Island Blog – Beyond the Pale

Although this phrase has come to mean something dodgy, like bad behaviour or offensive language, it is not what it meant at first. The pale comes from the latin word, palus, meaning stake, as in fence or boundary. I like this meaning better and it isn’t because I was good at latin, which I was, by the way. I just loved words and their origins and, it seemed to me as a miserable schoolgirl that words were my power so it behoved me to learn a lot about a lot of them. Every day now I find new words, great long things that nobody ever says anymore and I employ them just for the hell of it. They thrill me, like numbers do other people. Sometimes, and you probably already know this, I like to make new words because the actual word is dull and unmusical. It has no timbre, no reverb, no harmonies. So I invent one that has.

This daft way of being thinks me. What is it that makes me go beyond the pale of literary correctitude? I know the answer. T’is the imp in me. that imp has served me both well and not well throughout my life. To be able to see the immediate nonsense in something weighty with sense has elevated me and, on many occasions, those around me. At times of inner gloom when the old drudge woman within sinks fatly on to her bottom, refusing to rise for anything or anyone, the imp tickles my fancy. Go away! I might growl, but she is persistent. She wants me to get beyond myself, again. Out there, she cries, look out there! See how majestical, how glorious is this day, this life, this moment! Well, I see no glory at all, I might grumble. It is just a day, just a life, just a moment, after all. Yes, yes, (she is now yelling at me) but it is all yours! Think on that, old drudge woman, think on that.

So this business of staying inside the pale is not an indulgence I am afforded for long. She won’t let me, the imp. She says, look not at the wound, but at the healing; she says, look forward, not back; she says, look around, look out, look NOW! And, she adds as my eyes roll heavenward, be thankful for it all, for the shadows, for the dark, for the doubts and the fears because they are always there for everyone. Just don’t study them, that’s all I’m saying. Acknowledge them and move beyond, beyond the pale, beyond the fence that, btw, you erected all by yourself. And she is right. What I did was to study a shadow, let it grow and develop until it did what they always do; it blocked out my sun.

So, when someone asks me “how are you doing?’ I reply thus. “I’m doing great!” even if it’s a socking great lie, because, in saying it, speaking it out from my own mouth, I hear it. My ears take in the response and shoot it quick quick to my old brain giving it a right kick up the bahookie. Oh, says my brain, what??? I had better reprogram myself. Brains can do that. Immediately it makes an inner change. There is no apology of course and no guarantee that it will remember the next time a shadow blocks my sun because it is I who need to develop a new programme for it to adhere to. The trouble with brains is that they are emotionless and, well, rather staid to be honest. They, brains, give out what we put in, thus perpetuating old thought patterns and giving them gravitas. We think we hear the truth, but unless we keep updating that truth, our brains will give out old information. We must work daily to update. We must notice our thoughts, our patterns and revise constantly if we are to move beyond the pale.

‘It sounded like the truth when first I heard it speak. But it’s not the truth today.’ Leonard Cohen

Island Blog – Sinklight, Ice and Curiosity

When I was a child, I broke a massive rule. Not one of us was allowed anywhere near a food source and that included the larder filled with delicious leftovers and the big Prestcold fridge, fatly green and bulging into the room like she needed all of the attention. At the top, there was a freezer mouth, with enough room for ice cream, home made lollies and not much else. One day, whilst not being watched, nor followed, which was rare, I opened said mouth and noticed a spill of orange juice from the lolly rack. I could not resist. My hot tongue came out in anticipation of a sweet lick.

You may well guess what happened next. My hot tongue met arctic ice and melded. I was stuck. I could not move. I couldn’t even cry out because cry outs depend on a free tongue and mine was absolutely not that. I don’t remember what happened next, although I do know that my suspicious mother would have been quick after me, no matter where in the house I had forayed alone. I am sure she was kind with warm water. I am also sure she was harsh with remonstrations. My tongue, my poor tongue, was half ripped apart by then, the sheer terror of being trapped my driver.

I do remember, inside that terror of being caught in flagrante, that I did pause to look deep into the void mouth of that fat-bellied Prestcold fridge. I saw, just for a few moments, an arctic landscape. In spite of my mother’s studious attention to levelling everything so she could dust/control it, I saw lift. There was no light in there beyond the backlight from the neon (oh dear) kitchen light, and the gusts of my panic breath, that altered the ice mountains ahead of me. I wondered what it would be like not to be stuck by the tongue, but, instead, free to roam those mountains. And they were mountains. A big grown up woman looking in might tut about needing to defrost, but me, on my tippytoes and absolutely stuck by the tongue saw different.

I like seeing different. Today has been a day of sinklight. Rain from dawn to dusk. Endless, confining, tongue twisting, stuck. We have many of these days, and many more to come. But, through that sinklight we can stand on tippytoe and move into the landscape. It isn’t what we think. It never is. With my vulnerable back to the room and my tongue stuck, therefore the whole of me stuck, I could choose. Panic or look in. I chose the latter, even knowing the butt whacks would come soon enough. I think that was the very first time I made such a choice and the power of it has never left me. Once a curious child learns to look beyond the situation it is like a whole new world opening up. There is this thing, this one thing and yet it is not just one thing at all. The difference is held within the hands of curiosity.

Obviously I am not still stuck to the ice. Obviously it hurt a lot and obviously I was gently melted off, possibly pre butt whacks, I don’t remember that bit. In the days of Now, I see many things that may look dire at first, that may ‘stuck’ me for a bit. But I have learned how to look again in curiosity and it serves me very well indeed. As I care for an ailing, failing husband, a whole lot of what I do might make you recoil in horror. It did for me, at first, but not now. Now I see beyond the obvious drama of it, deeper into the landscape, following with my eyes the contours of new land, ice land, desert land, rolling land or sea, skies that go on for ever. This is hope. This is faith. I am not stuck. Nor are you. It is all in the curious looking.

This is the only way to live.