Island Blog 150 Space and Time

 

 

 

Space station 1Space station

 

 

Last night I watched the International Space Station move across the starry sky. A golden orb it was, arcing overhead, just a tiny dot. Six atronauts are aboard. I waved. I know, sad really, but you never know what a welcome wave can impart across space and time. I’m thinking ‘butterfly wings. The illusion of ‘just a dot’ in the wide sky of a sparsely inhabited island would be no less to anyone who glimpsed it last night between high rise buildings in a big city. And, yet, six whole living people are aboard. To them, we, the whole WE, that is, the Earth, is also illusive. They know we are millions, we are legion, and yet, all they see is a rolling ball of mountains, plains and seas. They don’t see us and we don’t see them, but because of our vast technology, we know we are all where we are.

Let’s look closer.

Up there, last night, NASA emailed a racheting socket wrench. Well, not quite the actual wrench, but a 3D image via a 3D printer that guided the Commander to fashion one himself. It would have taken months for supply vessel to deliver one. Months.

When we look up, we imagine stars to be small sparkly lights dinging about when the clouds are away bothering someone else, even though we know that some of them are much bigger than our own world.  Still, as we point them out to a little one, to gaze up in wonder, we don’t think of great lumbering planets, already dying, but of diamonds in the night.

The International Space Station travels at 27,000 km per hour at an orbit height of 431 km, and here I am wondering how long it will take to drive to Doune for Christmas with all that festive traffic.  But, my place is down here, not up there, and here is where I need to remember the illusions of time and of space.  We know both are always with us, always influencing our decisions, our routines, our days and our nights, but because we cannot control either of them, tame either of them, rule over either of them, we just have to let them be.  We must walk with them, through them and around them as fellow miracles.

Now, we may not think of others as fellow miracles.  In fact, some are way off miracle grade, in our opinion.  But again, this is an illusion.  I know that, at this time of year, everyone is ‘goodwilling’ themselves to death, smiling when before there was no smile, giving when we only take for the rest of the year, lifting our care-worn spirits  and tired bodies in frightful jumpers and paper hats and telling ourselves it’s fun, and I never did understand why January is all about diets and New Year’s Resolutions.  Why don’t we eat sensibly and employ self-control all through the year?  Why can’t we give to those who need something we have, and they don’t, every single month? It seems we turn back to ourselves after this crazy happy festive season to face the big black hole inside every one of us all over again.

Black holes.  They’re in space too, and in time.  Those who are lonely are often closer by than we might like, often in the family.  In space, they eat you.  As they do down here.  For all the technology, the space research, the developments in education, social media, lifestyle (for some) and health care, we are still lost.

And yet, we are found too.  If every one of us chose not to turn back in, to scrabble around in the illusion that we are not enough, not clever, not destined for greatness, not important, we might learn, bit by bit, to look out, to see other walking miracles, to learn from them.  It isn’t easy for any of us.  We all have black holes, black illusions.  But those who do make a difference, who do become important, who are clever and definitely more than enough, are those little people who choose not to be consumed by self-pity, guilt and regret. Not one of them was born with anything more than the rest of us.  There’s no magic here.  Every single one of us grows a black hole.  Once we acknowledge that, we can move on beyond it, whether we have ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’.

Another human illusion.

The people who have chosen not to turn back in are the heroes, the warriors, the fighters for life. And they began right here, taking one step at a time, one day at a time.

It’s a new day today.  Christmas is coming.  But Christmas will also go, leaving us behind.

What will you make of yourself when it does?

Island Blog 118 Children I have loved

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Now that Christmas is back there somewhere, and the hoover is choked with small and completely useless cracker gifts, bits of tinsel, fallen food morsels (where ARE you Sula??) and trinkets various, there is about five minutes of coffee and calm before it all begins again on Hogmanay and a New Year.

When we first moved to the island, I thought Christmas was IT, meaning, that, once the fairyland of it was done, we might just bask in its echoing warmth for a while, watch the twinkly winkly lights for a few more days and justify a wee whisky mac after a chilly walk along the 6 miles of Atlantic coastline, even if it was nowhere near 6pm.  I always reckoned time was an illusion, and used to say so, on more than one occasion, sometimes missing the start of the school term altogether.  But, once the tree was down, the lights and dingle dangles boxed and returned to the silent dark of the cupboard under the stairs, ready for the mice to re-format into comfy, albeit prickly, bedding for their Spring hatch, even I heard my voice sounding slightly desperate as I suggested a warming nip in the middle of an ordinary day.  Because days do that.  Become ordinary and far too quickly for my liking, perhaps for everyone’s liking.  So how do I keep the magic going?  Not with a ‘wee half’ at midday that’s for certain.  Heading into work at the local school as a stand-in (not clown, but classroom assistant……ok, same thing….)and smelling of whisky, even if it is the liquor of the gods, would lose me street cred in a nanosecond.

When the children were little, which, for us meant about 25 years, I worked out a way of keeping magic.  The secret lay in beginning again, but not with a big list of impossible resolutions, none of which ever made it into February.  It was simply a daily decision to be a big kid, to look out at the world through the eyes of a child, and this resolution is sustainable, or it is at least for me and the island husband.  It is absolutely nothing to do with cash in the bank, or a new sofa.  It has nothing to do with dinners out and fancy wines or two holidays abroad every year.  I can have not one of these ‘things’ around me, or even in far sight, because it has little to do with ‘things’.  Oh, I’m not saying things aren’t fun or even necessary as basics, but we tend to look for the right things in the wrong places.  We give our ‘love’ to the wrong things and it isn’t the fault of the tv adverts, or technology.  The fault lies deep inside each one of us and the good news is, so does the solution.

If, on waking, on that pi**y day when I have to find my car keys, or bus money, in the dark, grab my pack lunch and take my place on the tube, in the car, on the bus, to re-enter those office doors and re-locate my desk in stiff backed shoes that pinch, and a skirt that sparks everytime I move (ah, that’s why it was so cheap), I say to myself….’I shall look at all of this, as a child would,’ then I have begun to change.  Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.  A child doesn’t fret about what lies ahead, unless we show him how to, by fretting ourselves.  A child, my children, bounced into days like monkeys or terrorists or pirates, or clowns, and the only thing that fussed them into a right panic, was probably me.  Me and that old illusionist, Time. The only person who got cross with potholes was me.  Everyone else imagined a trip over the rockies with Jeremy Clarkson at the wheel.  The only person who imagined that if this child didn’t eat SOMETHING today, they were going to get rickets or anorexia, was me. The only one who couldn’t laugh as one child inflated a rubber glove into a a huge balloon and then pulled it over his head, was me, because I was too serious about what could have been fun, what was fun, through a child’s eyes.  Running into a snowy afternoon without a well-zipped-up polar jacket was a given, and yet I would scream and fret about what………hypothermia?  Jings woman, it’s just an afternoon!!!!!

Worry is the killer and another is fear and yet another, the almostworstone, is ‘what will others think of me?’

Let’s say that you go into work with a smile and a chuckle at the ready.  Worst thing that can happen is that someone suggests you don’t take things seriously enough.  Well, good for you, say I.  The only things we need to take seriously are the serious things and, trust me, you will know your own list well enough.  Then, another someone might suggest you have an easy life.  And so you might, but then again, you might not, but whose business is that might I ask and what does it have to do with anything?

Some of the most cheerful adults I have ever met have the biggest pills to swallow.  They wear a smile, and more than that, they look for the fun in everything.  They are interested in you, in life, in the magic of what might happen next, for, although you and I may have a routine, a dull daily routine, there are opportunities in every minute, just waiting to be bounced like balls, or thrown like frisbees across a room.  What we allow, and this is an individual choice, is for someone gloomy to bring us down, to feed our guilt.  This is not their fault, but our own, and, as I said before, the solution lies within.

I remember such encounters with les miserables in my long life, and what I found, after some reflection, was that they were really reaching out for friendship and not a caustic comment.  If I asked them about their life, their likes, their Christmas, I could always find their smile.  Now, it wasn’t up to me to keep it on that gloomy face, but I could show them something that touched their heart and that was friendship.  When my kids found themselves stuck with such a person, in school, in college, or in the workplace, I always suggested that they try swimming upstream, towards the crowd and not with it: to see another as a whole human being, not a miserable old g*t.  Each one of them has been glad of that advice and have their own stories to tell after they extended the hand of friendship and found the smile within.  They met extreme lonliness, social ineptitude, fears and self-doubts.  They met inadequacy and rejection, and in that darkness, they met their own.

Children grow and are children no more, so they tell me, although we must be well behind the times, the island husband and I, because we can still have a pillow fight, make fun out of all the leaks in our home, the smoking chimney in a big wind, and it has absolutely nothing to do with life being easy. Life isn’t easy, but living it to the full, is simple indeed, as a child will tell you.

If you ask.

Island Blog 112 Chrispepsia

santa

 

Still on the subject of Love, I find myself in a wee panic as I suddenly realise how close we have come to Christmas.  In the olden days when all my chicks lived under the same roof, it was comparatively simple in that I knew exactly what they wanted and did my best to find it.  Christmas lists were read and laid to one side as they usually contained expensive new toys, noticed in other’s homes or found in television adverts, and quite out of the pocket-question for us.  Now they are grown and gone, parents most of them, and I have no idea what they want.  Even buying for their little ones throws me.  I know them, in that I would indentify them in in a crowd, but what little ones want and like and, most importantly, what their parents will accept or allow leaves me standing quite still and staring out the window, my mind a scummy blank.

Clothes.  They all have a zillion clothes, from chic inter-familial hand-me-downs to outfits bought by a parent who knows that this one can’t wear nylon mix, another goes red in the face above a tight polo neck, yet another adores Peppa Pig, Lightning McQueen or Angry Birds and that’s three different little ones.  And which has just lengthened by a few inches, or grown larger feet?  Toys, from my recent check online at either incredibly expensive six times over or offering total rubbish that needs batteries they don’t even bother to supply.

What I find now, as I have always found, is that strange arisal of guilt inside me.  It is called Chrispepsia, a word sandwich merging Christmas and Dyspepsia.  I want to give…….. no, to show by my gift, that nobody is more important than another. I have never succeeded, not once.  Somebody is always disappointed.

When I buy a gift, I buy what I think they would absolutely adore and am surprised when they don’t adore it at all, never mind absolutely.  Hence, a list.  But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be given a list, but who wants to surprise.  When I overhear an adult asking a child ‘So what is Santa bringing you this Christmas’, I inwardly tut, especially when the answer is An X Box, or a Mountain Bike.  Don’t they know there is only one Santa and a vast world-full of children?  We surely don’t expect the old chap to set off multiple times because he cannot fit onto his sleigh more than one or two bikes at a time, do we? And how does a mother explain to her child who only got a few trinkets, some nuts and a tangerine in his stocking, that Santa doesn’t have favourites, when one schoolmate  got an X Box and another, a Mountain Bike?

I have said, until the room falls asleep yawning, that Christmas is a time for giving, not getting, but it is clear to me that nobody paid the slightest attention.  So, back to Chrispepsia.  I’m right in the thick of it now and as lost as ever I was.  In the past I have made things, things that undoubtedly fell apart by February, but nobody said.  This year I haven’t made a thing, other than an impact on a lot of readers of Island Wife which doesn’t get me out of Chrispepsia.

There are forward looking folk who will already have wrapped and labelled all their gifts, planned their festive dinner, and may well be considering erecting their Christmas Tree.  These goodly people have a clear head, strong decision-making powers.  They don’t fanny about with the ditherers, whereas I am right in their midst. And, even when I have decided, bought and labelled each gift, I still feel unsure.  On the day, as they begin to open it, I want a big hole to swallow me up.  I don’t think they feel any concerns at all.  It is just me and my Chrispepsia.

I have worked out, after a bunch of hours staring through windows, that I must measure my love in a material gift.  The fact that I give in so many other ways during the year before, and after this great day, disappears like smoke in a westerly gale.  And yet, my chicks and their chicks know how I show my love.  I show it in actions, in written words at times of trouble, in spontaneous acts of random kindness, in patience, understanding, acceptance.  I walk it.  Any distance, any time. And I always always will.

So, you big twit, what’s the problem?  You can just turn up, bring wine and cake, plasters and patience, fun and nonsense, ideas and iodine.  Bring your hands for holding, for easing pain, for cooking supper. Bring your voice to encourage, sing, talk things through; your imagination for games or to develop a conversation;  your skills to help, to share a burden, to celebrate another, to lift spirits.

Ok so I’m the gift for Christmas then?

Yes you are……..we all are…….plus the odd trinket of course.

Island Blog 8 – Kites over London

I’m watching father and son (now new father himself, as of Boxing Day) take down the outside Christmas lights and bonding whilst 3 red kites soar overhead.  I can hardly believe I am in London beneath such majestic birds.  The neighbours put the remains of their sunday roast on the lawn and wait for the kites to collect.  They don’t land, just swoop and collect. Haven’t seen it for myself, but I hope to this weekend! Must be an incredible sight.

 

Blog article 8 - 'Fathers'