Island Blog – These November Days

It rains here a lot and never mind the November thing. It just rains. We have too many hills and we stick out too far into the Atlantic and we are used to it. But I am hearing from other drier folks that rain has confounded them. It is the way it is in our times. For those of us who know it, expect it, we are prepped. We already have the boots and the wherewithal to counter any walk in any weather. It thinks me.

At what moment did we ever think things were stable? Back to our forebears, when danger was all around, when nothing could become a very big something just when we turned back to the pot of soup, the comfort of a fire, the predicted course of the evening, I question the complacence of nowadays. When we moved to this wild island, we did because of the instability of things. I wasn’t paying attention, just following my leader but I get him now. He knew there was a big change in the coming and he responded early. I’m talking late 70’s so he was wise before his time. In the turbulence of moving, of shifting kids and location, of heading out of the comfortable warm and into the cold was not pleasant, not at all and I whined a lot and fussed more, demanding the same as was before, the safe warm of a southern kitchen, but his shoulders were broad enough to shut me up.

As I walk out this day inside heavy rain, I think. Not cold, should be. Leaves still on trees, almost. Whipping rain yes, abundantly so. The pines are falling, the land eroding. We are here. This is now for us. Will we scrabble for the past or will we recognise our now in these November days?

Island Blog – Blow Back

As I write of the years, the caring years for me, the demise years for my husband, immediately a contradiction in perspective, I find my belly shouting in response, as if this old belly is hearing things anew. Did I feel the same reaction whilst caring? Perhaps, but I was too busy being whom I needed to be at any given moment, so, possibly, I flipped any belly talk away.

But now that he is gone, he is dead, he is buried up there on that wild hill where gulls wheel, eagles cant the wind and where sheep shit all over the grass, I see through a different lens. I spider-web connect with memories and moments. I can’t follow the strands, not now. They are the ones, blackened and dust-heavy I will point my Henry Hoover nozzle at just to know they’re all gone. But they are not gone, for they web again, catching me like a fly, and, I concede. And, in that concession, I find peace. It is as it is. What was, was.

Standing firmly in the present, with a strong connection to the past and to a ditherswither faltering reach out to the future, I welcome what comes at me. Sort of. I will resist but that’s my thing. Resist. Then I think. Then hmmmm, that Maybe. I love change until Change comes to me. I love Strength until it is required of me. I love an Upset to my timeline, my plan for the day until it swacks me in my ordinary.

In these days beyond him, I clear cobwebs, sell furniture I wanted to see gone for decades, old dark stuff, old dark memories that nobody ever visited, and that was weird to me. I visit them. I turn the leaves of ancient books, beautiful writings, precious memories in photo albums I can never explain to my, to our, children.

I’m blowing back, in case someone will want to catch my breath,

Island Blog – I’m Watching

The sky louds as it darks, suddenly. Of course it is no sudden thing to the sky but only to us, captured in the time change thingy. I look away to make a mug of tea and there it is, the dark, closing in and rushing me to gather wood for the fire, as if I was an auld fool who had forgot the hours. Awkward and for a while. I remember it inside my young motherhood, remember rolling my eyes just knowing that babies and other young things work on body clock, not clock clock. Crows still rise at dawn to damage lambs and babies yell for mama when the same mama has only just laid herself down, after the grate clearing and ironing of napkins and table cloths for the breakfasts. The dark came suddenly, still does, with a swoop and yet I am loving the light in the mornings. For a bit I have felt I was the only one awake as Orion showed off in the Eastern sky but now, as if in defeat, he fades as I sip my coffee and I find myself glad of that.

In the now of my my now, I feel at peace, mostly. Obviously, there are sirilous moments (make up word) when I founder; when I walk from room to room looking for, looking for. That sort of crazy. But I like crazy. It fits. I am grounding inside my home that was his home that was our home (ish). I move barefoot always. Learned that connection from my beautiful sister, my brother’s wife and I still do this, no matter how cold. Barefoot. Do we ever do that thing? It isn’t weird. It’s real connection to our earth, our world, ourselves.

This night I see Orion. I follow the line of his belt to Venus. I think. I have tried to upload a star gazer app, being one who really loves stars, only to find daft music and a load of fiddle-di-dee that shuck my head.

I watch everything. People, stars, skies, moments, all of it.

Island Blog – Natural Friends

It is one thing to find friends among other humans and quite another to make a friend of Circumstance or Fear, of Change and of Time.

To elucidate, I have finally cleared out the last of his shirts, the plaid ones, the ones I kept just in case. In case of what? I asked myself, somewhat irritably, just yesterday morning. In case he returns from the grave? Well no, I hope not as I doubt he would be in good condition after all these months in a wooden box. Well, why then? I find myself infuriatingly persistent at times. I thought I might cut them into patchwork squares for my baby mats, I say, whilst flicking through the big pile of clean and folded items, all blues and reds, lines of colour running through, the material soft and warm. Time steps into the room and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. I know, I whisper, not turning around. Time is invisible after all and isn’t expecting me to look her in the eye.

I go downstairs and pull out the last black bag. She is right. Time is right. Time is my friend and kindly even if she does nudge me forward when I often want to stay stuck in the mud. I take a deep breath and begin to load up. Black is a good colour for this task as I don’t have to see any of its contents once swallowed up by the dark. I tie the top of the bag and harrumph it into the little reading room. I still have to drive it to the charity shop but that will happen when it happens. You can’t go back to it, warns myself as she stands in the doorway like a prefect. I bat her away, head back down the stairs and prepare my bagel, avocado and poached egg breakfast. The first mouthful sticks a bit but I keep going. Thank you Time, I say.

The wind has howled and battered against my windows for days now. Wind at night, that big, noisy crashbang of a thing, has always scared me. Fear comes up to attempt sleep when I do and she stays all night long, waking me often. She, Fear, is an insomniac after all. Everyone knows that. By the morning my bed looks like I hosted a wrestling matching it, the sheets all twisted and the duvet turned around until the fixing buttons clack against my ear piercings like a tap dance. I avoid thinking about the night ahead, the next night in this hooligan of a wind. I lash down the wheelies, close the garage door, watch the birds ding about like shuttlecocks, pretend I’ll be fine. In other words, I am resisting Fear, pushing her aside, singing la-la-la a lot.

My little sister calls. I call her that even though she is a grandmother twice over because she is a lot younger than me and the size of a dart, tiny, feisty, accurate in her projections. She talks about the full moon, how it upsets her sleep every single month, how her fed is right up on all things moon. She asks me how I am sleeping and I tell her just fine, well fine for me which means about 4/5 hours of a night. No moon trouble for me because I’ve got her number. Great! she comes back. Send it to me so I can tell her to eff off. I chuckle. Ah, No, that’s not the way. You have to befriend her, not fight her. She tells me she slept fine the following night.

It thinks me as I realise that I am fighting Fear of the big wind and this is what wakes me, scares me, upsets my sheets and twists my duvet around. I listen again to my own advice. Make friends with the moon and she will stop bothering you. Ha! So if I make friends with the wind I will free myself from the Fear of it. I do exactly that and, although the wind, which must surely be exhausted by now, keeps up her crashbang, sleep comes and stays a while.

Then my mind turns to Circumstance. I think she is a different matter altogether because of her unpredictability and her tenacity. She is going nowhere, no matter how much wishing and whining goes on. She is no respecter of wealth, colour, age or choice. She is solid and she is flighty. To make friends with her requires a lot of inner thinking, because to be able to accept her inevitable presence inside a life is the key to peace and we all love that one. I have enjoyed glorious visits from my siblings and now they have gone. My days are my days now and I must approach each one with a Tigger and a Pooh in my mind. I will begin a new landscape tapestry. I will settle forward into my solitary life once more. I will walk the Poppy dog, catch a falling leaf, watch the colours rainbow as they die. I will laugh at my imaginings and write down the ones that laugh me most. And, every time Circumstance or Fear, Change or Time appear at my side to ruffle my feathers, I will say Welcome, come in, let’s chat my friend.

Island Blog – Autumn, Our Gift.

I almost didn’t go to the pier today, to sit on the flat rock and to watch the tidal activity. Almost. Waking twirly and feeling it as the day slowed on, I conversed with myself as though to allow such a falter, to give it credence and approval. I will walk the short walk today, I said. It’s fine. I am allowed. But, as I moved closer to the exit opportunity, the rebel in me drew blood and stood in my path. I could see her in my mind’s eye and she laughed me. Ok, ok, I said, I will walk on. She withdrew to allow safe passage. I would so not want to challenge her.

Leaves are turning. Above my head, beech, alder, hornbeam and birch show me tip. That tip into Autumn, that acceptance with a rebel of colour shouting at them. No dying without colour, she says, no dying without that glorious dress of swish and ruby, of gold and speckles, that differentness that comes only now, only as Summer with all her flounce and confidence yawns like a princess and takes a first class flight across the world. There, she can astonish as only she can, lifting tired human minds, human bodies into swimsuits and flowing wraps and barbecues and beach encounters, but Autumn is pragmatic. She speaks to the dying light, to those on the cusp of change, she is change. And she does it well. Even though the storms may come and the light give way to a big dark, she is clever with time, for those who are watching. She is not one to sleep in.

The light lifts as I walk. Although it seems that the sky is closed, all grey and without comment, there is a shift. I can feel blue coming even if I cannot see it and it comes, with dissonant clouding and cerulean blue. For now it is just sweaty and cloying and my frocks clamp my skin. Then home again as Father Sun finds his spot and beams hot and sweaty after a jumper and boot day. I roll my eyes and peel off morning layers, damp down the fire. The temperature flips from nothing much to 27 degrees in a matter of moments. My neighbours suddenly barbecue. It is what we do if we are working with what is on offer, much like Autumn. I like her. She is feisty and determined. She is beauty in the face of death only it isn’t death. Death is forever, whereas she, Autumn is just one of four and playing her part. She is that jazz singer with a whisky/cigarette voice you hear whilst walking home, one that draws you in to hear more. She is nuts and berries, vibrant and wild, offering a harvest that comes only to her. She is preparation for the winter months when we all lose the plot, light endless candles, and pretend we don’t mind the dark and the cold. She is a herald, nonetheless. She is saying, get ready, pay attention, get real about this time, in particular, This Time, for we are all afraid, all wondering, all peering out at a world we are no longer sure about nor confident to walk in.

I won’t do the cheesy and say that this is nothing. It is not nothing. But we humans have survived, lived, loved danced and made a difference over and over for thousands of years. None of us know what will happen next but next is out there and we are right here, right now and this is Autumn. Our gift.

Island Blog – Cusp

I like being on the cusp of change, even as I sometimes am a fearty. This day I walked beneath a billow of grey clouds and thought, well, at least the sky isn’t flat. I’m not great at flat, unless it refers to my midriff, in which case I am delighted. The sun is closed and already lowering in our skies which brings a change of light. Another cusp. As Summer concedes to Autumn, I wonder if they discuss when and how and if there is any resistance or if all the seasons are good students and just know their places. You go, no, You go, No you, or something, or is it silent, peaceful and are the four of them friends? I have met Autumn in the mornings, a thrill of chill, a shiver, a rush to light the wood burner, only to end up with burned skin in the afternoon. In the laze of Spring, for she is lazy up here, I can dress in thunder resistant woollens, mighty leggings and at least four frocks plus jumper and be trounced and bounced into stripping off by lunchtime, only to fall back into shivers by wine O’clock. The seasons are capricious.

It can frazzle me. And then it thinks me. Perhaps the seasons are like us, ditzy and unpredictable. Perhaps they too are unsure of their roles, of who they are are in the now-now of now. Old people in my young days and in my middle age could bore my tonsils loose going on about how long the summers were, how on time the snow fell for Christmas, how floods never flooded and how we never knew what a hosepipe ban was. I can hear myself now, telling a young granddaughter about the ‘simple’ days but I notice and pause and erase and laugh for this is memorical nonsense and so very flat sky.

I walk the same track, the Tapselteerie track and it never bores me for it is always changing as the seasons change. Today beneath the yellow, umber, Payne’s grey and white of the bumpy clouds, the scabious lights up. Peacock butterflies show me wild strong colours and sea-dandelions are so yellow I want to spread their buttery gold on my toast. I peer into the woods and see the green slowly change from lemony lime to deep wine bottle. Summer in there is moving out. The grasses are dying and so they should for we will need them next year. Nonetheless it is a gasp, the watching of it, of their turning. Where sunlight lifted and tousled, danced and elevated these emerald fronds, he is abandoning them now for he cannot reach from his louring face in the western sky. And it is right and it is time and it is preparing us if we just care to notice. Bracken stems copper and begin to fall, to fail. Different birds fly over, birds that will leave us soon for the north, for the south. Go safe, I call out. Come back to us.

Mushrooms and toadstools stand like sentries along the track, big-chested, bullish, almost scary, some tempting and beautiful. I touch nothing. A choir of temptresses, all perfect and come-eat-me have erupted overnight on a tree stump. Hallo, I say. Not interested, I say, and not because I don’t eat mushrooms but because I have no knowledge of the safe and of the deadly. I do look back. They are beautiful. I walk to the old pier and sit a while. The wind is snappy, cooler but the tide is gentle, ebbing but softly. Two herons screech at each other like women at a WI cake sale and I smile, rest on a basalt rock and look out while someone across the sea-loch pushes out a dingy and heads for his fishing boat. I stay as they spin by and wave, heading out to catch dinner perhaps. The coolth lifts me from my rock and I wander back home. I check the fire, bring in logs, close a window. I slide down the cusp and go in search of my boots.

Hallo Autumn. Welcome. In you come.

Island Blog – The Sky, Skerries and Staying

Today it is falling, the sky I mean. Earlier the pocks of deeper grey sat like skerries in a white sea. A few spots of soft rain fell, hardly worth a mention, but the wind was cooler than of late. Now the sky is leaking down onto the land, covering the hills, blanking out the trees, undefining contours of a land I know like I know myself. But do I know myself, I wonder? I think I do, and yet, there are times I catch my reflection and stop, mildly astonished (oxymoron). You do know, I tell myself in my best English student remonstratory voice, that it is impossible to be mildly astonished. This is lazy ‘speke’. Astonished, is, after all, a superlative and ‘mildly’ does little more than dilute with too much milk. It blands itself. And it thinks me.

I studied and loved language. English, French, German, even Latin, and am still a devotee of the way language flows like a river. Or it can do but, if I am honest, less and less nowadays in the ways learned by me. I remember my old dad with his linguistic brilliance, puffing like an old pipe should he encounter poor English, poor grammar, the ‘wrong’ use of punctuation. I also recall a conversation with him about acceptance. As cultures collide and collude, language shifts. We adopt and adapt and before we know it, words fall away like birds. When I read a classic novel, superbly crafted and written, it seems effortlessly and in lingual confidence, I can see that without incursive verbalism such writing would indeed flow like a river for a creator of stories. So do we, the now ‘we’, who must work with the fast moving changes of our world, go with what is, or resist and remain in academic slippers? We could, but we would risk losing a load of readers because language is changing. We might find ourselves moving up a floor, and up again, until the only person left is a lonely one. All the rest have died off, and their slippers are too worn for a charity shop, and burned as litter.

I find new language dynamic and fascinating, even as my eyes roll at much of what I read. Get with it old woman, I tell myself, because if you do, you remain in the game, the game that is life in motion. To refuse to abdicate the throne of those torn and floppy slippers is to choose loneliness. As writers, and we can all be a writer if we just pick up a pen and are ready to learn and grow in the world of words, we are duty bound to be gymnasts. Not actually gymnasts, the thought exhausts me, but acceptance gymnasts. There is another type, the one that holds on to the slippers for grounding, and who does a lot of eye rolling and pipe puffing and shuffles from room to room as if there is no world out there and if there is then I want none of it. I am not this person.

We live with danger, threat and menace. We are hacked and hi-jacked. We are compromised, surprised, confined and defined. Out there racial and sexual prejudice is alive and kicking, literally. The sky is falling. But wait. Look at how the sky reaches down both to confuse and to alter our perceptional lens. See how, in the not-seeing of what we know invites us to look at something another way. We can dismiss this as an opportunity, ignore it, even, say Mist, say Fog, say Close the Curtains. Or we can actually look and if we do, we will marvel. It is the same with words, with language, with change and with people. I get that it is exhausting (nearly said pretty exhausting #oxymoron) to be always required to adapt and adopt, but it is the way the world is spinning, faster and faster. New technology brings both healing and death, the whole circle, and the greys in between are like the skerries in a white sky sea. There are millions of them and each one offers footfall. They are like stepping stones. We might not know where they lead but if we don’t keep leaping from one to the next, we remain lonely, in slippers and pipe puffing at what only we consider lost.

I can write into the mist, or it can blind me. I can see banks of clouds or I can see skerries in a white sea. I can allow new cultures to enhance me or inhibit. I can hold to the old or I can estew the new, allowing myself to simmer and to blend with whatever comes in. Together we can make a delicious meal. I am not a new writer. I am honed from past teachings but I am curious and interested and I want to stay in the game.

Island Blog – Add the New and Let us Heal

Well, today was interesting. I went through my check list of new habits, ticking off this one and that. During that process, there were times of momental anxiety, as ever. Self doubt, quandary, up the stairs and down again. The usual. Moments when I doubt myself and never, ps and btw in the moment. I know my moments and they are mine and they are themselves and we work together nae bother. It is the times when I doubt something much bigger and all because a thought comes in. I now recognise these confounding thoughts as those rooted in the past, in childhood, in my marriage, in my gawky and faulty motherhood walk. Oh, Hallo, I say, I see you, I recognise you, I would like you to move back for now so I can see the moment. The moment shows clouds, bird-fly, trees moving in response to the wind, skies responding to whatever shit is going on up there way way way above my understanding.

I walked, although, confessing, I did not walk mindfully today. I walked blind. I was caught up in my thoughts, a gazillion of them and not many of them, if any, helpful nor relevant to the now me. This is the human condition. We are always at the mercy of our thoughts until we learn cognitive management and that is not control, much as we might long for it. No. It is the practice of noticing our thoughts, of stepping back from them and of assessing whether or not they are helpful in the now now. Our new now now. It does take practice. Hoping to be able to cope with a welter of thoughts at anytime is wanting to live in Disney. And, for you Scots, it disnae. I know Ive been at this for years but I am no model student. I can be overwhelmed easy. Like this day.

I am out there in my garden, which happens to be at the front of a lovely old stone house with views fantastic. Anyway, I am out there with seedlings and they are shouting at me to be planted, like we are so tired of this tiny pot, our roots are wound up like Freddie Mercury and Hallo? So I go out there with gravel for the planters and peat and topsoil and other witchy growing helpers and then in they come, the visitors, the lively, lovely dog-tastic, kitted up visitors with bins and backpacks and enthusiasm and a merry smile, their mouths oped for greeting and my peace is shattered. My nearly deaf dog catapults into hysterical terrier barking which has to be in discordant A minor on a badly tuned piano, and because she is fast, I can’t catch her, and because she is nearly deaf she can’t hear my voice and the whole lovely visitor thing turns into a frightful afternoon. Just like that.

They move on with their lovely dogs that don’t bark and I hide within in my turmoil. I know what this is. This is my challenge to get back out there, to get real, to find life again, the new life that I know will come from over a year of being in jail. For all of us. I shower. Change frocks. Look forward to seeing my beloved son tomorrow when his boat comes in to Tobermory. I get over myself. Do you?

This is an opportunity to hang on to the old. Or, it’s an opportunity to be curious about every single thing. This is a new world people. Do we want to be an active and loving part of it, or are we going to stay where we were, constrained by old ways and (seriously?) thinking that was ever helpful to a broken world that yearns to heal?

Island Blog – My Home, Music, Changes and Fun

Today the sun shone like it was in a competition. Brazen, warm, loud in the sky. The pufflet clouds moved around it, I think deliberately, because it showed them in their best light. Edges like fire and brimstone, smokey dark below. Quite the picture.

I did a bit of this and that. I lifted some paintings to the walls of the rooms that used to be his and are now not his anymore. His bedroom, a tangle of hospital bed, aids, plastic receptacles etc, all gone now. There is a king sized double for visitors, a new carpet, a blackout blind and curtains. In the office, now not the office but instead a wee kiddies room, a new carpet flats the boards, soft and cool and slightly sea coloured. I joined an online church group and it was very lovely indeed. Then I marched out, plus wee dog, to corral some beech leaves, soft limbs, gentle emerald leaves, for preservation. I watched my old and ferocious mother-in-law do this thing. Glycerine and water mix, pop in the limbs and wait. The stalks draw up the mix into the leaves that take on a shine and are preserved for ever. ish. I can hardly believe I am truly becoming Granny at the Gate, and if you haven’t already read my book then do it now. The replication of a life in every single sense (only I am never ferocious) is bizarre. God bless you old girl for your powerful spirit. It lives on. As you can see from your vantage point.

As I re-designed the rooms that were his, I felt a falter. Although he is gone and this lovely home is now mine, there is yet a sense of notmine. It never was when he lived. It was his or it was his mother’s and I find it quite hard to brush that legacy away. As I arrange for my friend, an antique dealer, to come when he can to remove the old maple dresser, the mahogany thingy full of ancient leather bound books, I get the whiff of traitor around my person. This would never have been countenanced when he lived. Now he lives not. Now this is my lovely home and I crave white space, minimalism and the moving on of old, maybe valuable stuff, that will bring money in for my kids. For our kids.

I chose music that kept me in the bubble of me and him. Sibelius, his favourite. The Swan of Tuanela, Valse Triste, and Grieg, Peer Gynt. I played them loud as I worked. Then I brought in my favourite, thinking, this is my house now and my music is also important. Beethovens’ 6th, the Pastorale. These have been on a loop all day as the sun beats in and the birds sing like they were the choir for the Second Coming.

A good day. A day of change, of down and then up. And I look around my lovely light, bright, open home and say to myself, How fortunate am I. How lucky, how glorious is this island place. And my neighbours have just come back, all children and garden talk and fun.

Island Blog – Silence, Shape and Change

I notice everything these days in sharp butts or gentle whispers. Funny how it happens. I notice new and surprising ‘friend’ requests from widowed men. I notice kindness from friends I know and trust. I notice how the expanse of life both confounds and cuddles me. I never noticed such dynamics before, busy as I was with marriage, with kids, with letting go, with caring, noise that took up my whole hearing. Now there is silence. I never got to know silence. It never came to me. there was never silence. Now there are hours of it, days of it, eons of it, both outside and inside me and we are learning each other. A greater part of me thrives on silence. I have craved it for my whole life. Stop. Talking. Stop. Telling me what to do. Stop thinking you know me. Just Stop. And now the stopping is here, like a shout, like a whisper, like a sharp butt. Well, there is work to do my lady. I know, I know. I am ready and I am open. The shape I have been for decades is no longer my shape. I can feel it shift, lift, split and become fractal in a whole new universe. It is very weird, very odd, very confounding, very welcome. Two opposing thoughts, held. A bit, no, a lot, like a marriage.

I walk today beneath cuckoo flight and an encounter with a pair of bullfinch. They, the bullfinch, are such an astonishment, such a gift for anyone, those big blood red chests, that black head, that unmistakable lift and flight, that hurries away. The Cuckoo also gift. I am guessing the same bird, for the location is always the same, but, nonetheless, a gift. The raindrops on the leaves make diamonds. It lifts the light, the shine of green, making each blade of grass like a newborn. The rain came on heavy, like way too loud for me to hear my audio book. I had to shut the doors to the sunroom with its plastic roof, as it sounded like the end of the world. Once quieted, I watched the way sound muffled and it reminded me of parents talking behind doors. An almost hearing but not enough to explain their concerns and not enough to make any sense at all. And there is a yearning there, to know more even as my hands back then were twists of troubled meat and bone. This doesn’t change. I know the Cuckoo is an adventurist, a taker, not a giver, but I still thrill to hear one, to even see one fly over my head. The ultimate human confusion. We want to hear and we don’t want to hear at all.

The rain popples the search. There are diamonds in patches, in swirls, moving but not with the tide. These patches are individuals. They hold, shift, move on and then concede and become a part of what must be. I like to think this is what I am. For ever I have conformed (not just me but all women/wives/mothers) to the ebb and flow. And yet there have been times and will be again to flash popples and diamonds just for a moment, just for a time. How wonderful is that!