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.

Island Blog – The Friend Ship

Sailing, as we all do, alone, and some of us more alone than we might like, I oftentimes find another sailing beside me at the most unexpected moments. Now, as a sailor’s wife I know this unexpectation to be impossible. In that vast expanse of flat ocean, even one in a grumpy or ferocious mood, I can always see someone coming, and from far off. However, in a grounded life, I don’t always see someone coming. I might be distracted, sweeping the floor, or suddenly in the wide mouthed conservatory, like a goldfish in a bowl. Someone might come walking by, someone who pauses to communicate affection and support from their friend ship. They move by in silence, the window glass between us, the Covid restrictions refusing a close encounter. Even as they pass me by, the feeling that they and I confabulate leaves me feeling like I just took something in something warming like porage or soup. More, it elevates my steps thereafter. I feel seen, acknowledged, noticed, of value. This friend in his or her ship may well move faster than I through the ocean, but it matters not, for this encounter has told me I can keep going, regardless of my slow pace. I may have a smaller ship, less crew, less rations, less focus on the whereabouts of my destination. They seemed to be certain of theirs, after all, or it appeared so. But they paused in their trajectory, just for me.

I notice that before this time, this time of isolation and the lack of our ships meeting as we did so gaily and with no thought of it ever being stolen from us, I took it all for granted. I might even have waved it away. Another day for this for I am busy with my own piddling thingamajigs and have no time for this friend or that. Let them WhatsApp me first, or call at the very least to ascertain my availability. Funny how all that has dissipated now in this lockdown fog. Funny, again, how much I have learned to value any contact. I may not instantly respond, but that ship that just passed me by with a friendly wave will not be as it might have seemed to them. I did not disallow, not did it mean nothing much to me. It meant very much.

It thinks me. Do I honour those friend ships that bother to slow and to communicate? I caught them as fish in my net in the abundance of my past life, whence I might think that life would always supply me with a big haul. I could afford to throw some back as unwanted bycatch because I never considered that I would ever be standing alone on a ship, the helmswoman, crew-less and traversing an ocean that seems to go on for ever. It also learns me. I may be alone on my slow ship in the midst of storms and slack-water, in the doldrums or riding on skyscraper waves but I am not alone. There are other ships out here, even if I cannot see them. Ships will gravitate towards each other in the ‘way out there’ of sailing. I know this. I have encountered this. Even if we are all sailing alone, we care for each other in the wild spaces, in the ride and crash of darkling skyscraper waves and it teaches me.

My analogy comes to ground, and still as a teacher. My loyal friends who still walk by, who still text, email and message, who still call, despite my carelessness, who communicate in silence through the window, I salute you all. I value your persistence and loyalty, the ocean depth of your always finding me no matter what I do or say or what I don’t do and don’t say as I hold this wheel and fight the ocean traverse.

Thank you for being my friend.

Island Blog – A Forest and Thinks

Outside it is still dark and will be for a while yet. There is no mangata, no moon reflection on the ice to sparkle rainbows at me, for the ice is all but gone. Just like that. All that effort over many crisp, cold days, melted in minutes. Today the sea-loch will popple once again with an irritation of raindrops and the wind, rising now, will lift its skin with pox. I light the lights and bellow the fire into life. I watch the lick of flames around the chunks of wood and I remember the forest. Hallo forest. Thank you for gifting me this instant (well, almost) warmth, for cheering my eyes with your dance of gold, of blood and amber, for your constancy. You will merry away the day as you reduce each log to charcoal, an artist’s tool and, in the right hand, transformative.

There are only doors, walls and windows in between the out and the in. I can inhabit both and I do. I am fortunate to have that freedom of movement, I know this. The ground beneath my feet is warm in here, and my bare toes connect and notice. I will need footwear out there, as I move into the rising light, and it will rise eventually for the dark is dazzled by any sun, however weak or clouded. I will work today on a new tapestry landscape, feel my way from the bottom up, choosing colours at what might appear to be random but is far from that. My quiet subconscious is always at work, for my good or bad, she is constantly seeking resolution. I am glad she is quiet for there is enough yammering jibber-jabber going on at the surface of my mind, as if there were about 60 mouthy chatterboxes inside my head. You should learn from the forest I tell them when it becomes deafening. A forest stands still and rooted, all together and each one alone. Sibilance with the wind and rain is about as much noise as a forest makes for it is bird-less and cannot wave its arms about like you are all doing.

It thinks me of us, of we humans, and our talking together. Competitive chatter, voices rising to dominate the space, sucking all the air out of other mouths, or perhaps quiet, contemplative reflection, even silence whilst together. All are possible and timely. There is a time for lightweight banter and a time for a soft exchange of thoughts. There is a time for a voice to elevate when the wind or rain of a situation irritates someone into pox, and a time to stand silent, to observe, to speak not. The trouble is it can be hard to get this right, driven as we are, by external forces and by our own internal dialogue. I have learned, sometimes painfully, that it helps to take a step back from myself when I dither on the periphery. To speak my mind or not to speak my mind. Ok, I say to myself, let us step back and merely observe. It isn’t easy when the blood, gold and amber of the situation is burning me. I can feel it scalding my eyeballs and my heart is on fire, but I hold my ground, rooted, like a tree in the forest. It takes practice and, to be honest, I haven’t had to do this forest thing for months and nor have you, I imagine, if you are as isolated as I am. In the olden days, when I enjoyed encounters with people on a daily basis, thought nothing of meeting a friend for lunch or of dropping in on my family, I took it all for granted. I appreciated it, for sure, was thankful for all of it, but I didn’t really understand that this freedom of movement could be taken away from me, and…. Just. Like. That.

So, once I/we get back among each other, will we be full of our own babble or will we have gleaned, from this time of lack, a precious lesson, one that will make us better listeners, more comfortable with a shared silence, less desperate to have our say, have our voice heard, fight our corner, demand our rights? It is up to each one of us, of course. It will take work to effect a change and not everyone believes in such work. But for those who do, think on this. A world, a street, a home wherein each voice is given space, is listened to and taken seriously. I suspect many of us have felt un-heard and disregarded but are we to perpetuate that which made us miserable?

The forest falls but it can grow again. We, on the other hand, cannot.

Island Blog – So Last Year

I notice that, since the first lockdown, little buds of hopefulness are emerging. Enterprising folk have taken on study and are now elevating the robots of Facebook and Twitter, and us. Although it can occasionally be quite marvellous to know what someone is cooking for supper, it does become a little dull over time. I have been a little dull over time myself, I must confess, taking a photo of a plateful of colour and texture in the sure knowledge that this will bring me likes and comments and schmooze. There are daily postings of children playing, of old granny’s birthday cake alight and looking dangerous when I find myself hoping that the old girl has enough puff residing in her lungs to avoid conflagration, and of colourful and textured dinners. Many update their profile picture and if I know them, I can see the effort and time they took to look particularly wonderful or hilarious or warm and smiling.

Enterprising people are finding things positive to spread hope among us, folk who, previously, might have worked at something quite different but who have realised that posting positive on a daily basis requires effort, demands regular tasking and stands alone in the fight against gloom and disbelief. I gloom and disbelieve too. Writing down my resolutions makes me snort at times. Who am I to think I can actually achieve this busy page of A4, and for a whole year? Each resolution requires breaking down into particles and I am not overly fond of particles being a woman who likes the finished work of art, the job done overnight. But there is a chasm, nay, a continent, in between me writing down my determinations and them inhabiting my mind, body and soul. When it thinks me, I can see that what I want is instant conversion to this new faith in myself, in life, in the world. I don’t want to do the work at all, even knowing that I must.

Becoming who I aspire to become is going to take me into the fog of inner change. I cannot see who I will be, nor where I should go. I cannot see anything at all and the fog is cold and damp and is making my eyeballs soggy. I cannot even see the path ahead. Who wants this? It would be so much easier to turn around and to head for home again, back to what I was but didn’t like much, to where the simple routine was both simple and lonely, where I can check my mobile for tweets and posts on other people’s dinners, children and fired-up grannies. But if I want to change, as I do, if I want to elevate myself from the ditherment and loneliness, that lack of hope and faith, of self-belief, then I must not turn around. Instead I must look at that flipping sheet of A4 and deconstruct each aspiration into those irritating particles. Although it seems a bit unfair that the year has to begin with a January when a May would be so much more pleasant, it might mean that it is I, myself, who needs to add the colour and texture so lacking in Nature. Thinking thus, I find I can respond to bright happy pictures that others post with a smile. I can see how they are also inside this January, have their own aspirations and change lists, are also walking through the soggy fog and yet still manage to find colour and texture to share. I can read the positive words scribed by those enterprising folk who used to do something quite different. From mechanic to coach. From HR to author. Well, why not? We need these people who have lifted themselves for our benefit and whose commitment to positivity and the promotion thereof gifts us a daily sprinkle of magic dust. Sometimes I mutter a Go Away with all your positive stuff. I am weak and weary, isolated, lonely and can see no end to any of it. But, I sneak back later for a peek and find that the daily attention I pay to my fog trek does lift me a little. On a regular basis, this ‘little’ can develop and grow. The fog can clear just enough for me to see my feet, feet I had forgotten were there, and it smiles me. That smile sends a message to my brain; my brain sends it on to my body and I straighten a bit; my body goes wild with it, pulsing it through my blood and all that messy stuff inside me and before I know what’s happening, a little song rolls into my mouth. I sing it into the fog.

On days when the fog is too much, I don’t, any longer, berate myself. I don’t say ‘See…..I knew you couldn’t keep this up, you big loser!’ I just stay home and cosy. The fog will wait for me, after all and if I really want to become who I can become then this trek is going to be worth the effort, an effort that oft feels pointless. Even on stay home and cosy days I hold on to the colour and texture, the positive and the elevating, and I silence the cynic for she is no longer relevant to me, to anyone, and particularly now when the whole world is in disarray and turmoil. Who I was, that woman afraid of everything and quite without the belief that she is worth any level of preservation, never mind development, is so last year.

Island Blog – Arrested

I remember one winter when the ice was added to nightly, and fixated itself on the job in hand, the taming of the flow of water, from fresh spring to confoundment, from easy movement to an arrest. It worked well for our pleasure. Kids, labradors and even parents scooted on feet or backsides right across a freshwater loch that could have sunk any one of us at a whim and the light was dipping, even then. The scuff of new frost shot up our trouser legs and under our jackets and fingernails. It hurt like hell but the laughter thawed the hurt, as did the shared laughter. It doesn’t happen this way now. Is it that the ice is not longer a jailor, or is it that we are so threaded with fear that we never scoot anywhere much, least across what might be an illusion?

Today I noticed how much more frozen were the grasses and the trees. Yesterday it was like the First Night of a show, a promise and full of hope for a duration of weeks but with no surety. Frost, tiptoed into her place, delicate and fragile, ever looking to her back. Rain can come any day here, without a warning. Rain flips the clouds, warms them like a mother with intent until they cannot but spill their load over our land. She has done this for decades, centuries, arresting us, because when rain comes it never comes for a moment of delight and refreshment, but for days and weeks, like a jailor. We have to change our clothing, our boots, our timings. We play happy around her. We pretend we are fine with all this rain, sogging our land, our gardens and out woodpiles, but we feel the wet of her, the insulting slap of her minions against our face and the way they insinuate themselves into our bins and paths and up our skirts.

Now, we have Big Lockdown once more and the fear is back. Who, what, when, shall we, should we…..? All of that. The weather matters. In this frostdown, we can play like kids scooting across frozen freshwater lochs without fear; we can remind ourselves of past times when this threat lay not over our heads and we had no jailor. But life goes on and we know what we know now and it is not as it was. Lambing comes, markets must open, growers must grow or we will not find any grab on to the circle of life we know and understand. Our voices are quiet now. Muffled, unsure. Mine too. The constants in which we trusted are floating away. When I see, as I did this day, a fallen tree breaking a fence, I got it. I thought, nothing is permanent and this is exactly what we don’t want to see. I study it. It is a deer fence. Quite pointless in this place. Deer have no boundaries. Then I looked at the fallen tree, an ancient larch, possibly over 100 years old. Timely old soul. You just decided you had had enough. Respect. Sorry about the fence but it is far from pretty and old and possibly rotting.

Walking today, I could see that the delicate fingers of frost and ice had become determined. The grasses were thicker with frost, their stem bodies more assertive, catching more sun rainbows. The tablecloths of open space showed me milieu and yet I knew there were was a rebel of individuals standing there in triumph against Winter’s rages. And yet we concede to what we know and trust. And so I did. and so I understand. We cannot fight this jailor, this arresting, but as we walk through our days, confounded, altered, scared and angry, we can still remember who we were before and how we might grow beyond this prison. ice

I know. I know. Get lost with all positive talk. I agree. But, as I scratch my head and look at my wrinkles, I still think there is a light and bright out there and it just might be be up to those of us who can still, albeit mentally, scoot across a loch in the dying light, just once, just for now.