Island Blog – On Golden

This day it is warmer, even warm. I awaken into the morning, light already, the wind light and the sky bright. No flat grey this morning and no cold wind and I am thankful. It has felt for a while now that this island stuck out into the great Atlantic has been the fulcrum for conflict, as if Summer and what we expect clashes with Autumn and what we don’t expect, and in June. Even the sea is a restless woman, plucking at her coverlets when opposing currents and wind patterns argue loudly with the tide cycles. Tide over wind, wind over tide, it’s exhausting and I am mighty glad not to be out there on a boat.

Today would have been our 50th wedding anniversary. I am not at all sentimental but I cannot say I haven’t given it a thought. Quite the opposite. In fact, I choose to think and a lot as I look back down the years of anniversaries and of 365 days in between each of them. So many and over such a long time, a time of growing children, of laughing and crying, of loving and hating, of warm easy peace and big storms, of wind over tide and tide over wind and repeat. Not many marriages make such an arrival into the harbour but we would have done, had he lived. In a traditional type marriage there is, or was, a lot of old fashioned claptrap, a lot of He is the Man of the House and She is the Little Woman who cooks and cleans and I can tell you I yelled and rebelled a great deal, but somehow we stayed where we were and where we were was together. This sunshine day I remember him as he was way back when romance was still alive and the pressures of adjusting to change flicked the feet out from under us. I sometimes wonder, now that I have time to engage with the wondering thingy, why it was so hard for him as an older man to accept change between us. I remember him questioning once, Why on earth would I want to do that? when I suggested that we both might consider this change. After all, wasn’t I fleet of foot and fancy free until my first son was born? I knew I had changed, of course I had. However this man who could accept all the vagaries of a capricious ocean found it very hard to accept any such in me, even as I knew I was 90% ocean.

But here I am alone now and remembering. I remember the times he surprised me with dinner plans, with roses and thoughtfulness. Romance was never dead in him. He just found me impossible and I know I was. The last anniversary card he gave me on this day in 2020, the year he died, he wrote in a very wobbly scribble ‘You know I have always loved you.’ I recall a mental snort, one I am not proud of, one I didn’t show. Instead I bent to kiss him on his withered cheek and smiled. We did ok, I said.

Happy Golden my husband.

Island Blog – Nowhere to go but Here

I am gradually learning the art of engaging fully with the day. Yesterday is gone and we all know tomorrow never comes no matter how fast we run. I suspect this engaging thingy may be age-related. It is also a time in my bonkers life when there are few demands on either my time or my superwoman skills, although a dash of those colours is always welcome and I am the first to leap on my motorbike in order to save someone’s day. But living fully inside the warm arms of this day is key to peace of mind, a softly pumping heart and no need for the Rennie packet. And the arms are warm. The weather is just weather. The hours are the same length they always have been and always will be, the ordinary daily tasks much the same even if I sometimes hoover/wash up/ repot geraniums or make soup in my neon tutu and top hat, at others in my dressing gown. I am a thankful woman. I have learned how to be that woman and she, me, is so very full of gratitude for all that comes my way, be it the excellently wonderful or the totally shit. All of it. And why is this? Because I have woken up once again, can spring, more or less, out of bed, choose my breakfast, watch the birds and the garden, the sea-loch and the sky taking not one look for granted. There are millions of ghosts who would give everything for just one more day in this beautiful world.

Worrying was what I did when my kids were, first, around my feet and peering up my nose or skirt, then later as towering sort-of-adults, able to wheech me over their shoulders. I worried, oh I worried. They are imaginative, enterprising and full of mischief, just as we taught them to be, but we were sensible and they absolutely weren’t. However this worrying was never a good thing, mainly because every disaster I imagined never happened at all. Also the art of worrying is not a pretty picture for the one being worried about. It indicates to them, quite clearly, that they are not to be trusted, that they don’t really know what is best for them. It turns their straight line into a curve at first, rounding into a circle of control in the end. Not healthy at all. And, for me, it unfocused my mind, addled my brain, upset my kidneys and unsleeped my nights. In short, worrying is always a pointless exercise, no exceptions. Oh I get the feelings of fear, anxiety and sometimes sheer terror, of course I do, but worrying is a choice and above all a method of control, even though most of my worries back in the day were more than justifiable. Just putting them on the school bus did not necessarily guarantee they arrived and and the simple act of coming home from the village was not without hazard. They lay in wait for each other with weapons of mass destruction and many a bruise or cut called for the nurse in me, the soother, the sorter out of complexities, the cool angel of peace, moving like Florence, over a wilderness war zone. A tapselteerie childhood and motherhood by the way for I was right in there, enmeshed in a time when compassion and fury lay together in my heart like unhappy bedfellows.

The truth is, and always was, I want my children to fly free, to make their own mistakes, sort their own lives out, find their own paths through the tangle woods even if this letting go wotwot is the hardest of all letting go wotwots. I know I don’t need to watch their every move unless of course I have made chocolate mousse. Dunked finger holes in the chocolate mousse, particularly if said finger kinks into a curve for maximum effect, is not a good look either for the mousse or for me, the cook. There is a limit to how much whipped cream can disguise such mining.

Needless to say I am always there if my help is needed and always will be, but that isn’t worrying. Instead it is an awareness and a readiness, boots at the door, my mini fuelled up, cash in my purse and a clear head to help sort out a problem; my ears open because I know that just by listening to the issue, asking the right questions and keeping quiet (a lot) will find them their own answer. It will also tell them without saying so that I believe in them, that they know how to deal with this, that I know they can sort this, because haven’t they sorted such warsle many times before? As, indeed, did I, this clueless wife, mother, nurse, storyteller, sorter of problems, such that threw me shapes I did not recognise at all. However, the temptation for we mums (and dads) is to think we are IT and without this IT, our children, friends, anyone we love who has just been blasted into space without a rocket, or a parachute, or breathing apparatus, is first to worry ourselves into a tremble of an eejit and then to buck forward with rocket, parachute, safety net and hot soup instead of what really works.

I see you up there. I am watching. Can you feel your toes? Look down and aim right. How does this bit of ground look to you? Do you think you can point towards it? Yes I know it’s the unfamiliar but you have moved on since yesterday and, as we know, tomorrow is a right pain in the neck because it absolutely never comes, no matter how fast you run. Yes, I am watching. I’ll be there with a sandwich and a flask when you land. No, I am not going anywhere. It’s ok this bit of ground, this new bit. There’s heather and saltgrass, orchids too now that it’s spring and birds…..you should hear the birds and you will. Soon. Then we will sit together, marvel in the moment and you and I will walk, not back into our lives, but forward. Not yet, thought, not yet. For now we will sit quietly in the present moment and say our thank yous to the love in the sky, the love that is always there for the asking. After all, there really is ‘nowhere to go but here’.

(not my words but borrowed from another)

Island Blog – Enough for me

I’ve been thinking. Thinking can be quite a full time job I find, have found. Sometimes it can be destructive, sometimes instructive, sometimes pointless, sometimes pointful. Because a gazillion thoughts crowd our minds from the minute we wake up and all the way up to whenever we manage to fall asleep, we must learn how to handle them. It’s like all your children, plus their friends and their friends friends and cousins are all around you shouting demands at the same moment. Their little fingers pluck at your clothes, their voices screech like jays and you, only you can sort out this mess. You rear back, try to find some place of quiet in which to find a solution, or many solutions, often without success. But you can actively get away from all those children by leaving the room and closing the door, running upstairs to lock yourself in the loo whilst you unwind the mental tangle, calming it into a good idea, a distraction, where with thoughts you cannot. You have to manage them internally and there is no upstairs loo available.

In times of long moments which can feel like hours, thoughts cluster, conjoin, form fat shapes like dumplings, weighing heavy and so amalgamated that it is nigh on impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. They dumple in my head, that’s what they do. What was it, that last fleeting thought? I don’t know, don’t recognise it, not as it is in this state of dumple. Who would? So what to do? I am pulling on my mental boots as I acknowledge the complete irreverence and lack of respect from these thoughts. How dare they assault me this way, tell me, or infer, that I am less than I might be, have failed too many times in the past and HaHa you can do nothing about that now you fool! I swipe them away like bluebottles. I’m going out, I tell them. Without you. I slam the door, truss the dog and begin to walk.

Immediately I am aware of stepping into the real world, my spiralling thoughts silenced. Now I am looking with my eyes facing out and not in. Left behind is the familiar, the four stone walls, the paintings, the photographs, the dust on the floor and the to-do list. I am alone but not alone, a body moving into a world not under my control, the random chaos of pure Nature. It isn’t random at all, nor chaotic but to me with my stays tightened in a back-home mode, my memories contorted into a twist of nonsense and untruth, this outside world seems just that. Birds flitter back and forth, butterflies butterfly and windshift troubles early greening limbs. Bumble bees claim the soundbite, hesitate me beneath willow catkins and I stand to watch their fat little bodies claim the sweet. Yellow, white, with round arses and pointy ones, tiny miner bees, even bluebottles tap the nectar. Percussion, timpani, glorious. Two paces beyond the willow and I hear nothing at all. Their sound is just for them and not for me but I hear it and it fills my head with hope. Life will always want to live.

Further, and I stop to welcome wee wind battered primroses, their butter faces reaching for a sun they will not meet this day. Star moss leaps out from stand-water, even from the crook of a tree where limbs have split for their own reasons and who have now offered a place of safety for some other leap for life. The wind today is kinder. The iceslice punch softened. I duck beneath a larch bough, heavy now with spindle green and with the hope that no unthinking walker will cut it back as I have seen before, as if this limb didn’t own its space and as if folk have forgotten how to duck. The latter I decide. Humans are so very arrogant and so very mistaken in their arrogance. Just saying.

I return soaked and thankful to my outer clothing and my boots. But more, I return changed. As I tentatively open the door to my four stone walls, I hear nothing. No thoughts loud my thinking. I am zinging on what I have just walked through and which welcomed me. Life will always want to live.

And that is more than enough for me.

Island Blog – The Dance

I have just cleaned my screen. It took a while to eliminate all the greasy finger marks upon’t. T’is done now and my screen is blaring white and clean, causing me to pull back a bit as if in the headlights of a oncoming car. I recover. I consider ‘clean’ against ‘not clean but easy to work with’ and I confounder myself. What else is not clean but easy to work with in my life? I am rocketing towards 70 and that’s an OMG, here she goes thing for children, probably now in their 40’s.

Moving on (quickly). This day I have listened to 3 TED talks on End Of Life. The one thing only we, in the West have any problem with. I mean, people, for goodness sake! We are all going to face it. But how? We don’t know when but we can decide the how of it. As I am doing. And, with great respect I will challenge anyone who is not clear about their choices for that time that will come to us all. Oh, yes, I have heard my fellows telling me I am being morbid but I dance those tellings away because I have been there with the generation above me, now long gone. It is more than a choice. It is a responsibility. Just saying. A Power of Attorney and a Living Will. Easy. Done and freeing for the kids who grieve and grieving slams you into space, one you don’t know, don’t like, fear and run from but which engulfs you for years and affects every step you, the left-behind, is left to take, day by gruelling day.

I am almost there on the legal stuff, which, by the way is a thixotrope of complexity. I remember when the Old Sea Dog was wheeched off to Glasgow with one of his 3 heart valves (2 down) doing it’s best (I named it, the only valve working, Falkor (you have to see the Never-ending Story to know that name), and whilst said Sea Dog was, to say the least, discombobulated, we could find no legal, official thing about his living will. That lack caused my kids intense angst. I don’t want that again for them. Hence I am required to act. No, I require me to act. It is only fair. Many I know have all this in place. And an equal many wave it away. The list is What I Want For My End of Life. It is so simple and yet here we run from it as if anyone can ever run from Death.

I love Fun. Fun is my absolute friend. If someone says Come Now and With Boots On, I am ready in 2 minutes. How much preparation does anyone need for Fun? It is gone in seconds unless we are are ready for it every moment of every day, even the dark ones, the cold ones and cloudydeep ones, the ones we don’t want to wake up for, the same old day tramping like nuns through the cold of our bereaved and broken lives, even then. Even them.

Moving into later life is not a time to deny that life. It is ours. We can ‘old’ with attitude or we can hide away and pretend it isn’t coming, tell ourselves we now have to wear sensible colours, forget the music in the pub that we loved, deny travel because travel is scary (for all of us btw)and fold in. why? Well, I am there, so I can tell you. We don’t want to look like fools. That’s it. We know where we are even as our kids want to tell us we will live forever. We won’t. Let us brave up and make things clear. Let us.

On a swippy note, I am listening to dance tunes in my kitchen as I cook my supper. I love the flavour, the swing, the colour, the flow and the creativity of this dance for life. Although limbs might not respond as they once did, so what! They did once and didn’t my body love that? Yes. it did. Celebrate old body and dance on when you can and if you can. Just don’t deny the olding. Just don’t. It is our path. It is so glorious, so freeing, so fresh and so, well, the dance.

Island Blog -Still Breathing On

I meet with two other widows over coffee in a brightly lit cafe/chocolate factory. All last night I was fearful, not of meeting them but of going out at all. I had to choose paint, collect a prescription, buy soap from the best soap shop in history deliver a huge landrover tyre to the garage for unpunctuation and leave my own mini there for an hour or so. She, my mini, Miss Pixty Forkov, was having an argument with her onboard computer and I don’t blame her. She was telling me her tyres were fine thank you very much whilst her screen flashed me dire warnings of certain disaster. This long list of things confounded me, overwhelmed me and I had to take 3 deep breaths prior to firing up the engine. I realise this to be ridiculous. I have driven this tootling switchback road up and down endless hills and skirting 2 lochs for decades. But nowadays it can take on monster proportions inside my overactive imagination and it has everything to do with Covid restrictions and fears and widowhood.

Needless to say, once my lungs are well pumped back up again and my head silenced, all tasks are completed with ease. I arrive at the cafe and settle down with a double shot cappuccino to wait. I can feel myself calming down as we talk about how life is for each one of us. All our husbands died differently. All of us are still somewhat lost without them, no matter how pragmatic, how busy with ordinary tasks we may be. We feel abandoned and rather pointless. We live on for our children, not quite yet able to say we live for ourselves, having not lived for ourselves since we were 20 and that was half a century ago. What happens to souls after death, I wonder to myself. Is there an end date for a soul as there is for a body? If not, heaven must be overcrowded when I consider the thousands of years humans have been living out their lives. I look at my friends, two good strong women whose faces show me what they must see in mine. More lines, eyes not so bright, mouth busy but changed somehow, the ends pointing chinwards in repose. Is my heart broken? Is yours? We all agree. Yes our hearts are broken, our lives as we knew them stopped forever dead. It doesn’t mean we won’t heal, although the scars will always be there. It doesn’t mean we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves but it does mean we give life to these deaths in that we talk about them, about our dead men, the impact on our children, the legacy of loss, of father loss. You only ever get one of those.

For my own part, as the most recent widow, I have only just come to a place of acceptance, a sort of quiet river flowing underground. Sometimes this river hits a confoundment of rocks that cause a lot of hiss and spit, spume and roar. Other times a waterfall, rapids and quiet swirling pools. There are bends and long straights, deeps dark as the middle of a forest at midnight, shallows where fish skitter and reeds wave softly from where they root, denied air. I inhabit the ground above this river, walking alone. The river compels me, beckons me, calls to me and offers me continuity, hope and a future even if I have no clue what that future will be. I know, as my friends know, that our children watch us now like hawks, picking up on every stumble, every doubt, every fear. Mum is all we have left now. Mum must go on and we will make bloody sure she does, the old bat.

When we separate back into our own solitary lives, having covered most subjects in the book of subjects, I know we all feel lighter because of what we all have in common and because we are not afraid of death any more. It is not a word whispered as it was before we watched it happen to our life partners. At the very point of death, when we turned all practical and businesslike, we left a part of ourselves behind for ever. We can be afraid of driving short distances, of imagined dragons, but Death has no hold over us now. We met him, after all. We watched him cross the room. We felt his presence. We are taller now, stronger now and more likely to laugh with abandon at things we might well have censored before. We are woman, invincible and still breathing on.

Island Blog – Fractal Dance and Twee Storms

I leave my little home and swing right onto the Tapselteerie track. There are no cars parked in the wheen of a passing place so that means no walkers unless they arrived on foot. Good. I love solitary walking. As the sea breeze lifts and luffs around me I get a faceful of wispy down, seeds from the rose bay willow herb, white, soft, fractal. I don’t take a deep breath as the cloud floats around me and away into the sky. Thistles are also setting flight their hopes for the future, and this down is hardier, more able to land with a modicum of precision. The cloud down can blow on for days, weeks, at the mercy of a capricious breeze, ever changing its direction over this land of rocks and tides and capricious breezes. I have found cloud seed everywhere, inside the house, in the bird food bins, stuck to the washing on the line, in my knicker drawer. I’m not hopeful for them. I catch some seed and study one. Aeronautical perfection with tiny limbs, one weighted and with a tiny barb for holding on. The seeds spin like tops through the air, catch on clothing which then travels home with the wearer only to be shaken off in a new garden. Nature is genius.

The Tapselteerie track is dappled mosaic. Sunlight creates a masterpiece beneath my feet, a work of art. As I walk over such beauty my eyes lift up through the canopy of hazels to a mosaic of cerulean blue, bright green and icewhite, then back down to golden hexagons, polygons and all the other gons laid out before me like a star studded carpet. I hear long-tailed tits somewhere in the density of woodland, warblers and the prrrt of a robin’s warning. Two herons flap and screech at each other on the shore, vying for territorial rights. They lumber and flap, crashing into bowed-back hazels as if nobody ever taught them how to fly with elegance and precision, as if they still have dinosaur blood coursing through their veins and the wing thing is, well, awkward. The tides are both very high and very low just now because of the full moon, the Sturgeon Moon. The full moons were named by the ancients, called to reflect the season. How sensible. Not like the naming of hurricanes or storms which always scoffs me. A twee name for a disturbing natural eruption of astonishing energy tells me much about how our current culture really isn’t taking life seriously at all.

The tappsled seaweed is flung across the rocks in a sort of gay abandon. Gold and copper, black and emerald against the black of the basalt and I wish once again I had brought my phone for a photo. No matter, myself says. You can just take it in through your eyes, feel it sink into your body, your mind and your heart and by the way who on earth goes for a walk in the wild with a phone? Good point, I concede. My sensible self, my let go and shut-the-hell-up self is often right. She is all about just enjoying the moment or, if the moment is a shit storm, then not enjoying it at all and just waiting until it moves on to the next moment. It’s a good ethos.

The oyster farmers are working across the narrows now the tide is low enough to walk across from one side to the other at such tidal times. Their puffing tractors work the shore, the men in full body wellie boots as they tend to the cages. I wonder what they need to do and how hard the work might be, probably is. In sunshine weather it must be easy, in sharpening bite-cold, not such fun. The oysters are the best I have ever tasted and we can enjoy them anytime we choose. The shucking shed is big and green and sometimes I can hear voices floating across the search as the men and women work. I can hear laughter, jokes shared and it reminds me of working on our farm way back in Norfolk, way back in the 1970’s when I first learned that being part of a ‘waulking’ team was the warmest and happiest I ever could be.

Deer can swim over the narrows and we did warn the new owners of Tapselteerie once we heard they were deer fencing the estate. Don’t bother, we said, the deer swim and nobody can deer fence an entire rock-solid shoreline. They didn’t heed us. I remember wondering back then if my heeding skills might be due an MOT. Now the fences sag and flop anyway and the deer go wherever they please. Once I watched a stag leap said fence, startled by me. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him head for the impossible. I envisioned broken limbs, damage, wounds and general disaster. What actually happened was that he cleared the fence but his back legs caught, bringing down the whole thing as if it was matchwood and string. Once the clanging and puffing and snorting and leaping and heart-in-mouthing thing was over, he stopped, looked back at his awaiting hinds, all shivering and silent on the ridge above him, above me. I drew respectfully back quietly, my eyes down. Make no eye contact, I remember that lesson in Africa and it makes sense to me. No eye contact, no challenge, no threat. With nervous steps, the 3 hinds descended the ridge, stopped once to look at the not-looking me and the not-looking dog clamped under my arm, and then elegantly flowed over the matchstick fence, up, up and away into the trees.

These sunshine days are a gift. The winter is long enough, loud enough, scary enough with twee named storms causing danger of death which is very real for some. We have lived with storms and disturbing natural eruptions for thousands of years. The problem is dissociation. Instead of connecting with what is way bigger than us, way more powerful, we are hiding. And, thus being fools. I know I am fortunate, living high enough on these old rocks to avoid flooding and all the horrors that brings to bear and I am glad that my husband was overly alert to nature’s power along with her gifts. He taught me to be vigilant, to be aware, to make sudden decisions based on what was plucking at his gut and not what we heard on the news which, sadly, is often too cautious in its decision not to cause panic. If we as alert and intelligent human beings felt confident enough to decide for ourselves, what spirit would come to life! What powerful and intuitive choices would be made, what influence that might have, and how many lives could be saved! These are not questions.

All this on my dappled seed blown walk today. Let us, people, learn things, like CPR, like what happens in a tidal flow, a flood, a storm. From what direction? How much build up is there, considering the friction, drag and density of that tidal flow. Tidal spiders, taken into account. The earthly tides flow widdershins but not always. I am not saying that everyone needs to know what the tides are doing but I am saying learn something. You might live in Glasgow or Stevenage. No matter. You will be affected by the tidal flow and the altercation that is going on between the heavens and the earth. And it is real. We must teach our children. We absolutely must.

Island Blog – A Beetle, Selkie Song and Kitchen Units

I met a beetle last night in the middle of it. The night, I mean. He was rather spectacular with a long oval back, shiny black, indented white. I was sitting drinking a herbal knockout tea around 2am and he ran along the wainscot, bumping against it every few seconds as if he had forgotten where it was. I hunkered down to watch him and he saw me, rising his pincers at me, his body an oblique accent with waggles. I laughed a guffaw, almost blowing him right back to base, and then apologising as he had to do the whole journey again. So brave, I schmoozed, as he repeated the laborious thing. I wondered where he was headed, and my eyes followed him as I thinked. He likes the dark. I just turned on the sun, well, for him, anyway and he is freaking out. He scuttles, bumps and scuttles again his way to where the old kitchen units don’t meet the ground, a thing that seems legion in old houses build almost 200 years ago and with no thought for foundations nor levelling. At least not in inanimate things. I suspect there was a great deal of levelling going on between sentient beings. As he got closer to that perfect lift of warped unit and sinking floor about 6 spiders scooted down their silken ropes, their legs clutching and flailing. Oh don’t be silly, I said to them. Just look at you all, you skinny little things and look at him, armoured up and with a serious pincer waggle going on. They ignored me as they all pretended they had just popped out for air without any beetle-munch intention, performing a few trapezoid spins and then disappearing back into my units.

I wonder, often actually, about the wildlife inside my units. I have met plenty over the years. A family of slugs, no, a whole township. Spiders of every size and colour. Mice. There have been times, when I felt so compromised and overwhelmed that I might take a deep breath prior to opening a door in search of ordinary dinner plates for an ordinary dinner and been quite prepared to encounter some big predator, one that has grown weary of a spider/slug/mouse diet and is ready for change. It has never happened for real. Not yet. Living in the places I have lived, around horses, cattle, sheep and feral children, anything has always been possible and I am no fool. I am prepared. Have always been. Mostly I don’t mind at all but since the old man is gone, I am requiring myself to learn my own courage. Things can overwhelm even as I know for sure that I was always the bravest. However, being brave beside someone else, a husband, a wife, a child, is so much braver than mere courage for self and alone is a load scarier. My beetle encounter teaches me. I could imagine an infestation of waggling warriors or I could decide to marvel at the extraordinary beauty of both the chance encounter and the creature itself. I am just glad I turned on the ‘sun’ prior to entering the lift and luff of my kitchen, thus avoiding crunching this stunning creature under a careless foot.

Later I walked the Tapselteerie loop. As I rounded the point, the breeze caught my breath, salty, straight from the great wide ocean. I saw Sgeir Mhor rock, peaceful today. A singing came to me. My dog twisted and stopped dead at the sound. The Selkies, I said. No worries. I hear them, I tell her, the seal people singing. It is a beautiful song and we stand awhile to listen. I wander home in a smile. Ah wildlife! The one thing that is a gazillion things. Is that a collective noun? And if I am wild, does that make me a part of wildlife or do I need to grow more legs or feathers, or fur, or fins to join this glorious freedom?

I feather home. Open the mail box, deal with probate, answer emails, remindings of the duality of my life. Wild at times, unwild at others, and yet, and yet, if I am learning anything from my innovative (and feral) children, I am beginning to think that, although I have no plan to scuttle nor waggle, nor, if possible, inhabit the night, I can become conscious of both worlds, of all worlds. Being conscious is not about knowing what the hellikins you do next, but about just being open. Life can feel like boots stuck in mud, can it not? But we don’t have to stay stuck. I am learning and loving the learning even when it scares me. Remember the Selkies, I tell myself. They were there and you couldn’t see them but their song, their perfect pure song reached you and stopped you in your tracks.

I am learning. Curious. And learning again. Now, this is living.

Island Blog – This Day

I just have to write about it because it is fire in my heart and, as we all know, fire dies to embers in the grate, and in our minds it takes a smokey back seat if it is not captured immediately. So I am being ”immediately’. I am beginning to realise, is the only way to really live. Parked stuff melts into grey; other peoples demands rise like new flames into that grey and it will dissolute, diminish, and ghost and unfortunately that ghost takes a stand in the doorway of revelation, blocking it.

My little sister arrived today with her partner. It has been easy 2 years since I saw her, hugged her, looked into her eyes. They are bright, for the record, she who has braved massive stuff over the years. She is as wild as I remember, tousled haired, dancer body, feisty, bright, and so so very giving. A complete inspiration around small children because she can catch them and entrance and connect from nowhere and anywhere and they love her and remember her for life. When I watched her come in to see two of her nieces today, one of whom, aged 5 was unsure she would remember her aunt, well, it was a concerto of perfect music. There is something about the flow between ages and distance and she, my sister, has it in the bag. Not that she contrives it. No manipulation, just a gift.

And. It is her birthday. Managing to catch an earlier ferry, she and her man arrived early. Now, we had a plan. A seafood smash and grab thing around 5, pre this knowledge. Quick as squirrels grabbing nuts as they smell a frost, we set to, as they say here. Food was hurried up, tables laid, wine chilled, balloons ballooned and I watched her arrive. She is a tad glorious to watch arriving. We feasted on fresh caught seafood. We laughed and joked and shared, sorted little ones on the wet slide and in the paddling pool. It was a glorious celebration of my sister and also of ourselves. We needed this. As I dippled and scanted my way back down the track I thought this.

In the nothing of the last scary months, this was a very big something. And I am thankful, so very very thankful.

Island Blog – Fairy, Dragon, Princeling

Yesterday I had two granddaughters with me for a short while. I collected them, backpacked up with games, toys, pens, snacks and we wandered down the track to my home. I watch them pause, flip off shoes, respectful. Once inside the door, enthusiasm skids beneath their feet as if they were on ice. Just a doorway change. I remember noticing that their grandfather’s mind wiped as he moved through a doorway. The anger, frustration and, well, the whole rant thing, disappeared as he shuffled through. It seemed as if he forgot all of it. I saw it on his face, knew it, relaxed.

We, no, not we, for I was distracted, I had email to check, fuss to fuss over, initially. As I heard them plant, root and bring out Deep Sea Bingo, I was a doorway away but listening. One was losing and causing a mini explosion until her older sister talked her down. All the usual. There is no pain in losing. We all need to lose now and again. It doesn’t mean you are a loser. That sort of 8 year old wisdom. The wails subsided and I kept schtum. Let it be, let them be, I said as I fiddled another tricky tapestry stitch. I am watching. I am hearing.

Then I join in. What in the heck is a Fiddle Fish? I put my specs on. Oh, I quite like the look of you. And there were many more with names and images that left me lost on the land. But what really intrigued me was the interest of the wee ones. It was a loud thing, of course. Loads of chat and chatter, arguments rising like tiny fires and then dying back into a concentrate of calm. I watch the redhead and the strawberry blonde. The girls are quicker than I at seeing whether or not they have a Lesser Spotted Cattlehead or a Snub-nosed Dinky Bird. It takes me a while to scan my bingo board, to read the words. I realise I am better at this thing if I get a visual. Show me the card, I ask the Strawberry blonde. Better. My brain works on visual i.d. I don’t win, of course. Gaga, you did have the Yellow Beaked Fake Dolphin……look! Silly Gaga. We all chuckle. Maybe I did win after all. I consider the names of these extraordinary creatures. Who ever thought the prefix ‘Common’ would sit well with something completely uncommon? I always feel sorry for the ‘Commons’ in both the animal and flora/fauna worlds. It sits like an insult. Nothing and no-one is ever common, not in my story.

After they had gone, I heard the silence. With little ones around there is never silence. If you can’t hear children, then there aren’t any. My name flies into the air a hundred times an hour. Questions too. Gaga, did you know that all dogs are round? Are they, I raise my eyebrows and cast a glance towards the Poppy dog, asleep and indeed curled into a donut. Yes, she says. They like being round. People can’t be round. They’re straight. Daddy is straight. Excellent observation, I tell her and her smile beams. But Mummy can be round, she says, her red curls bobbing. Ice blue eyes lock with my own. She is expecting correction, I think, and here it comes but not from me. No she isn’t, snorts her older sister, laying out the chips for a second round of Bingo. She is straight too. But she can curl into a round, I say. I’ve seen her do it. Your mummy is made of elastic. She can stretch and ping anywhere. They erupt in hysterics.

Around children, truth will be told. Questions require answers, observations are made and they have a canny knack of getting right to the core, one you may well have kept hidden for good reason. Where is Popz now? One asks. he is flying about up there, I tell them. Like a bird? Well, not quite like a bird. More a spirit. What’s a spirit? A spirit is mostly air and scoot. Like a cloud? Sort of. I would be a spirit, says the older one, if I could. No, not a spirit, a good fairy. I warm to this change of subject. I would be a dragon, I announce, a good one, a luck one. Pink? Yes, naturally. Well I would be a princeling says the redhead, straight-faced and I haven’t the heart to tell her that princelings are usually boys. After all, who knows what will be possible when she moves out into the world?

Island Blog – Heroes Awake

Accordion to Radio Two, all of us who bother to wake up at all, are superheroes. Anyone who bakes chocolate cookies before 6 am, someone who runs 10k as Father Sun lifts into his sky or a woman who makes her own muesli, automatically grow wings to lift above the rest of us who achieved none of these. Even the morning greeting is directed to superheroes leaving me to feel somewhat wingless, and this feeling causes me thought.

In my memory, superheroes, or even just heroes, were those who achieved something remarkable such as leaping off a rocky bank and into a swirling river to save a life, or the old woman who took in homeless kids and asked for no benefits. People, in other words, who did what they did just because it was the right thing to do, expecting no publicity or recognition at all. Although I understand the need for a leader-ship to find a way to uplift us during the lockdowns with all their sadness, loneliness and fear, I do confess to hoping that we might now shift into a more realistic perspective on heroes. I think of the children. Is she a hero or a superhero just because she dressed herself this morning? Is he a superhero because he brought mum a cup of tea? Well, possibly yes if these achievements are long overdue, but only within the family. If children really believe it is that easy to superhero-up, then how on earth are they going to cope with the Big Bad World? Life is a truly wondrous gift but it is no easy one, not for anybody. I would like to see more intelligent teaching for our children, lessons on kindness and compassion, relationships, heart/mind balance and connectivity. Teaching them to notice, honour and develop their own skills and gifts instead of pitching them against each other. Showing them that each one of them is important and no less nor more important than her or him. This hero thing causes a non-hero to feel less than, every time, and that is a crushing feeling.

Perhaps my way of teaching all these things to my own children is not how it is out there in the BBW. Maybe it is just fine to hero yourself by totting up the number of likes you get on Facebook. More than her, less than him. I can’t see a happy outcome, can you? Nonetheless I know that the way I feel has no influence on the BBW, but it can perhaps have some among my own little grandchildren and maybe that is the best I can proffer from my not hero place. Life is tough enough without it being presented at a very early age to be a competition and then fed and nourished by social media, radio stations, online games and t.v. In my opinion.

I believe that our times of lockdown and isolation has given us the chance to rejig our thinking on life and if we are wise and visionary, thinking of our little ones who will face a very different world as they grow into adults, we will sew new seeds right now. We might find a voice instead of accepting what is powerfully offered by those wielding that power. Quietly, gently, we might think independently about our own life values. Banging on about how much better it was, apparently, in the olden days, helps nobody. Action is the key. I know that each of us is just one person and the powerful ones are, well, powerful, but we can do something within our own space and life to grow awareness, suggest a new way to see an old thing. We can support and encourage and this will make a difference however much we may doubt it. We can stop shrugging our shoulders and sighing resignedly.

My belief is that everything is just as it should be, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back when something troubles us. When that happens there is a call to action. What action? you might ask. All I say to that is ask yourself that question and wait for the answer. Once a heart is open, there is an invitation sent out and answer will always come. Covid has been a wake-up call. Are you awake?