Island Blog – The After of Now

I suspect that sounds a bit weird, but I do love to play with concepts and absolutes and, if I am honest, I feel a girlish thrill as I envision the face of my Eng Lit teacher. If you actually think about it, there is Now and then there is After. There is also Before. Before the Now, which is in my case, now After, there was a Before. I am now stopping the capitals.

The anticipation of my singer songwriter friends coming to stay lasted a few days. The beds ready and ironed, the wood ordered, ditto wine, the house cleaned, although not by me #veryblest, and endless lifts of doubt. Will they feel comfortable? How will it work? Do I have the right food? Bla, bla,bla. Offs, I know these people as longtime friends! What is all this faff? Good question. T’is normal, I have heard and even more so since Covid swiped our freedom to move, to share, to connect.

They swing in a few days ago with smiles and hugs and a ton of music making instrumental kit. I am already buzzing, remembering the days when arriving musicians, including them and often them, was an everyday experience. I just know we are going to gel even though I couldn’t find any good harmonies for the songs they sent me. I thought, at first, that I had lost it. (No comments please at this point) But it took just an hour or two of settling in and catching up for me to feel the electricity between us. It was the same as we put together my music CD. Most songs were written in under an hour and adorned with a musical skeleton an hour after that. The rest was building, swapping ideas, changing this, developing that. It was the same here, in the now. We worked for four days on two lovely songs holding a poignant storyline captured in musical collaboration. Dynamic is too small a word for what happened during those days.

Now it is after. We have recorded, laughed, racked up the fire, sung before breakfast and they have gone. But not really, because the before of now is a functional surface thing and the now of now a whole multi-depth experience, as tangled and as complex as a lift from the before with all its house cleaning nonsense into a surprising and sudden connection with the whole universe, with the rain, the gales, the stars, the tides and a surprise of gulls making ribbons against a wide grey sky.

And the after of now will live for a very long time.

Island Blog – A Diamond Day

This day we gather for our son’s wedding to his lady love. Well, some of us gather in person, whilst others zoom in, virtually, to bear witness to promises made and happiness shared. This day will be remembered for many years to come. Impressions will stick, spoken words and tributes will be held inside the human heart; moments will be re-lived over and over again. Even as I write, cars full of excited guests and family members traversing the land are googling directions, tweaking outfits and wondering how they look. There will be laughter inside these cars, anticipation and the odd snap of tension as a tail back tails back. The time they all aim for is 1pm on board MV Emma Jane at Dunstaffnage Marina. The sun has appeared, the sea loch is calm, the air soft and kindly. I did my famous Be-Off-Rain dance yesterday and, despite a few clouds, it looks like I haven’t lost my touch.

We cannot be there in person so we are two who will zoom. I want to hear the words, those vows, readings and speeches in real time. I want to see the well-tweaked outfits, the smiles, hear voices and laughter, see children in their wedding kit, the groom and the bride in immaculate finery, their joy complete for they have fought hard to bring this day into their life. Postponed in its original shape since March (thank you Covid) this new wedding design is smaller but none the less valuable, like a small diamond instead of a big fat garnet. The diamond twinkles more, however small; distinctive and distilled into perfection. You must look at closely at it in order to appreciate the way each tiny face catches sunlight and reflects it back like a gift.

This young pair have found each other when neither were looking. They have weathered storms within and without and held on tight. I am proud of their courage and resilience and in awe of their beauty and strength. This day brings to both of them a dream, a completion, a new beginning. Despite the changes they have had to make in order to bring us all together as witnesses, they are making it happen. They never wanted a big fat wedding anyway. What they value most is family, a few friends and their children.

To James and Emma – on this, their diamond day.

Island Blog – Poppies, Tides and Hugs

There is something deep about a hug. Like an ocean flowing over, through and around you. It won’t drown you because you can breathe underwater. Enveloped inside big strong arms, feeling the pressure of warm fingers, the familiar smell of home. I am home. You are here. You and I are, for the length of this hug, as one body. My love flows to you as your love flows to me, right down to my very core, fizzing along my capillaries and through my muscles and over my skin like the first sip of champagne. When we part, the tide has turned. From slack water to ebb or flow. Birds lift in anticipation, fish swirl in the depths, sensing a change; seaweed flutters in confusion. Which way now?

After months of slack water, these son-hugs turned the tide. Tall, strapping men, fit and healthy, warm and soft, gifting love and support, hugging. They have to bend down a bit for a hug with me and even further down to hug their wheel-chariot dad, but they can flex and stretch, rise up again effortlessly, as once we did. Buried in their chests I breathe them in, remembering. Not so long ago they dandled on my knee, fed from me, squealed their delight, screamed their anger and now look at them, fathers themselves with knees for dandling their own little ones. How fast life travels, how fragile it is and yet how strong. How long is a life? There is no answer to that. What matters, it seems to me, is what we learn during that life through observation, sail correction, through the anger and the joy, the near drowning.

Moving through a morning of poppies, I feel the inner shift. Tomorrow, if the wind rises, these crimson wide-open petals may be ripped and stripped. I saw them as buds at 6 am. By 7.30 they showed me a cadmium red mandala. By 8 they were face-up to the sky, black mouthed, anticipating insects, their petals combing the breeze like silk. To seize the day, the moment of lift, as they do, teaches me. To show me life is beautiful, fragile as poppy petals, strong as sons, and, most of all, to be truly lived, no matter how long or short. No matter at all.