Island Blog – There’s something about ‘dead.’

When someone dies you might think, well, that’s that, he or she is gone. I’ll be fine. I am sensible, practical la la la. However, I am discovering that this is not the truth at all. Yes, the person is dead and gone and I am not fine at all, or wasn’t fine at all for a long while. However, something comes alive from that death and it grows and thrives in so many unexpected ways. Beyond the initial shock come a swingle of emotions and they can last for as long as they last. Anger, despair, denial, acceptance, to name but a few and each one of these can burst into life within a single day leaving us exhausted, confused, beaten up. It isn’t possible for anyone outside of bereavement to fully understand, let alone feel these emotions. All they can do is to stay quiet, give no advice at all and to simply walk beside us as we explode into the sky or melt into a cold and dirty puddle on the ground.

But this ‘alive’ thing. What do I mean? I think the best way to describe myself is through imagery. Imagine, if you will, a desolate landscape, one that didn’t appear politely and over time but more as the result of a nuclear explosion. One moment I looked out on trees, flowers, seasons, skychange. I sat by running water, heard its song, watched birds fly overhead, geese migrating, sun rise and sunset. I was complacent in this, expecting my world to look this way every time I chose to look out of my window. I knew, even from behind closed curtains, the promise of a morning. Rain, wind, soft warm air, still waters or the spit and roar of wildflow over rocks. Then in just a single moment, all is desolation, all is grey and empty. I see no green, no landscape, no lift of hill nor fall of valley. The ground is flat and without character, without balance.

Over time I come to accept this new view from my windows. Each day is the same as the one before and here flickers the first flame of ‘alive’. I can see the little spark, watch that spark grow into warming fire. I reach my hands to it. There isn’t much warmth to be honest, but it is the first lift of orange I have seen in this grey nothing and I am keen to fan it into something more. Although the outside shows me same old, inside something is keen to live and I recognise it as the human spirit. I feel a lift in my heart even though all that I ever knew is gone now, and forever. But I am still here and the me in me has no intention of turning grey and flat, it seems. I rise and dress in colours. I decide to cook something delicious. I turn up the tunes and jig a bit around the kitchen. Each time I begin something I can feel the inner flames lift as a new breeze tickles them higher. Each time I begin something I am adding kindling to the fire. I am tending myself. I am saying that, even though the outside of me may stay grey and flat for some time to come, I am the fire of my future and the more I tend the alive in me, the more I realise that this need for living warmth came directly from a death. When the dead one wasn’t dead, I was as complacent as one expecting to see the same world outside my windows as I did yesterday, and all my complacent yesterdays. I took it all for granted without a question in my mouth. Now I have a zillion questions all flying out into the empty rooms like trapped birds. I open the window to set them free. One by one, they fly and as they do, as I busy myself with being alive, I glance out. There is colour, I see it, Look, over there! And there, and there. The grey is beginning to live again. As am I. Although the landscape will never look as it once did, I know now that this blank canvas is aching for me to get out there with my paint and my colours. I have no idea where to begin but that doesn’t matter anymore. If ‘dead’ is going to have any significant impact on me then let it be this inner, cleansing, warming fire of Very Much Alive.

Island Blog – A 3 Frock Day

The wind is up and my wheelies are dancing. Only yesterday I freed them from their storm restraint, a rope affixed around their bellies and secured to my fence with chandler’s hook thingies that would normally keep boats from taking off to Holland. I forget their names. I was certain the gales had stopped and it laughs me as I watch the newly freed and recently emptied bins having a blast out there. My fence is smirking at me, I know that look. As a new gust, circa 40 knots, barrels up the loch, one bin, then the next open and shut their mouths. I can’t hear what they say but they are definitely talking. Or laughing.

It’s a three frock day for me, as I cannot risk going out there with anything light and floaty. Light and floaty could bring on an exposure I would rather not experience and nor would anyone else who happened to be nearby. And yet walking in high winds is exhilarating so I will still go out to watch the skinny trees bend towards each other, towards me, creaking and groaning like old women at a WRI meeting. There’s always lots of chat on gale days. The mail might not arrive and the ferry may not run. We are used to this even if it is an infuriation to the best laid plans. Deciding to pop over to the mainland for a shopping spree can lose its shine if a person is still over there 3 days later without a spare pair of knickers and a dog shut up at home. We live dramatically on the island. Nothing is ever a given and I think that’s what makes us so enterprising and so ready to help each other out.

There was no indication yesterday afternoon that a gale was filling its lungs in preparation for a dawning onslaught. The barometer read ‘Set Fair’, and this morning it shouts ‘Hooligan’. I don’t mind so much if I have warning, the time to batten down flapping things, but coming all of a sudden is just plain rude. Birds are flying backwards or in scoops and dives and the bird seed is half way out to sea by now. The feeders swing like ships lanterns in a force 10 and any bird that dares to catch on must feel bilious. I do, just watching them and am very thankful that I can eat a poached egg from a dependably calm and static plate.

The sea-loch is a rise of spume and irritable wavelets, wind blasting over the incoming tide, a conflict of interest. Geese honk over the house and I have no idea how they manage to stay the right way up. If I was up there I would be spinning like a top. It’s hard enough to remain the right way up with two feet on the ground and 3 frocks for ballast. But the weather up here is what keeps me balanced which may sound bizarre until you understand that the capricious sudden-ness of it has become the norm. When visitors rapture on about a beautiful sunshine day of calm and tweeting, they don’t see the truth. Make the most of today, I smile at them. Tomorrow could lose someone their garden shed. They eye me as they might a crazy woman. Sometimes they decide to move up here based on the untruth and then they meet the winter which begins in November and might possibly depart mid May. Endless rain, persistent gales to excite the wheelie bins and power cuts are all a given but we who know this are usually prepared. We have nourishing soup on the hob, loads of frocks and a great attitude. Or we don’t live here at all.

I could live nowhere else.

Island Blog – I am alive

And so it rains again, sideways and spiralling like wet smoke. I watch islanders walk by attached to damp dogs, legs all a-skitter. The humans are water clad, their faces shining rosy, their laughter lifting into the sky as they share a chuckle, again, about the rain, again. Visitors drive by, droop-faced, vision misted, windscreen wipers tick-tocking to keep the skinny road clear ahead. Where will they go today to see notverymuch I wonder? Inside the heating warms me, the fire curling amber red flames around the dry wood that spits and crackles; timpani. This is the island, the one that tongues far out west, dividing the Atlantic with its basalt and granite determination. I am content.

Walking out to feed the jittery birds sinks my feet into the sodden grass but no weather stops the need to feed their hunger. They scoop and swoop in, wary of the neighbour’s cats, of the sparrow hawk dive. I watch them cluster around the swinging feeders and am thankful that my meals are easier to access and without danger. I hear the drip drip of a ceiling leak, the plink of the drops as they land in an enamel jug. I used to need buckets, four of them, but not now, not since the ingress was located and bunged shut. And so I am thankful for that. Soon the day will kick off, unfold, pull me here and follow me there. I have music, words, timpani, birds, windows and rain. I am alive.

Island Blog – I hold the balance

I watch the rain. A constant, a steadying. I am not overly fond of endless rain but there is little I can do about that. There is also little I can do about long evening darkness, one that holds on like a black fist for way too long, well into what laughingly is called My Morning. Sleep is a friend, yes, but fickle. She soothes me for a few short hours but she allows in dreams, nightmares, startlements that shock me into waking and leave me still shocked even as the dream evaporates. I am not good at ‘still shocked’, won’t stand for it, get up, go downstairs to watch the darkness, try to love it at 4 am. I remember trying to love something when it defies the rules and it was never easy, my skin prickling, my mouth empty of words, my body longing to run, but if I could do it once, I can do it again. Let it be.

But. When someone who has no idea about widowness, my widowness, says something that doesn’t even come close to the depth of my feelings, I snort. I hear all the advice, the platitudinal fiction that spills from lips and eyes and I want to roar like Aslan. I don’t, naturally, but that roar held in my small body is wild and dangerous. I smile and thank them, the grief counsellors, the Facebook lovers, the ‘friends’ who write another supportive line pinched from a book they’ve read, but the within of me belies the without. Thank God for skin and good manners! Deep down I am grateful for kindness, nonetheless and all those words of uplift and encouragement come from good warm hearts. I know this and it thinks me into a questioning.

What is it that bothers me when I hear or read words that are just birds around my head? I consider the question and it comes to me as a flash of light. It is my inner speke that needs my attention, not the words I hear, the intention behind them. Oh dear, that can feel so impossible at times when I am busy doubting and fearing and self punishing, even as I know the truth of mind control. I decide to step into my own head and there they are, standing like sentry guards at the door. We can’t let any positive stuff in, they tell me as I confront them, not when you are busy nourishing us in our negative space. I sit down to consider the situation. Ah, so it is up to me to select my thinks? They nod. Are you telling me, I continue, that I am not at the mercy of negativity, regardless of my loneliness, my fears around Covid, my lack of confidence without my husband around to confidence me up? Again they nod. So, I fake it, pretend, kid myself on? Yes, they say. You keep feeding the uplifting words, the light bright beautiful birds. You receive all of them both from outside and those of your own making and you catch every one, lifting them gently into your mind and your heart. They are all light and flight. They lift your spirits into a positive orbit. They are all true and they are so much stronger than the loneliness, the fears and the self doubt. They are your true power, and we are tired of sentry duty. It’s time to change the guard.

I begin with ‘I am strong, happy, powerful and all light.’ I hold back the guffaw and the candle burns bright. The sentries fall, one by one and the door opens wide. Welcome holds out her hands, pulling me into a warm, light room, one I recognise. What on earth made me walk away from this! Well, says Welcome, life is not a straight path. The path winds every which way and everyone can get lost from time to time. I make a list so that every time the negative looms, I can hold it back with my own light. I might feel I am at the mercy of negative thoughts but it takes just one candle to illuminate a darkened room. Just one. It doesn’t matter that the doubts are there, the fears and the regrets. They are there to guide me, I know that.

But it is I who hold the balance.

Island Blog – Till Tomorrow

The seals are calling today. I hear them as I round the point but I can’t see them. Their eerie crooning comes on the breeze, one, two, maybe three of them. I stand to listen, allowing the song without words to enter my body, my mind, my soul. It shivers me but in a wonderful way. I cannot live without the sea and all her friends. She lives inside me, her tidal ebb and flow, the pull of the moon, today a pink fingernail hanging like parenthesis. The seals sing on, the lift and fall of their melody something unreal, ghostly. I am not surprised that such music terrified sailors back in the days when they feared falling off the edge of the world and felt the dread of scurvy. Safely rooted here on the Tapselteerie track and inside the knowledge we have today about seals and their singing, not to mention the confidence that neither I nor anyone else will ever fall off the edge of the world, I smile and linger. Taking the song home with me I wonder what they are saying. It will be for a purpose, that’s for sure. There is no sentimentality in the animal kingdom. Every sound, every move is about survival.

I meet nobody on the track. It is just me, the turning trees, the dying bracken and sunlight dapples. Birds flit and flutter, busy on the berries now red as blood and just asking to be eaten, the seeds spread only by travelling through the digestive system of the birds that respond. Scabious host peacock butterflies, blue, red, purple and of such delicate beauty. Harebells, heather and many bullish seps, big enough to shelter a small rabbit from a rainshower, flank the track. Leaf fall carpets the woodland cut-through, red, gold, brown, butter yellow and copper and I see nature’s artwork laid out below my feet. A cooler breeze today I think. Autumn is moving in, but softly this year.

The last visit to the sea takes us down a steep slope and across crunchy seaweed. It sounds like I am walking on crisp packets. Last week this weed was stodgy soft, greened up again in the high tides of a full moon. Be patient, I tell it. High tides will come again soon when that fingernail gets above herself and puffs out like a balloon, causing many of us sleepless nights and itchy teeth. It will wait. It knows how to wait, has done this waiting thing for thousands of years, after all. I heft my old self onto a tall flat rock. After himself died I did no hefting at all. I just stood like a dwarf before a giant and longed. Now my hefting ability is growing balls and I am thankful. I am no good at dwarfing. Although I am shrinking, it is normal but I know that it is just my body, not my mind.

I sit in the sun and watch the water. A Merlin erupts from the bow-backed shore hazels behind me in a startle. He lifts and floats across the narrows to scoop up into a distant tree, startling a heron who lifts with a screech. Ordinarily, the wee doglet would ignore a heron but as it lifts, it screeches and that screech bounces back from the far rocks creating an echo. She is startled, the doglet, and barks back. In turn, her bark barks back at her, once, twice. She barks again, certain there is another dog around even if she cannot see it. I clap my hands to stop her and the far rocks clap back. Good Lord this is turning into a situation. I am aware that the folk in the holiday cottage are at home today and I don’t want this echoing percussion to upset their peaceful afternoon. I heft myself down and whisper a farewell to the sea, the Merlin, the heron and the echo rocks. Was I to speak it out loud, the whole echo thing would kick off again.

Till tomorrow, I breathe. Till tomorrow.

Island Blog – Rain, Alice, Getonwithit and no Cat

This morning as I rise from my sleeping quarters at some ridiculous hour I decide that enough is enough. From the moment I stumbled into the bathroom I knew it at gut level. This day is going to be my return to Getonwithit. I know the place well, have lived for lengthy periods of time within its borders during my long life and it offers considerable sustainability and protection. Its gardens are beautiful, long expanses of emerald grass tonguing into the distance, borders fragrant and blowsy with blooms in every colour of the palette; pretty arbours and trellises of clambering beauty, falling like waterfalls to brush against my cheek as I wander through. Birds flit and flutter among the shrubs and trees, butterflies of every hue, bees and other winged buzzy things sip nectar from open-mouthed blossoms, backlit by the nurturing sun, their stripes and wing patches painting magic on the garden canvas. I can wander all morning here, sit to rest on a garden bench whilst my eyes go deeper into the foliage to see more and yet more of nature’s life. In the evening I can watch the light fade to dark, the sun dip beyond the horizon, feel gentle sleep nudge at my edges.

The trouble is that my stay is limited and never long enough. The double trouble is that I am the one who decides to leave, my edgy gypsy wandering mind becoming bored of all this wonderfulness, for no reason the rest of me can explain, and clamouring for the bark and bite of everything harsh and difficult. From simple not-thinking to complex over-thinking. I blame my parents.

So, this morning I considered a few things. Swinging from Getonwithit with all its simplicity to Questions Without Answers is a waste of my resources. The key is to think Child. I had forgotten her, the wee Alice, the one who keeps falling down habit holes, sorry, rabbit holes, and who accepts a smile without a cat as if that’s completely normal. I find her. She is sitting on the stairs, half way up, half way down and I almost ping to the bottom in a tripcartwheel. I start a bit but I am happy she hasn’t abandoned me, me with my edgy mind. How patient she is, I smile to myself and myself rolls her eyes. Children, I remind myself, get on with it. They may not like the things they are ordered to do. They may not like living along the lines of a rule book they had no say in, but in the main they find fun in their lives. That is what Getonwithit shows me when I am there and this morning I am going back. Myself eyes me, knowingly.

It rains today and blows a hooligan. Stripes of heavenly water cut my window panes into slices and the wind batters the seedlings. Petals flee, birds scoot backwards and walking folk look like kites as they pass, their waterproofs flapping out behind them like wings. Dogs drench, woodpiles sigh and soften, the sky frowns and dumps on us. I can go back to Questions with no Answers, to a droop, to gloom, to the whom I had allowed myself to become recently, or, and this is my choice, I can remember Alice and fun and Getonwithit. So I do, we all do. Me, the dog-about-to-drench, Alice, and the rain, join as one this afternoon as we walk out into the wild, lowering beneath the wet beech leaflimbs , dodging the puddles, smelling the rain, the lovely scent of newfall . And there is a smile in the branches as we wander.

No cat.

Island Blog – Avoiding Collisions

The big window is speckled with raindrops, held in stasis and they glisten. I look through the children’s doodles, the glistening raindrops, my eyes moving into the garden and the brave early flowers. Grassland flows down towards the sea-loch and up the other side, up and up until I find the clouds, a tangle of them, I think at first, and many shades of grey. Watching most closely I can see the layers. Up front, the cobwebby dark fast moving clouds, see-through and spitting rain. Behind them the fat blowsy white ones, lazy, taking their time too respond to a rising wind. They are weighty with knowing and in no rush, not see-through at all, like old professors who know they have a job for life. Further back, the clouds that don’t seem to move at all, flat like naan breads, backlit by a little flash of sun, and beyond them just whispy white sky, acres of it. Acres. How many layers are there? How far back, up, across do they stretch? For ever? I see these levels as closely bunched, micro managing their individual trajectories, but I am wrong. There is only accord. Room for all of us, they seem to say, effortlessly avoiding collisions.

The birds are more than ready for me this morning, one of cloud and cold rain. Many goldfinch, greenfinch, redpoll, siskin, sparrow, blackbird, robin, hawfinch, thrush, starling and rock dove. They line the fence, balance on shrubs, flit and flutter like music notes blown off the stave. Time to reel them in before the wind speed confounds and the rain turns weighty. I fill each feeder as the braver musical notes play around my feet, my head. Two goldfinch watch me from the inside of an ornamental maple, red now, red as good claret. The second I leave, they are down like a swarm of bees. As walkers pass by they rise back into the air, flitting between the feeders, between the shrubs, between each other, to land down again the moment the coast is clear, and all the time they chatter. Some feed young on the fence, some feed themselves, and in all this flitting and lifting, fighting and feeding, rising and landing, there is perfect precision. We know what we are doing, they seem to say, naturally avoiding collisions.

This land is walked on, now, by many more feet. The ferries are booked, the accommodation scrubbed and ready. In the air around us, anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear layer up, cloudlike . We are grounded and can only go on, steady, determined not to hide away any longer. Peeping through fearful curtains, opening doors that squeak from lack of use, scrubbing doorsteps, we emerge tentatively into a world that barely recognises itself. Who am I now? Who are you, now? Do we still know our way around each other, feel the same way about this, about that, about all the important things that ran strong within us but whose names I have forgotten? My sense of import has changed, my value rating. Has yours, and, if so, will we know each other, have anything to say in this changed world? We know we must brave up and out for we are not moles or worms to need the dark because we have no seeing eyes. We need the light, crave the light, the sky the birds the clouds the sun the tidal moon shift and the story-carrying winds that blow from one side of this planet to the other and back again. We need each other, even if the otherness has become a hesitation when we meet once again. Like all other members of our natural world, we can adapt. We are not going back to normal, an eye-rolling ghastly grammar-makes-no-sense contradiction of a sentence if ever I heard one, because that ‘normal’ is light years behind us now. There is only forward and we are all unsure of our footing. Let those of us who refuse to bring the past along with us hold fast to not having the faintest clue about what happens next, what the ground is like, what clouds will come, what shape the future. Burn the old book that speaks of separation, segregation, prejudice and domination. That book needs to go. It has been outdated for many many years. We might write a new book together. Meantime let us step out, step in, step through and around, consciously avoiding collisions.

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 – 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 – Rain Light

I walked today with my eyes open, as best I could in the slanty rain showers. I need to see, and everything, not just the odd one or two things of spectacularness. Actually, if I look with intent, a great many things take on such a quality. Marching past, thinking ‘rain shooting up my frocks or stones kicked inside my boots to irritate my bare toes’ I can easily miss something I should not miss if I want this walk to mean anything more than a mere mindless exercise for both myself and the Poppy dog. She, needless to report, has no issues with frocks or stones in boots and I am glad of it, for her sake.

Lifting my mind from the aforesaid, I steady my gait, slow my footsteps, turn my face to the rain and all the skinly benefits it has to offer me, for I know it does, I can feel it prickle and stipple my wrinkly face, making it really quite lively. My mascara will not run, and if it does, I won’t mind because the feel of this heavenly water is so much more refreshing than the slosh of chlorine controlled tap water. I look about me. The leaf mulch is like burnished copper and the stems of strong-backed bracken think me of bare trees in a fairy forest. Rose Bay Willow Herb (such a mouthful of a name) stems are of similar beauty. I wonder when they will all finally fall to earth. Perhaps never. I forget.

Moss coats the trees. Beech, Alder, Sycamore, Hornbeam, Oak. All of them gleam and glow, luminescent, elvish, the tiny moss tops holding the droplet diamonds. Thousands of them, on closer study. The sycamores or plane trees patched like the necks of giraffes show me burnt siena and umber. Some trees are bald and the rain has shone them into beacons of light, like wraiths among the living, standing without breath. All sung out. The flash of a Jay overhead, the greyling light illuminating its colours, the translucence of its wings in flight. A buzzard hums the air, holding it, balanced to perfection, almost still as punctuation. Poor rabbit, I think, or mouse. You will see nothing coming as you scurry from cover to cover, always hiding, hiding for a lifetime.

The track is puddled, the extraneous rain pitching down through little gullies, down, always down, as freshwater will always down to the mother sea. The loch popples, tiny drops peppering the surface whilst beneath, salt meets fresh and the inevitable collision shows me a frothy curve of resistance and attack. Sticks lie here and there, thrown perhaps for laughing dogs with play in their mouths and dance in their legs, abandoned like dropped kindling on the path of a forager. I remember each Autumn walking up here on dry days to forage for kindling. There was something wonderful about knowing who lit my fire. Buying bags of split wood never felt the same. I like provenance, stories, meaning behind things. I felt the respect owed and due as I lifted, carried and then lit my fire with something from the woods of Tapselteerie. So much of my life lived there. It matters. Thank you, I breathe, as I lay the gathered sticks, marking, in my mind, the tree they fell from, the one still living, or the wraith that once flowered and spread, following the seasons and just begging to be noticed.

Almost home and I hear the chatter of a very busy household. I can see the evergreen shrub shaking with all this noise and bustle. Hallo Sparrows, I say, but quietly so as not to disturb or alarm. I toss up a prayer of thanks for their safety in concealment. I like that they can live together this way, as I absolutely could not. A commune never attracted me but sparrows seem to love it. They are safe for now, for this time when the sun, barely able to lift his head over the horizon offers a shortling day in which to feed or to forage. T’is the season, I tell them, as I walk by and they, having paused at my footsteps, in an alert concern, relax and chatter back to me. I know how to move around birds; slow and with a soft, reassuring voice. In the mornings as I fill the feeders, the birds come close, even the male blackbirds and that was my best delight for they are the biggest panic merchants I have ever encountered, screaming alarm at the slightest twist in proceedings and frightening all the other birds into bushes and over fences, their little hearts beating like a drumroll, and oft for nothing.

Another day passes. This one with rain light in its eyes. I meet those eyes. And I see.