Island Blog – The Wild

I walk this day through copper gold and spandangles of sunshine. The track, wet, muddy from all the rain, dapples into light, peckled with mosaic, the light glinting off the water spots, the puddles, and lighting up the prints of yesterday walkers. I watch the down, erstwhile forgetting the up until it calls me to me in blue and gold. Me and the Poppy dog keep the beat, or I do, for she scoots and slows, sniffs at pretty much everything, oftentimes right before my feet and it thinks me of tripping. Old folk do think of tripping. I never considered making such a foolish error before, but now I do. How odd that tripping, a simple fall that comes with an answering bounce back into the upright, now holds menace. I could be here for hours, days, should I allow this tripping thing. Then I wheesht myself, saying, out loud, Nonsense, and loudly enough to startle a quiet other walker with his terrier who rounds the bend in a way that wonders me. Is he a ghost, so quiet is he? No, I have seen him before with the same little terrier, politely held on an unstrained leash. Hallo, I say, unable to quell the launch and startle of the Poppy dog, the gap between me and her ears being too great to prevent a situation. I say Hallo in my quietest tone, in A major, I think, and muted, so as to calm things.

He is unfazed. We talk. He suggests unleashing his dog and I nod in agreement. Dogs are always better off without the strangle-throat of a leash. Always. At best, they will sort themselves out in moments. At worst, the one who knows they are about to be dishevelled, right here on this peaceful track, can get away. Humans always cock things up, these sorts of things, their fear, their ignorance of the animal kingdom. It rolls my eyes and often. Just let them spar, just let go, just let. But not everyone gets that ‘let’ thing. I suspect my life as a farmer’s wife has loosened my desire to control something way more powerful than I. The animal instinct is definitely a ‘let go’ thing for me. And, I have a lot of opinions around the rules of controlling wild animals, even dogs or cats, but I keep it all to myself. Anthropomorphism is a big deal in the human world, and practised to our detriment, but try explaining that to someone who thinks their pet is their pet.

We humans forget our wild too. It is a big mistake and one we can rethink. During lockdown a lot of folk bought puppies and kittens for their own pleasure, to entertain and to fill a lockdown hole. I am really hoping that most realised they had taken on a wild creature, no matter how domesticated they may have been over many decades. The wild is strong, it never goes. It can be battered into compliance by fear but the worm will turn (whatever that means).

I can see a happy and respected dog or cat immediately. Any cowering, any slink back when a hand is raised, speaks me volumes. A canine or feline who is loved and understood will walk straight-backed, will wag a tail, will merry a look, be curious and open, like the terrier and his man I met today in the dapples and around a quiet corner. A good man, a happy dog, a merry, and a bit shouty, encounter. I thank him. He knows the wild.

Island Blog – Flip-Scoot, and Go Scotland

I wake this morning to a great big thump outside my wide-open window. It is about 04.30 and light. Ish. I scoot out of bed, tripping over the tome I had been reading the night before and falling into the curtains. Fortunately the window is recessed and the curtains have the added gravitas of a black-out lining, affixed by myself I might add amidst a symphony of robust swearing. The whole scoot performance was definitely stage worthy and, once I have recovered from the giggles, I look out to see what sort of flapdoodle might require my proactive attention. Hawk strike perhaps? No, too heavy for that. Might be something falling over like a bird table or even a landslide, although no, it can’t be that. This was a major thump, not a frickadee tumble. I keen around the corners bumping my nose against the pane. There’s nothing to see, not even the birds, I having scared them away with my tome tripping. What I want to find, I tell myself as I rub my bumped nose, is something wonderful, like a heffalump fallen from the skies, or a whole angel with wing trouble, or a huge waterproof book I could read in the garden whenever I feel like it.

Disappointed and with my fed rightly up, I swing my cosy dressing gown around me and trip (not that sort of trip) down the stairs counting every one as I always do. There are 17. I plug in the coffee and flip on the radio. There is a great big star in the Western sky. What? We see no stars in summer. Venus is ahead of herself, if, indeed, it is She.

Then I think, what if that great big thump was a star falling? Obviously not in my wee garden because even at 04.30 I would notice a crater and smell the smoke dust. But maybe nearby? Stop it, I tell myself, coffee. We sit, coffee and me and study the possible Venus. The star is not the usual shape. This is more like a circle of brilliant white light and fixed, not moving. It is there for about 30 minutes, then gone. Could be cloud cover, could be magic, could be nonsense, but I know it is not the latter two. I know what I see when I see it.

So what was the heffa-thump? I, as always, scurry about inside my Alice brain to find resolution. I don’t care about so called realistic or rational thinking which, in my opinion is culture enforced and designed to control imaginations. I am one who works between the worlds, which is also nonsense now I come to write that down. There is no disconnection between the imagination and the logical brain. Fact. There is no disconnection between the spirit and physical world. But there are many who would have us believe that, thus marginalising the ones who effortlessly move between the two. Like me. I would not have been horrified to find a heffalump nor a fallen angel in my garden this morning. I don’t think I would have minded a fallen star not neither, although the mess might have required me to employ the services of a landscape gardener. The former two could have become my friends and just think of the stories they could tell, and the latter would have saddened me, made me think a deal about the poignance of a dead star and then had me with a bellyful of conversational material for years to come.

I move through the day, crossing the dapple mosaics of sunlight through branches, watch a mother warbler shout at me from her branch whilst her babies squeaked from within the safety of the nest. I don’t understand ‘bird’ but I got her point and moved on. I notice the way a spring seeps from the bank above me, rising from deep deep deep in the ground. I watch the trickle of of it through the cadmium grasses, the way they bend politely to let this ancient being pass, step over the outfall and wish the ancient safe journey, apologising for the way humans decide to plant a track, or build a home without a single thought for the ancients. Then I smile. Good for you old y’uns. You can suppress, break, contain and silence them, for a time. But they will rise, the deeply rooted. Always.

I never did discover the origin of the big thump. However, I did reflect on my current tome and was reminded of a recent chapter, based in County Cork where, like here, it rains for 300 of our yearly allowance of days, and wherein the chimney pot, exhausted and ancient, just decided enough was enough with the whole wheezing puffing thing and which, in all its brick and stone marvellousness finally capitulated to the inevitable and made a big show of itself on a quiet night when windows were wide open (for the midges) to land like a startling statement on the front lawn. Perhaps I was replaying the exhausted chimney thing. I will never know.

I like that. And PS, Go Scotland!!

Island Blog – Funambulist v Fatalist

I like a challenge which is just as well considering recent events. Although I, like everyone else, can plummet the depths of fear and confoundment, I can also rise quick quick once I spot myself down there in the dumps, all sog and sniffle. Get back up here you daft woman and check out the light. Look how much there is! Down there is dark and cantankerous and, besides, you are beginning to dissolve. I can see that from here.

I yank myself back up because there is something rather embarrassing about being the centre of such attention. She, the upper me, could sit there all day. She could drop rocks or eggs or derisive comments and I could not stop her, nor defend myself against her as she works hand in hand with gravity. I am, after all, stuck in the middle with clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, a portrait of me I would rather not see on Facebook. Once back inside the light, I look down. Why did I ever think being soggily there would help? I know not but I did not consciously lower myself down. It took weeks, months in truth and I hardly knew I was becoming slippage. Inch by slimy inch I got used to the darkling, found it pleasantly concealing even, so that, by the time I was rock bottom, it felt like protection. I could hide, did hide and then She found me as I knew she would eventually. I guess she missed me.

It is over 5 months since my lord and master went underground; 3 or so weeks since the rather dimwitted abusive caller was pounced upon by the Malevolence Police and a few days since the Breast Clinic journey. It feels like I am free now, no longer a fatalist, and back in the light, not one I have seen before. It has changed, shifted beyond the old way of being and I look around me in awe. Having followed Himself’s light for centuries, I am now presented with own. What will I do with it? How will I use it, cherish it, work with it? Well, I don’t know just yet but what I do know is that, for now, for a while perhaps, I will employ my inner Alice and walk in curiosity, wide-eyed and open-hearted. How strange life is. We lose someone and feel horribly alone with our fears and doubts, with the who-the-hec-am-I-now thingy. Hesitation, the inability to stop monkey-mind chatter, frustration, anger and the quieting of natural laughter and joy. The dumps, in other words. It must be, I tell myself, because such a massive shift in my tectonic plates is bound to destroy before it heals in fresh alignment.

I balance on a new wire and I must keep that balance for I do not want to fall. Watching a tightrope walker is almost impossible for me unless I am behind about 10 cushions and with my hands covering my face. Falling seems inevitable. Hundreds of feet above the ground and not a wing in sight. How can anyone think of this as fun and, yet, fun is the beginning of the word. Fun. Ambulist. A fun walker? Ok, I will accept that. Although I am not and never will be a funambulist in the full meaning of the word, I like it, like speaking it out, like the fact that it is the opposite of fatalist. I believe that every single move of my life, however domestic and ordinary, is under my control; not what happens but how I respond to what happens. Everyone will meet tragedy and disaster, will slump with despair and loss of hope, will fight against the inevitability of a mind-blowing change. It is natural, understandable, acceptable and many other ables for we are soft warm loving human beings who resist mind-blowing changes in the main, who long for what we once had, not because it was comfortable but because we knew it so well.

Now we are required to walk in a new light, one we don’t yet understand; one we have never handled before, nor worked with, unsure, unsteady and hundreds of feet above the ground so well travelled by our beforefeet. Now we are funambulists and once we have found our own balance we will climb back down to the goodly earth with a confident step, our caps tilted, our backs straight and our wide eyes open to whatever this new life has in store.

Island Blog 101 Enough for any Lion

lion-2

When I first began blogging, I couldn’t even have spoken that word without a schoolgirl snigger and now look at me, tapping across the querty board like a sea bird over rocks.  Knowing how to do something affords me the opportunity for a back flip or a pirouette, a chance to show off, although my back-flip days are long gone.  For example, if I’m singing something I already know well, I can afford the odd contrapuntal hold-and-dash, curving up at the rise and down at the fall of a phrase for maximum effect, although who I am ‘effecting’ is probably nobody but next door’s hens.  If I am cooking, and find I only have half the cream and none of of the grappa, I chortle a bit and adapt, even if the panacotta would be more use as a corner stone.  In my book I describe such culinary adaptions, and it was daily, and it was sometimes disastrous but in the end, everyone got fed and it was never on a ready meal.

Tweeting confounds me a little bit with all those hash tags and @s that other people, who do know what they’re doing, seem to employ all over the shop.  I am never quite sure where to land those symbols inside a sentence, but I will learn and, for now, I just blunder on, pinging symbols onto the screen and counting my characters like the rest with a modicum of confidence.

On the subject of characters and what they say or ‘tweet’ brings me neatly in to land.

In writing my novel I am a woman at the beginning all over again.  I have absolutely no idea if I am writing tripe or something astonishing.  Oh, I know bad writing, can spot it immediately, but my own bad writing?  Of course I couldn’t could I……write badly?

I wonder…….

I could decide it’s all too scary, this ‘what do you think?’ question that keeps peeking around the corners of my days and nights and asking to be given a place at the table. Look at it sitting there booted and suited before me every morning and growing more confident every single day.  The flaming cheek of it.  And see it grow, and grow, until it towers overhead and fills the room so that I struggle to see the telly screen of an evening.

I could hide my ‘novel’ under my bed or clasp it to my chest within the dark folds of my old woolly jumper, saying to the world that I and my great story are zipping along like Road Runner on blades, allowing nobody to see it at all until the very last minute, when it’s finished.

But now it weighs a whole country.

Now I am upwind of the lions. And they are hungry.  Hungry for all those big dreams we dream and then abandon in our desert because we think we are not enough to walk them out.

Well, all I need is myself.  And who says I’m not enough?  Oh, of course……I do.

It is at this point I remind myself that I am not a famous author, nor a queen, nor the sole hope of a desperate people. I am just a woman, a writer with a big personality and a great sense of humour.  I can rise and I can fall like anybody else and should get on with doing so, or the False Evidence Appearing Real will consume me and lose me in the place where failure is a real threat.

I am nobody’s hope, nor disappointment – just my own.  Paws for thought.

So, I hand it over, the draft, now up to chapter eleventy three and a half, to my husband of a thousand years and he begins to read it.  As he leafs through the sheets of A4, lowering each, when read, onto a growing pile, I see the chapter numbers rise and rise, and he says not a word.  After 30 minutes, whereupon my indigestion level has caused me to locate and swallow a double dose of liver salts, he removes his half-moons and says……..

It’s great.

I want to know more.

I am ecstatic for about half a day.  Then I remember that for him, or anyone else, to know more, I must dance back onto the querty rocks and begin to tap again.  No back flips, no pirouettes, no contrapuntal gymnastics for me, for I don’t know this well, not yet, and nobody can run before they can walk except my little grand-daughter who never slows up enough to walk anywhere. I watch her take off, her little legs pumping with enthusiasm and energy and I watch her fall.  And then someone lifts her up, dusts her down and within seconds she is off once more, running into her life with a thrown back giggle and all our eyes upon her and I think to myself that even if she did come upon a lion, she would probably wrap her arms around its neck and bury her nose into its mane, confounding it completely.

Island Blog 79 On Waiting

waiting

There is something about waiting that can create an internal chaos.

Waiting for a train or a flight.  Waiting for a day to come or a person.

Waiting for life to change, or start, or end.  Waiting for seeds to grow, for my turn to come in or to go out.  For guests to arrive or leave.

For a new baby.  For test results.

That last one has to be the worst.

I knew a very old lady, once, who had been a maid all her working life.  She was deeply proud of being a maid, and would make sure you got it right, the title right, if, perchance you got in a fankle over political correctness.  This woman had no time for such malarky.  Just say it like it is, she would say, wagging a bent finger under your nose.  Maid is maid, however you try to say it.

She used to name certain days, waiting days.  These days, for her, as a country girl, were usually connected with the weather.  A waiting day meant the sky was shut, the wind all blown out, everything just standing there or hanging there……waiting.  Of course, the weather matters a lot when your family are land workers, which hers were.  Whether to plant, of plough, harvest or lay out in rows to dry, all dependant on the weather, and if the weather was waiting for something to happen, it never explained what.  Could be rain.  Could be there was a kick-ass gale in the planning, just off stage and hidden from human view.  In her day, there was the wirless, but no fancy satellite information about high pressures over Iceland.  Just the local yokel out with his moisture meter – or his eyes looking up and his own gut feeling.

On her waiting days, she would do something.  Clean the silver (not her own) or pull out the beds for a good ‘doing’ or tidy handkerchief drawers, that sort of something.  Anything, basically, to fill in the waiting time, and, in the doing of something, she might calm her own anxieties.

We can learn from her.

If, whilst waiting, we focus on what we are waiting for, knowing with perfect clarity that, in doing so, we make absolutely no difference to the thing, but only serve to discombobulate ourself into a right stooshie, we might consider a different approach.  Of course, if the thing we wait for is scary and deeply buried in the underworld, such as the results of a medical test with an alarming set of possibles attached,  we will be unable to erase it completely from our thinking.  But the mind is quite easily led, I have found, and can be eased into a different place, at least for a little while.

I agree that giving the silver a clean, supposing we have any in the first place, or pulling out the beds for a good ‘doing’ are hardly exciting options, but that, I believe, is the key.  Dullard tasks can soothe our brilliant and dangerous minds into a calm humdrum.

It doesn’t take the worry away.  It doesn’t change the end result.  But it does ease the path from breakfast to lunch, from hour to hour, from Monday to Friday.  It won’t be a smooth one, nor easy, but when the demons trip us up and make us fall, the best we can do is get up and try again.