Island Blog – If this is how it is, then Act

I feel sad for our world today. I know I live in a tiny part of it, beautiful, stunning, peaceful but yet tiny. It doesn’t stop me noticing the rest. Although for many years I have busily inhabited the aforesaid beautiful, stunning and peaceful place, it seems like there is a loudspeaker on the others, on the bigger world. I know of corruption in governments, of hidden information in order to keep the ‘masses’ quiet and I have never been okay with that. It is as if the ‘masses’ are mindless idiots who don’t think and who don’t need to know. I am one. I am protected up here with the Gulf Stream and with lunatic winter gales the biggest threats to my survival. They don’t stop me knowing, even as I am able to turn off the news, ignore the ‘bad stuff’ that might infect my sleep.

In my busy young mother overthetopworkedout life, I ignored with impunity. After all, there were guests to feed, hospitality requirements (endless) and a family to protect and provide for, so I never had a scooby about wars and corruption and governments hiding pretty much everything. Now, there is silence, endless silence in my life and I finger my way into the light of outside information. I don’t understand most of it, which, by my way of thinking, is just the point, but I know when I hear, or don’t hear, something that butts against my gut, when something in me stands up. Hairs, goose bumps, those sorts of things. If you stood me up in a group and demanded explanation I could not find the words. Much as my dream job was to be a thoroughly difficult woman in all situations, I am not her. I loved to hear the confidence and courage from those who wore red shoes and lipstick and who stood to be noticed at great risk and just knew I would only ever be a choir girl to their solo.

Now I find myself needing to be that soloist. Not in a group, not in public, not on a soapbox on the corner of a dank lonely street but for my own self. I see, even from the aforesaid magical place, that I must make difficult choices, brave up and stand for myself. We would love to have had clear direction from our ‘leaders’ but even they had no idea how the virus would morph, develop and consume. Nonetheless I see good leaders and I see dithery ones. I still won’t blame. This is up to me, me is up to me and, you know what, it is how it was when people thought for themselves instead of waiting for direction in a crisis. We seem to have lost the use of that muscle.

I find myself listening to the news more now, just the headlines. There is fear and doubt in all our hearts. There is detail and posturing although how anyone can posture against an invisible enemy astonishes me. It’s a bit Scifi. But, I remind myself as I contrive a grin with my teeth, this is how it is now. My mail box is coloured with bright offers of ‘freedom’ through summer sandals to cheap flights to loans. The world has gone mad. The leaders are flagging (not all of them) and the country is sagging like an old woman tired of the fight. Another winter of fear? Maybe. Another lockdown? Maybe. Another slug of fear in our whisky? Maybe. Another endlessness of isolation and loneliness? Maybe.

I always see a ‘Maybe’ as a butterfly, or a moth. I have done since childhood, perhaps because the word was employed so often by my mother as I asked the endless questions that drove her crazy. And, the thing about Maybe is that she has two sides. Will and Won’t. Show and Hide. Run and Stay. And more. There are times for each side of her and we need to tap our own intelligence in order to know to react. Our own intelligence. Not the government’s, not that or our opinioned friends/mothers/relations, not that of our neighbours, but our own. Some of us have not gone there for years, maybe decades. Hallo Maybe…. But we have it people, strong within us. Ask yourself ‘What do I believe?’ What Do I think?’ And keep asking until the only right answer comes. Then Act.

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 – A body and a spirit

A body that has lived is a beautiful thing, not necessarily to behold, but it is beautiful nonetheless. Once, when it might have been beautiful to behold, I hid my own, never believing I could bare much of it to the world, or, to my small world of people. Even among my much younger (and fitter) sisters, I was cautious, making sure I had a dressing gown coveration when departing the shared bathroom or the shared bedroom. I was never shy, not that, but I had to be fully clothed to allow the ‘not shy’ in me to fly out into a room. I could do legs and loved mini skirts of the Mary Quant/ Carnaby Street era, but watched others bare cleavages and bellies and just knew I was way out of their league.

It didn’t matter, long term, much as nothing of vanity matters, long term. Eventually we get to realise that it is who we are to others that does last, that matters and sticks. Beautiful bare skin is nothing, after all, if the owner is a pain in the aspidistra, flaky, selfish, insincere. Now, to the body perfect. This body survives endless knocks and bumps, asks and denials, flak and cruelty and yet it works with a spirit to rise into another day, and another. And, the spirit is thankful it does and is ready at every point to help. Two parts of a whole, like an apple.

This body has adapted to endless demands, birthed children, kept itself awake throughout extreme exhaustion and still kept going. How did you do that? I ask, my spirit asks, because I could not have done this alone.

Well, says the body, you wanted me to and that is enough for me. I obey your command.

But what about the many times I didn’t care for you as you deserve?

I managed. I knew you loved me really. You were just distracted.

Yeah…..for decades. How is that ok?

It is as it is. Still is btw.

Even now, even now that I see the papery skin on my gnarled twiggy fingers? Even as I see you sink downwards? Even as you sometimes find it tricky to get out of bed without a grunt, or to lift from a chair, or when you are extremely cautious on hillsides? Even then?

Even then. We work together.

But when I am afraid of falling, of sickness, of living too long, of dying, are you?

No, I am always alert. I may obey your commands but I am way ahead of you when it comes to getting older, or more papery, more gnarled, more afraid of hillsides.

I think that reassures me. I think.

Listen, we have worked together for 68 years. Do you really think I am leaving now? Just look at what you have achieved, just look. You moved like a dancer through the demands and rejections, through the depressions and joys of an extraordinarily adventurous life. You held and nurtured five wonderful children. You lifted them into the world and set them free. You cried a lot. You doubted even more than a lot. And yet you, ditzy brain, crazy reckless dreamer, free spirit, risk taker, mistake maker, you stuck with me too. You didn’t, as I sometimes thought you might, head off the rails and into the wasteland. You are still here with me.

So I am. How wonderful, old body. Thank you.

You, my best friend, are so very welcome.

Shall we continue?

Island Blog – Windstitch,Cloud Shadow, Birdlight and Fox Gloves

This wilderlight dawns a beauty. Sunshine goldens the little garden and birds catch it in their wing feathers as they lift and flutter overhead. Rainbow snow. Birdlight. I wonder if they know how much they delight, these little wild things. How on the grass they look like jewels and how, above me, they trill a healing melody. The poppies have survived another night of sea-wind and I welcome them with a smile and a word or two of encouragement. This morning, however, someone has sewn a stitch or two into that cloak of chilly salt-laden breath, arresting it, offering a challenge to change, to turn about face. The resulting warmth eases my bones, kisses my face, softens the tension in my skin, like a promise of something wonderful.

This morning a carer came back after 18 weeks of me managing on my own. She was almost as beautiful to see as a bird caught in sunlight, which is what she was. Together we showered himself and tidied up and the bubble of chatter, the catch up of news and opinions on various subjects lifted me yet further. Although I would not have welcomed any incoming before now, I am glad of human encounter that isn’t all about one person’s needs, moment by moment. Suddenly I found myself present in the unfolding dialogue. She complimented me on my hair cut. I told her she looked really bonnie, even though she was gloved up, face half hidden by a mask and crackling like a bonfire in her plastic apron. We discussed the village, a place I haven’t seen for weeks, the number of visitors cars, the walkers, the camper vans, the motor bikes. I had not realised how empty my mouth has been of anything that isn’t care related and the words flew out like birds, the laughter too.

Although we will remain isolated for some time to come (my choice), it is good to hear that life is waking up once more. Some folk have been trapped in small flats in cities, or alone in bed sits, and these folk must be twisting in the wind by now, desperate to catch on to its tail coat and to fly once more. To share a view, a joke, a meal, a conversation is what we all need and what we all miss, like fresh water when access to it is denied.

Sunlight tunnels through window slits as we move around the sun, illuminating the ordinary. A line of carpet, a vase of garden flowers, the shiver of iced tea in a sparkling glass. The doors are wide, the soft breeze fluttering the bird-curtain. Before the bird curtain, there were oft more birds inside than out, bashing against windows, terrified hearts pounding in tiny ribcages. When we are suddenly trapped, we panic. All of us, humans, animals, birds, insects, all of us. And we were trapped for a long time.

I watch cloud shadow on the far hillsides. Foxgloves disappear into it, then leap back crimson purple. We are like that. Lost in shadow at times, or caught up in a twist of wind, swept off our feet or shivering in sudden dark. It passes. Everything passes, be it what we want or what we don’t. Over this, over wind, time, sickness, cloud shadow; over times of exhilaration, loved ones, intense joy. Over all this we have no control. The very best we can do is to stand tall, rooted, blooming, ready for whatever comes.

And equally as ready to let it go.

Island Blog – Threads

This morning I saw two hinds on the hillside across the sea-loch. Their calf-rounded bellies confused me at first. I am used to seeing them more slimline, hungrier. My long sight is excellent. It’s quite a different matter when I need to see something at close quarters, such as 23 count needlepoint. For me, it is just a spread of white with dots and any attempts to align a needle with one of those dots ends up in complete failure. My cross stitch is decidedly cross.

I wander through the day from this to that and back again, each time scrubbing my hands to two Happy Birthdays. I’m amazed there is any skin left. It thinks me. The hinds are blissfully unaware of what we humans are currently facing down, the scrubbing and the fear and the ridiculous overbuying of things that should be shared out equally, as are the mint, the daffodils, the buds on the climbing rose, the siskin (just returned) and the perky little robin building a nest in the bonfire pile down the road. The other thing that has no idea what we are currently facing down is the skin on my hands. Beyond being rather startled, it stays firmly in place. How wonderful is that! I remember people saying how amazed they were that the world kept turning as they fell into the dreadful darkness of bereavement. How can this be? Why doesn’t nature know what we are going through? I guess she does but keeps on keeping on anyway and thank the holy crunch for that.

Like everyone else my ears are glued to the news. Changes radical and maybe catastrophical come moment by moment and it ain’t going to stop. People are being sent home, pay-less, their businesses going under, the forecast more than gloomy, but through the brume of these times we are seeing the effulgent power of the human spirit. Heroes and heroines are popping up like toast from a toaster, offering kindnesses that lift all other hearts. It is as it was in wartime and perhaps this is just that. Isolation, depression, fear and loneliness will grow. They cannot not. What we choose to do will keep us together, like those flaming needlepoint threads that are so skinny as to be invisible to me unless I took myself to another room, thus employing my long-sight. Each skinny thread, each act of random kindness is going to turn this thing around. We will remember the tough times, of course we will, but these will fade into nothing when we remember the chiaroscuro of human kindness. Those moments when someone else stepped up, delivered groceries, called to calm with a warm voice, wrote a letter that came at just the right time or sent a text saying I’m right there with you. We are in enforced lockdown, many miles apart and yet we can all send a gleed, a glowing coal, to others so that they can rise the fire in their grate.

Thoughts change things. Keeping positive when we see and hear of the dreadful circumstances of others, of our own perhaps, is not always easy, I know this. But if we can keep hold of the threads that join us, we will get through this if we can just see beyond our own perceived fears. Too long we have made ourselves islands, working just for ourselves and not thinking as we were always meant to do, of the community in which we live. There are always, no exceptions, others who are worse off than we are, no matter what our circumstances.

And it begins with one action, one thought, one single thread caught and followed and sewn (if you aren’t me) into a beautiful picture, multi-coloured and, ultimately creating the most perfect blend.

Island Blog – Connectivity

As my departure day moves inexorably closer, I think on the ties that bind. Some I can see, like a rope fence or the woollen threads in my jumper, but many I can not. The familial ties of parent and child, husband and wife, friend connecting friend, distance between places, people and things, all quite invisible, but strongly there, nonetheless. Both ties need careful and attentive attention, all ties do. There are threads connecting us to our past, some of which need the snip, some need untangling from the falsitude of memory and some just need untangling for a more intelligently wholesome second look.

On the ground I have complete control over my ties that bind. I can choose the flavour of my message, text, tweet or letter as I can choose my response to those sent to me. There is an awesome and awful power right there in my hands. I can create and I can destroy just by letting my fingertips dance. They say the tongue is the most dangerous part of a human body. What you say can kill or it can cure. But it isn’t just the tongue. The way I think is the true beginning of everything, for if I think all people are intrinsically good, then this thought automatically controls my tongue. It also opens my heart to acceptance, compassion and humility so that my tongue has no desire, nor motivation, to wag unless, that is, it wants to support another’s dignity, in which case, wag on tongue, wag on.

Connectivity requires intelligent attention in all things, from rope fences to woollen jumpers, from familial ties to a worldwide spread of proffered threads. I have often been astonished, when someone I barely know wanders into my head and then astonished again a short while later to receive a message from them or a phone call. At times when I have met a friend or child or family member in my mind, I discover that on the very day I thought of them, they were going through something tough. However, I don’t believe I ‘thought’ of them through my own undeniable genius as a medium. I don’t believe I thought of them at all. In fact I know, without doubt, that it was absolutely nothing to do with me. Some higher source connected us because that is what higher sources do – they see the whole, the eagle eye view, only they fly even higher and can see a whole lot more. This connection opportunity is just that, and it has a name. Love. My task, down here on the ground is simply to let go of my need to control and to open my mind and my heart.

Doing this brings rewards. Not things, not status, not an ego polish but instead that elevating sense of being connected to everyone else. Deep inside we are all damaged to varying degrees and we all need each other to heal. Think of that smile that some stranger sent your way the day you were late and flustered and cut them off at the roundabout. They could have sworn but they didn’t, they smiled and in that short moment everything changed inside. Think of that WhatsApp message that came through on a rainy morning as you battled with your year end accounts, saying “just thinking of you my old friend” and adding a heart. If we pay attention to these times, we open our hearts and minds for more. We are also inspired to give back in the same way. But paying attention is a decision. it doesn’t just ‘come’. We must invite it in and walk with it wherever it may lead. We don’t need to study. We just need to take the time to notice everyone. There is no feasible excuse for not paying attention. ‘I’m too busy’ doesn’t cut it because we are all too busy if we decide to be. Busy is not productive. Productive is productive and Busy is just making noise and loneliness. Busy cuts us off from others and it is Others we need, not Busy. When people ask me if I am busy I say an emphatic NO, because that screen between me and everyone else has done me no service at all in my life beyond cutting me off from my healing source of light.

Keeping connected to family and friends is comparatively easy, although even then we can erect that Busy screen. But the real and proven way we can heal ourselves and the sadness, loneliness and war right across our beautiful world is to pay attention to connectivity; to let those threads flow out from us.

Every moment, busy or not.