Island Blog – The Gift of Days

Sometimes we can see days as days, as days, as daze. Like numbers, like names of the week, like a length of hours and minutes and even seconds, although most of us don’t notice the seconds unless we have a Fitbit thingy or are timing a boiled egg. But we know days. I can ask someone How is, or was your day? They can answer many ways but the one that gets me is this one. Bad Day. I find myself confounded. I stand still on my feets but the upper half of me is fizzing like a firework. I have a zillion questions inside my mouth – there is barely room for my teeth. But, I keep quiet, initially. I say to myself, I know the place this person is in. I have been depressed enough to consider leaving this life by my own hand, and not just once. What I want to do is to bring in the sun for them but I know that if their whole day really was a bad one and I go and explode my can of coke-cheer all over them, all I will achieve is a sticky mess. However, if I feel the bridge between us is open to walkers, I might take a few steps. I might smile and ask, All of it? And, every time the body pulls back, a smile rises and they admit, after consideration, Well No, Not All of it, but if today was a gift, then this one was socks. (quote) We laugh and the air brightens around us, and I am always glad I stepped onto that bridge at such times.

We can all take a hit, often a random one and feel sad and unfizzy. That feeling, if allowed to fester, will morph into more of the same. However, telling ourselves to stop thinking that way, to focus on what we are thankful for, may not prove a strong enough combative and, besides, that advice is plain irritating. I think at such times that it is important, and nourishing, to sit with the ‘flat’ and to allow it to pass. It does take courage to do that, to adopt a willingness to accept that this feeling I am feeling is just a feeling, and no more. Sometimes, if the feeling is recurring, I will investigate. Why does this come to me at all, never mind oftentimes? I don’t ask anyone else. Just my own heart because as we all know, our own heart will never lie to us and will always give us the best advice whereas others, however true and loving will give an opinion. Not helpful.

I wake, as you already know, full of beans. I adore the dawning of a new gift-day. I am not sick, not dead. Therefore I am beansed up just because of the aforesaid. Childlike, I yank back the curtains to reveal a blowsy wildflower garden, already chirping with every little bird you can name. They await me, and when I do appear, heavy laden with various foodstuffs, they stay around me. I know to walk slowly and to softly warn them I am coming around the miniature maple fronds so as not to startle. Later I will wander up to see grandchildren and to hear about yesterday’s birthday party, that huge green-iced cake covered in horses and sporting candles as tall as Hobbits. Walking in the afternoon around the coastline, through the woods and across the expanses of wild grass, I will sing my thankfulness in nonsense words to a made-up melody. I have no idea what I am singing but the nonsense words come and in my mind I hold the warmth of my thankfulness, an image of all that I am thankful for. It is often quite a squash once I mindfully count up each tiny second of a thing. 360 seconds for each hour. That’s a load of thankings.

I believe in mind self-control. I do not believe any of us are victims of circumstance, no matter what that circumstance may be. If I am in a poorly lit, slow-moving, dank swamp of a place, only I can get me out. Oh yes, I can ask for help, in fact that’s essential for an uplift from a swamp, for someone else to recognise my struggle, but it is I who must decide I will not stay here any longer. Someone might say ‘I hate my job’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am miserable in my relationship’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am frustrated, bored, unfulfilled and broke’. You know what I say to that. Bit by bit, step by step (and it may take a long time to turn around) I know, as you do, that every day is precious and that I am important and valuable and that the gift of days can be snatched away at any moment. Knowing all these knowings, I have no alternative but to live to my fullest. And right now I can take the first step into my own future. Walking out, noticing, seeing and pausing to see more. Out is the key. Home I know, its walls and confines and the keeping in of it. That door, in hands reach, will lead to the Out of it. Sometimes Out is terrifying. But Out is the answer to too much In. And the In will cripple given half a chance because when we are fixated on the self, all we do is circle old beliefs, thoughts and memories. Just going for a walk can bring in something new, enough to shift the thinking plates, to make space for light to come in. I know it because whenever I find my knickers in a twist, I need to walk out, call someone to find our how they are, drive somewhere, anything that unstales the air.

‘Each day is a gift. Don’t send this one back unopened.’

Island Blog – Heroes Awake

Accordion to Radio Two, all of us who bother to wake up at all, are superheroes. Anyone who bakes chocolate cookies before 6 am, someone who runs 10k as Father Sun lifts into his sky or a woman who makes her own muesli, automatically grow wings to lift above the rest of us who achieved none of these. Even the morning greeting is directed to superheroes leaving me to feel somewhat wingless, and this feeling causes me thought.

In my memory, superheroes, or even just heroes, were those who achieved something remarkable such as leaping off a rocky bank and into a swirling river to save a life, or the old woman who took in homeless kids and asked for no benefits. People, in other words, who did what they did just because it was the right thing to do, expecting no publicity or recognition at all. Although I understand the need for a leader-ship to find a way to uplift us during the lockdowns with all their sadness, loneliness and fear, I do confess to hoping that we might now shift into a more realistic perspective on heroes. I think of the children. Is she a hero or a superhero just because she dressed herself this morning? Is he a superhero because he brought mum a cup of tea? Well, possibly yes if these achievements are long overdue, but only within the family. If children really believe it is that easy to superhero-up, then how on earth are they going to cope with the Big Bad World? Life is a truly wondrous gift but it is no easy one, not for anybody. I would like to see more intelligent teaching for our children, lessons on kindness and compassion, relationships, heart/mind balance and connectivity. Teaching them to notice, honour and develop their own skills and gifts instead of pitching them against each other. Showing them that each one of them is important and no less nor more important than her or him. This hero thing causes a non-hero to feel less than, every time, and that is a crushing feeling.

Perhaps my way of teaching all these things to my own children is not how it is out there in the BBW. Maybe it is just fine to hero yourself by totting up the number of likes you get on Facebook. More than her, less than him. I can’t see a happy outcome, can you? Nonetheless I know that the way I feel has no influence on the BBW, but it can perhaps have some among my own little grandchildren and maybe that is the best I can proffer from my not hero place. Life is tough enough without it being presented at a very early age to be a competition and then fed and nourished by social media, radio stations, online games and t.v. In my opinion.

I believe that our times of lockdown and isolation has given us the chance to rejig our thinking on life and if we are wise and visionary, thinking of our little ones who will face a very different world as they grow into adults, we will sew new seeds right now. We might find a voice instead of accepting what is powerfully offered by those wielding that power. Quietly, gently, we might think independently about our own life values. Banging on about how much better it was, apparently, in the olden days, helps nobody. Action is the key. I know that each of us is just one person and the powerful ones are, well, powerful, but we can do something within our own space and life to grow awareness, suggest a new way to see an old thing. We can support and encourage and this will make a difference however much we may doubt it. We can stop shrugging our shoulders and sighing resignedly.

My belief is that everything is just as it should be, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back when something troubles us. When that happens there is a call to action. What action? you might ask. All I say to that is ask yourself that question and wait for the answer. Once a heart is open, there is an invitation sent out and answer will always come. Covid has been a wake-up call. Are you awake?

Island Blog – Still

A word with more than one meaning. This morning I awoke about 5 and thought, rats, but only one, so, rat. I love the dawning mornings even if I am ready for lunch by 10. I came down for coffee, could smell it long before it was brewed, the good strong ground stuff and black as soot. I heard chaos in the skies, gulls in a frenzy. Hallo, I thought, there’s a big predator bothering these noisy sky-jackers. Then I saw them swinging and dinging around a faraway tree across the sea-loch, circling, rising, punching their white bodies into a space between the woodfull banks of the other side. I pulled on the bins, eyes still cloudy with unslept sleep and the lenses kept clouding from the heat of my eyeballs. Ffs, I muttered, wiping again and oh, again, with my wiper thingy until the glass and my eyeballs stopped posturing. Finally I catch them, two huge sea-eagles sitting quite the thing on a branch that already looked exhausted from the weight of their task. I saw the heads of the two, beaks moving langourously from one sky-jacker to the next with a barely visible shift of the neck muscles. Still. They were still in the face of the frenetic. I like that.

The sky was still, the clouds, not bothered, no wind. They sat like fat observers of my village, my home, me, no judgement, just watching. I felt the calm of both the clouds and the eagles move towards me, me in my jim-jams with soot black coffee on my tongue and in a way too early moment. It calmed me, smiled me. I said Thank-you for waking me at just the right moment to see the very perfect thing. I looked again and the eagles were gone. I missed their gone-ing, but here’s a thing – the sky-jackers kept pinging about the tree, squwalking and squealing like unwelcome thoughts. I have these too, I said to no-one there. I might be stilling myself, madly, only to find that, although no human interrupts this stilling process, my sky-jackers are within. Well, blow that.

Let’s take a look. I know I can’t ‘blow that’ because blowing that is what I have done for decades. Now I actually want to notice the interruptions when I am madly being still. I confront them. What do you want? I ask. The minute the voiced out loud question spills from my mouth, they begin to reply. They’re flapping like dingbats in a turmoil. What does this tell me? That they want me to listen to them. Ok, ok, I say, patting down the air around me. Form a queue. And they do. Ok, first…? I hear First. First reminds me that I had decided to check my household bills about 3 weeks ago and procrastinated because the thought of doing that is the ultimate yawn. I write it down and promise I will check that list this very day. Next? Next marches up with yet another thing I knew some while back demanded my attention and action. And so the list goes on. I actively respond to all of the demands. Then I still. I am like the not bothered clouds with no wind. And that is all it takes.

Cousin to this process of sorting out the immediate buzz flies or sky-jackers in my life is to respond to those who sing at me in a lower key. They come from way back. They are the Dodo, the Great Auk, The Tasmanian tiger of my life. They are, so called, extinct, but they are far from that. These other selves, our past selves, are still alive and kicking inside us and longing for love. I know this. My little girl and my teenage self were both angst ridden and for many years. And that is how it is and was. But because of studies into connectivity with our past, and with the exciting knowledge and support we now have access to, to heal our young hurts and breaks, there is the chance to be still again, to be at peace with the strong, bright and beautiful souls we have made of ourselves, no matter our beginnings. And we did, those of us who did the work. Just look at us! We changed neglectful, unthinking parenting into warm protection for our own children. We did that. We became eagles on exhausted branches not fussed by sky-jackers. We decided not to be bothered by old thinking peckers and baiters. We stood strong and our children are free-er than we ever were.

And for those of us who are still working on ourselves, allowing the mistakes we made as innovators of a future we had no manual for, we might like to say to ourselves this:- Well done. You shifted the time belt. You decided, whether consciously or unconsciously, to make a change, to do the old in a new way. To love instead of judge, to let a child think for his or her self. Go you. It isn’t done yet. But it is on its way if (thanks Maya Angelou) Still we rise.

Island Blog – The Don’ts, The Do’s and a Mountain

I realise something. At the top of my new page for the day, that clean clear line of pad, I begin it with an order. I never noticed before but I notice now. Or, on a good day my sentence, one I make sure elevates into a headline, is an order. Sit up Straight. It is a good one as I have noticed a topline slouch in my bearing. I sit and I slouch. Me… who has perfect dancer posture. And, I know, as I self correct, how much liftier I feel. Hmmm. Nonetheless, this ‘order’ is bugging me. Then comes in a Don’t. Don’t overreact, Don’t respond from your own ego and so on.

I believe that a whole load of us spend foreverness in the ‘don’ts. After all, we know them well. There were years of Don’ts from mother, father, aunt, school teacher, peers, la la la. We might consider unlearning the don’ts. Thing is that our brain doesn’t hear Don’t. You say, Don’t fall. Don’t do this. Don’t answer that text. Don’t go there. But what the ‘robot’ brain of ours actually hears is the order. It doesn’t hear the Don’t. Did You know this? T’is the truth. Don’t fall, means fall. Don’t do this means we do. Don’t go there has us pulling on a coat and doing just that. We must present different. I am a yawning lost on the antipathy of either or. You know this already. But, in this spotlight, I have no answer. I might just accept it, as I accept the wiring up of an electrical thing, one that can either light my room or could blow me into the nevernever .

All this said, I believe that each one of us has a Do mountain to climb and it is our own mountain. The Do’s and Don’ts of our past can delude us into believing that we are still restricted, that we don’t have the strength, the knowledge of mountains or the right clothing. Explicit or implicit circumstances or memories can both help and hinder our climb. Many of us, if not all, have grown into adults who lug childhood baggage along with us, thus slowing us down, making us tired, frustrated and sad. We remember the don’ts and they stick us to old ground when the one beneath our feet now, is new, is ours to walk. We can come to believe in the limitations that confined us as children, believe that they will always describe us perfectly. We might feel restless in this state of being. Why can’t I do this? Why do I tell myself I can’t? Where is the Can and the Do? We search around for someone or something to tell us we are pretty fine right through to the bone. We might read one liners that advise us to let go of our past, and believe them to be the new truth, to be the Can and the Do of who we have become. We ‘practice’ this one liner, speak it out to ourselves, write it down on paper and stick it by the kettle for a few days, only to realise that it isn’t working. Nothing has changed. The reason for this is that we don’t actually feel the one liner, cannot relate to it at the level of our wounded hearts. Our heart is not listening, it seems. There must be something wrong with us. Why don’t I ‘get’ it? We might cry into the hours of darkness. Oh, of course, the fact that I am stuck in who ‘they’ said I was is the reason I don’t ‘get’ it. I am a useless person, obviously. Other people, like her over there with her perfect body and excellent dress sense, or him with his high-flying work and his certainty on all aspects of life and how to live it, get it. The difference between them and me is, well, me. I am the idiot, I am the failure, I am just a not-getting-it person and no better than they told me I was.

Rubbish.

The thing I have learned and am still learning is that my mountain is my mountain, the mountain I need to climb in order to find who I really am now. I am not that brat of a child with an over-active imagination. I am not waging a war against the Don’ts. Well, actually, I still am but now that I think for myself and can decide whether I do or whether I don’t from my own viewpoint, not theirs, anything is possible. As I write this I am climbing through the foothills of bereavement with all its associated freedom and loneliness. It makes me double guess myself, question the importance of me, or the lack of it. I was one of two, half of a whole for most of my adult life and now, when I turn around I can do the whole 360 and see not one soul. I am busy filling in the hours, long long hours, particularly when the sun goes down. I have no purpose any more, or so I whine when I am feeling like a pint sized space waster. And yet this is a million miles from the truth. So, I study my condition. I read avidly on the subject, listen to audio books, am curious about other stories of loss, both of a husband and of who I was, and of my bruised and battered heart. When I relate to another’s story I can feel a sudden rise of emotion. Yes, that is me too! And it helps. Being lost, however temporary, is unpleasant and scary and it is too easy to focus on the fear instead of teaching my eyes to adjust and of reminding myself that I am now free and open to adventure.

Our own predicament is always our obsession. We may indeed busy ourselves with a whole gamut of distractions but until we stop inside the fear, discomfort, restlessness or loneliness and teach our eyes to adjust, we will always be unfriending our true self and that becomes exhausting. Instead, we need to befriend ourselves, the parts we like and the parts we don’t. If the top of your mountain seems to disappear into outer space, just know that it is longing for you to begin the climb. The mountain will help. Along the way there will be pockets of rock flowers and spaces to sit and rest. There will be a spring of fresh clear water to revive you and the views will be sudden and breathtaking. I cannot advise another soul on how to begin this climb as I am way too focussed on my own, but I can say, as I have before, READ, STUDY AND BE CURIOUS. Loudly.

We have this one life within which to make our mark. We have one chance to lift someone fallen with kindness and encouragement and that person is often ourself. We cannot afford to waste time running away once we know we want to feel at peace with who we are. So, maybe you didn’t have loving parents or kind teachers or even a wonderful relationship with a mate, but none of these are who you are. I am thankful deeply for those in my life who challenged me, knocked my heart about and didn’t hear me because I am proud of who I am and who I will become. I still have a mountain to climb, yes. I may not make it to the top, but I am so going to try.

Island Blog – Dark Woods and Renaissance

Through life and laughter, love and longing, light and loss and lift I become myself.

Who said that? I did.

Many poets and thinking writers have writ of the dark woods, the dark night of the soul, the longing for meaning, the whole point of this life and I am one. I am not afraid, as the world is, of what the world calls the dark side. We all have one, we all know it is there with us even as we run from it. I don’t run. Unless the twin is recognised and acknowledged, the unit will never be complete, never whole and never at peace. Life and death are such twins, one we love and celebrate and repeat stupid platitudes about, the other is whispered and avoided at all cost. I notice it when a blog I write is not about the ice cream and candy side of our human condition. Less comments come through. Nobody wants to think about the pain they all carry, we all carry but cannot quite explain. We wish it away, cover it with sprinkles or ignore it hoping it will give up trying to get our attention. But, like a toddler on a mission, it will never do that. Turn around. Look at it. Say hallo, I see you, shall we talk awhile? It is a rare human who has that level of courage and vulnerability and yet it is the only way to fill the big black hole inside, the one we hope will accept the material wealth we throw at it – the millions of hours we take away from our families in order to climb the social or corporate ladder, in the foolish hope that this will be enough. It isn’t, wasn’t and never will be.

In my life now there is only me here to fill the hours. This means I can read and study, ponder and reflect without interruption. I have never known such a state, interruptions having been the norm for 68 years. I have even been that interruption myself, on occasions. These long stretches of time afford me space and peace within which to pursue whatever I fancy. I can follow the flight of a bumble bee, a dragonfly, a thought. I can read for hours until my bum is numb. I can wear my frocks back to front, inside out, eat banana with marmite on muesli, sing loudly in Portuguese and dance Tango with a chair. I know that the older we get the thinkier we become. It is as if we finally begin to understand the Elusive Puzzle – what the hell am I here for? Yes we work, bring up kids, do our best, learn how not to overcook sprouts and other important things, but even with a socking great list of lifely achievements, that list never really satisfies, never brings the aha we seek.

I spend a great deal of time saying thank you. For pretty much everything, the bad and the good. Why, you ask, are you thankful for the bad? Because the bad, so named, is actually of immense value. It is the shadow side, the dark side of the whole, of life in all her beautiful and mysterious self. To be thankful for all that happens, all that has already happened, warts, whips and wastes is to begin to understand the point of being alive, of being here right now wherever you are. Precious human, pointfull life-liver, valued, important, needed. Every single one of us. The mistake we all make in this life, and I include myself, is that we focus on what we get, or got, wrong. It feels like an impossible flight to make, the one that shows us all we do and have done right, those times we laughed with friends, with family, shared their joys and pain, engaged in a way that held us fully present within the moment. There will be zillions of those times in every single life. Why do we remember the times we ‘failed’? I have no answer but I do know enough now to consciously shift my thought plates into a new dynamic, one that affords my feet purchase on level ground and from where I can still be of good use to others, even at my age. If I am always slipping down my own slippery slope, thinking only of my faults, falls and failings, I am of little use to my own self, never mind that of others. Yet, in our culture of running away from our own darkness in the mistaken belief that we could ever outrun such a sentient presence, we simply exhaust ourselves, and then we slip once more down our own slippery slope.

We all know and remember how quick our primary caregivers were to judge us. To varying degrees, in surprising amounts, we all know. This decides our adult thinking unless we choose to build ourselves anew, once we fly the nest. It is not simples, not at all. It takes a ‘traveller’s’ mindset. We read that anything is possible if we just believe. believe in what? Yes, we can believe in what someone else achieves but in our own self? No, that is never going to happen. As I said before, it takes the willingness to be vulnerable and to find a strong source of courage, in spite of seeing nothing ahead but the dark woods.

A while back, I was asked a question. What would you be right now, if you could choose your life? No thinking, just a first response, thus not based on your own limited mental DNA, your own experience thus far. I didn’t think. A Tracker, I said. Good lord, where in the heck did that come from? Me, a tracker? I am scared of everything. I would be a terrible tracker, snivelling on the peripheries and wishing I was home by the fire with a cup of rosy. When we are put on the spot like that, no over-thinking-just-respond, we speak our own truth. Having come from a town, known pavements better than I knew any field of wildflowers or expanse of tundra, or wilderness, forget wilderness, this tracker thing is nonsense. I have been watching too many Pixar movies. But, hold. Wait. Why not? I see everything when I walk. I know every track, even the slide of a snake across my path. I see the flattened grass beside a kill and know it is otter or mink. I see spoor and know the night animal who passed this way, and when. I know. I know. I am a tracker. Then I remember how I am curious about how this person got here, how their eyes tell me more than their mouths will ever do. I see what others miss. I am a tracker. And my brain knows this.

Our lives are so much richer and deeper than we realise as we bound away from the shadow self. We are more than we think, more than the tight pants the world has told us are the best fit. The most joyful people I have ever met have done something outrageously courageous at the wrong time in their lives, according to the world. They said a big NO to corporate misery and went across oceans to work with dolphins. They said a big NO to a broken relationship and moved into the dark woods, though the long labour of renaissance and into a new light. They moved from city to wilderness, to a shack without power or running water and opened an orphanage for street kids. Their eyes tell me everything. They found their ‘tracker’ and it is good. Courage. Vulnerability. Are you who you really want to be? If so, I am happy for you. If not, check out the dark woods. the thing about darkness is that, pretty soon, our eyes adapt and the way reveals itself.

Island Blog – Old yet New

Friends are here. Friends I haven’t seen for decades. One of them was a loyal and constant companion when the whale-watching business first began. Well, it didn’t actually ‘began’ all by itself. It was begun by us, by me and the sea dog who became known as the whale father. I remember a letter arriving back in the day when people actually wrote letters, addressed to ‘The man who looks after the whales, Scotland.’ That was all, and enough it seems to bring it to our door. How extraordinary it is to be old enough to remember a time when such a loose fit proved tailor made.

We have wandered down the lanes of memory together, these friends and I and there is a pride, a joy and a sadness in such wanderings because the whale father is gone. His presence peppers our conversations, our rememberings of old adventures lifted together into the light of the new life we now live. We visit the ‘old’ pier and the ‘new’ pier, both old now, ramshackle and holding on by a woodthread already compromised by the arched back of a repeating tidal march against the land. We stand and look out to where the boat had bobbed on her mooring, both boats, the old and the new, one gone to an old fisherman and northwards, the other to the bottom of the ocean. All our silence is loud. We stand together on the basalt rocks, watching geese, an osprey, oystercatchers, sandpipers and gulls and we remember. The bustle and shout of anticipation as offloaded passengers turn towards the vessel that will, they hope, they dream, encounter them with the shiny blowback of a whale, out there in the wild, working with the flip and toss of another tide, another wind, another sudden calm.

We see lichen on fallen limbs. Good air, I tell them, and they know it. We walk through what was the farmyard and on up to the big house, the one, the Tapselteerie of my life, now restored most beautifully to what she was when first she rose from the ground and on up and up and up. We only see her from a respectful distance. My friend does not remember her that way. In our day she was shabby (chic, I like to think) and mostly in need of a facelift, one she never got when we were her caregivers. I am happy for her now. She is respected and admired in a way the ancients (that’s before my time btw) would nod at, sagely, from behind their pipes and spinning wheels, I feel sure. You are doing the right thing, they might say and I agree with them.

We wander back through the old pines, past Lord and Lady Larch, whose son, I feel certain, has moved yet further away from his parents. About time, I think. You must be almost 100 by now. He doesn’t seem to mind my comment and just rustles a bit as I walk beneath his boyish boughs, as if quite chuffed with himself. Home again and we sit in the garden with cups of tea and chat. It thinks me. Decades since we sat together and yet the words between us flow as they did when we were young. I look into their eyes and see myself. We match as we did back then. The old and the new. How fluid we are, how easy it is to be, not who we were, but who we are now through connection to a time that impacted all our lives in ways we never anticipated. He remembered my sandwiches. I remembered his lion heart. I remembered them camping with their boys but they don’t. Who knows what part memory plays in memories! We laugh and it really doesn’t matter one jot.

Slainte Sea-Dog. We found you today, not that you are lost. It was a day of tide and talk, sea and memories, laughter and sharp poignance and you came too.

Island Blog – I am Woman

I am woman, my own woman, and yet all women.

I have been broken more times than could be repaired, had I been born a teacup.

I am soft as down and hard as stone.

I have loved with all my beating heart and lost and known it beat again.

I have run over hot coals to protect my children and even with a burned soul I run on.

I have faltered, failed and fallen more times than rain, have dawned and dusked, ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned a million times and I will do it all again.

I have drawn my sword and I have sheathed it.

I have been actively, consistently kind to those I didn’t like and don’t relate to.

I have welcomed my child’s choice of partner, not because I attended the selection process, but because I did not. They have taught me new lessons and I have learned to love them all.

I have read more books than Finland on self-development and applied that learning to my daily life.

I have run into walls, tripped over rocks, fallen off see-saws, swings and roundabouts and may well do so again.

I have fallen in love and out again.

I have nursed, nurtured, carried and cared for children, adults, days, months and years and they all got better.

I have cried ugly and alone for nights and with another until the smile came back to my face.

I have looked in the mirror and felt sick, delighted, upset and happy.

I have given away my last bite as my stomach rumbled.

I have run too fast and reached too high.

I have lived my life.

I am Woman, I am myself, and I am Every Woman. I don’t need to know the details of your life, nor hear your voice for Every Woman knows exactly what it is like to be one.

I honour every one of you.

Island Blog – This Goodly Day (even if it is Monday)

A bit sleepless for no good reason. I wasn’t bothered, nor troubled. I just experienced awokeness. When dawn tiptoed in around my blackout curtains I decided up was for me, so I upped accordingly. Coffee and a watch for the rise of light, the lift of garden birds, the backdrop of accompanying sounds. I heard the trickle of the burn. Trickle for now but in the Autumn its voice is wild with flood, catapulting over rocks and plummeting into the pool, then under the track and offski to the sea. The eternal flow. Rain falls, burns erupt in noisy excitement and then spend days splashing everyone on their way to join Mother. It is indeed a joyous sound.

I hear the tap tap of my complication of creepers, wisteria, jasmine, clematis as their floating fingers try to gain some sort of purchase. Might need help, I tell them, and they waggle at me. I see an otter fishing in the sea-loch, flipping silver fish against the morning light, the darkling hills. Geese set forth and fifth and sixth, in fact, make that double figures, across the flat water with goslings in tow. One parent leading (guess that’s himself), then babies, then mother. A line, no ten, twelve lines crossing together as the black backed gulls circle. I watch them. The airborne predators lift, and lower, tip and flip and by golly if I see just one of them pick off a babe, I swear I will finally wild swim. They all arrive safely and now, my coffee cold, I can draw breath once more. It is quite a wide loch and I am, on reflection, rather proud of my ability to hold my breath. I remember trying it in a bath as a girl and exploding back into the air after about 60 seconds in a state of snot and sneeze. Not something I put on my CV.

I weeded a bit and discovered a tiny clematis creeper (who planted that?). I madly cleared the grass and such like around it to give it space. The flowers are huge and magenta. So brave. Not just the colour, nor the size of the flowers but all that struggle beneath Aquilegia, and other tall things I cannot name. I affixed the stems to the structure that upholds the original clematis which is 30 years old and not flowering quite as much as she once did. I know that state. Then I remember who planted the wee magenta thing. It was I some 3 years ago and I allow myself the forgetness of such a birthing because I was thwack in the thick of caring during that year. Nonetheless it is such a relief to solve such a question, I find. Reminds me I am not losing any plot.

I walk beneath brilliant green boughs, dappled sunlit tracks and take myself, slightly resistantly, to the old pier. The pier that Popz built and from where he ran the whale-watching trips for many years. Latterly, when the trips no longer left from that pier and he was no longer captain of the ship, he took down a plank of wood to make a sitting bench. Using old stones to form the elevation, he laid the plank and many many times we went there. First, he walked, his little Poppy dog beside him barking at pretty much everything, and latterly, driving on his quad. Sometimes he could get off the bike and sit with me on the bench, sometimes he could not. We would take tea in a flask and biscuits and just sit, often in companionable silence whilst we listened to the geese, the oystercatchers, the curlews, the gulls, seals and herons, marvelling at dragonflies of electric colours, butterflies and various buzzing thingies. We talked over that explosion of Thrift (Sea Pinks) that fanned out from the rocks, the bloom of downy feathers here, the way the seagrass chooses where it wants to grow, the slip and slide of the tide. I sat there in the sunshine for a while and took it all in. I am glad I went today. I could see his smile, the Old Impossible, and we walked back together, even if I cannot remember him walking in my memory.

T’was a goodly day.

Island Blog – If This Life

I love audio books. While I sew or cook or fanny about, I listen to those who know a deal more than I. If I run water for washing dishes or flip the electric kettle on to boil I must needs whack up the volume or hold my phone to my ear, but you could never say I am not committed. Is that a double negative…….?

My books could be scientific, factual or fictional fairyness. I love love both. This began during covid and isolation even before himself left the planet. I love to read an actual book and do so at night, pre sleep, but the thing about an audio book, if I like the reader voice, is that my brain absorbs it in a different way. I couldn’t tell you in what way different, but I am aware that the information I can take in from a very factual book is something I could never cope with as an eye reader.

So and thus, I can listen to some tricky stuff on audible. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate. Why Love Matters, Sue Gerhardt. Eish I could never read than stuff in a book, stuff I want to hear because even at my age, I am curious and keen to understand and to learn. The former book is on addictions stemming from childhood abuse or neglect. The latter on the effect of parenting on children and its subsequent manifestations. Yes, I know, tough, and most of us won’t go there because we can’t face the guilt, but what I am discovering is not what I feared. We do the best we can, clueless like every new parents are, as they always have been and always will be. I have felt sharp heart bites and warm yesses. I have remembered being present yet absent (aka distracted with guests, husband etc) and that hurts, but I hope I gave the warmth and love and attention to my children at the times they most needed that from me. We mothers are so quick to take the blame, the blood red tsunami of it, upon ourselves. I know this.

With my own mother and many of her generation, there was no desire to look back over the child rearing years. What happened happened. What was done or said was done or said, belonging only in the past and the past is dead as a dodo. My own generation initiated a change in that thinking, deciding to do things differently because we knew we were damaged by a Victorian-ish upbringing to some degree or another, and wanted our own children to feel more obviously loved. Although that old nonsense of ‘this will hurt but it’s for your own good’ still came into my head when some sort of retribution for a crime committed was required, I remember thinking long and hard about a kinder way of getting the same message across. I wasn’t always so clever. Kids drive you bonkers and always at times when your own chips are down. I lashed out in anger at times and the regret and shame consumed me. I learned to say I Am Sorry, something my parents never said. Keeping that regret and shame quiet is very damaging to the self, to both selves in fact.

Listening to these audio books and more besides is not doing me any harm at all. When I relate to something the writer says, something either painful in recollection or uplifting and empathetic, I have the choice to take any action required. The intelligence, backed up by scientific research on children (and I was one once) helps me to smile at myself as a faulty mother. It also kinds me towards my own self as a little girl who believed in fairies and happiness and who was astonished and hurt to discover that her own mother was also faulty and broken. I now know why but I didn’t back then. She, who never got from her own mother the love she needed, did not have the benefit of information available to me and to future mothers and fathers. Knowing this as I do now, affords me the chance to empathise with her, to understand why she was who she was and to love and appreciate her backwards.

It does take courage and the willingness to be vulnerable to read or listen to such information, but if this life is the only one I get, then I want to get to the end of it knowing I have understood myself to a high degree, to have made amends wherever I could and to have learned that we are all broken humans with a huge capacity for loving and understanding others and ourselves. And it is never too late to learn something new.

Island Blog – The lift of memories

This needs saying too.

Although we would never have spoken this way when you were here, I am free now (and independent!) to say whatever I like to say.

I remember you, strong and lean, tanned and muscular. I do. I really do. Although for a long time I have only seen you as a difficult, sick and compromised old man, this was not always the you I remember now. You could flip my heart with just one loving look. You could melt me into soft putty. I would have fought all those who said you were no good for me and with all my weaponry. I would. I did. Even when you upset door knockerers, random visitors, anyone really who came without an invitation to our huge and freezing mansion house, even then. When I challenged your attitude later, you could turn it all around and bring me into your arms. I miss that.

Since you have left the planet, it seems that freedom is allowing my mind to open and my earlier memories to float in. They come unbidden and randomly and often very inconveniently. I suddenly find myself tearful and having to pull in when a song comes on that reconnects me with the you who, in truth, died years ago. Not that you ever went with lyrics. To hell with the lyrics, you said, batting them away like a buzz of bluebottles, I just hear the music. And you did. That is how you managed to balance so artfully the depth and dimensions of many musical instruments in the way you did. There are bands who honoured you for that skill. But me? I am a lyricist, through and through, although I do need good music behind those lyrics. If the words are great and evocative and the backing music skinny and full of electronic bips and clatters, music so obviously not composed by those who know how to physically play an instrument, then the words lose gravitas, at best and are quickly forgot.

So, images of you, bringing in the cattle, driving the sheep, recording behind your desk, all concentration and frowns, or smiling at me as we begin our escape for a break away, are coming to me now. I never thought they would. I never thought at all. We began our adventure as adventurers. Then we met Life and she tripped us up, she confounded our plans, she altered us, divided us. She didn’t mean to. We were just unprepared, two dreamers without feet on the ground that claimed us. Thus we lived on and we never ever talked about who we were in our shared past. Not once. But I can do it now and, oddly, there is a freedom without you because you would have flapped it, bluebottle style, away. I know you would. In my new life, my life without you, I am good to go, free to wander back, free to cry new tears in passing places (lay-bys for you non-islanders)for an old life so very far back in the past and yet somehow so close by now.

I am glad of it.

“Who am I, you ask?

I am made from all the people I’ve encountered and all the things I have experienced. Inside I hold the laughter of my friends, the arguments with my parents, the chattering of young children, the warmth of kind strangers. Inside there are stitches from cracked hearts, bitter words from heated arguments, music that gets me through and emotions I cannot convey. I am made from all these people and moments.

That is who I am.”

Ming Di Liu