Island Blog – Perception and a Blackbird

I sit in the darkling. Clouds are gathering like a people to church, some big and full of themselves, others following shred-like but I have no doubt they will puff themselves up in followance this night for there is rain forecast.

I watch the wintering geese fly in, fly in chatter and in synergy with the leader and with the nightfall. For me they fly right to left. I see the home-lights across the sea-loch, all warm and welcoming, a pipe of smoke from their chimneys. They are warm. They are cooking, chatting, cajoling and considering each other over there, a big swim away. And, they see the geese fly from left to right.

It thinks me beyond geese and tidal flow. It thinks me of how we see things, any things, all things. If geese can fly from right to left for some and left to right for others then what complexity lies in other of our seeings? Ah, it must be manifold. I can see this and you can see this, but you see that, not this. My perception of any one thing may well not be yours. I would like to be able to allow yours and mine and to consider neither one as an absolute, even as I am certain of my right to left of things.

As we converse, you and I, on matters from how to fix this or clean that, on the rights and wrongs of raising children, on the clarity of our shared memories, we move along different paths. What astonished you about something that happened meant nothing much to me and vice versa. We find it at best bothersome and our minds work like dingbats to convince the other of import and impact. But I still see nothing to upset me. Now why is that? Well, if we agree that my experience, my baggage, my history all come to bear on any given subject, as do yours, then we must also agree on a division of paths. We can both see the situation, yes. We can both recall to a degree what happened back then, yes, but where I see right to left, you see left to right and that is simply that.

How long a life do we need in order to come to such an acceptance? I am fed up of learning things like this. I wonder why it is we don’t finally arrive in that lovely place of complete understanding. I thought I completely understood years ago and yet here I am with my feathers ruffled and my heart beating too fast and my good manners thoroughly challenged as I watch your mouth insist on left to right. Although I write this with no actual cause, it is something I have observed recently between others and it intrigues me. To move freely and happily along an individual path of life, it is necessary to merely observe each other without dishing out labels, however silently. We can all learn from each other at every meeting if we decide not to judge. Every living soul has history, baggage and opinions, either learned or personally constructed, based on their experience of what worked and still works for them.

On returning earlier from slathering honey on young fruit trees, ring-barked by hungry rabbits, of which we have the lion’s share and adding a wrap of hessian to simulate new bark that will allow water to be drawn up the damaged trunks once again, I find a male blackbird flipping and floundering on the track. I gather him to me and feel the delicate softness of his feathers as I calm his wings. Is one broken, I wondered? His leg? Was he hit by a car or attacked by a predator and dropped? No, not that. The predators here are accurate as mathematics and there is no evidence of talon damage. I put him in a box in the garage to calm down. An hour later I return to give him water or seed or to find him dead. He wants none of it and is bouncing up in attempt to fly beyond the mesh that holds him down. I push in my hand and gently bring him out. Shall we see if you can fly? I ask him. He turns his head and looks at me through ebony eyes, then turns back to the great wide open. I lower him to the ground and to my delight he lifts and flies, a bit wonky-chops at first and then up up and away over the fence and into the sky. I watch him until he is a black dot in the blue.

Fly! Fly! I call out but he doesn’t look back. His path is his path as mine is my own. We come together and then we part and as we do, we are changed, just as we are changed after a human encounter. As I held that bird, I noticed his soft feathers, the majesty of nature in that trembling body, the perfection of design.

We can see each other that way too, if we so choose.

Island Blog – Lift

First day waking away from caring duties found me tumbler, after broken sleep. For months now I have been up 3 or so times in the night to help the Admiral onto the commode and back into bed again. Sleep has to re-learn the ropes, it seems, like when you have a newborn with disregard for anything but its own needs. It takes a long time to become accustomed to the merger of day and night, for it to become the norm. You look in the mirror at a baggy-eyed face that rather too closely resembles your grandma’s, and she is 83. But with a new born, you know it will eventually pass. Not the same as a carer for a man with dementia, because dementia presents a very different agenda.

I spend the day, mostly, in bed and reading. Reading other’s stories is my lifeline just now, wandering through a forbidding Alaskan landscape or traversing borders closed to the likes of me, a woman, alone, on the run; perhaps the tale is told of a pioneer community, ‘gifted’ lost land on some faraway emptiness, woo-ed by authorities who offer hope when there is only death and starvation. This woman finds her way but not until the chapters are well on into the 20’s or 30’s and during that journey she suffers great loss, overcomes gargantuan fears and grows into the wild spirit she knows she needs to be in order to survive. Such stories captivate me, draw me in, tell me my troubles are easily turned into opportunities should I just find perspective on them.

I rise, at times, make coffee or tea, wander outside to the pub benches and listen to the twitter of goldfinches in the big old trees around me. I doze, lying languid and sated with a storyline, my ears filled with sweet music until it is time for a long warm bath. The first night there was lobster on the menu. It might be on again this night. Anticipation fills my mouth and I smile. Fruit of the sea, my sea, the sea that keeps this island afloat and in the same place, huge mountains of rock, 90% of which are deep below me, fastened to the goodly earth and teeming with life I will never see. People I know wander by in the sunlight, stop and talk. I know most people here so there is news to exchange and smiles to warm us both. But talking tires me at this time. Hearing others terrible tales of relations with dementia, past or present, is not what this rest is about. I make my excuses and go back to my room.

Refreshed and changed I order a glass of wine and pick up my book. Out here folk are beginning to arrive for drinks and a carry out meal; some are driving home from work; some walking dogs. Behind the windows of these little cottages, someone is preparing food, checking that children are clean for school the next day for the first time since March, packing school bags, filling snack boxes, nervous. I turn back to my wine glass to see a tiny fly struggling black across the ruby red surface. Carefully I cup it on the tip of my little finger, lifting it back into the air. I watch it and it marvels me. At first, wings soaked and flat against its yellow striped back, it wobbles and tips. Slowly it eases one wing out, its back legs wiping both surfaces with deft movements. Then it tips its body forward to do the same for its back, its belly and face. I see a tiny golden proboscis curl out and in, so tiny, so perfect. For some minutes it wanders over my hand, faltering as it encounters a hair the size of a tree, stops, moves around it, moves on to the next tree-hair, and all the while cleaning, tipping, proboscis darting in and out. I am entranced all the while to be watching such minute perfection, so privileged to be seeing the whole process of repair.

Then someone comes and says hallo and the little fly lifts into the sky as my own heart sinks. I wanted to see more, to inhabit this secret silent time without loud voices, without questions, without the need to counter or present but just to watch in absolute silence the genius of Nature. The way I felt is never the way I feel around people, much as I love and need them. It seems to me that communication is not always about loud voices and a news exchange, nor of advice given, helpful hints proffered, nor teetered by another’s experience of what they think I might be going through. This fly and me communication I could feel right down to my held breath and beating heart and it was more powerful than any of that. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to follow the fly into the sky and to know it, how it lives, where it might land next, what it might feed on, that perfectly formed creature that can effortlessly lift from the noisy world moving lightly and in silence up up and away into the blue.

Island Blog – Natural Colour

I am seeing people, the ones who walk by, changing colour. I ‘m not saying I see auras, because I don’t, but the colours they send my way from 6 feet away remarkable me at times. I knew them as one colour, or one set of colours, and, now, they have changed. The look in their eyes has changed. No surprise there. One month of lockdown is manageable; we know we can do it. We can do dry January, after all, or Lent which is even longer, and we can see the end. Not now. We have no idea when the end will come and it is beginning to bother us. Maybe not our innate tigger mentality, but deep inside, we are changing colour. We look out, feeding like greedy, on the the new life, the migrant birds returned, the lush of wild violets, the unusual spread of primroses, anemones, wood sorrel, trip tides, new moons, that twisting eyelift chance of an otter in the saltscape. But we can tire of life, if we are not in renewal. Long term, anything dodgy can become a prison warden, bad relationship, wrong home address, a lockdown. I watch faces as they pass. They look at me, and I at them and we see different. And, you know what……this is good. The chasms in between mountain ridges make us pause for thought, and think we must.

Early on, in this lockdown thingy, we brought out all our colours because that is who we are, and who we will always will be. We saw and loved the alpine frocks of pink and blue, clutched in the fists of a crevice and holding on to life by a skinny holdfast, and we smiled. We saw the insect life, the colours of beetles, the jewelled flit of butterflies and other beautiful things without names; we watched sky born spectaculars cut the sky in two on their way to somewhere else and we snatched their colours for our own heart palette. We thought we could use them, and we did for a while, but now is the tough time, the time of pall and frustration, and all of us feel it to some degree. This is the long haul, like mid term for schoolers, except they know the end date, whereas we do not. Now, it is, that we must go back to those colours and remember them, notice how they have changed, as we have all changed. As the whole separation from loved ones takes root we plant new seedlings in our gardens. We decide to hear, anew, the rise of a wren song from a random fence, watch the flounce of goldfinch in fight, see the slowflow of a gannet draw a wavy line across our looking, because we must continue to find the beauty in everything around us.

Before she whipped our ordinary lives out from under our feet Mother Nature sent all these glories, free of charge, to every one of us. Perhaps we see, now, how much we took for granted, for it has been a long time, and as Mother Nature knows only too well, we are impatient. Not yet, she reminds us, not yet. Stay well and just breathe. In breath there is a rainbow. Let us consider this. It may be a long time before we can walk out again, never mind fly, never mind colour up, but Nature is working with us, not against us. She is Mother, She is Earth and she knows more than we do. We are down here, small, fretting, bothered about chasms, but she is not. We can trust her. And, if our colours change as a result of this new way of living, then that just may be in her long term plan, and we are wise to thank her for opening our eyes to our precious earth.

Island Blog – Spring into Winter

Tomorrow I leave African Hothot, traversing space and time over 24 hours, to land in what sounds like an icebox. En route I will meet, without meeting, thousands of other travellers going back the way I came or on to lands I may never see for myself. Many, like me, will be confused about what to wear during our journeys, knowing that what lies ahead of us is drastic change. I find change is often like that, but that’s another blog altogether.

I will miss the sound of inexhaustible cicadas and frogs. I will not miss the mosquitos. I will find myself listening for the lite bytes of sound across the bush from maids and gardeners I cannot see, who josh and laugh with each other all day long as they go about their work. I see them delivered and collected, standing together on the bed of a truck, butterfly coloured, their teeth white dazzlers in the sunlight. They look but never wave unless we do first, at which point they leap into action and we feel like famous people. Always friendly, always smiling, always generous, proud of their work, with a strong faith and a strong community, these Africans could teach us all a thing or two about how to be an effective human.

In the local town when buying food or cogs for machines or plastic grommets for piping, some folk recognised me, as I did them. Two months of exposure does that. I will miss the crazy drivers and the dirt tracks in game reserves; a sudden 6 metre giraffe by the roadside or a baboon family under a shade tree, invariably scratching. The jacaranda, coral, frangipane and other wildly coloured up trees will be just brilliant memories as I wing my way into winter. And Spring, back home, will come again. The dead time is Nature’s rest and she needs it as we all do. Unlike many, I love the winter as I love the sunshine warmth. Winter is a time for reflection and reading by the fireside, for bracing walks, long johns and hot buttered toast.

And Christmas is coming……

Island Blog 160 Heads and Tails

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This morning I walk out into sunshine.  The greylags are crossing the sea-loch, their babes in tow, paddling like the good little muckers they need to be.  Collared doves float between the telephone wire and the bird table and a little mouse just shot along the windowsill (on the outside).  When I empty the compost bucket into the worm-tastic bin, I stand for a moment watching the new mini-hive with just a handful of workers tending a new queen cell, buzzing in and out, always doing the right thing.  Baby birds line the fence, their beaks open, their wings fluttering, their voices pleading, and, sure enough, there is a parent to make everything okay.  The little blackbird we found in the garage, once lifted into the back garden, yelled its head off until mum and dad appeared, making encouraging noises and darting back and forth between the branches.

‘Yes, yes…..they say, we know you haven’t grown a tail yet dear, get over it……. but if you don’t remember those wings can lift you off the ground, then you never will!’

It thinks me about the way they live, those that have a purpose and know it and never forget it.  Okay they are creatures, not humans, but I am game to learn from anything and anyone.  Learning to fly, sans tail, is something we can all do if we choose.

And, unlike animals, we can think and we can reason.

Perhaps that is our problem, because we might forget at times to be thankful for what we have.

Example…….I look out at the garden and I think….oh flip just look at those weeds!  I look around my house and see the dust.  I have a shopping list and I don’t feel like shopping.  But these are just my work, my everyday, my purpose.  Within each of these tasks I find it, if I focus on the task itself, and if I consider it a thanks to life.  Yes, I have weeds that grow faster than I can yank them out, but, at least I have a garden;  yes, there is dust, daily arrivals of it and yes, it shows up in the sunshine, as do the filthy windows, but, at least I have a furnished house with windows; yes, I have a shopping list but at least I have money to buy what I need, a shop down the road, a car to take me there…….and so on.

With these and so many more of my gifts, comes responsibility, my responsibility to each of them, to honour each one, with respect and good humour, for what is this life, if not a gift?  Whatever hardships I may encounter, they will never be as hard as they are for others.  I tell myself that, often, at times when I forget I have wings.

These times are valuable times.  Pushing them away, pretending they’re not there is never the answer.  Feelings about life come and go;  times are good and times are not good;  the way we see something one day is not necessarily the way we will see it the next.  We all want to be happy all of the time, and, yet this is an ideal, an impossible dream, perfection.  In order to become the best we can, we need a lost tail day or two here and there, because, although it may be uncomfortable, it helps us to remember that we do have wings.

Oh, and good news for those with lost tails…….

They grow again.

 

 

Island Blog 85 – Coming Home

2013-07-25 09.56.40When I go anywhere I take me with me.  Now I know that sounds, at best, numptyish, at worst psychotic, but I don’t mean it physically.  It is obvious on a human level that I am pretty much stuck with me till death do us part.  But the natural desire to escape my inner self, that part I cannot see, can sometimes overwhelm.

No-one admits to it of course.  Well, it is possible to keep this tricky creature well and truly hidden, and for a whole lifetime if I so choose, which I do not.  As I ‘open my heart’ to someone, I let them glimpse into my very soul.  Sometimes it really helps.  Sometimes I regret it.  I can feel trampled.

As I skitter about the country on this new adventure, I can feel as light as a bird, catching a ride on the thermals, soaring through the clouds and into wide new skies, or I can feel like a desert tumbleweed with sand in my eyes till I’m blind.

What I have worked out is that it has less to do with whatever I meet on my journeys and everything to do with how I feel about me.  Not in a ‘will I be good enough for them? sort of way, but more…’will I be good enough for me?

For it is always me who judges me, and my judge has a knife for a tongue.  When I meet new people, they don’t hear my judge.  In fact, if I was to tell them what she thinks of me, they would laugh out loud.

Now, if I, with all my confident energy, who can write, paint, sing and dance my life…..if I am still trying to co-ordinate the inside with the outside of me, in my final trimester, what on earth is it like for the rest of the world? And why is it we have this constant search for peace?

Well, I think it is what life is all about.  I don’t think anyone has it sussed, lives a perfect life.  I don’t believe in material wealth as the answer, nor academic brilliance.  Most of us don’t remember those who made no impression on our lives, and remember clearly those who, through struggle, did something different, made something happen.  These people, the ones we do remember had the same judge we all have.  Some people call it the devil.  Some people think it’s what they eat, or where they live, or who they live with, but I think we are all born with it all fankled up in our DNA and it’s quite impossible to hide from.

The good part of it tells us to be careful, to watch our step, to consider our actions.  In balance this is all good.  Out of balance, it becomes growing self-doubt, and, if we keep feeding it, it takes over our inner garden, rising high as weeds that eventually block out our sun.

What a waste.

Well….. I have said, What a waste to myself a million times and still crouched there behind the weeds, peering out at a passing crowd of confident others and snivelling into my pocket handkerchief.

Travelling through new lands I get time to think things through.  I never thought anything through for decades as there was never more than five minutes available for such indulgence.  But now, I can, and I do and its very exciting and encouraging, because I realise this.

It is never ever too late to begin again and I begin with one conscious decision.

To get on with it.

To thank the judge for her protective presence, but to take charge of her.  To listen, but to respond with confidence.  When she tuts and shakes her head and says in that ‘I know what’s best for you dear’ voice…..’You can’t do that.  You never did it before and got it right.  Just give up the idea and stay where you are…….’ I will stop, turn to her and say………

Just watch me!

And then I will spin on my sassy heel and step into my life.