Island Blog – Fear+Courage=Brave

I remember ordering a dress online and when it arrived and was miles away from wonderful on me and in itself, poor material, wrong swing or no swing at all, duller than the image I ‘bought’ promised, I realised with a sink and a rise that what I was really buying was the young, fit, beautiful woman who modelled it. Hey and Ho. Life lessons that really teach us are rarely pleasant like ice cream. They are more like constipation medicine, good for you but utterly vile in the taking in. And Life doesn’t change her style. No, indeed. You begin to realise that which you have fought against for longtime is never going to be a perfect sunshine sail across an expanse of gentle water with just the right breeze to luff and exhilarate, beneath a cloudless sky and with a nice landing ahead, accessible, safe, easy and without challenge from other yachties. It does happen but never expect it. Such is Life. She is always feisty, dammit.

Anyways, this covid/bereavement thingy has certainly sucked out my self-confidence which was never strong to be honest. The expanse of time between what I took for ordinary to now when nothing will ever be ordinary again, is huge. I can’t even see the other side of it as I come into land, into a new land, one with hand sanitisers at every docking point and the whole world hidden behind masks. Even the thought of driving the switchback into the harbour town scares me. I must not, I must, I have to, I am in chains. The skipping across the little harbour road into the arms of a friend is no longer okay. The touch of a friend, no. And, as the island opens up again to visitors, albeit monitored and controlled the volte face of it is very alarming. I know we need their cash but all of us have loved the year of just us. The wildlife has benefited, the flowers too, the roads are in better condition, but the businesses have really struggled to stay afloat and, sadly, some will drown. I don’t like the thought of that, these brave islanders who came in better times, worked to establish something vital and beckoning and then who had to shut down, and for a long long time, maybe too long time.

Today I walked with a good friend. I told her, when she told me her possible plan for our walk (way further than I have gone for decades) that it scared me, that I might not want to go that far. Was it memories? After all, I had walked, driven on a tractor, a quad, that far out into the Atlantic so many times without a single dither. Maybe. I don’t have a handle on an answer to that. But it queried me and I thought about it. Maybe, as older folk, or as a folk with a trauma on their shoulders, we stick to the small world we have created for protection. Over time, this small world begins to challenge our breath, our breathing, as if we had pulled a polythene bag over our own head. Maybe. It makes sense. I haven’t been anywhere for well over a year and even before that, whilst caring, I pulled in my world like a comfort blanket, for safety and also in order to feel the edges of it, to be in some sort of control, when the daily demands threatened to take me over. But now things want to change, so they tell me. I am fearful but, somehow, equipped with the courage to brave up. It sounds ridiculous that I feared walking over land I know as well as I know my own body, land that is soaked with over 43 years of memories, land with which I bonded at a physical, emotional and spiritual level for a pivotal catch of my life, above which my children grew into feral crazy beauties, where decisions were made, changed, adapted and developed hour after hour, day after day, season after season.

But, the truth is, I have allowed my comfort world to smallen and now it is time to brave up. Although this, this walk, this day with this good friend was just a baby step, I loved it. I felt no anxiety, no fear. I knew as I always know with her that I am safe. She is feisty as hell but so kind and so emotionally wise. I already knew this but I can still doubt myself listening instead to the rubbish inside my head, the judge talk, the fear. I am learning to notice and to control my thoughts. It will probably be a slow process so I will be required to live a lot longer.

That’s ok with me. I am braving up, no weapons, no defence, just trust, good boots and caution on buying online frocks.

Island Blog – Liftlight, Cobwebs and IT

Dawn awakens me with birdsong and light. I know it is dawn because I know what it is like to wake to the moon pushing her way through the peripheries of my blackout curtains. She, the moon, presents a greenish light, a weird eerie one that has me turning over with a sigh. I love the moon but there is a time and a place for moon loving. Dawn thrusts like an opportunity, an hurrah, and it is loaded with birdsong. They are waiting for me, oh so patiently, them birds, perching on the fence, flitting through the shrubs and little trees, so very patient. They don’t mind if I am late. They just keep flitting and perching and watching me. When I go away, no, when I once went away, when going away was just something anyone could do without fear, sanitiser or a mask, I harboured manifold guilt about the birds. They would never get fed if I was not present as the feeder. What would happen? Would they all leave for ever, die, show such grief at my absence that the whole familial line would fail? Well….no. The birds are fine, resourceful and forever on line with their instinct, resourcefulness and strength. T’is only I who think I am IT. IT for my husband, my kids, my in-laws, my mum, my dad, the birds. My IT-ness has always been who I am and I really don’t know how to lay that woman down. Being IT for myself feels deeply weird. I suspect I am not alone in this deep weirdness.

I watch a sea eagle slide through the blue. It looks like play to me, and maybe it is, although I doubt it. When all you have to think about is your next meal, your eyes will always be sharp and focussed. It is huge, even from way down here, down on this little track with the sun on my face and the stones beneath my feet. I, unlike that big bird, am held in place by gravity although I do remember flying once inside a dream. I just knew I could fly when I needed to and I did need to because my IT-ness feathered me up. The dream is still clear in my memory. I was walking in a wasteland, the afterland of apocalypse, the landscape grey and dead. No flowers, birds, animals, no life at all. Just me. The dot of colour in a monochrome world. I came to a ruined tower, its face missing, just one tall wall of stone remaining. A man, a monochrome man stood inside what was once the belly of the tower. He wore formal dress like a butler. His face was grey, he was grey, his nose long as a beak, his eyes ebony marbles. You won’t save them, he said. I followed his eyesl. I could see the sky, sunless, offering nothing, and then I found my children, all five of them hung from coat hangers at various points against the stones. They weren’t hurt, just hanging there. Defiance rose in me. Oh, I will, I whispered, my voice croaky, full of dust, and, I lifted off the ground, flying easily up to unhook each one of them, as if I had always known that I could. I felt no surprise, just determination and the certainty that I was the IT who could bring them to safety. Then I awoke.

Taking a little detour, I wander deeper into the wood. Cobwebs catch at my face like tiny tickles. I laugh out loud as I try, and fail, to pull them off my face. It thinks me. These cobwebs are completely invisible, skinny lines of spider silk that stretch across an impossible distance, between two ancient pines. Do you jump across, I ask, or do you start on one trunk, run back down it, cross the space in between and then scoot up the other? Did I just destroy a morning’s hard work? The cobwebs back home come to mind, those black clusters of dust motes and other floaty things that froth my corners and hang about my paintings, moving in response to me as I walk through the house. Mostly I don’t notice them, until I do, at which point I grab my soft cobweb catcher because now I see them everywhere. I don’t want to upset the spiders though. We need spiders. Listen, I tell one female huntsman as she hangs all legs and attitude, with her cocoon of babies held firmly in her jaws, you are welcome here but your housekeeping skills are not good enough. We need to have a word about it. She says nothing, although I suspect her eyes are rolling. I am not so good at housekeeping skills myself, although I was, once, when I was IT for others, for those with whom I shared my home. Since all have now left me, I am less interested in such mundane matters. Since lockdown nobody will see anyway. I could walk about stark naked for all anyone would know. I could do anything at all because I am not IT anymore. Then I remonstrate with myself. Yes you are. You are IT, now, for yourself. I wait for the thrill of this to lift me. Hmmm. This is my first summer alone. Ever. And it is going to be a daring bold adventure once I relocate my wings, my lift light, my IT.

Island Blog – Wolf Whistle

Why this? Wolves, as far as I know, do not whistle. But I may await a corrective.

Today my walk took me through and beneath the same trees. But all things are different from yesterday. For starters I watch two obvious tourists walk by my garden. Obvious because their kit tells me all. Not one islander wears what they are wearing. It speaks to me to me of change and hope and what lycra can do for any of us. Lycra has a voice. It says change. It says I don’t mind how ridiculous I look in this tight-fitting lightweight kit. I, yes I, am courageous enough to put it one despite my reflective mirror. I. Am. Going. Out. I smile. Good for you I say from behind my window. I won’t snigger. I was the sniggered at too often in my life to think it is ever okay to do the snigger thing. Instead I see courage.

Wood Sorrel, anemones, violets, celandines, primroses pepper the sunlit banks. I notice where they have decided to be born. How extraordinarily intelligent. They know the sun shift, after all. The blackthorn, a Go Away tree is flooded with pinkly white blossom, promising sloes for winter gin. I stop to say hallo. I remember you, you Go Away tree, when you were big and wide, commanding sky and light, until someone decided to strop you. But, see, you didn’t give up. Courage again. The Hornbeam is leafing up, that sassy dancer who can grow just about anywhere, slanting her body like a zig-zag in order to get what she needs. Her cluster of emerald leaves, like bunched fists, are growing in confidence. Willows buzz with bumble bees, the furry catkin buds alive with music. It stops me and I stop to gaze up at the fat furry bodies of Buff Tailed, Gypsy Cuckoo, White Tail, Garden, Moss Carder and Red Tailed bumble bees. I never knew there were so many of these solitary nesters. Courage, but only to me. Not to them. Normal to them.

Around the coastline I see confusion in the sea. Ah, the twist of tidal shift for there is little wind to excite anyone, least of all the puckering wavelets. A chill swifts its way towards me, me in my summer frock. I brace it. Welcome, I say. I was a bit warm to be honest, with all this pacing in my not lycra. I notice the beech trees, those silver solid strong fathers of the wood. They stand there, saying nothing, much like a husband, but I can’t just slide by without stopping. I see the wounds of time, the catch of storms past, the limbs lost, the steadfastness of this strong trunk of life. So much support of life. Birds nesting, birds landing for a rest, shade, insects. Father Protector. I get it. Down into the going back. The going back is the home leg I guess. It is where the loop bends like a hairpin and points the walker back to where he or she began. I know it so well. An open expanse of grass, now coming, coming with brave green voice into a new space. I nod my respects to Lord and Lady Larch, who seem without marital issue today. He is broken limbed but still the old style husband and she, she, who has always known herself and her situation, flows her limbs in a confident bold. She is remarkable, hundreds old and still on the dance floor. I guess he, Lord Larch is okay with it now as he never was when she was a young catch. How peaceful it feels around them now.

Sundance dapples the track as I wander home. In the last sycamore drift, at the ending of my walk in this ever changing connection with me and nature, I hear a wolf whistle. I know a wolf whistle. I have had a few in my time. I stop, turn to see who could be there. I see nobody. Ok, I say to the track behind me, what is this? The track says nothing. I wait. What I am thinking is this. At 68 a wolf whistle is really quite exciting. I want to locate this wolf whistler. Nothing. I begin to turn, remembering what fun it was at 16 to get one as I walked by a building site. Then I hear it again and I laugh at myself. The music created by nature. The wind lifting one limb of a tree against the other. Clearly I heard what I wanted to hear.

Island Blog – In Love

Today is sunshine. That may not be a grammatically correct sentence. Frost this morning, early doors, then the sky turned raspberry, sharing itself with the massive flanks of the Ben, still puckered with snow pimples. I watched the raspberry move as the sun gained momentum and gravitas, highlighting hills, hillocks, swathes of green which argued a bit, turning the pink a bit vomity. And then suddenly, it was light. Let there be. And there was. When you are up against that amount of determined power, even the strongest raspberry in you will submit and defer.

I did the usual morning thingies. Wash, dress (frocks today) eat, sweep, hang out washing, la la tiddleypom. Then I sat to sew another playmat for a baby due in September. We don’t know, yet, if boy or girl so I decide a mixture of pink, blue, green and elephants. Cannot go wrong with elephants. I listen to another audio book. Audible tell me, with an excitement I just don’t get that I am a Silver winner for all my listenings. There is a click icon that says (seriously?) Do you want to brag? Well, no. Who cares how many audio books I listen to anyway? And I am so not into the separateness game, like I am better than you, more silver than you. Sometimes I wonder what we are teaching ourselves, never mind our kids.

Later, I walk. Now we come to it. Now we come to where I feel most at home, most in touch with the otherness of life, with the here of it, the now of it, the endlessness of it. For all I am this small human walker on narrow tracks in wild places that have a mystic I can barely understand, let alone explain, I have come home. I am in love with the wild places, the wilder the better, although I do draw a line and this is my line – walking at dusk in a game reserve when the night creatures are waking. But that’s it. No other line. Because of my many trips to wild Africa I confess that I still startle at a sound in the homewoods, especially as they leaf up and close ranks on me. I feel eyes on me, even if those eyes are probably Robin, Thrush or Jay. I remember with my body, that sharp of fear, that stopping of my heart, that sudden rush of adrenaline and even though I have not been able to go to my beloved second home for some time, I have not forgot.

Silver buds sharp the blue, tiny leaves twisting into green. Larch male buds swagger. Oh hallo, I roll my eyes. Men, showoff, colour……I know you, whilst the female buds politely open almost without a whisper and certainly no show. But they know each other and it works. My favourite tree, the Hornbeam (dancer) is green-tastic. It happened overnight, as it oftentimes does, this greening up thing. Oh! I am stopped in my tracks for she is beautiful. Compromised in her search for light, she has proven dynamic and feisty. Where one outstretched limb encountered opposition from someone bigger and bolder, she shifted, like a dancer who meets someone in her way, but is determined to win her bit of floor. As a result, she looks like she could work herself around any border control and with such confidence. I stand for a while to admire her and I know she likes it because she looks right back. We know each other. We have been friends a while and it is so very wonderful to see her come back to life again, whereas I had to keep living the damn thing right through a very cold winter. I don’t hold this against her. She knows that.

I see the banksy flowers, the little ones, wood sorrel, wild primrose, violets and nod a smile, if, indeed you can nod a smile. Plucky little warriors, they grow through drystone walls, on hummocks and moss banks, even on the trackgrass, just a fist of it and so vulnerable to feetstomp but they grabbed the chance and are holding on to make it beautiful. It thinks me of women, for that is what we do. We find ourselves where we find ourselves and we cannot not (is that 3 negatives? My dad will be twirling) make a place beautiful, make ourselves beautiful. I have seen it in a thousand women and, thankfully, I have seen this ‘cannot not’ being celebrated by many many men. The sun is shifting. A stand tree comes into full face. Dead, longtime, white, all sung out but not nobody there. The woodpecker holes tell me plenty, the white body is smooth to the touch and warm. Hallo you, I say and turn my eyes up to the top. It’s miles away. I bring them down, my eyes, that is. How do you keep standing? I ask. Actually, this question has been in my mouth for a while on the sighting of a ‘dead’ tree. It is quiet for a while, and I know this game. Some trees answer quick. It wants me to work it out for myself. I step back. The Poppy dog is quizzed, looking at me, at the tree, at me, forward, backward. And then it comes. The Otherness. On the outside, the obvious and what-you-see-side is, yes, dead. But the root of me, my spirit, is still here, will always be.

I’m in love with that too.

Island Blog – The Still People

I walk today, the same route, the ever-changing route, the route that is a right fidget. It never settles, even over a mere 24 hours. The story of this landscape can never, could never be captured in a photograph, a still, for it is never thus. Every leaf changes, every blade of grass. Blue beetles march the track one day and are gone the next. Moss rises emerald and fades dry the next. Water courses overflow, lifting the water plants high enough to drown and then, the next day lower them gently back into the mud. Even natural springs (my absolute passion) falter if rain is cut off for days. I call them sassy. Yesterday we were a torrent. Today we trickle. it just shows how adaptable we are, don’t you think, you moving person? And the otter doesn’t mind, being as flexible as we. Yes, I acknowledge. I agree. It thinks me.

At this point, and at many other points, I am the moving person. I walk through the trees, wander deep into the woods to follow the tracks of night deer, as they stand still. Watching me. I know they are, just as I knew when I passed by a group of humans who drop silent. You just know they are watching your ass and it isn’t always comfortable knowing suchlike. I don’t feel the same way about the trees. They are older, kinder, wiser after all. Even as they are the still people and cannot walk with me, they do inside my mind. This huge beech tree, this spindly sycamore with no room to spread her arms, this alder, this willow. I notice and pause to connect with a fallen larch. You were so rooted and for so long my friend and then you fell. Did you decide that for yourself? I see others who are coming to their end of days with their bark peeling, or that suffocation of ivy determined on strangulation grasping at their bodies, and I wonder when they will simply and perfectly and politely decide to lay down their burden of care. All that growing, that big fight for light, those nesting birds and the endless production of buds and nuts and cones as food for those who, in turn, perpetuate the very you-ness of a tree. This fallen pine is still breathing. Something of the roots remain buried deep inside the nourishing soil, still offering food to flight life, insect life and to creature sanctuary. Wild honeysuckle snakes across the limbs, the flowers not yet beckoning me to a sudden catch of fragrance. Brambles entwine the trunk, snaking like a hug, the promise of blackberries for the autumn birds. I move on.

There are dead trees, stand-ups, arrested in flight. They stopped. Just like that, or so I think. But I know enough to know that this old tree that now looks like a home for a Hobbit, knew fine it was dying. I just didn’t notice. The woodpeckered holes tell me that this old, dead, tree is still offering life, even in death. The mosses that have grown from ground to about breast height, agree with me. Fingering the moss I can see macro-life. Tiny creatures that need this moss on this dead tree in order to survive their own little species. A bumble bee comes in. I hear it and know it is coming to check on me. After all, I am in the natural world now and a visitor. It rounds me once, twice, thrice, nearing at every swoop. I pause, stop my feet. Hallo, I say, Friend. And it is gone. It smalls me. I see how much of nothing I am in this world and how, if I was a bumble bee, I would so need to check out this stomper yomper who has just invaded my space.

On the return flank of this wander I stop beneath an almost fairy circle of beeches. They are hundreds of years old and, so the story goes, planted as a hedge. To be honest, this makes little sense to me, but wait. I am in my this century thinking that every poor planted soul will be trained and clipped and felled and carved into shapes. Back then this would never have been in anybody’s mind. It is, I believe, a sickness. We have forgotten how important natural nature is to our own future. These trees are millions high now, fat bellied and with outlimbs that defy gravity. Crisp cool barked and solid with deeply strong roots, these big boys are, quite simply, magnificent. I see them daily. I say hallo but they, I notice, are a bit distant, not like the chatty hazels, the moody silver birch dancers, the scholarly alders. The willows too, are friendly. But these beeches hold something, a wisdom. They have seen generations pass this way. They have watched fire and flood, death and life, beginnings and endings. They are silent.

I respect that.

Island Blog – No Matter the Sky

The sky, umber grey, day long, a greasy cloud cover like soapy water on old chip fat. Not cold, though, not as it has been which tells me that Siberia has recalled the wind and I am thankful. It is high flipping time the grass stopped feeling sorry for itself and got on with providing the food these sheepish mothers need for their babes. Daily I check the seedlings I put out too early, reminding me that my exuberance, once again, blinded me to the truth. Why did I, why do I, year in year out, think that early April sunshine indicates a first night in mind, when it is always just an endless process of dress rehearsals? Well, I just do. A long winter, covid restrictions, loss and loneliness together with a natural human craving for other human contact, all drives my sensible mind out of the park. I think we all know what I mean.

It thinks me deeper. I know I have always been what you might call a party girl, although the girl is not a girl anymore on the outside of me. I can recall so many times when skies within or without were a relentless umber grey and I took it upon myself to be the colour. Now, for the artist in you, you will know how one single dot of red or vibrant blue in a canvas of umber grey lifts the whole thing into something quite wonderful. You don’t need much. In fact much will just make mud or confusion, but that little dot, that tiny eye-drawing spot of colour lifts the watcher into a world that the umber grey alone could never do. Before it just looked like a wall of nothing much with nothing to draw the eye, nothing to ignite, excite, delight. But with this tiny suggestion of the Other, our imaginations can take off like rockets into space. Banksy gets this, bigtime. His images of ‘almost nothing’ lift and elevate not just his work but anyone who looks in. There is a something, a wotwot, a subtle shift of perspective and an invitation to dance.

Anyway that was me, is me. I don’t bring this dot of colour because I have studied dots of colour on the umber greyness of most people’s lives. I don’t do it because I want to be seen as the dot of colour. That could not be further from the truth. I do because I can’t not do it. It is, I believe, a gift. If I see someone down or sad or lost or afraid, my heart actually hurts. I want to do something to make them smile, anything, everything. Of course, in our extremely broken world with all its dangers and threats, I cannot act as I might want to. I am not a fool and I have the same fears as everyone does. So I think on this. If I believe I have a gift to lift some other human being, no matter if they smell awful or I don’t like them or if they appear to be ‘bad’ people, then what do I do with this gift that will not let go of me, given the aforementioned? I can hide away, run away, like most of us do, avoiding the people who upset us, make us feel vulnerable, threaten us, or I can dig deep to find a way where this gift of mine can be of use to another human’s suffering. I am never going to be a media heroine. I would so loathe that. But this drive is strong and my job, as I see it, is to accept it and to wait for direction. That is not easy. The desire to fix the world is lively as a dancer in me but I am just me, small and here on an island and growing older.

That’s ok, says my inner guru. Nae worries, lass. Just keep digging, keep researching, keep peaceful and trust. It may seem like a big ask but I find I am pretty okay with it. In this more peaceful time of my life, with himself at rest and me alone now, I have plenty of time to let my thoughts emerge to fly like butterflies from a cocoon, wings wet, vulnerable on a branch, inviting sunshine and light for the first lift into sky, umber grey or blue. No matter the sky colour.

Island Blog – Mindful and Busy

Today I was very busy being mindful. The Buddhist in you might be rolling your eyes at that. Busy and mindful don’t tend to go together, after all. Perhaps, if I break the day up into bits and bobs I can divide that sentence up. I was busy. I collect my hoover boyfriend, Henry, for the second day in a row. I can see he’s startled but chuffed too. How come, he asks, as I wheel him into the light of the sitting room? You smell better, I reply. The last time we met, before the day before thing, I had excoriated him. I removed his internal organs and emptied the contents of his stomach into the wheechie bin. ‘Wheechie’ because capricious winds come in the night and tapselteerie my bins all over the place without, it appears to me, a modicum of guilt, no apology and no resurrection. Very poor manners. Anyway, once completed and with a new stomach liner in place, I dropped many drops of spike lavender essential oil into the filter. This is how Henry smells so much better now. We work together, him with his powerful suck and me being busy around corners and underneath things that have an underneath until the downstairs shines like new.

Next I sit to sew more patches for my 16th wonky chops baby playmat. A boy this time. I select my blues and greens, my sea colours, flowers (boys need flowers), dinosaurs and Peter Rabbits, and set to. Listening to Pema Chodron on audio book as she guides me through my own betterment, I work for the rest of the morning. Then I whizz up the left over wild garlic leaves and make a gloriously green garlic butter, one that could knock a bull elephant back at least half a mile. Sausaged up in baking parchment it now sits fragrantly in my fridge, cooling its pants. I don’t mind my fridge smelling of garlic. In fact, I could eat garlic at breakfast and now, thanks to all these lockdowns and those masks, I can, without a single botherment over how my breath might be received. I lug my basket of washing up to the hilly line and fight with the big cotton bedding as it fights me back. I am almost felled by a blue striped double duvet cover as the capricious wheeching wind punches at us just I tippytoe the material over the yellow plastic wire. I win, naturally, although it is hardly a dignified process. I have a word with the wind, of course I do. Make your mind up! I snap. Are you coming from here, or there? One or the other would be respectful. The wind just chuckles, scoots off into the safety of the pines. That’s the busy bit over.

I grab garlic for lunch and a cup of earl grey, fragrant as I imagine a Japanese garden to be, even if the tea doesn’t come from Japan. (or does it?). Then I take myself upstairs to my bed, redressed now in a rather smart off white and settle to read for an hour. I doze and am awoken by the doglet who wants her walk. This is the mindful bit. As I go through my little garden gate, I consciously let go of all my busy thoughts. That lovely sense of space and clarity lasts for about ten paces, as a rule, so I have to keep pausing and clearing (busy?). I suspect I am a babe in the work of mindfulness but I have no plans to quit trying. Birds slide the sky, sparrow hawk, buzzard, sea eagle with their usual followers, hecklers, the go-away-ers, brave birds these finches, tits and other small feathered warriors. They don’t like the big guys. I stop and watch the sky action. Much better than any movie. Walking on I see the horse chestnut has leaved up since yesterday, its open palms lifted, drinking in the sun and buffeted by that flipping wind. Long grasses from last year tipple and shiver, the sun backlighting them corn gold. Lord Larch is in full shout now despite his broken body. He is tall as a giant and the emerald of his needles shock a gasp against the cerulean sky. Lady Larch, who is way more together than he is but being in an old style marriage has never ever bloomed before him, even as she could. Her limbs grace as a dancer, and I want her to turn, to show me the full and glorious swing of her fulsome skirtage. She is magnificent, but am careful to big him up first, the crusty old fellow, because, as I know only too well, if he thinks she is more admired than he, she will get it in the neck once me and the doglet have moved on.

Primroses stud the woodland banks like tiny jewels, violets too and the star moss is really showing off like a daylight constellation. I hear geese erupting somewhere down on the shore, then quietening again. Curlew, oystercatcher, a robin that flits along with me but says not a word. Bumble bees turn a willow tree into a performance. Street musicians. They don’t bother with me as I stand beneath the branches and stare up at their busy bottoms. I close my eyes, let the hum become all I can hear or want to hear. Moving further along the track, now latticed with tree limb shadows, a moving mosaic beneath my feet, I hear the wind rifling through the massive old pines, sounding them like an ocean. In my ears too, this wind creates me an ocean and there I am, on a rocky beach with my spirit animal, my white wolf, my Luna. We sit on a big flat rock and just be. Just be. The waves, like mornings, like seasons, like day and night, keep on coming. A regular percussion, reassuring, calming. To know in all of this impermanence, the impermanence of a human life, there are things that are permanent. For now, anyway.

Heading back home, the track changes. This is a drive-through track and thus topped with grey shards of road stones, unreal, not island. But I am glad of the ground beneath my feet even as I prefer the natural pulse of a ground that knows itself, that knows it is home. I walk beneath two unlikely archways, trees on either side whose branches have reached out to each other. An alder with a larch, a pine with a cedar. I pause beneath both and look up, say hallo and thank you for your beauty and your shade, a gift to me and the panting doglet. The blue is arresting, the sky fixed and looking right back at me. I know it. A plane going somewhere leaves a contrail and I watch the capricious wind pick it apart, dissolve it. The sun is warm on my face and I breathe in its warmth, mindfully. It has been a very long winter.

Island Blog – Wild Pesto

Today began a tad early. It was still dark, so I guessed about 3 am. I am good at guessing time. Himself taught me how to read the sun, his position in the sky and then to trust what came into my head. However, 3 am is sunless, but I seem to have learned the darkness too. I don’t have nightmares anymore so waking is just waking. I pad downstairs for a cup of herbal tea. I check to see that I did remember to bring the doglet in last night. I do that often, having once, only once, left a before dog out all night. It was summer, I remind myself soothingly. She was warm and curled up when I found her on one of the soft cushions of a sun chair, but still…….the memory has not left me unshattered, the image of her sweet face a morning welcome to one who deserved no such thing. Funny things, memories. Anyway, dog was in of course. I went back to bed with an audio book, most of which I didn’t hear as I did doze off, arising at five.

When I wake I am filled with beans. Always. No matter what my body feels, my Alice mind is like a drone already heading out into the wild, into the morning, the sunrise, the retreat of the darkness and I struggle to keep up but I know I want to follow. Each day is an adventure, even as I know that it will probably be just the same as its predecessor. However, this morning I have a mission in mind. I want to garner wild garlic to make wild pesto. It is my sister’s fault. She sent me a jar and I have never tasted anything so amazeballs. Well, maybe I have, but not in the world of pesto-ness. She is, after all, a professional chef.

I watch the goldfinches in my garden, six, 3 pairs, such beauty. Dave the dove and his mates, greenfinch, robins blackbirds #alwaysfighting, siskin feeding young, chaffinch, sparrows and they have to arrive in the plural, as this is how they live. The sparrow babble from the rhododendron bush nearby wonder me how it is able to remain rooted for all the household drama being played out within its depths. A starling. Well, that’s odd. There is never just the one. Maybe he/she fell out with the rest. I love the rainbow feather flash as he fidgets about on the bird table, his beak primed and ready to fell a small tree. I walk beneath a hovering honey buzzard, scanning, canting, holding the wind. It says nothing which tells me it is not this year’s young or it would be mewling like a lost kitten. Neighbour’s hens scritch and scratch the ground into early flatbeds and the rabbits dig burrows and the moles come in and spoil the whole plan with hummocks and interruptions.

The sky is wide and blue. Ice blue. I am on my way to gather wild garlic before it flowers. Into the fairy woods. On my way I cantilever towards my daughter-in-law’s house with a gathering in my arms for my grand-daughters. They love the fairy woods. Together we have discovered many fairy homes and left acorns and leaves and a flower head as a respectful gift. They are caught, as I was, in the wonder of fairies and elves and their parents encourage such adaptive thinking. But, they have a play date with friends, so not today. I head off alone, me and the doglet and my basket deep into the wild woods, sun dapples guiding us in. The garlic is young, holding back. We had frost, you may have noticed, they tell me, all straight-backed and not very tall. I wasn’t judging, I reply. I imagine frost is a big hazard. Ah, they tell me, their voices all coming at once, we can survive it but for the future of the species we need to be cautious. I get that, I say, and the leaves settle. The doglet cavorts through the woods without me, ahead of me but always, and I am sure of this, knowing exactly where I am. I can walk off anytime without her but within seconds she is beside me. I always see you, she says through those velvety brown eyes. Well, thank the holy crunch for that my girl as I am depending on you to be the eyes. We trot away from the wild, the garlic (I did ask if it is ok to pick) the old hazels, the witch trees, the honeysuckle, the primroses that flank like a battalion bank of golden strength, the violets and the celandine’s buttery faces that follow the sun. We emerge onto the grassland. A horse has been here. I see the hoof prints. A quad too, I think, or are these the tracks of Himself’s quad from last summer, when the bracken had dropped and he hated it enough to drive over it again and again? I have no answer. I have no answer for a zillion questions now.

But I do have wild pesto.

Island Blog – To Watch a Butterfly

I am learning, through the days, to pause and have cause for thought, for notice. It does not come easy. My old ma always berated me for being too fast, as did my mother in law. I get them now. My own daughters-in-law times 4 #luckyme all flow like snakes, rivers, moonbeams as I sit at the table and wonder what just happened. So, when I wander, and that’s the way I do things now, through my morning, my afternoon, my walks, I fight this fury about being suddenly slow. Or slower. It crept up on me. I am less certain of my feet and where they land. I have the same flipping feet so it does bug me as I move towards an upcline or a downcline and hesitate. This hesitate thing also bugs me. I did so not invite it in. However, ageing is ageing and nobody likes it. The key, I tell myself, being overly interested in keys, is not to fight it; to challenge but not to fight. That never works, I recall telling my sons as they encountered bullies at school. The key is, I told them, wisely, and far away from their personal engagement in the pain of what they were going through, is not to fight. This makes you the wise one and it also frees you. If you don’t pay attention to this big threat then it will lose interest in you. Now I have to deploy all those wise words in order to face down myself. Hmmmmm.

I watch my hands as I sew, feel the ache in my sewing thumb. I don’t like it. I try to unscrew the lid of a jar and I can move it not. I don’t like that either. Lifting something heavy oofs me. Ditto. Ok, so what, I say to myself as I check the rainbow sunlight scorching my inner carpet? Actually I resent the so-what-ness in me. I know, I know, it, she, is a goodly voice, a sounding bell, a call to arms but I could just wish her gone for a week or two. Sometimes, in my past, I have actually done that, gone away, to Treshnish, to a remote cottage in the wild thinking to avoid her, that ‘hallo, face up’ person inside me; with amazing views, long wild walks, no routine pressure, my best friend beside me. It worked for the time we were there. In fairyland. But, as I wrote in my song, I always have to come home again. It is me going home to me. Dammit. There is no escape, people and it really disses me off.

Right so. I walk today. Although the grass is holding fist in refusal, the higher buds are more trusting. The leaves think me of emeralds, so precious are they. Against the blue of this cold sunshine sky, they marvel. The sun, I tell them, is doing his best but he is fighting for the dominance he will hold once Siberia goes back to Siberia. White pepper coloured buds ping out from later trees, the shy ones. The willows are keen, a catkin cloud, fussing with bumble bees gathering pollen and, hopefully, nectar. It is cold for these wee creatures. Cold and a half. Lambs don’t spring. they just bump against their mama’s milk bags and how wise they are. The sunshine is short lived, life giving, but retreating to the long hold of Jack Frost and his icy fingers.

On my return, I follow a butterfly, a peacock. Rust red, blue eyes, white flutter. She sucks on my dandelions. From one, to the next. Food, I think. Survival. My dandelions will live on. No strimming for me. Precious food in a culture of tidy gardens, pulling out essential cover, brambles, nettles, weeds. All such a mistake.

All I want to do is to watch a butterfly.

Island Blog – Without and Within a Human Heart

There are swirls of good advice-ness spinning around me like birds. You should #getoutmore. You should #interractwithotherhumans. And so on etcetera etcetera. Hmmm. Should is not a word I enjoy listening to. It sounds like two things. One, that I am not ‘shoulding’ as I should. Two that this is a judgement on my Now. Just to be clear, I am now speaking directly to anyone who is ‘supposedly’ hiding from ‘life’. Please excuse the overuse of hyphens,commas and speech thingies. I am feeling strong about this, wobbling on my wee rock in a big ocean of shoulds.

I walked today. Well, who could resist? The sunshine shined and. the ground warmed and the invitation was as hard to resist as the ones I recall as a turbulent teenager faced with a Saturday night watching Dixon of Dock Green with my parents. So, me and wee terrier set off into nature. We had spent the morning, she and I dithering about bird song and bird recognition. What is this bird? I ask her. She blanks and turns a circle or two before going back to sleep. I watch a huge white bird I don’t recognize pulling across the sea-loch, calling something not in my musical dictionary. I hear little birdsong I don’t recognise. Have I moved continents? I know my birdsong. I know the changes, the Spring songs, the calling songs for young, the mating songs. I know them. But, I am confounded. I decide it is all to do with the state of the world and, in small part, it reassures me. ish.

It thinks me. We change. All of us. The bird kingdom according to what works at specific times. Animals too, I guess. But we humans respond differently to a plate shift. Not only do we have to find a new way, or lose ourselves, but also this plate shift invites us to inventiveness. We can use this thing, this crash, this loss. Again I am talking to anyone who just wants to hide right now because the world is way too full of shoulds and oughts. Hallo.

The buds are budding. I look up and marvel at the pearl glitter of their outer cases. I see the emerald in the larch pines, just soft babies now and soon to be needle sharp. It thinks me of women. We start soft and turn needle sharp. Or, is that just me? I see an egret, a pair of yellow wagtails, robins that bounce with me the whole way, from branch to branch, saying not one word. I see mallards, herons, buzzards, geese. In my garden, siskin feeding their young, goldfinch, greenfinch, sparrow, blackbird, chaffinch, collard dove, starling.

Life goes on, indeed. But we are not animals or birds. A human heart needs to know itself and to challenge, without and within.