Island Blog – There’s something about ‘dead.’

When someone dies you might think, well, that’s that, he or she is gone. I’ll be fine. I am sensible, practical la la la. However, I am discovering that this is not the truth at all. Yes, the person is dead and gone and I am not fine at all, or wasn’t fine at all for a long while. However, something comes alive from that death and it grows and thrives in so many unexpected ways. Beyond the initial shock come a swingle of emotions and they can last for as long as they last. Anger, despair, denial, acceptance, to name but a few and each one of these can burst into life within a single day leaving us exhausted, confused, beaten up. It isn’t possible for anyone outside of bereavement to fully understand, let alone feel these emotions. All they can do is to stay quiet, give no advice at all and to simply walk beside us as we explode into the sky or melt into a cold and dirty puddle on the ground.

But this ‘alive’ thing. What do I mean? I think the best way to describe myself is through imagery. Imagine, if you will, a desolate landscape, one that didn’t appear politely and over time but more as the result of a nuclear explosion. One moment I looked out on trees, flowers, seasons, skychange. I sat by running water, heard its song, watched birds fly overhead, geese migrating, sun rise and sunset. I was complacent in this, expecting my world to look this way every time I chose to look out of my window. I knew, even from behind closed curtains, the promise of a morning. Rain, wind, soft warm air, still waters or the spit and roar of wildflow over rocks. Then in just a single moment, all is desolation, all is grey and empty. I see no green, no landscape, no lift of hill nor fall of valley. The ground is flat and without character, without balance.

Over time I come to accept this new view from my windows. Each day is the same as the one before and here flickers the first flame of ‘alive’. I can see the little spark, watch that spark grow into warming fire. I reach my hands to it. There isn’t much warmth to be honest, but it is the first lift of orange I have seen in this grey nothing and I am keen to fan it into something more. Although the outside shows me same old, inside something is keen to live and I recognise it as the human spirit. I feel a lift in my heart even though all that I ever knew is gone now, and forever. But I am still here and the me in me has no intention of turning grey and flat, it seems. I rise and dress in colours. I decide to cook something delicious. I turn up the tunes and jig a bit around the kitchen. Each time I begin something I can feel the inner flames lift as a new breeze tickles them higher. Each time I begin something I am adding kindling to the fire. I am tending myself. I am saying that, even though the outside of me may stay grey and flat for some time to come, I am the fire of my future and the more I tend the alive in me, the more I realise that this need for living warmth came directly from a death. When the dead one wasn’t dead, I was as complacent as one expecting to see the same world outside my windows as I did yesterday, and all my complacent yesterdays. I took it all for granted without a question in my mouth. Now I have a zillion questions all flying out into the empty rooms like trapped birds. I open the window to set them free. One by one, they fly and as they do, as I busy myself with being alive, I glance out. There is colour, I see it, Look, over there! And there, and there. The grey is beginning to live again. As am I. Although the landscape will never look as it once did, I know now that this blank canvas is aching for me to get out there with my paint and my colours. I have no idea where to begin but that doesn’t matter anymore. If ‘dead’ is going to have any significant impact on me then let it be this inner, cleansing, warming fire of Very Much Alive.

Island Blog – Wave the White Flag

When I write about me I don’t. I write with the knowing that many others feel as I feel, move as I move through the days of this and that, of should I or should I absolutely not, and if I go for the absolutely not, what then? In the days of change, we all know the insecurity of that question, the wobbly boards we navigate to what we hope is safe ground. It might take weeks, months, years. It might be a decision to change from a job we hate, or a relationship we have been unhappy in for years. It might be the death of a longtime partner. The bullet ricochet of that one is something else and I will tell you why. You think you can manage, you believe you will suddenly become who you were before. But this is a lie. As is the belief in the transcode of such a conversion. (From verb to noun, apologies grammar buffs)for nothing happens easy. The first decision to step out into the heretofore unknown, even if observed in others’ journeys, is massively brave. You think there is a cliff and you see your foot out there in space. The fall? Is a killing one for sure. But, but and but again, once you let go, once you give up, wave the white flag and surrender, you look back down again and chuckle. This cliff is but a fault line, a nothing, a thing you could have leapt across as a toddler. You step out. You don’t fall at all. Even you could never fall through such a tiny skint in the landscape of your life. Remember that.

I have watched all of my children on that cusp and, because I recognise it so well, I just said, Go. Step out. Let go. Wave the white flag. Surrender to your imagined fears for they will not follow you. They are imagined and they are nothing but whispers in the dust of your past the moment you take that first step. And the surrender is pivotal. We resist our fears, let them consume us, guide us. T’is a mistake. Another mistake is to deny our fears, our very real fears. We might fear enclosed spaces. We might fear patriarchal domination. We might fear matriarchal domination. The two latter will come back to bite us in the workplace, in relationships, in new friendships or of being suddenly and terminally alone. We might fear spiders or open spaces or crowds or travel or so many other things. All of these and more are real and need to be respected. There may well be a psychological explanation for our fears but that doesn’t stop the fearing of them. Logic does not help. We know the logic. The thing is to say YES, I fear this!

Thus, as a fearing one, I have learned the power of giving up to my fear, of waving the white flag, of saying Yes, I fear you. And what that means to me is this. I speak it out, not to others but to myself. I claim it, this fear, I acknowledge it, I affirm it. I say, hallo, in you come. I have fought you for so long and I am weary of the fight. So we talk. And, when the time is right and I decide to wave the white flag, I find a turning. It is as if I have just made friends with a long term enemy who was never an enemy at all, just one who was challenging me in order for me to move on.

So in conclusion. Giving up is not giving in. And there was me thinking they were conjoined against me.

Island Blog – I wish as you wish

It doesn’t matter how much he or she irritated the bejabers out of you at times. It doesn’t matter how many times you may have wished them away for longer so you could drown the goldfish, sleep wide in the bed, eat what you wanted or go out spontaneously and without curfew. Once they are gone, we are all lost. With my logic head as Speaker, I get it. Of course we are lost. We have been with this person of irritation/love for decades. We know them, or we think we do and they knew us as they think they did. There was a compliance, a working together, a stand-back or fight thingy. A thingy that became our normal.

When our normal is thrust into outer space, just like that, no matter the months or years of caring nor even if the separation is sudden, we are actively lost. I say ‘actively’, because it is just that. When the whole thing about living together stops dead, we just don’t know who we are anymore. Active still wants to be active. We find things to do and over-do. We still have the momentum we always had but what is lost now is purpose. Why am I still doing this, this getting dressed/ stepping out thing when I come home to nobody, not to the smile, the questioning, even the sharp remarks about how long it takes to go to the local shop?

Most of us are productive, action folk, oftentimes because that is what life needs us to be. Just think about it. I mean, who on earth sees the massive role they are suddenly required to ontake when they fall in love? Well, not one of us, that’s who; suddenly wife; suddenly husband; suddenly parents; suddenly carer. And then it stops. Dead. We were running with it all, weren’t we, and fast, just yesterday and then we meet the buffers. I don’t know if you have experienced meeting the buffers on the inside of a train with a driver who wasn’t ready. Well I have and it sent sandwiches and old ladies off piste and flying wide. Not pretty, neither of them. It is way worse in life. Way worse. Did I miss something? Was I being selfish, looking the other way?

When a partner dies, we may be relieved. I was and I am not afraid to speak it out. Although I was the primary and the (godlovethistitle) unpaid carer, not everyone goes through it and I am glad of it. Nonetheless this place is my experience and thus I cannot imagine sudden death, the shock of it rippling for ever, the inner questioning, the self doubt and the regret for all the words unsaid, the loving gifts not given. Let me tell you, those of you aforementioned, that the I feel the same sans your experience. I wish I had said this and not said that. I wish I had asked more questions, been kinder. I wish as you wish.

And the ripples go on. Think not, no matter how he or she irritated, that the ‘lost’ will dissipate soon. It won’t. And do you know why? Well, I’ll tell you. It is because you care. Even in storm conditions for years, even when you just wanted out, even for a month or a year, the human heart has a deep sense of allegiance. It is nothing to do with logic. It is who we are. So if you know loss as a wife, a husband, a father, a mother, a partner, a sibling or a friend, rest easy my lovelies. Let the ripples flow on because they will even if you build a dam. It takes time to be okay with the loss of someone and then, eventually, to find yourself, a shrimp in a desert, yet still strong enough to find the sea.

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 – No Moment Missed

Life is an awfully big adventure or it’s nothing at all. Or something like that, if anything could be just ‘something like’ an awfully big adventure, or a life. But we so often take days for granted, allow them to limp along in trudge boots, unseeing of the beauty of our one and only chance to make a difference. Now why would we do that? Death is the end of life and we don’t much like death although I, for one, am completely okay with it for it is just part of a cycle, unless the death is too soon, too young, too inexplicable. Those deaths take forever to be allowed in a mind. But the days we, who yet live, must be roiling with adventures or they just slip through our fingers like mist; missed; missed opportunities to scamper if we can, sparkle our eyes, notice everything, to engage with everything and with everyone we meet. It isn’t hard at all, not if we think it so because by thinking it so we show our humanity and our gratitude. Things will annoy, people will irritate, life will throw curve balls and situations will seem unfair or cruel but if we choose to see life as an adventure, we will learn techniques to work around, work with, work intelligently through any amount of sh*t. Our belief that our piddling little life is more important than anyone else’s is what creates war and war is nothing if not pointless and destructive. From neighbours to posturing countries, from pub quizzes to dinners out, as long as we tell ourselves we are the proverbial ‘it’ the road ahead is paved with troubles. The key is to let go and to let be. And until we learn that, until we take down our walls of protection, we will always be something’s or somebody’s target.

This weekend past I drove to the ferry (most of the way in Nervous Gear) for a visit to my son and his family. I can almost see their home from my own so don’t think airports or anything as scary as that. All I had to do was park, walk aboard, cross the sea and then walk down the gangplank, straight into my son’s big strong arms. We laughed and talked, ate too much and wandered each day with their littlest one in her polar suit and furry lilac boots. During that time I learned much about about them, how they are now, so much more than I could ever learn in a text or during a phone call. Engaging in their life, albeit for a short time, showed me their life, told me how they think and let me know how they have moved on since last I spent some days with them. In my big family it is easy not to manage any of that. A few exchanges when the little ones are playing elsewhere is enough for the time but doesn’t show me how life is for any one of them inside their own lives. And what I noticed is that they grab every opportunity for adventure. All my kids do and in doing so they teach their own little ones to do the same. A sudden rain stop. Let’s get out there and climb trees, or splash in puddles or play ball! There is no faffing, no hesitation, just action.

I return home with memories of our daily adventures roiling in my head. Colours, laughter, pink cheeks, cold fingers, encounters, good coffee and the warmth of a shared evening. It hopes me for a better world. If everyone just got on with life, really living it, giving every moment the respect it so deserves, well…….who knows what the earth might look like? Okay, maybe not the whole earth, but our own little bit of it, our own homes, neighbourhood, street, community. And it all begins with a morning decision to see the good in each moment, every person, every situation in which we find ourselves. When I was fearful on the scarily empty ferry, the cafes closed, the staff minimal, the travellers all unreadable in masks, I decided to stop, breathe in the salty air and to look around me. I watched a couple with a lovely wee dog, the way the woman reassured when the loudspeaker yelled everything in Gaelic, the way another couple took pictures of the passing lighthouse. I counted the beat of the lights and wondered who decides which lighthouse does what and when. I smiled at passing crew members and noticed the way they were already ready for a mask muffled exchange. They, like me, are short on conversation, I realised. The ship was ghostly, almost empty and yet so big and powerful. I watched the wash created by the engines, the wake, the seagulls fly, the islands I cannot name moving by, dark in the darkling light as the sun sank into the great Atlantic. I heard all sounds around me. That door needs oiling. This flag needs a seamstress or replacement. I noticed the colours and their lack. Why does everyone wear dark colours in winter? It’s as if we need to blend into the sleep of the season, no colour upset to the quiet vibration of January. I, in my colours felt a bit rude to be honest. But, no matter. All of us, the dark and the coloured folks, all 10 of us on a ferry that can carry 1000, arrived together and safely. As the crew threw ropes and japed with the land crew, I saw the sea settle, the salt sink, the last light catch the spume turning it into an adventure – just a moment but I caught it and the lift and startle of it carried me all the way back to my wee mini who, I just know it, was excited that I was back. Hallo Pixty, I said and she smiled into life. We trundled home once I had worked out how to put on the headlights and arrived as we had left but not. No. We arrived back adventured up. Changed. Not a moment missed.

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 – Circle, Cheat and Language

I write much about the circle, the cycle of life and death. My belief is that we are too afraid of both. We take life for granted, afraid that the life we know will be taken or destroyed and when that life is threatened or stolen, we cannot accept it. Well, I get that bit. When someone beloved dies it is nothing less than catastrophic. But death? If we could step back a bit we might just be able to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever, no-one lasts for ever. That sounds sensible, as long as I am not the one with the beloved who died. It doesn’t matter how it happens, expected, sudden, too young, too soon, it always cuts like a knife and that wound takes forever to heal, if, indeed it ever does.

So how do I walk my talk? I have no answer right now because each time I hear of a young life snuffed out before that person had a chance to shine, I feel a punch in my gut. This is not right. This is not the order of things. Life is a cheat. I look for reasons even if I really don’t want to find them. I hesitate and dither. I want to see that vibrant person laughing across the table from me, that snapshot that I take into my heart and fix on my wall. I don’t want to think about any pain or struggle. I don’t want to know that someone as young or younger than my own children has gone. I cannot imagine the grief of a parent in the face of a young death, their chances of ever recovering. It is a stone too big and too powerful with ripples that go on and on and on.

So, I am not so smart about death, it seems. As much as I would like to be as peacefully accepting as those in cultures who are taught about loss and about death as an honourable and inevitable place of spirit and connectivity, I founder on the rocks. I know those damn rocks and have foundered and foundered, not when my husband died because his death was sort of natural and his age made it all sort of okay, but when a child dies. A child dies. It is too much to bear. I sit here, useless and sad, wondering and clueless. I can do nothing, say nothing because I know nothing about this and I pray I never will. My mum died first and that is how it should be, but it is no given, as I know.

I honour anyone who knows what it is like to bury a child, however old that child was. I know a few and when I think of them I stand on tippytoe, on the rocks, waving like a fool because what else is there to do in the onslaught of such a storm? They are alone and will always be, in that grief. I ache for mother, for father, I wave for them but I am not them. I am a million miles away with all children intact and with a heart full of sadness. Life is a cheat, but so is Death. We just don’t know the language of either.

Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

Island Blog – So Will I

This day, in a fallout of death, I am aware of Life. I decide thus, Let me feel every single minute of this day, every soigné one. It is dark when I wake but there is a slither of light around my blackout curtains. I know the colour and my heart smiles. T’is not the moon, no, for this light is golden and the moon is never thus. She is slice white, cold blue, lemon if indeed she ever gets anywhere near anything yellow, which, she rarely does. Maybe in her summer coat. Maybe. But now, in the days of incoming cold and threat, she is clear in her colour. So, I am delighted to see that warm glow framing my blackout curtains and I just know is it morning. Oh glorious morning. I love mornings and have little regard for their start point as I ever did of the mother of boys. Boys have no start point, in my experience and just lift and run just whenever they feel like doing so. I have found confusion, then allowance, then engagement with the lunacy of boys. And, in girls too, although I only had one, yet she was match for any of her brothers since first she clocked her situation. She never looked back.

Back to me. It is so strange to walk into a familiar world knowing that someone, younger than my eldest son, is dead. I cannot conceive it, nor allow it and yet here it is. It is not my grief, primarily, not at all. There is a big and grieving family right there in the thick of it all, those who will, for many years, try to make sense of a daughter who died too young. They might question, they might take a dose of pain to their own hearts, they may confuse and dissemble. I would. if my own daughter had died within her 40 years, I would. I cannot, nor can anyone who has not gone through this, say anything. I can say nothing at all and perhaps that is just as it should be.

This day the Rose Bay Willowherb dispelled her seeds. I watched those seeds flit by my window. As the sun pulled pliance the seeds tipped and flowed and moved on as if they knew where they were going. All my spider webs are revealed, beneath chair, above curtain rails, over stairwells. Highlighted in a mist, snowflakes encaptured. I move out for a walk with the doglet. Breathing, honestly, today was a tricky thing. Any breath swooped in seeds. I am not going to let that stop me, not in the face of young death and my olding life.

Coming back into land, into my own home space I think this. I know that Nikki lived her life with wild and colourful dance. And I know this too. So will I.

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.