Island Blog – Second from the Right

I am very happy to have had my covid jag. It never crossed my mind for one minute to refuse it and I was astonished to hear that anyone would. However, that is not my business. My arm was mildly sore for a couple of days and I felt tired but otherwise escaped any side effects, not that I would have minded them. I have, after all, been given a small dose of a killer virus and my body has had to fight it, the busy little thing that it is. I said as much. Well done busy little body, still standing by me after all these decades and ready to leap into action in the face of assault, snipers posted at all vantage points, unlike me who would struggle to leap in anyone’s face these days. My walking is slower. Noticed. My rise from a chair and my return to it more considered. Turning my head quickly can send my eyeballs into disco mode and I hold the bannisters when ascending the stairs. I don’t know when this began and it doesn’t bother me even if I do sometimes remember, wistfully, the younger mountain goat in me, the one everyone begged to slow down, sit down, sit still, the one who was more girl gone than girl sitting.

I still feel a big fudgy today but without any discomfort. I can rest when I want now that all demands are silenced and the only demands around are those I make upon myself. Yesterday I made none at all but instead sat watching a TV series and drank cups of tea beside the fire. Outside is not worth looking at to be honest. Wind and more wind, gusts that make the windows flex most alarmingly and slanty rain that comes in great punches. It’s February, I remind myself, the month of slanty rain and wind punch and time travels so fast. It reminds me of other Februarys, stomping down to the steadings, early doors, in enough waterproofing to allow lift-off should a gust decide to punch. I am going to feed the calves, about 15 of them, with sliced swedes. I think about swedes. I know some very good looking ones with bodies and green eyes and big muscles but these are not on the menu today, more’s the pity, and I would hesitate on the slicing thing with them. These swedes are cold, round and hard-skinned and I have to feed the damn things through a hand-turning swede slicer. It takes ages and a lot of effort to raise enough for the babies who await breakfast. Eventually, and puffing like Thomas the Tank Engine, I fill the troughs and 15 heads are instantly lowered. Whilst they are distracted I move into the pen behind them to rake out yesterday’s muck and straw. I get too close and without even turning around one whacks me a belter on the knee with a hoof. I shoot backwards, airborne, or it feels like it, to land on my butt right in the middle of the muck pile sending it up and out, as if a bomb had just landed. I am that bomb. The muck flies out, turns back in and lands all over me, face, hands, waterproofs. I am livid and very sore. Struggling to my feet I resist, with great difficulty, the urge to stick a pitchfork tine into the arse of Second from the Right, who still doesn’t turn around. Once breakfast is done, I herd the calves out into the rain and wind for a merry day in a soggy field with no shelter and no grass. By the time I return to the farmhouse kitchen, all but my face is cleaned of muck and the turn ups of my too-big waterproof breeks hold enough water for at least 8 goldfish.

I am glad those days are done and glad that I lived them when I did. Younger, I bounced back more quickly. Of course there was no time for moaning or whining about a face covered in calf leavings, nor sympathy for my big fat red sore knee. I was the fool who got too close, remember? This is farming life. You have to keep moving, keep going, keep upright because if one goes down everyone loses. I loved that life and loathed it in equal measures. Even now as lambing time moves closer, I remember the thrill of being so vital to the day’s work, however hard it might have been. Being active as no matter of choice keeps a body fit and supple, a mind clear. It is different now, now that my activity levels are all down to me and there is a noticing required in my older days. Keep moving, keep finding something to make you bend, reach, walk, move, climb, lift or you just might seize and freeze into a shape of great inconvenience.

When I limp back down to bring the calves in later that same day, I stand at the gate rattling a bucket of cake (not our sort of cake) and I can feel a fire in my belly. As they file through the gate I clock Second from the Right and give her one hec of a thwack on her arse. She bucks and flips and turns to face me, snorting. Right back at you Missy, I say. Right back at you.

Island Blog – Arrested

I remember one winter when the ice was added to nightly, and fixated itself on the job in hand, the taming of the flow of water, from fresh spring to confoundment, from easy movement to an arrest. It worked well for our pleasure. Kids, labradors and even parents scooted on feet or backsides right across a freshwater loch that could have sunk any one of us at a whim and the light was dipping, even then. The scuff of new frost shot up our trouser legs and under our jackets and fingernails. It hurt like hell but the laughter thawed the hurt, as did the shared laughter. It doesn’t happen this way now. Is it that the ice is not longer a jailor, or is it that we are so threaded with fear that we never scoot anywhere much, least across what might be an illusion?

Today I noticed how much more frozen were the grasses and the trees. Yesterday it was like the First Night of a show, a promise and full of hope for a duration of weeks but with no surety. Frost, tiptoed into her place, delicate and fragile, ever looking to her back. Rain can come any day here, without a warning. Rain flips the clouds, warms them like a mother with intent until they cannot but spill their load over our land. She has done this for decades, centuries, arresting us, because when rain comes it never comes for a moment of delight and refreshment, but for days and weeks, like a jailor. We have to change our clothing, our boots, our timings. We play happy around her. We pretend we are fine with all this rain, sogging our land, our gardens and out woodpiles, but we feel the wet of her, the insulting slap of her minions against our face and the way they insinuate themselves into our bins and paths and up our skirts.

Now, we have Big Lockdown once more and the fear is back. Who, what, when, shall we, should we…..? All of that. The weather matters. In this frostdown, we can play like kids scooting across frozen freshwater lochs without fear; we can remind ourselves of past times when this threat lay not over our heads and we had no jailor. But life goes on and we know what we know now and it is not as it was. Lambing comes, markets must open, growers must grow or we will not find any grab on to the circle of life we know and understand. Our voices are quiet now. Muffled, unsure. Mine too. The constants in which we trusted are floating away. When I see, as I did this day, a fallen tree breaking a fence, I got it. I thought, nothing is permanent and this is exactly what we don’t want to see. I study it. It is a deer fence. Quite pointless in this place. Deer have no boundaries. Then I looked at the fallen tree, an ancient larch, possibly over 100 years old. Timely old soul. You just decided you had had enough. Respect. Sorry about the fence but it is far from pretty and old and possibly rotting.

Walking today, I could see that the delicate fingers of frost and ice had become determined. The grasses were thicker with frost, their stem bodies more assertive, catching more sun rainbows. The tablecloths of open space showed me milieu and yet I knew there were was a rebel of individuals standing there in triumph against Winter’s rages. And yet we concede to what we know and trust. And so I did. and so I understand. We cannot fight this jailor, this arresting, but as we walk through our days, confounded, altered, scared and angry, we can still remember who we were before and how we might grow beyond this prison. ice

I know. I know. Get lost with all positive talk. I agree. But, as I scratch my head and look at my wrinkles, I still think there is a light and bright out there and it just might be be up to those of us who can still, albeit mentally, scoot across a loch in the dying light, just once, just for now.

Island Blog – The Maker of Days

This day woke me at 3am. It happens sometimes. I know it isn’t morning for the light. It’s a night sort of light and greenish, weird. The morning light is like a hand outstretched, a golden warmth, even if it comes with a cold wind and a slamming of rain against the window. It has a different voice. The one at 3am is discordant, like a jay or a crow.

So who decided this day for me? Not me, for sure. I would make all my days happy, given the choice. Or I would, at the very least, explain myself when presenting a day to someone, were I in charge of it. I would explain that, in the great scheme of days, there needs to be the odd one or two that are shit. But that is not how it happens. The shit days come like a slap in the chops. They explain themselves not, nor do they forewarn. You go to bed all chipper from a day spent in productive this and productive that and go, trustingly, to sleep. Then comes the morning, or, in this case, the not morning, the green impish twister of an hour that offers nothing. Even if ignored it chatters on, fiddling with your legs until they twitch, and your head until it can take no more and must arise for herbal tea.

I am not the Maker of Days and I am glad of it. I think of it as a job given to some failed wizard who has been relegated to the outer circle of Middle Earth. I see him alone in his poorly assembled cabin in the middle of nowhere with no mates and no chance of a hot chai latte, with an outside latrine and a fire that refuses to draw. I see him lonely, pouring over his charts and drawings by candlelight, for he has a big job to do. There are millions of us waiting for our Day prescription, every 24 hours and all across the world. He can never sleep.

Tomorrow, I know, will be a gift. Tomorrow will be a good one. How do I know this? I know it because this is just how it is for me. One day wonderful, one day shit. They alternate and have done for many years but I only noticed the pattern recently. No matter what I do, nor how I think, nor what I eat, nor who I speak to or don’t, the pattern stays in place. On the days that are wonderful, I can see forever. I notice everything as just everything. On days that aren’t I see that everything crumbling or menacing and loud with it. I see fear and destruction in things that seem laughably simple on wonderful days. I doubt I am alone in this. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do, the Maker of Days is stuck in his rut and it will be as he designs.

This day, this day that began at 3am with a weird green impish light and twitched my legs and refused me sleep, I know I am greater than the Maker of Days and I told him so. I pushed through chores, played music, spoke with a friend, got through to lunch. I ate well (home-made beetroot hummus, salad, oatcakes), rested and read. I sewed, fed the birds, chopped and barrowed in a stack of wood, swept floors and changed a bed, loving the fresh snap of new sheets and the final result of a pretty and welcoming bed for guests, which may have some waiting to do.

On my walk I watched the flip and snatch of a wind that reminded me of a pre-menstrual woman. All over the place. The luff and fist-punch of the wind this autumn is surprising. Hail meets rain with no lessening of the slam dunk. And, yet, it isn’t surprising at all., It has always been thus. It is my widow walk that elevates each single thing, each slam dunk, each moment, each day. I know this and I am impatient for it to be done. You listening, Maker of Days?

In my imagination I wander into the interior of Middle Earth and right up to his bothy. I know I would do this, in reality, were it an option. He is not scary. He is a fallen wizard, remember? I would ask him questions, sit by his fire, share stories and laughter and then go. He cannot change, not with that sentence over his head.

But I can.

Island Blog – Inspiradiation and Adventures

Days roll on, some good, some ok, some awful. Now that I have my independency I have no idea what to do with it. I know about baby steps and how to eat an elephant but the reality of being so thrown into empty space is not something I really understood, till now. Perhaps ‘understood’ is the wrong word because I don’t really understand it yet. Yesterday I crawled along with the hours, lost and jumpy, itching and pacing the silent rooms. I washed this, swept that, emptied something and filled another thing up. I sewed a bit whilst listening to a talking book, relieved to be inside someone else’s story, thus avoiding my own for an hour or so.

I know these days will keep coming as will the okay days and the good days. It is all part of grieving, I am told. When a person has been a part of ‘We’ for as long as he or she can remember, the longed for ‘I’ can feel like a stick of ice down a warm back. I know that I fought hard for my independency from day one of marriage, furious it was not offered as a personal freedom and eventually accepting that, in a traditional pairing, the wife is required to always play second fiddle. I remember himself saying to me, quite seriously, that I was allowed to make the small decisions in life whilst the big ones were his alone. I also remember searching his face for the joke in this and finding none.

Finding acceptance in such a situation was not a breeze for me. I have too much Amazon in me, too much feist, bite and suffragette to find this acceptable. Part of him loved this in me but not if it stood tall against him and his big decisions, implacable, square, solid. I often backed down, however, feeling stupid and pointless and full of impotent rage. Now, in the light of survival and with the emergence of kindness, companionship and history in the latter years, I know it was just the way it was, he was, we were.

I inhabit this new space like a wide eyed child. I am curious, interested, sometimes puzzled, sometimes lost, sometimes found but not by anyone else. Just by myself. Trusting in my own decisions, saying ‘I’ instead of ‘we’, moving independently and with confidence, feels okay. After all, who was it who played second fiddle so well for so long, developing his visions, walking them out, repairing door knobs and hurt children? Who was it who went the extra mile, worked all the hours, cared for endless guests and found 100 inventive ways to cook mince? Who was it who kept everyone warm, who made the calls, drove the miles, sorted the troubles out and had a ‘Yes we can’ attitude to pretty much everything?

Well, that was me. That was I. and there is is no ‘was’ about it. I am still that woman, one who now must turn to herself for answers. A new learning, a new day in the life of me. It smiles me. There is the smell of adventure on the wind and my nose is twitching. He taught me, despite his need to control everything, and, perhaps because of that need, that I did have my independency all along; that although I will miss his presence sorely inside this little island home, I am that strong Amazon and I will find those adventures he always looked for, found and loved. But, this time, they will be my adventures.

Island Blog – A Letter

Ten days since you died my husband. One week till your hillside funeral. All of your family think of you every minute, probably more often than even that. Memories come back, moments resurrect and stand tall, blocking our path. And yet we move on, doing normal things with an abnormal head on and a heart all flapdoodle but still beating. Mine feels like wings, as if there’s a bird trapped behind my ribcage unable to escape.

This morning I cleaned your room, now that all the hospital kit has gone. I took my palette knife and some white filler for all the many holes left in the walls, holes that remind me of hand rails and other attractive supports, no longer needed. Neither are the holes. There is a big enough one in me and in our little island home, even if I can move about more freely. The furniture is not pinned to the edges any more for easier wheelchair access. Actually, I did think you were a bit over the top in that particular demand. A wheelchair isn’t that wide, after all. Then I realised you had lost your innate spacial awareness and the evidence of that loss is scraped along doors and lintels and walls. You were pretty nippy in that chair, nonetheless, turning on a sixpence, making U turns and scoots forward when space allowed, and even lurching at great speed down the ghastly yellow ramp which is now looking for a new home.

The leaves are beginning to turn now. Conkers (we always looked for them didn’t we?) are landing on the track but I haven’t found a big one yet. You told me you always won conker battles and you also told me that you soaked them in vinegar overnight, making them like concrete. Scabious peppers the grassy banks finding the best sunshine spots. I saw 6 kittiwakes the other day, your favourite bird, flying seaward up the loch. I don’t think I have ever seen them here before. They came just for you.

The garden is looking a tad tatterlicious and the sweet peas gave up fighting the last big wind, but even broke-backed they bloom and their scent keeps wafting indoors, reminding me how much you loved them. I pick them for the house but soon they will be over for the year. Season rolls into season. You knew the sound of each one, its taste, its demands and its gifts. As one thing dies, another begins to live and that is how you saw life and death – the same circle, a never-ending story.

I am so happy that your dying was peaceful. No fight at all, no panic, no fear, just a soft leaving. And you wanted to go, you said so, to anybody who was listening. And so it is and was and ever will be when someone who cherished every second of a long adventurous life finds the living just too much. We didn’t want you to go but knew you did. We also knew that your living state was very compromised. But even at the last, your humour shone through those cloudy old eyes. Even knowing that the Great Beyond was calling you, hands held out in welcome, you whispered to me ‘ I don’t want to leave you.’

And then, you did.

Island Blog – Sinklight, Ice and Curiosity

When I was a child, I broke a massive rule. Not one of us was allowed anywhere near a food source and that included the larder filled with delicious leftovers and the big Prestcold fridge, fatly green and bulging into the room like she needed all of the attention. At the top, there was a freezer mouth, with enough room for ice cream, home made lollies and not much else. One day, whilst not being watched, nor followed, which was rare, I opened said mouth and noticed a spill of orange juice from the lolly rack. I could not resist. My hot tongue came out in anticipation of a sweet lick.

You may well guess what happened next. My hot tongue met arctic ice and melded. I was stuck. I could not move. I couldn’t even cry out because cry outs depend on a free tongue and mine was absolutely not that. I don’t remember what happened next, although I do know that my suspicious mother would have been quick after me, no matter where in the house I had forayed alone. I am sure she was kind with warm water. I am also sure she was harsh with remonstrations. My tongue, my poor tongue, was half ripped apart by then, the sheer terror of being trapped my driver.

I do remember, inside that terror of being caught in flagrante, that I did pause to look deep into the void mouth of that fat-bellied Prestcold fridge. I saw, just for a few moments, an arctic landscape. In spite of my mother’s studious attention to levelling everything so she could dust/control it, I saw lift. There was no light in there beyond the backlight from the neon (oh dear) kitchen light, and the gusts of my panic breath, that altered the ice mountains ahead of me. I wondered what it would be like not to be stuck by the tongue, but, instead, free to roam those mountains. And they were mountains. A big grown up woman looking in might tut about needing to defrost, but me, on my tippytoes and absolutely stuck by the tongue saw different.

I like seeing different. Today has been a day of sinklight. Rain from dawn to dusk. Endless, confining, tongue twisting, stuck. We have many of these days, and many more to come. But, through that sinklight we can stand on tippytoe and move into the landscape. It isn’t what we think. It never is. With my vulnerable back to the room and my tongue stuck, therefore the whole of me stuck, I could choose. Panic or look in. I chose the latter, even knowing the butt whacks would come soon enough. I think that was the very first time I made such a choice and the power of it has never left me. Once a curious child learns to look beyond the situation it is like a whole new world opening up. There is this thing, this one thing and yet it is not just one thing at all. The difference is held within the hands of curiosity.

Obviously I am not still stuck to the ice. Obviously it hurt a lot and obviously I was gently melted off, possibly pre butt whacks, I don’t remember that bit. In the days of Now, I see many things that may look dire at first, that may ‘stuck’ me for a bit. But I have learned how to look again in curiosity and it serves me very well indeed. As I care for an ailing, failing husband, a whole lot of what I do might make you recoil in horror. It did for me, at first, but not now. Now I see beyond the obvious drama of it, deeper into the landscape, following with my eyes the contours of new land, ice land, desert land, rolling land or sea, skies that go on for ever. This is hope. This is faith. I am not stuck. Nor are you. It is all in the curious looking.

This is the only way to live.

Island Blog – Ready to Pair

I have heard that many times over the past few days. Although anything technological terrified me in the past, I have become somewhat of a master. There is no son around to call on anyway and, even if there was, we are shielding so nobody can cross our threshold, and for some time to come.

I think this ‘terror’ of tech was really me hiding in the cupboard. After all, nobody knows how to do anything until they’ve tried it often enough to know the ropes, at the very least. Then daily, or regular practice illuminates each step like a new sun rising. Before too long, a person could be running through the whole process, one eye closed, eating toast and singing along to a chart topper, and still meeting success. Like replacing a knob on a nicker drawer, for example, or pruning roses. It is very easy to shrug away anything with which we have no experience, and no desire to gain such. But, when the roses are preventing entrance through the front door, or the nickers to which I need access are locked down behind a knobless drawer, needs absolutely must. At that moment, a part of my brain, the knob/pruning part kicks into life, one I have never accessed before. It was this way with the new bluetooth headphones for himself. This woman kept on about being ready to pair until I finally shut her up (hope I never get to meet her for real) and paired successfully.

It thinks me. Life requires all of us at some time or another to be Ready to Pair. Not just in a relationship that begins with excitement and euphoria but at times when all that squishy stuff fades into routine, arguments about nothings and other generalities, family commitments and the gardener off sick. There is almost nothing we cannot do, after all, if we bring our brain into the mix and take a baby step. Lockdown and shielding has to be thanked for thrusting me into the confident knowledge of many heretofore areas of terror. There is nobody here to do this thing but me. This thing cannot be parked, nor ignored. This thing has to be done. This thing needs me to get off my backside and engage, like I have never had to do before. And, there is a mighty thrill in achievement, even if I am the only one mightily thrilling. The euphoria of success over self is one everyone should seek for it comes with a medal, loud applause and a warm fuzzy that never leaves. I have achieved mastery over self! Well, maybe only over a knob and some rampant roses, but the ripple effect of both masteries keep spreading out. Being able to access my nickers without having to employ a flat screwdriver and a skewer is dizzying and the front door now opens onto the garden instead of Sleeping Beauty’s 100 year abandoned palace. It was I who made the change.

We all know where we want to be and where we don’t want to be, but I have found that the discontent of the latter can consume a person. What we might not ‘get’ is that in order to move on from this latter requires just one baby step. Then another, and another until one day the sun comes out and our path is illuminated by a new sun. Good heavens, how on earth did I get here? You did, I did, by emerging from the dark cupboard of terror and saying to myself ‘I’ve got this!’

I am Ready to Pair.

Island Blog – Flapping at Clouds

Yesterday was a day of long hours, the end game of a week during which I wasted much energy flapping at the clouds with a tea towel and expecting them to move on, metaphorically speaking. I don’t know why such times come, nor when they will, but I know everyone has days like these. I used to scrabble about for reasons why, most of which required me to beat myself into scars with a bendy switch. I don’t bother now. Now I am well aware that there are forces at large who are invisible, all knowing and with the big picture in mind, unlike me down here inside my little life. I let them play with my mood and my mind and just wait for them to go, which they always do in the end. But oh my, it’s uncomfortable. My body feels like I swallowed a hippo and my brain is a peat bog after heavy rains. I have to make myself do the ordinary tasks and cannot settle to anything creative. I stare out at nothing and wish the hours away. There is no reason for this; nothing has drastically changed; it is, as if, punishment is due for some heinous crime, one I have no recollection committing, or, worse, that I am sick. Long experience of this scoffs that nonsense away. It is just as it is.

I know these discomforts have come to learn me something; that I will, after the air settles back around me like a soft blanket, understand something that wasn’t on my radar before. It’s a shake up, a wake up, a take a look up thingy. Oft times it is easy to keep on going on without noticing the whole. Sometimes ‘noticing’ the whole, through the eyes of my own limited vision, is merely me circling through the same precepts, the same thoughts, opinions and ‘absolute truths’ until the goodly wise decide on action to stop me eating my own tail. I’m glad of it, once the discomfort has passed, because even if it takes me a while to learn the new learning, the new way to do an old thing, or, even, to relegate said old thing to the compost heap and to reach for a new thing, I am curious by nature and well aware that stuckness is death in life. Lack of motion and the refusal to allow new ways to infiltrate my old ways would kill me off inside a month. Maybe that’s just me. I know that some of my ancients were very happy to be stuck in old ways. We is all different and some more different than most. I know this too, but being stuck is not my nature, even if I can become so without any trouble at all. I always have my eyes on a better me. However, I cannot do this alone. How could I? I am the one who folds into little life without a second thought, scrabbling on through the tall grasses with the odd tea-towel flap at clouds, should they irritate me. I need those goodly spirits with vision, the high flyers, the ones who already know me better than I will ever know myself; who understand and who are kindly-meant. I need to lean into the storm in order to feel the vital force of it.

This morning I don’t need my tea-towel. This morning I know they have moved on. I can tell because my belly is not kicking up a storm and my heart is more Beethoven’s Pastorale, less Def Lepard. I also know that something will dawn on me soon enough and I will add that to my very long list of Aha’s, taking whatever I learn into myself so that I can inch a little further forward in this journey of life. I am certain all of us know these times. We are human, after all, grounded and unaware of so very much. Oh, we read the news, know the science, understand the proven truths, but we have no explanation for the Mystery. We can try. We can argue points, choose different names, fix on gods or God or no gods at all, but we cannot fully explain any of it. And there is something wonderful about that.

All I know is this. As I quest through this amazing life, grounded among the tall grasses of this beautiful and broken world, my mind is free to roam and, in being vulnerable, I know I am fully alive.

Island Blog – Jiggetty Jig

Home again, home again, etcetera, and I am just getting into the swingle of it here. Agreed, the slap of cold did hit me head on (and foot on for I had omitted to pack stout boots for the chilly ground), but welcomes always warm and they certainly warmed me. Now on the island and with a fire lit for the day I am thankful for having a home at all, let alone such a cosy one.

The furniture within has re-arranged itself, as I suspected it might. When the Old Dragon (me) is gone long enough, himself will make things the way he wants them. In the case of chairs and other well-placed items of comfort, they are all pressed against the walls of the house and looking rather startled. I decided I would not be willing to spend my evenings against a far wall, two miles from the fire, but it took some negotiating and a lot of justifying with just a tiny mention of the fact that I live here too and that I am important, to pull my (somewhat relieved) arm chair back into the mix.

The reason for the changes is to more easily facilitate the wheelchair, the chariot, upon which himself will glide (endlessly) through the rooms. Naturally, a turn or two will be required on this restless pacing, hence the rejection of the startled, and rather upset, sitting room furniture. I lifted two more chairs upstairs to join all the other ‘unnecessary’ furnishings, such as lamps, tables, ornaments, free-standing artwork and so on, apologising as I went and wondering how much more the beleaguered office can hold without crashing down a floor. Everything, you see, has to be ‘safe’ for himself and, besides, I am done with picking up, dusting off and repairing things precious to me as he fells them and continues his glide through the days.

I find it doesn’t bother me so much now, if at all. This house is now a certified safety zone with easy access to pretty much all he needs. So many things that worked before can never work now without an accident and we don’t want one of those. The heart monitor beeps. The fall alarm glows red on the desk reassuring me that those kind voices somewhere in Scotland are one press of the button away. Sometimes himself presses by accident when no accident has occurred and I suddenly hear Lorraine or David asking if everything is ok. I tell them it is, and so sorry, but they are always kind. God’s angels for sure.

From 40 degrees and no plans or to do lists or prayers to keep myself together, compassionate, my eyes off the things that irritate, to the island and Christmas marching ever nearer. I turn up the tunes and wonder where my fairy lights are. As I burrow into the dark cupboard that holds everything else, I smile. Fairy lights found, but they are not going to be the brightest this Christmas because I shall be twinkling too and my batteries never go flat.

Island Blog 159 On Marriage

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It all starts with a Wedding, that’s what I say.  When I get an invitation to someone’s ‘Marriage’ I have this strong urge to call them up to correct their grammer, or is it grammar……….. because the wedding is the bit when you make impossible vows and completely believe in them, and the marriage is the rest of your life together.  So not the same thing.

These vows are written in stone, or so you think at the time.  They also ask of you more than will ever be asked of you in any other part of your life.  What seemed like an uphill struggle before, when you were free and single, evanesce as you face the stark and solid truth that the old mother-in-law has the upper hand and, what’s more, always will.  Now that I am one myself, I feel very unsure of myself at times, and rightly so.  The old type of mother in law was comfortably certain of her place on the family throne, whereas we unsure ones watched them from the servants gallery and vowed we would never be like them.  Well, mostly we are achieving just that, and, in doing so, in approaching with more tact we are making new mistakes.  It is the way of things.

I don’t remember if I promised to obey or not, but what laughs me a lot, is that it matters one way or the other. The animated discussions I have overheard concerning which words are left out and which put in to a wedding ceremony adds a value that most certainly dilutes in time. I suppose in the olden days, if someone didn’t obey or honour or cherish and it was brought to the Judgement Mound and proclaimed before the Wise Men, and if it was found to be true, due punishment would have been administered, its legacy, shame.  Nowadays, the Judgement Mounds are covered with heather and bluebells, their ancient role all but forgotten.

After the fluffery wuffery of the wedding, and the first halcyon days of playing house, the serious business of life clicks in.  We put away the wedding dress and don the apron.  It’s not a bad, but a good thing, because scrubbing a floor in a wedding dress is asking for trouble. So, we move on into our new days, we two people who have made the biggest decision of our lives.  No maps are handed out.  We will now sail into uncharted waters, learning from each other and working day by day to weave a new cloth from the colours each one brought to the mix, very different colours, different histories, different understanding of light and dark, texture and balance, give and take, up and down.  Who will lead and who will follow?  Who will let go and who will hold on.  Who thinks of solutions and who chews over the disaster?  None of this has really been revealed as yet for neither of us have stood the test, not yet.  Falling in love is a momentary thing.  Staying there, when things begin to annoy and upset, letting them take their place in the weaving of the cloth when all you want to see are the vibrant colours of joy and happiness, is quite another.  The trick is to let that happen without feeling a sense of loss.  The trick is not to imagine this woman is trying to mother me, when she shouts at me for sock-dropping, or that this man is trying to control and contain me, when he challenges the cut of my dress  The trick is, the trick is………

The goodly thing about Goodly Life is that it keeps waking us up each morning with birdsong or Chris Evans or the dooby doo of an alarm clock, or a baby’s wail, or that eerie silence that tells you it snowed overnight.  We keep waking, we keep feeling hungry, needing a walk, a cup of tea, a chat with a friend.  Our brains must plan school mornings, bus time-tables, train schedules and packed lunch boxes.  This is it, this is life and this, shared, keeps us moving through our daily rounds, bumping into each other, working out the best way to do this or not do that, until gradually we weave ourselves into one cloth.

If any of us knew what lay ahead, we might never begin.  How we learn to deal with whatever comes along, is all in the strength of that cloth, the warp and weft of it, the necessary tension, the edging.  When storms prevail and loud black clouds hang overhead all packed with lightning flash and cold wet rain, we can use this cloth for shelter and warmth, but it will only give back what we have woven into it.  The history we make together is not solely of our own pasts, but it is a new thing.  We bring in children, carving their histories out for them, at least, in the very beginning. Each of us is a new creature, with unique quirks and gifts, thoughts and concerns.  Each one of us sees a thing differently, even if we mostly agree on the image it creates in our minds.  However,  there is one thing I have found to be almost universal, and that is the instant and unconditional love a parent feels for their child.  I know life can sour a relationship, but after the angry words are spoken and the protection in place, I still believe this love surpasses all other loves, and it never fails to astonish on first encounter.  I remember it each time a babe was born from me, that however scared I may have been of dangers unknown, I knew I would protect this child’s life with my own, and I still would.

At this end of a verrrrrry long marriage, there is a very colourful cloth around us, five colourful children and their families.  Nobody could say we quietly got on with our lives together, obeying the rules, but, instead, raved against the wrongs, laughed and lived wildly, generously, and mostly in complete chaos.  On this day, we look at each other and we both marvel.  How on earth we managed, against all the odds, to be celebrating 43 years together, even all ‘vowed up’, is a mystery, and not just to us.

What larks!