to talk with a passerby without risking hypothermia. It is a good thing, a much needed thing, a promise, a rising. We have come through the longest winter I have ever known bar one – the first winter on Tapselteerie when the cold froze itself, when it was warmer to be outside, when the vast halls and walls of a mansion house tried to break me. She did not succeed because I was determined to rise, will always rise, no matter who, no matter what. Just like you. How marvellous we are, we humans, we risers, in spite of the ground shifting beneath our feet, the storms tearing us to shreds, the rain calling us to drown. We are fractals in Euclidian space, individual elements, but we are also unconfined, wild, feral, unpredictable and there is a glory in that, a rising. Something or someone tries to keep us down but we refuse to stay down. Against all odds we will always push out new shoots, always point to the sky, always bloom and flourish, even from a dying bed, even from within a prison, a castle of cold and unforgiving walls. We are invincible because we are in complete control of our thoughts and our thoughts can rise us from the darkest places. I know this. It is my firm, immovable belief and it always has been. Oh, I have fallen, believe me and oftentimes, but I have not stayed down. Life is such a beautiful and precious gift and we only have one.

Let us keep rising into whatever this beautiful and precious life offers. Let us see with wide open eyes every tiny gift that comes our way, no matter what. A smile, a conversation, a zoom, an unexpected kindness given or the chance to gift one, a word or two of encouragement, a helping hand, time, love, compassion, empathy. After all, not one of us will survive this life and we are a longtime dead. The time for rising is right now, this minute, this day.

All rise……..

Island Blog – Words, boundaries, life

It is quite wonderful how things can change. From the lowest low to a gentle rise of goodly spirits. This morning, the first day of Spring, I wake to birdsong and the Snow Moon. She hangs in a misty sky, a rainbow corona surrounding her not-quite-full circle, lemon yellow and bright as a lighthouse beam. She smiles me. The garden slowly lifts in response showing me new shoots, tulips, daffodils almost in flower and snowdrops by the squillion, survivors of some sharp frosts, the plucky little mites. Much like me, like you, for if we have survived this past year, we are indeed lucky and plucky.

2020 saw this home locked down on March 16th and I can barely believe a nearly year has moved beneath my scurrying feet, for they did indeed scurry over such great swathes of time as I took care of the one who could no longer take care of himself. I look back with pride and no guilt at all for that time even if I was sometimes angry, upset, frustrated, snippy and downright exhausted. In that time I learned how to build my boundaries, stone by heavy stone. I would take the work, accept the demands, work with his confusion and upsydownsy mood swings but I would not take attack of any sort. I was ready behind my wonky wall for I am no construction expert and there were times when a stone wobbled off to land with a laugh at my feet. It took concentration and dedication to detail, to the logistics of wall-building but I did learn and my wall stands firm now. It is not to keep people out nor to keep me in, but simply there to remind me of what I will take from anyone and what I will stand against with words of my own truth, my own respect of self.

Reflecting back over the years, I find memories of times for which I am not proud, times when I wasted precious energy on trying to persuade a rigid thinker that my way was better than his, or when I defied, lied, pretended, gave up and ran away. But it is a soft reflection. From this distance I can see what I did and what I didn’t do, how I twisted myself into storm enough to upset the whole family or worse, when I turned in on myself and everything went black. I thought, back then, really believed, that I was solely at fault, that if only I gave more, did better, complied with everything, life would be wonderful. I know better now. I know that when a couple fall in love and decide to spend a lifetime together, they are stepping into a world they cannot possibly imagine. It begins, usually, with the first child. Suddenly mother is no longer the girl of my dreams and father is decidedly lacking in his ability to support effectively. We both spend many quiet moments, hours even, wondering what on earth went so wrong. Of course a child is always a joy and more, a thankfulness for his or her safe arrival and healthy body and mind, but how to hold onto these truths in the face of sleep deprivation, constant demands, endless screaming and lack of experience, is oftentimes impossible. We weather the changes and if we are able to deny ourselves all the freedoms we once enjoyed, and together, we have a chance to hold on to each other through the shit storm. But many of us change too much. Many cannot let go of the ideals we began this whole adventure with, those certainties. We will be fine. We won’t do it that way. We are invincible. Well, we all thought that.

And now Spring has come once again, as she always will, as sure as eggs are eggs. New growth, new hope, new light, new freedoms too if we can believe that one. I have read words he wrote in his diary. I know how he felt as I pulled away and immersed myself in motherhood. He doesn’t write much but even a short sentence can reel me. I suppose I knew he was feeling the way he did, but why didn’t he say? Why didn’t I ask? All I can remember is being exhausted all of the time and furious with his inability to change. He adored his children, there was no mistaking that. He adored me too. But his way of communicating that adoration was not my way and often clumsy. Neither of us was in the wrong. We just struggled to find mutual language. I allow that thought to float about me as I continue to look through the things, the words and thoughts he left behind. And I think this:-

We loved and we lived. We raised five extraordinary individuals who made us both proud, made us laugh, made our life as colourful as the rainbow corona around the Snow Moon, and as circular, endless. We survived right up to the end of it. My work now is to hold those memories, thoughts, words, good times, bad times as precious gifts, to bring them into my own days and nights and to fashion a new ground for my old feet to wander into a newly enriched life.