Island Blog – This Day

This day I would like to wander through a wood. Looking up at the map of the sky, fragmented by the leaves of the canopy, and then down at the dappled light on the autumn ground, I see my boots, one step at a time. And I love them all over again, for they are my favourites despite the chunk ripped out of one of them by an excited puppy with razor teeth and fast legs for running away. I can see him now with my boot clamped in his jaws, looking back to see if the puffing shouter was keeping up. She wasn’t.

In the wood I look for fairy homes, little round holes in the tree moss and I whisper a hallo. It’s always best not to irate the fairies I find, so a polite acknowledgement of their whereabouts is quite enough. I hear the sound of a wind combing the pines, singing with them, perfect harmony. Beyond the wood the tide rushes in, funnelled through nip-tuck lines of granite and basalt, ancient and immovable. Butter yellow lichen coats the faces of these rocks, as if the sun just landed there for a while, for me to see. Bubble, burble, swish and tumble, the mussels cling on tight. There are hundreds of them and, at low tide, I can slither across the slipper rocks to garner a feast. Wild thyme still blooms, scabious too and the flash of blood shows me where the rowans grow, their shout for attention, their hallo to the sky.

After my wander, I know where I’m going. There is a delightful tapas bar down a skinny side street, tucked in between a second hand shop and someone’s front door. The patron is big and very Spanish and his welcoming warmth greets me as I push through the door. Tables line the wall and tapas dishes, the counter. Bright smiles, a proffered glass of dry white with olives and crusty bread Señora? Si, gracias. I wait for friends to join me, for I am a bit early. As I sit my eyes roam the walls. There is a big painting of the bull run through Pamplona streets, the festival colours bright and full of sunshine. A portrait of the patron’s wife, now deceased, fills a side wall. She is very beautiful and there’s a sass in her eyes. Her hair is tumble free and dark around elegant shoulders. He has spoken of her with me, probably with everyone, for she was his one true love.

After a long and merry lunch, I wander through the streets, watching little gardens pass by. Voices lift in the air around me, ordinary people talking ordinary things. Where did we park? What’s for dinner? Where’s Wally? And yet not one of them is ordinary for we are, each one of us, unique, with our own life to live and our own frustrations, our own dreams. Who will live that dream? Only the brave.

I find my way home. Opening the door I smell the familiar smells and I breathe them in. This is where I live, where I am entirely myself. I may be alone now but I know who I am. Softly I relinquish the ties that bind, hanging them over a chair like a well loved cardigan. I put on some music, Sibelius. The swan of Tuanela was his favourite. Sinking into a chair I watch the day fade into dusk and I am filled with memories and gratitude as the beautiful and evocative melodies flow through the room, through me.

It is good, this day. And all is well.

Island Blog – Silence, a Woodland Choir and the Moon

It’s raining today. It should have rained for the funeral, spilling into the next day, the day we sent his wreath out on a rip tide, and on into day 3 when we all cried and hugged and farewelled in sunshine. So it is perfectly okay for the rain to rain today. In fact, it must be a relief for all those Cumulus clouds, pregnant with 1.1 million pounds of water, the equivalent of 100 elephants. Thank you, I tell them and get soaked, as I wander down the Tapselteerie track heading for the woods.

There is a wind blowing. Nothing whooshy that might tip me over and send my wheelie bins into Lucy’s garden, but just a woowoo sort of wind, warm and damp. It shivers the woodland canopy, making it sing. All those leaves twiddling, catching the air on their dying surfaces, lifting it into sound, into music, into song. I am walking underneath a choir and the piece they are singing is delightful. My moving feet create the percussion in dry spots where the fallen leaves and stalks are dry, and a marvellous squelch where they are not. It’s danceable to. I don’t, however. I never found it easy to dance in waterproofs. I am more of a lycra/bare foot sort of girl when it comes to dance.

I stop to stare up at the vanishing point, where the trees appear to bend towards each other in their final moment before touching Sky. Clouds move without argument, pushed by the wind and birds tilt and skitter among the fir trees, picking at cones, chattering to each other. Flit, chatter, chat, flitter. The wood is alive with life. And so am I. For I am not the one who died, the one who had marvelled at this natural magic for 77 years, captivated by that over which he had no control. The one who now rests in the goodly ground he tended, planted, developed and cared for all his life.

The sea chops, ruffled by the wind, catspaws. The rain on my face is soft as I push into it. Lichen abounds on the trees lining the track and star moss fills the ditches, sparkling with droplets, a diamond catch. Back home the fire warms the rooms even if the towels still aren’t dry on the kitchen pulley. I am resisting the autumn re-light of the range, holding on to the full tank of fuel, for the winters here linger longer than in other places. We can have snow at Easter and the cold finds its way into every crack and cranny for many months. By the time I have exposed my arms to sunshine, the rest of the country is tanned bronze. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Seasons here are magical, natural, and the land beyond the busy tourist season is left to itself, not needing to submit to human will nor to compete with the sounds of vehicles, sirens, bells, elevated voices.

He loved all of this too. Peaceful is the way to live, he said. And, in the end, peaceful was the way to die. A perfect circle, like the moon, the moon who decided his every single day. What she says, goes, he said. Tides, weather, wind, rain, all of it. Even the Father Sun backs down when she decides to rise.

Sounds like a fine plan to me.

Island Blog – Waiting, Silence and Engagement

This day I walk into absolute silence. Nothing moves, not a whisper, not a leaf, not a nothing. Under the tree canopy, beech, birch, sycamore, hip-hop, ash and alder, all branches, all leaves are completely still. T’is a rarity on this wind blown island and one to be noticed; one to become engaged in, to stand still beneath the huge silence and to become a part of it.

It is tempting to march on, my thoughts pushing at me like a man might ‘encourage’ me to get a move on. The Hurry Up of life is a part of our being. In order to get this done, I must move quickquick because the next thing is out there tapping its fingers on the table and rolling its eyes, impatiently. Do I always need to buy into this? Well, no, I don’t. Not now, anyway.

Standing under this still canopy, I reflect on those days, when the list was so tightly packed as to be almost impossible to achieve. Is there time between the napkin ironing and the school run, the first school run, for me to walk? Maybe, but only if you go like a dingbat, whatever that is, and avoid any such nonsense as looking out, up or around; no following a woodpecker’s looping flight, no sniffing of a wild rose in the cupped hand of that wee burn because that might take a few minutes being as you will have to lift your skirts, flip a fence and clamber.

These slow days, these days of so-called retirement, lend me time. Time that begs a payback and that payback is engagement. So, I engage. I turn to watch the sea-loch. It is flat as a mirror, burst open only by an otter, hunting. The waters close over almost immediately, as the air does once I push through it, ready, cleansed, new, for the next thing that might interrupt the still. The track is empty, as it mostly is. The stones lay flat or sometimes upskittled by a passing estate vehicle. I notice change. A branch fallen, a new growth spurt on a blackthorn, a higher rise of glorious grasses, a touch of sunlight illuminating a dead branch on an ancient tree.

In these extraordinary times, there is stillness. In fact, there is complete stopness. Where there was a flow of communication, a moving towards each other, we now step back. This day, as giving people delivered food, fish, vegetables and mail to our lockdowndoor they all pulled back as I came forward to receive. That space in between us has become, could become a long term space of fear. It must not be allowed to do that. In many ways it is so simple to go with the rules right now, but when they are lifted, will we lift, also? It thinks me, a lot. Living with Captain Vulnerable, I have many thinks about it, to be honest, and find it quite hard to see my feet on any of the future ground.

No matter. I will wait, as I did beneath the still trees, until something new illuminates my thinking. After all, I have lived through many battles, climbed many mountains, felt the fear and still marched on. And, in the meantime, I will celebrate the care and the giving and the inventiveness of those who have made these extraordinary times their chance to engage in ways they might never have known, had life stayed ordinary.