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 – Still

A word with more than one meaning. This morning I awoke about 5 and thought, rats, but only one, so, rat. I love the dawning mornings even if I am ready for lunch by 10. I came down for coffee, could smell it long before it was brewed, the good strong ground stuff and black as soot. I heard chaos in the skies, gulls in a frenzy. Hallo, I thought, there’s a big predator bothering these noisy sky-jackers. Then I saw them swinging and dinging around a faraway tree across the sea-loch, circling, rising, punching their white bodies into a space between the woodfull banks of the other side. I pulled on the bins, eyes still cloudy with unslept sleep and the lenses kept clouding from the heat of my eyeballs. Ffs, I muttered, wiping again and oh, again, with my wiper thingy until the glass and my eyeballs stopped posturing. Finally I catch them, two huge sea-eagles sitting quite the thing on a branch that already looked exhausted from the weight of their task. I saw the heads of the two, beaks moving langourously from one sky-jacker to the next with a barely visible shift of the neck muscles. Still. They were still in the face of the frenetic. I like that.

The sky was still, the clouds, not bothered, no wind. They sat like fat observers of my village, my home, me, no judgement, just watching. I felt the calm of both the clouds and the eagles move towards me, me in my jim-jams with soot black coffee on my tongue and in a way too early moment. It calmed me, smiled me. I said Thank-you for waking me at just the right moment to see the very perfect thing. I looked again and the eagles were gone. I missed their gone-ing, but here’s a thing – the sky-jackers kept pinging about the tree, squwalking and squealing like unwelcome thoughts. I have these too, I said to no-one there. I might be stilling myself, madly, only to find that, although no human interrupts this stilling process, my sky-jackers are within. Well, blow that.

Let’s take a look. I know I can’t ‘blow that’ because blowing that is what I have done for decades. Now I actually want to notice the interruptions when I am madly being still. I confront them. What do you want? I ask. The minute the voiced out loud question spills from my mouth, they begin to reply. They’re flapping like dingbats in a turmoil. What does this tell me? That they want me to listen to them. Ok, ok, I say, patting down the air around me. Form a queue. And they do. Ok, first…? I hear First. First reminds me that I had decided to check my household bills about 3 weeks ago and procrastinated because the thought of doing that is the ultimate yawn. I write it down and promise I will check that list this very day. Next? Next marches up with yet another thing I knew some while back demanded my attention and action. And so the list goes on. I actively respond to all of the demands. Then I still. I am like the not bothered clouds with no wind. And that is all it takes.

Cousin to this process of sorting out the immediate buzz flies or sky-jackers in my life is to respond to those who sing at me in a lower key. They come from way back. They are the Dodo, the Great Auk, The Tasmanian tiger of my life. They are, so called, extinct, but they are far from that. These other selves, our past selves, are still alive and kicking inside us and longing for love. I know this. My little girl and my teenage self were both angst ridden and for many years. And that is how it is and was. But because of studies into connectivity with our past, and with the exciting knowledge and support we now have access to, to heal our young hurts and breaks, there is the chance to be still again, to be at peace with the strong, bright and beautiful souls we have made of ourselves, no matter our beginnings. And we did, those of us who did the work. Just look at us! We changed neglectful, unthinking parenting into warm protection for our own children. We did that. We became eagles on exhausted branches not fussed by sky-jackers. We decided not to be bothered by old thinking peckers and baiters. We stood strong and our children are free-er than we ever were.

And for those of us who are still working on ourselves, allowing the mistakes we made as innovators of a future we had no manual for, we might like to say to ourselves this:- Well done. You shifted the time belt. You decided, whether consciously or unconsciously, to make a change, to do the old in a new way. To love instead of judge, to let a child think for his or her self. Go you. It isn’t done yet. But it is on its way if (thanks Maya Angelou) Still we rise.

Island Blog – Mountain, Tomorrow and Me

Not every day can be positively thinked. Some days, randomly, it seems, come slam dunk, presenting little positive, no matter the incoming. Could be a card through the post, a gift, some encouraging words in a text or just a lift of light in a dark place. On those days these gifts mean little or nothing at all. The sun might be doing his best, huffing up to the top of the sky and beaming like a beatific parent but all he does is blind me and I blink or shade him away. I am impervious to positive on those days. I read that I am supposed to accept such times in such times and to ‘allow’ myself to do whatever I can and to not do whatever I can’t. Enter my ingrained teaching. You do not give in my girl. You get on with it, whatever it is. You present as positive and not only to the outside world but to your own self. I am up and down on those days, battling with guilt and shame. I am lazy. I am giving in. I am not presenting the positive. I avoid speaks. I avoid texts that ask direct questions about how I am. My finger hovers over the answer bit and slides away. I put the phone on silent and avoid mobile calls.

Tomorrow will be different, I tell myself and together, me and tomorrow, will deny and forget this day. We will. But a part of me knows another will come slam dunk and both tomorrow and I will flounder like goldfish outside our bowl. We will gasp for an air that is denied us and we will both think back. Could we have prevented this unpleasant situation, this day of nothing, of no purpose of no point at all, with an ending that doesn’t bear thinking about? I say no. I have worked through this before, many times. The days of nil point are just that. All we can do, me and tomorrow, is to really celebrate those random gifts of words, texts, flowers and smiles and make them bigger, in order just to get through the very long hours of pointless. Because that is how we feel. Pointless. Our purpose, our plan of action, our very raison d’ĂȘtre has died, is gone and with this gone thing, he took us too. We don’t want to believe it. We don’t want it to be this way, but this way it is. For now. That’s what tomorrow tells me. But it feels like a life sentence. These gifts that come are lifts for sure. They move my heart, jig me into thankfulness and light but they don’t last long, not on those days. I see them as hold points on the mountain I am climbing. That rock that juts out just enough for a foothold, that sturdy branch, that ledge. But they are not enough, never enough because I have to climb this flipping mountain and it looks to me like it touches the sky. I go through cloud, ice, snow and darkness, through fear, loneliness and loss. It is just me up here. Tomorrow stayed at base camp, wisely.

I know I have to keep climbing, accepting the giftly footholds, resting on safe ledges and then going again the next time dawn shows her light. I know this. But in my wildest dreams I never thought me on the flank of a mountain and certainly not one that is in collusion with the sky. Cloud covers me wet. Cold. Then the sun warms. This is how it is. One day at a time. Nothing I expect is what I get. I used to know who I was and where. Now?

No clue.

Island Blog – Featherlight, Low Cloud and Lift

The morning comes all blurry, a white light, stilted, unclear. No sun to golden a dawn. I rise and go to the window. Low cloud is caping the land, disappearing the hills and the fir trees across the sea-loch, almost wiping out the water completely. I cannot see if the tide is coming in, going out, or slack and waiting. The garden is caped in a dripping veil, its soft folds blinding me to the contours of shrubs, daffodils, the bird table. Everything looks eerie. I remember a bad vampire movie and laugh out loud, waking the dog into a bark of startlement. In other parts of this country it might be named a fog but we don’t have fog here. We have low cloud, far more interesting and making us think of just how low a cloud can go when it decides to and how whispy thin it can become, the closer it gets to the ground. I remember flying through clouds. They appear so solid until a socking great plane cuts a dash and sops our little windows with wet. I also know that one cloud can hold thousands of tons of water. Such power and such a mixed message. I pad through the cloud on my way to feed the birds and feel the damp on my bare legs. It wets my frock and clings to my face, refreshing me after a sleepless night.

I didn’t dream of clouds, nor fog. I dream of falling or of not being able to move. T’is grieving, they tell me. It takes time to see through the clouds, the fog of loss. A year and a day, at best. I am looking forward to August 20th 2021. Perhaps I will awaken on that day and say Yippee it’s done! Perhaps it will take longer but I am gunning for a cloud shift around that time. It is what we tell ourselves, our brains, that alters facts. I know this. Meantime, I park my dreams upstairs. Stay there, I tell them in quite a threatening voice. It used to work with my kids so why not bad dreams? This is my game, if a game can be all but fun. Down the stairs and into the garden works for me, even if I am just filling bird feeders. Bird feeders bring birds and birds are life, movement, clarity in low cloud. They dart and swoop and chatter and sing and lift my spirits. The loch stays closed, the hills absent all day long. But now I can see the fir trees, silhouettes, hill soldiers standing to attention. Their tops are in the cloud, wispy, compelling, etherial. I know you are there, I say, for how can a bottom be without a top when you were altogether just yesterday? Well, they reply, so were you. Oh……yes so I was. Ok an off day for fir trees? Mmmm, they say and I catch it over the water, words pushing through the cloud. It is reassuring to know that even trees can have an off day.

A pair of snow geese fly by. The sound they make is soft and considered, not like the hectic honk of greylags. It is as if they have learned how to distil their words into haiku. I watch them with respect. You know where you are going and what to do next, I say. Like a good poet. Not like me. I haven’t a scooby. On my walk I was joined by my little granddaughter in her ‘puddle suit’. It is bright green and makes her look like a burst of Spring with her pale skin and long red hair and her big wellies on the wrong feet. She skips and chatters, runs ahead, challenges me to climb hills, giving me information at every step. Daddy’s new haircut is terrible. Mummy is putting Nina down for a nap. There are disgusting frogs or toads in the pond. Did you know it’s your birthday tomorrow Gaga? That’s Lady Gaga to you, not ‘gaga’. Just saying. Her older sister named me thus and it continues. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps until I was breathless and losing every time, clambering up hills, over rocks, through the fairy woods and alongside the veiled sea-loch. Nothing bothers her and that lifts me too. A cup of tea on my return with her Daddy and his ‘terrible’ hair cut and her Mummy who put Nina down for a nap but obviously that didn’t last long as Nina crawls outside in her puddle suit, wheechs off her bootees and shares her cookie with one of the hens.

So, my night have been sleepless, again, but there have been many lifts from the sticky cloud. So many. I decide, as I always do, to hold on to each one, to put each one in my heart, because the nothing becomes something when I choose to focus on the cloud lifts. The low cloud will come. And then, lift.

Island Blog – Bloomers, Sunlight, Lacklight, and Tatties

Walks for me are meditative and questioning. I cannot sit still for more than five minutes nor pay serious attention to the in and out of my breath without getting the giggles. My breath works just fine without me paying attention to it, as does my heart beat steadfastly on without me bothering it. In the wee small hours I felt about for my heartbeat once and all was silent. Well, I thought, that’s pretty cool. My heart isn’t beating and I’m still alive. I always knew I was different.

Back to meditative/questioning walks. As I wander I notice, stop, chat with or admire something I missed yesterday, or something that wasn’t even there yesterday such as a new bloomer peeking up through the grasses. I see the burst of emerald leaves on an alder or the delicate fingers of Lady Larch, HRH of the Woods, dancing in the warm breeze like the wings of bird flight. I watch blue sky through the branches, squares, diamonds, circles, striations, fingers and whole swathes above a treeless bit, an artistic dash of cloud splitting the sky and in a hurry, it seems, to get to somewhere else. I contemplate it all and then me and me have a conversation. Look, I say, this side of the tree is in full bloom and that one (I indicate the inside of the wood) is only just coming. Why is that? Well, this side has the full sunlight. That side is darkling buried, its allowance of sunlight controlled by A N Other, or maybe a few A N Others if the wood is densely wooden.

It thinks me. If a tree can be affected by the amount of light shed upon it, how much more a human? If I am to bloom, I need light. If I don’t get light, I don’t bloom. If I don’t get light for decades I am in danger of turning the colour of mole, even if I am naturally infused with positive attitude and born with a natural propensity for fun, beauty, joy, laughter and dancing. Eventually my need for light in the form of real love, kindness, to be cherished, complimented, accepted, understood, admired and listened to, will require fuel from A N Other. If the light I am receiving is in A N Other’s control, and if it flashed on and off at will, then I may begin to mole-up, or is it mole-down?

I think of those who have told me of such lacklight. In the workplace, in the home, in school, in neighbourhoods or in family relationships and I have done what we all do when we don’t stop and think. We encourage this person who is turning the colour of mole before our eyes to look on the bright side; to look at what they do have; to count their blessings, to go for long walks, cook, listen to music, sew something……. none of which helps one jot, because what this sad person needs is not advice, but light. And we can shine it upon them just by listening, understanding, caring and walking beside them. We cannot change their circumstances, but they can, and well they might once they start to feel like blooming again. We can be the fuel they need, the sunlight they crave, by doing absolutely nothing.

In the garden, in the woods there is fierce competition. It is no different amongst we humans. Everyone wants to grab as much light as possible, but there is room for us all even if some of us are late bloomers due to lack of light; late, that is, until someone saw us turning the colour of mole and moved their branches just enough that we could feel the warmth on our skin.

I decide it is time to put the tatties on to boil. It’s 4pm after all and Himself needs food early. Why do you need to put them on to boil? asks my other self. In order to feed a human. I reply, eyes rolling. Why do you need to feed a human? Because I am one. Ah……ok….better get the tatties on, then.

Island Blog – Sunrise, Nature and the beginning of Humanity

It’s 5am. My favourite time of the day. I used to say it was because there’s nobody about, but now there’s always nobody about, so it’s not the truth anymore. I consider how many other absolutes will lose purchase on my mind and will just drift away, like the will o’ wisps over there, floating on the ebb tide, backlit by sunfire. They remind me of water sprites, beneficent creatures, transitional, made of water and to water they will always return. Black-throated divers fly by right on time, turning pink as they head into the sun and the sea beneath their wings glows like rose quartz. Anyone rising from slumber later than this will miss it all. But not I said the island wife. I have always been a dawn raider, greedy for everything my eyes can gobble up, catching every spark and twist, every snatch of colour, every bird flit or cloud shift, each start of new beginnings, life whispering into life.

Walking along the Tapseteerie track, dry-cracked and steady underfoot, I feel the weight of the canopy. This horse-chestnut has never been so abundant with huge green leaves, richly bottle green, a strong spread of gratitude, for whilst we desist in our race to disaster, we gift back life to nature. A robin flits with me, from branch to branch, tree to tree, telling me something that sounds wonderfully joyous but which is beyond my understanding. Bees and other buzzing creatures fill the branches, all of them. I have never heard such a buzz and it smiles me. New mosses adorn the floor of the woods, some emerald green and star-tipped, some gathered in perfectly smooth igloo shapes, the colour of lemon sorbet. I can see the tracks left by deer in their darkling wander, the grasses flattened by hoof-scuff. They will always walk this way, along this ley line, the ancient wander path, following the ones who learned it before them and then taught it on.

Flowers watch me pass, their faces tipped to sunlight. Wood sorrel, violets, primroses, anemone, bluebells, campanula, and stitchwort. Tiny alpines cling to cracks in the drystone wall, feathery ferns, arched like question marks, will open this day to spread their soft fingers wide. Orange tip, tortoiseshell and brown spot butterflies dance around my head as I move through the warmth of the morning. Everywhere I look, there is abundance. Wasn’t it always so and I just didn’t see it, or is it true that our land is healing herself? I believe the latter.

As I turn for home, a flash of silver in the tidal flow shows me a big fish, a salmon, perhaps, or a sea trout on its arduous journey to find a place to spawn, and then to die. Gulls shriek overhead, little gulls, black backs, herring gulls and other gulls I cannot name, for they saw it too. No doubt the otter did as well. I know she is down there somewhere with her kits and soon I will see her on a still morning from my bedroom window as she teaches them to hunt or to play touch-tig.

Writing about the beauty through which I can walk every day is not something I take for granted. This lockdown has gone on long enough now, that’s what I think, although wild horses wouldn’t drag me back among people, knowing as I do, how easily the virus can spread, silent and deadly, invisible to the naked eye. So I consider this. If I, who have barely had to change my life at all, am feeling this way, then what about those whose entire lives have been full-stopped? Starved of social oxygen, meetings, encounters, business flow, cash income, school friends, loved ones and options for free travel, what life are they, you, living now? Many, I am sure will thrill to the peace of it all, perhaps all of us do, some of the time, but when I am told I absolutely cannot do something, it is the thing I want to do most of all.

When I write about my encounters in nature, it isn’t to gloat, but to show to others, who last saw nature in 2019 on a country break, that life is still living on, whether we can see it or not. In fact, the regeneration of this earth is a wonderful thing to hear about, and perhaps it makes the sacrifice worth the pain. I had no idea the ozone layer could heal. I thought it was already dying and so were we all. But it isn’t true, for it is healing, repairing itself and offering us another go at a good life. And so, I write on, a witness to the changes, sending anyone and everyone who is finding this all just too much, who is frightened, lonely, depressed or sick, my deepest respect and encouragement to stick with isolation until we can meet again, and once more walk free.

This could have been the end of humanity. Let us hold fast and make it the beginning.

Island Blog – Translation

Geese woke me this morning. It seems they are quite unable to go anywhere at all without engaging in a loud conversation, as if, their vocal chords are wired to their wings. It’s 4 am, I said, but they ignored me, honking on as they skimmed past my open window to land with effortless grace on the water. It’s all but flat, the water, and the far shore reflection of striated rocks, adorned like bridesmaids in butter yellow lichen, shivers – a slight surface rebellion, probably the translation of a tidal undertow. It makes the rocks look like they’re shimmy shimmy shaking. Perhaps they are. What goes on beneath the surface is only a guess, for me, but the body of water understands itself and knows from long experience how to communicate.

I eat breakfast, change bed sheets, clean up, ready for a new day, and all the while, my thoughts flow along, mostly unchecked by me. Sometimes a hand goes up. We need more blue milk. Or, I must water those little seedlings. Those thoughts alert me, ask for immediate action, or they might float off into the, now clean, ether to become part of a cloud and thus lost to me. Weetabix without milk is a crunchy thought, dry, not the same at all. Seedlings will flop and die of thirst. So, I must make a note of both and right now. Other thoughts circle a bit before they flee and I bring my brain to bear, make it listen, make it follow through. Sometimes that’s a mistake. By employing my logic I can see a seedling thought die of boredom. This thought doesn’t want to be fixed, arrested and imprisoned by me. It just wants to stay as a thought and the only reason it circled at all was to say Hallo and to hear Hallo back. Hallo, I say, and off it goes.

In these times of slowdown-lockdown #not meltdown, thoughts are busy. I suspect thoughts are busy in everyone’s head. All of a sudden there is time for them, space to circle and float without being batted away like bluebottles. It serves us well to allow this space to widen, to deepen, until we can learn, not to organise our thoughts, but to conjoin with them, for they are ours, they are us. The translation of these thoughts might, in the busy past, have been misleading. Reacting immediately, without due process, to a thought can lead us to making poor decisions. We don’t need to do that now. Now, we can spend time with them, get to understand the craziness inside our minds, see that every thought is there because of who we are, because of what we do, or what we did. This way we teach ourselves to reconnect with the whole body and it feels good.

Although you will never know all my thoughts, as I will never know all of yours, we will both be able to see a person who has reconnected with their undertow. It probably takes a lifetime. All the great thinkers who understood the power of this reconnection, of creating a synergistic relationship with their own thoughts, are ancient by the time they ‘get it’. Right now we have this gift, this opportunity, to consider understanding our own selves a bit better. If we can allow our thoughts just to be thoughts, to say Hallo when they circle awhile, they will flow at ease, no matter what.

The geese are diddling about on the field now, chattering incessantly, picking at the grass, preparing for young. Later, when the chicks are ready to swim, they will lead their young across the sea-loch, on a day when the water is a mirror, when it looks like they are paddling through the sky, when the undertow is at peace. I will watch them and I will smile as thoughts float through my head like will o the wisps.