Island Blog – Free to Live

Yesterday I went for my covid vaccination. There is a new something in my blood, in my muscle tissue, that will forever change me. I am not the woman I was when I left home, all nervous and in loose fitting clothes for easy access and with my mask in my hand. The swerve and swoop of the drive through the silent and single tracked glen showed me big warm cows and fluttering water birds already singing a Spring song and behaving like they just fell in love. This swerve and swoop thingy will tell those who know me that I was not in the driver’s seat. I haven’t swerved or swooped for decades. I prefer 30mph at best. My son drove me and here’s another change. That time in the car with him was energising. We spoke of this and that, of cabbages and kings, of children and DIY and how am I and how is he. He made a mental note to collect fuel at the garage once we arrive and whilst he waits for me.

We arrived at the church with its footsteps urging Faith, Hope and Love and I walked over them feeling all three. I walk to the door of the church hall and see about 5 women sitting apart. I presume these are vaccinatees awaiting their jags so I pull away and back to the car to wait, for we are early by ten minutes. More cars pull up. Through their windows I see well known faces I have not seen for at least a year and it lifts me. We smile and wave at each other. They are also nervous and in loose fitting clothing. And waiting. After a few more minutes I go back, thinking this:- Flaming Hec, Fairbairns, why are you always so obliging? Get up and go ask! jeez…… perhaps these figures through the glass door are nurses, waiting inside whilst we litter the road with our own waiting. We could all be here for days. So I did walk back up over Faith, Hope and Love and those 5 women did indeed turn out to the nurses having a lunch break. They beckoned me in, more faces I know so well and have not seen for almost a year. Smiles and welcomes and how are you/s. It felt so good to be among people. It felt so good to see their bodies move, watch them laugh and interact and to flow like fresh, living water. The jag took seconds. Relax your arm. I chose my left, for I have heard an arm can be a bit sore for a couple of days and I am a rightie. Love your tattoo she said as the needle went in. Everyone does. It is, after all, a work of art.

Thats you! She smiled and I reapplied my loose fitting clothing. As I moved back to the car, to my son, I spoke with the queue of other 60 odd year olds, friends, familiar and loved faces and ones I have not seen for almost a year. We shared news, briefly. How is life? Oh, you know, ok. I saw their eyes above their masks and saw the strain. We will all feel it but seeing it in another’s eyes tells us the truth. This past year and the not knowing of the one in which we have now landed will show in our eyes and on our faces once the bandit coverings come off. It has to. Loneliness and isolation, fear and frustration, exhaustion and the loss of faith and hope is inevitable.

We have sunlight. That is what we tell ourselves. We have a new day, our inner core strength and our gratitude list. But there is a cost. Any time of deprivation will cost us. However we do have resourcefulness and that bloody mindedness that keeps us rising like the light, like the tide. Ebb and flow we are, rise and fall; sometimes a lift for others and sometimes needing a lift ourselves. It is reassuring somehow, this need for each other, this need to have a visual on those we took for granted before, calling out a brief Hallo as we hurtled through our to-do list for the day. Can’t stop, must dash, another time. And now we move sluggish and slow, filling in the hours, wondering when we can get back to that unthinking normal.

Another night, another morning. I move like an automaton through the early chores, light the fire, make breakfast. The silence in the house feels like a weight today. So many questions float around with the dust motes and with nowhere to land. Life with another is all about interaction. Question asked, question answered. Now I have to answer for myself. Agreed, the irritability factor is removed from my life now but a part of me, on mornings like this, long for it, for connection, communication, interaction; a meet in a doorway, a stand back, an ‘after you’; a smile, a laugh, a ‘listen to this’ or a ‘did you know that..’ Nothing. I hear a song come on the radio and the lyrics sing me. I hear about some stranger’s achievement or a joke or a story. I listen to the wind and hear the rain blatter the conservatory roof as those little bits of fallen masonry skitter about like mice tap dancing. Still dark, but I did lug in wood yesterday having checked the forecast so it’s only a garage snatch and grab.

All across the UK people are coping or not coping with this extended isolation and the discomfort of not knowing when it will all finally get better. Sometimes I play a game. I take myself into the little town to meet a friend for lunch in the bakery. I hear the buzz and bustle, the exchange of chat between other tabled folk, between the serving lassies and the customers in for a pie or a cake. It’s warm in here, happy, ordinary, normal. Later I decide to dress up and to go out for dinner. Seafood I think. I always do. Candles, the clink of glasses, the smiles of the waitress, the wave to the chef as he pops up for air, the feel of my dress and the chats with those who pass my table on their way to theirs. These are distant memories, once the norm and taken for granted, for who could have predicted the life we are all now living? I remember signing up to work in the hospital cafe on the mainland as a volunteer. My shift was settled, my uniform secured. That was almost a year ago.

I wonder what will come of this time? The faces I met with yesterday told me we have all changed in ways we never imagined. The easy flow of conversation was not as before. Standing back, no hugging, no touching, no sneezing, guffawing or coughing. Moving awkwardly around each other is confusing. We are not like this and yet we have had to learn new ways and the toughest part of all lies in our not knowing when it will stop. Will we remain fearful and awkward long after life begins to flow once again or will we let go of that fear and awkwardness? I have no answer. Friendships may have been lost through this time and new ones forged. We will emerge as newborns into the light of ordinary life I suspect, blinking in the sudden light of it, our eyes looking out for love, for connection, for purpose and direction; for lunch al fresco, picnics, dinner by candlelight, impromptu parties or just walking with mates, close up, touching, hugging, sharing rise and fall, ebb and flow, free to live once again.

Island Blog – Ice, Clarity and Skeletons

An ice-white day, from start to finish. When I awoke at 3.30 a.m. I walked out, barefoot, in search of the Aurora. She wasn’t playing, not yet. But if we are graced with such weather again, maybe next month, she will dance in the skies behind my home and I will watch her as my bare toes meld with the earth. I recall, well, coming outside from a robust and loudly musical ceilidh, to see her dance her lights across the stars, and for quite some time, until my mouth threatened to freeze wide open and my toes grew chilblains I wouldn’t meet till the morning. I will never forget that night. March 3rd 1993. Funny how dates can stick when others flounder grey and insubstantial within the soup of memory, like slime.

I walked the whole round today. I have avoided it for days, maintaining to myself that I am always tired and, thus, justified in my short walk which isn’t a walk at all, not really. Some of my friends, my sisters, my brother, speak most jauntily of a mere 7 miles and twice a day, and, whilst they cover this ground in my mind, I am left slouched and idle in my 20 minute trudge through a ‘not-walk’. So, this day, this ice day, this day of clarity when Ben Mhor, so clear and so near, looks like the whole mountain might suddenly appear in my kitchen, I decide not to agree with my trudge self, but, instead, to walk on. And, I am glad of it. I could feel the eyeball searing cold of the Atlantic hit me as I curved myself around the apex, even though there was not a stitch of wind, nothing even enough to shimmy a leaf. I paused, often, to really look. Striations of ice lay on the stand water, water that will, possibly, give birth to tadpoles in the Spring, whereas now it just reflects the sky in rainbow connections. The trees, skeletal and defying identification for I am great with leaves and considerably less great with bark and shape, lean over me like big sisters, strong and well rooted. The ground is caramel with fallen beech leaves, glowing eerily in the light of the sinking sun, sienna with a touch of ochre. The track is puckered with ridges of frozen mud, elevated by boot trudge, by the hooves of horses, the snatch-track of bikes and I feel a peaceful calm run through me. My pace is timpani inside the silence. A jay screeches, a woodpecker cuts the silence and I watch it lift and flip away. Ravens, their voices so confident, commenting on the day, black and slow in flight, flap lazily through the blue. Lady Larch, the queen of the woods, catches all the orange of the last sun. In a human world, she would be a model. She is certainly tall enough.

A constellation of star moss lines the track on my homeward walk. I stop to marvel at the frost-bright crowns each stem wears upon its head. On the track, the grey stones have grown an old man’s stubble, white with light, but, unlike an old man’s stubble, it melts beneath my fingers rendering the stones an immediate ordinary. I come back through my little wonky chops gate. The latch no longer meets its docking. T’is a winter thing. Come Spring, it will happily click shut again, but, for now, I must needs elevate one side of the gate in order to connect with the other. Inside the fire yet burns and as merrily as it always does, the smile of welcome; welcome home. I make tea and press play on my talking book, resuming my place as observer to another’s taut and well paced story. My story is not well paced. It is only in the re-telling of a story that any well-pacing can be brought to bear, as if distance from the drama matters. And, I concede, it does matter. In the thick of the drama, however undramatic this drama may be, everything is sharp, frozen even, and with no recourse to sensibility. On the other side of any story, the eyes of the observer are essential, even if the observer is she who lived through that story, or he for that matter.

Veg roasted, candles lit, fire encouraged into a new and warmer flame, I am content. I have walked further this day. I have watched ice halo star moss; I have laughed at my ignorance of trees without leaves and stood beneath those massive skeletons in awe. I saw the Atlantic buffet, albeit kindly, the basalt and granite shoreline; I studied the ice diamonds on the track, one I walked today. Walking on diamonds.

Every girls dream.

Island Blog – Disparity, Contradiction and a Heart

How strange it is to be the meeting point for two opposing thoughts. My head feels like a boardroom just before two factions arrive to wrestle a great big problem into acceptability. One side thinks A and the other, B. How will this ever resolve, wonders the mediator? How could it when both sides are absolutely certain they have the answer? A contra-diction in the making.

And so it is when a fear walks in first, into my mind. Go away! I shout threateningly, pointlessly. It doesn’t move a muscle, this fear, just stands there, shoulders squared, feet planted and growing bigger. It’s irrational of course. My fears always are. They aren’t ever real, but imagined and yet they burn holes. They really hurt. But I used to think I knew enough not to ask them questions like ‘Oh do tell me how you plan to pan out?’ because, if I did that, they might be only too ready to paint me a vivid picture of destruction and disaster, all so very believable, all so very terrifying. This was my old thinking.

This time I just indicate their allotted seat and pour them a glass of water. I do this because I know that they will not be shoo-ed away. I cannot forbid them entry. They are, in that moment, too strong, too righteous. Ignoring them doesn’t work either. It doesn’t disappear them. I have learned this over longtime.

When the other faction appears through the doorway, we sit down together. The difficulty in finding any sort of resolution lies in the fact that this meet is between the feeling of fear, and logic. In other words, neither side comes with the same level of bargaining power as the other. Let us say that the fear is of possible sickness, possible disaster, possible loss and that those on the side of logic just cannot get it. Why on this goodly earth would you allow to apocalypse something that hasn’t even happened and probably never will? It is tempting to go with that sensible, logical kind of thinking, but in the end a mistake. The thing about an illogical fear is that, when it is dismissed or suppressed in one guise, it will just evolve into another one, to return another time. It is like Covid, silently attacking at random, no rule of thumb, no logic.

What I do is this. I welcome both sides to the meeting. Hallo, I say. I see you. Let’s talk this through. I am the mediator after all. My varying fears are not silly. They are very real. Look at them, sitting smug on one side of this table, watching me. I decide to let them start. Even though it scares me, knowing how they can spin their spin. I take a deep breath. Courage mon brave! Describe yourselves, I say, and wait. They do. I follow them, watch them grow and develop themselves into monumental cataclysms.

We all do. The logic faction snorts derisively, but doesn’t interrupt. It’s not their turn yet. When it is, they deconstruct each possible cataclysmic development, turning it to dust. I feel rather sorry for my fears now. They just got annihilated by clever talk straight out of a textbook, and, yet, they are still here, albeit now looking a bit sheepish. They did embellish things somewhat, t’is true, and they probably wish they hadn’t gone as far as they did; the end of the world, death, destruction, mass murder, tsunamis etc etc. But when I consider each deliverance coolly, I can see a use for both factions. I can appreciate the need for fears as warnings, just as I can appreciate the need for logic. I can see that feelings are just feelings, and that thoughts are just thoughts. As I look around the table I notice they are all just children, the result of childhoods good and childhoods bad. We are not really opposing factions at all, but just vulnerable kids trapped in adult bodies. None of us are right and none of us are wrong. We are just different, have learned different ways to survive, different ways to cope, different ways to live.

I thank them all for coming. I employ sensibility and compassion, both coming straight from my heart and not my head. I acknowledge both fears and those on the side of logic. I tell them all they are valued and appreciated, in balance. I suggest they talk to each other without prejudice, open, interested, listening to what the other says instead of listening for an opportunity to contest. I feel the air soften around us and in my head. I tell them I am stepping out of the room for a bit, distancing myself. By the time I return with coffee they are chatting like old friends.

Although I know the fears will rise again, as they do for us all, that meeting of so-called opposing factions teaches me that we humans have enough heart to solve any problems, however overwhelming they might appear at first. The key is to appreciate whatever floats into a mind, to notice it, to say Hallo, sit down, let’s talk. Wishing fears away, or dismissing them with confounding logic, only holds sway for a short time. I know where my fears come from. Self-doubt, lack of self-confidence and from believing all the horror stories in the media. The world is not like that even if the tabloids and news programmes would have us believe it. We make up the world, we people, all of us. And we have big hearts, remember? I have also learned the art of stepping out of my own head, my own room, when fear and logic lock heads. Neither of them will win, this way. The removal of my sticky fingers, my gobby mouth and my imagination is always a good thing.

Let us take control of how we deal with our minds. Let us learn how to take a step back when turmoil hits the boardroom. Just through observation and without any attachment to either argument, we can solve any issues inside our brains.

It isn’t the world that needs fixing. It’s our minds. When they are seeing the good in everyone, the beauty in the life around us, when they decide to be unbiased and open, to step out of the current melodrama within and to think, instead, with our hearts, the world will automatically heal.

Island Blog – And….Rest

I remember that being the end game in some ballet practice. It was always a relief. All that agonised teetering en point and those two words meant heels to the floor and the exhale of tense breath.

Much like it was as we lowered the big man into the earth. Wouldn’t want to have fallen in. It looked dark down there and a hard landing, but not for the Admiral, Popz, Dad, Fairbs, Grandad, Topz et lala. I am relieved that I only have 3 names, my own, Mum and Granny/Gaga (that’s Lady Gaga, not gaga to you).

Today we all feel a great sense of relief. After many years of angst, intensified over the past 2 or three and racked up to a state of nuclear fission in the last 3 months, we can all breathe again. Father James said to us that this time heralds the freedom of a new beginning and it sounds right to me. Although nothing and nobody will fill the hole he left, nothing and nobody needs to. We will all grieve at times, for times; in the lyrics of a song, the kindness of a friend, a view and, for us in particular, out at sea among the wild things because that is where they are, and out there was music to the Father of Whales.

Today we all meet at the shore with a flask of tea, a barbecue and sausages, music and the wreath we ordered for the purpose. We pick an ebbing tide for obvious reasons, We don’t want it to end up stuck under the village bridge but, instead, floating way out where the wild things are. Perhaps someone will spot the colours through binoculars, or pass by it in a boat and they will wonder. We like that, for we are all wild things too.

Yesterday was made perfect by so many people and so much thought. Even a pair of sea eagles flew overhead as we walked from the grave, as if they knew. We all know his spirit left him with his last breath. There is no sign of him here and that feels fine. I believe that he is safe now, out of suffering and doubt, fear and pain and in a world which isn’t even a world. It is way bigger than that. Bigger than anyone could ever conceive. Bigger that our imaginations. He has done his work on earth. He has grown five extraordinary wild things and they their own. This house is a-bubble with chaos, laughter, goes on the chairlift and the electric chair. They play the piano, laugh loudly, call out like birds, paint pictures on the windows, run free. There has been none of that for years, perhaps for always. We like it, we wild things.

Farewell Big Man. Rest Easy. We have this now.

Island Blog – A Diamond Day

This day we gather for our son’s wedding to his lady love. Well, some of us gather in person, whilst others zoom in, virtually, to bear witness to promises made and happiness shared. This day will be remembered for many years to come. Impressions will stick, spoken words and tributes will be held inside the human heart; moments will be re-lived over and over again. Even as I write, cars full of excited guests and family members traversing the land are googling directions, tweaking outfits and wondering how they look. There will be laughter inside these cars, anticipation and the odd snap of tension as a tail back tails back. The time they all aim for is 1pm on board MV Emma Jane at Dunstaffnage Marina. The sun has appeared, the sea loch is calm, the air soft and kindly. I did my famous Be-Off-Rain dance yesterday and, despite a few clouds, it looks like I haven’t lost my touch.

We cannot be there in person so we are two who will zoom. I want to hear the words, those vows, readings and speeches in real time. I want to see the well-tweaked outfits, the smiles, hear voices and laughter, see children in their wedding kit, the groom and the bride in immaculate finery, their joy complete for they have fought hard to bring this day into their life. Postponed in its original shape since March (thank you Covid) this new wedding design is smaller but none the less valuable, like a small diamond instead of a big fat garnet. The diamond twinkles more, however small; distinctive and distilled into perfection. You must look at closely at it in order to appreciate the way each tiny face catches sunlight and reflects it back like a gift.

This young pair have found each other when neither were looking. They have weathered storms within and without and held on tight. I am proud of their courage and resilience and in awe of their beauty and strength. This day brings to both of them a dream, a completion, a new beginning. Despite the changes they have had to make in order to bring us all together as witnesses, they are making it happen. They never wanted a big fat wedding anyway. What they value most is family, a few friends and their children.

To James and Emma – on this, their diamond day.

Island Blog – Steer Your Heart

As we move into Easter, the weirdest yet, without family around the table, perhaps even without eggs, we are having to be inventive. I think that is one of my favourite words, perhaps because I have been re-inventing myself all my life. I like this, no I don’t, I like her/him, no I don’t, I want to be an air hostess/intrepid explorer/dancer/aid worker………no, maybe not. Perhaps we are all like that as new fizz comes into our mental veins on hearing of someone else doing any of the above, until the morning comes and with it an abundance of realism, dammit. I often think morning has a lot to answer for. By the afternoon, anything is possible, I am possible, what I long to do is possible and I can go to bed with the absolute certainty that I will awaken to a dawn never known previously, one that affirms my breakout plans. It hasn’t happened yet.

Today is Good Friday, or Easter Friday if you don’t buy into the Good bit. Either way, it is a time we look forward to, as we do Christmas and Birthdays. Our own, anyway. But this year we can look until our eyeballs fall out but we won’t see what we want, what we have always known. First time ever for my generation and below. The Aboves knew it of course. War was woven into their memories, as this one will be for us. Everything this Easter must be done remotely, or from a distance. And it matters. Regardless of how inventive (there I go again) any of us are, it still hurts. There’s a slump in it as if life is lying doggo and we have no idea how or when it will wake up again with a Ta-da! We are moving along, going through the days, hope alternating with despair, bright and beamish one minute and sad as Eeeyore the next. It’s normal, its acceptable, more, it’s human. We long, we love, we care and without touch it feels like homesickness. Nostomania. Our instant leap to logic creates a pedagogue. This teacher is one of those I longed to flick cold chewing gum at, without being caught. Telling ourselves we must only think of the positive can send us captious. We might criticise others for walking twice a day, or those who shop every day and we know they do because they live upwind of us and the shop is downwind. We must take care we don’t let that thinking be our guide. Each one of us is required to make our own choices, our own decisions at this time. I remember, weeks ago, people saying to me….We will wait for the official decision on this, or that, whilst I had decided to release the carers and lockdown. Waiting never suited me.

So, I say, people, steer your own heart. It will guide you right, always. I notice some visitors have come to the island. I have a few opinions on that, not least because they may extend this time of lockdown just by travelling here. However, I won’t let myself become the judge. Instead, I will continue to make my own decisions, listening to my own heart, my best friend. As, I am sure, will you. There is no room for dithering these days, nor waiting for the official ruling, nor, even, asking someone else their opinion. After all, we all know at our deepest level, what we need to do to survive and to make sure our loved ones do too.

Happy Easter my friends. I wish you serendipities by the score. No matter what is to come, we may be broken, but we are not beaten. We are strong, intelligent, wise, loving, emotional, caring humans. I salute you all.

Island Blog – Connectivity

As my departure day moves inexorably closer, I think on the ties that bind. Some I can see, like a rope fence or the woollen threads in my jumper, but many I can not. The familial ties of parent and child, husband and wife, friend connecting friend, distance between places, people and things, all quite invisible, but strongly there, nonetheless. Both ties need careful and attentive attention, all ties do. There are threads connecting us to our past, some of which need the snip, some need untangling from the falsitude of memory and some just need untangling for a more intelligently wholesome second look.

On the ground I have complete control over my ties that bind. I can choose the flavour of my message, text, tweet or letter as I can choose my response to those sent to me. There is an awesome and awful power right there in my hands. I can create and I can destroy just by letting my fingertips dance. They say the tongue is the most dangerous part of a human body. What you say can kill or it can cure. But it isn’t just the tongue. The way I think is the true beginning of everything, for if I think all people are intrinsically good, then this thought automatically controls my tongue. It also opens my heart to acceptance, compassion and humility so that my tongue has no desire, nor motivation, to wag unless, that is, it wants to support another’s dignity, in which case, wag on tongue, wag on.

Connectivity requires intelligent attention in all things, from rope fences to woollen jumpers, from familial ties to a worldwide spread of proffered threads. I have often been astonished, when someone I barely know wanders into my head and then astonished again a short while later to receive a message from them or a phone call. At times when I have met a friend or child or family member in my mind, I discover that on the very day I thought of them, they were going through something tough. However, I don’t believe I ‘thought’ of them through my own undeniable genius as a medium. I don’t believe I thought of them at all. In fact I know, without doubt, that it was absolutely nothing to do with me. Some higher source connected us because that is what higher sources do – they see the whole, the eagle eye view, only they fly even higher and can see a whole lot more. This connection opportunity is just that, and it has a name. Love. My task, down here on the ground is simply to let go of my need to control and to open my mind and my heart.

Doing this brings rewards. Not things, not status, not an ego polish but instead that elevating sense of being connected to everyone else. Deep inside we are all damaged to varying degrees and we all need each other to heal. Think of that smile that some stranger sent your way the day you were late and flustered and cut them off at the roundabout. They could have sworn but they didn’t, they smiled and in that short moment everything changed inside. Think of that WhatsApp message that came through on a rainy morning as you battled with your year end accounts, saying “just thinking of you my old friend” and adding a heart. If we pay attention to these times, we open our hearts and minds for more. We are also inspired to give back in the same way. But paying attention is a decision. it doesn’t just ‘come’. We must invite it in and walk with it wherever it may lead. We don’t need to study. We just need to take the time to notice everyone. There is no feasible excuse for not paying attention. ‘I’m too busy’ doesn’t cut it because we are all too busy if we decide to be. Busy is not productive. Productive is productive and Busy is just making noise and loneliness. Busy cuts us off from others and it is Others we need, not Busy. When people ask me if I am busy I say an emphatic NO, because that screen between me and everyone else has done me no service at all in my life beyond cutting me off from my healing source of light.

Keeping connected to family and friends is comparatively easy, although even then we can erect that Busy screen. But the real and proven way we can heal ourselves and the sadness, loneliness and war right across our beautiful world is to pay attention to connectivity; to let those threads flow out from us.

Every moment, busy or not.

Island Blog 147 If Not Now

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Today is Halloween and I already have a witch or two in my head, and if crossed, in my mouth.  Not a really bad witch, but one of those ones that knows her power and won’t take any messing.  I like her.  She is a tad unpredictable, but we work together pretty well in the main, perhaps because I am also a tad unpredictable.  Witches are really ‘storybook’ to me, I don’t do black magic at all, although the white ones are worth a second look. I pull them in and shape them up for whatever hurdles I need to cross on a daily basis.  My witches are humourous and feisty, clever and quick, kindly but firm, independent, solo, and able to lift above any situation with a switch of a wand.  They don’t sport warts, nor crooked chins, nor do they cackle unless it’s whilst watching the ‘bad’ guys fall into their own come-uppance, in which case, I cackle too.

My time on Skye was wonderful.  Every time I travel to new places, I meet new people and people fascinate me.  I watch them and I listen and I learn.  I stayed as a guest in a lovely home overlooking a sea-loch that raged and spat for days, driven mercilessly into a right stooshie by strong winds and heavy rainfall.  The rain travelled sideways, whipping into my face and grabbing the breath out of me.  It was hard to stand up whilst walking two lively spaniels whose main aim was to find rabbits and chase them, not possible whilst held firmly on a lead, but nonethless, their aim.  When we had the rare sighting of a car approaching along the single-track road, we had to bundle into the grass in a fairly undignified heap, the spaniels panting for breath and the blood cut off from my lead-holding fingers.  Waving was tricky, lifting just my hand and not a whole spaniel into the air.  I was treated like royalty and yet welcomed as part of the family and now I have new friends, new people to learn from, a new bond between us.  Just as an aiside, I belong to the Scottish Book Trust who can sponser such trips and I am always delighted to be invited anywhere in Scotland to talk about Island Wife, to sing my songs, to reach out to people who relate to my story, in book groups, libraries, or at any public event.  I know, shameless marketing!

Moving on…….

In every area of life, there are people.  Machines do a hec of a lot to assist communication, its reach and the speed of it, but we need people or there is no heart.  Talking of hearts, I believe hearts are inherently good, even when the outside of someone challenges that theory.  Nothing is black or white, we are all both, plus all those rainbow colours in between.  Of course, life can throw us from time to time, but none of us want to be remembered, or pidgeon-holed at such times, especially if the outside of us says different.  But we can and do define people, if we’re honest, by their behaviour on a certain day/week/month or year.  We may be asked to describe someone.  We may say…..well, she is very good at her job but dreadfully overweight.  Now why do we add that last bit?  Is it that we must balance a good thing with such an unnecessary comment?  It’s irrelevant to the profile of that person and, sadly, the one thing that will be remembered.  Her overweight is something she doesn’t like either, we can be sure of that.  I have heard such defining often and, to my shame, said nothing.  I remember one of my boys saying once ‘I wonder why we don’t stand up for each other’ and he is right.  Why don’t we?  Perhaps we don’t want to be the reason for any awkward feelings.  After all, we can just remove ourselves can’t we and think how judgemental that comment was and the person who made it.  It’s easier that way.  But aren’t we judging too by keeping quiet?  It has a name this keeping quiet thing.  Although we didn’t directly commit the crime, we affirmed it by omission.  We omitted to stand and be counted.  In this climate of not standing, we need to make changes.  I have a rule for myself.  If I wouldn’t say something direct to a person, then I won’t say it at all.  I can’t always manage it.  I am human.  But what I aspire to, and practice, will eventually become a habit.

We are all doing our best to manage our lives.  We fall, we falter, we stumble and we crack, but we are not china cups and we can mend.  Not one single one of us knows what it is like to live another’s life.  The saying that we should not judge another man till we have walked a mile in his shoes, is a good one.  Even living closely with another human being tells us little of what lies in their hearts, what dreams are shattered, what disappointments hurt, what shame or oppression has done to their sense of self.  Little choices make up our pathways, but we cannot all walk straight and tall if those pathways are not going the way we want them to.  We redress the balance as best we can, and it takes time to find the normal, sometimes a long time, often a long time.  If I have learned anything in my life it is that I am not an island.  Although I love solitude and am happy on my own, I still crave a warm smile when life feels like it’s wrapped me in chains and thrown a tsunami in my face.  Stopping to smile back, to ask How Are You? and to listen to the answer can lift me far higher than any job-well-done will ever do.  I may rush by you, Can’t Stop, and you may understand my busyness, and I may complete the housework in record time, but, I am smile-less deep inside and not lifted up at all.  Better, by far, that I dally a while with you beside the dried goods and coffees for a human encounter.  We are dead a long time.  Life is for us to live or it will carry on without us.

If not now, then when?

 

Island Blog 63 – Silver Girl

Silver Girl

 

On June 1st Jenny  died.

We have been friends for over 4o years, the same as my years of marriage.

Our children knew each other as little ones and those children now have little ones of their own.  We had a bet going, she and I that her daughter-in-law would give birth before my own did.  The due dates hold hands, they’re so close.  I will see my new grandchild, but she won’t see hers.

Over the years, our roads travelled in different directions, but we kept in touch.  When she first got breast cancer, she was completely herself about the whole thing.  No time for this, she said, need to sort out treatment and keep moving.  She went sailing after that, for 7 months, she and her man, in a yacht to beat all other yachts with big-ass sails and comfort below deck, every comfort, and the wind in her hair and salt on her tongue, whilst I became an Island Wife.  But women who connect at a wild and deep level, who recognise each other’s spirit and love it, never lose touch, even if the contact is once a year.

We sailed with them once, meeting them on a Greek island.  We all wondered how it would work, four of us converging where Two Roads meet, after 30 years apart, and living in close quarters for a couple of weeks.

I could have been a big pain in the ass, I said.

You are.  She replied and handed me a beer.

In the evenings, moored in a little warm harbour, we would cook, eat and make music.  They taught me songs, and I them, and there was something magical about the candlelight, the warm nights, the laughter and song.

She did much with her life and was never still.  She was the second woman ever to command a Royal Navy warship.  A transatlantic skipper, a magistrate, a wife, mother grandmother, although that title sounds way too old for her.  She adored her family, and actively showed it.  She was feisty, impossible, decisive and noisy and there is a big hole left now she is gone.

But what will stay with me for ever, and this may sound selfish, is what she gave to me.  She never faltered and when I did, she whooped my butt.  I’m not saying, or even imagining, that she had life sussed, because I know she didn’t think that at all.  I saw, at times, such sadness in her big eyes, and she might tell me, briefly, or she might not.  When she knew she had only time left, she would still pick up if I called, or answer a text with humour.  She came to my book launch down south in a bright pink wig after aggressive chemo.  It was our last hug.

I salute her.  She is a woman who challenged me to be the best I could be, just as she challenged herself.

Sail on Silver Girl.

Island Blog 46 – Frozen

Island Blog 46

A friend and I play writing games together.  One of us picks a phrase, a subject and we both have to write for say five minutes, or ten, on that phrase or subject.  We are not supposed to think, or lift our pen from the page, but just to let our creativity flow unimpeded.

We have had some interesting projects.

‘The day I didn’t call’  was one, I remember, and another, ‘this exquisite wounding’.

A recent one was entitled ‘Frozen’

Just that.  Could lead you anywhere.

Here’s what I wrote:

‘Whenever I walk past a statue in some public place, I wonder what was happening to that person before someone froze them forever.  Did he or she live out a mostly ordinary life?  Was that laudable (obviously) moment in time their only laudable moment in time, or was it all so laudable that we, living out our ordinary lives have to keep being reminded of our ordinariness every time we walk by?

Did his or her feet ever ache in badly made shoes, and were they ever late for school or work or choir practice and did their teeth hurt eating ice cream? Were they kind to others, loving in their homes, humble in opinions?  What made them so remarkable?  And what would they think of the pigeons who perch on their horizontal bits and shit them white and greasy grey, or the homeless wanderers who slump beneath their lofty limbs?

Sometimes I read the plaque that tells of their achievement, but usually I just march by in my badly made shoes, avoiding pigeon shit and homeless wanderers on my ordinary way from A to B with deadlines in my head and a dirty rain threatening.

In Amsterdam, one moved.  A statue, I mean, and I did stop then.  Suddenly nothing was ordinary at all and I laughed out loud as the pigeons burst into the sky and an old man on a bench unfolded himself and laughed with me before sinking back down into the folds of his oversized coat’.