Island Blog – Nothing Else Matters

My life is golden, a flower, one that has lain dormant (but plotting) for many soggy months, one that is now above ground, looking up and out towards summer. I have seen oh so many summers but this one is new to me and I can feel the fizz of excitement in anticipation. As I sit on the stoep, feeling the warmth of Father Sun on my bare skin and watching seabirds wheel and cant, hear the chase-off when a buzzard comes in to their air space, or a sea-eagle, I smile and whisper a thank you. As I hear a distant woodpecker nattering at deadwood in a call for a mate or see siskin and goldfinch on the nijer seed, I feel the free space around my body for I am a part of this burgeoning Spring day. I listen to my neighbours enjoying a barbecue with friends, a just over the hedge spiral of shared talk and laughter as their little ones demand another rib or a water pistol and I smile through my happy solitude. I see the sea-loch calm and soft beneath a wide sky and wonder about the life beneath the surface. I think about ‘surface’, the way I can see something that appears to be the truth only to discover that it is anything but, like the way I might think a person is until I get to hear their story. So much depth, so much history, so much about experiences I have never had nor ever will. I hear the words, Be Careful, in my head and I will. Be Care Full. I want everyone to know the peace I feel, the acceptance of a life golden because for those of us who do not face danger every single minute, nor abuse, we who have a home, a place in space, enough food in the fridge and our health and strength, our memories and our family do indeed live a golden life. A daffodil life. We can rise through the sog and bog of winter into a new timeline, a new day every day. We can walk in freedom and, if we have eyes to see, we can watch it all in awe and gratitude. We cannot change the lives of all those millions of others who have not even one of our life gifts but we can spend time appreciating our own, noticing them, naming them, listing them.

My children and theirs are well and happy. My siblings ditto. I have friends, moon rises, sunsets, tasks to complete, people to encourage, letters to write that will be received with a smile, frogspawn to move before it dries out a thousand tadpoles, supper to choose, music to listen to, a beloved dog to walk with and to cuddle. In this world right now, all of those are privileged gifts. To whom much is given, much is expected. I get it. I really do. To be thankful, mindfully thankful despite loss and a mucky past, despite the inner demons that have no power unless I give it to them, is key. Key to what? The door to the next big adventure, that’s what, and we all have one of those just around the corner. Life is golden for any of us who are not running from war, from abuse, from ethnic cleansing, from a painful past, but even they, one day, will find the golden. Let us who have it now rise into the sunshine because the truth is this:-

Nothing else matters.

Island Blog – The After of Now

I suspect that sounds a bit weird, but I do love to play with concepts and absolutes and, if I am honest, I feel a girlish thrill as I envision the face of my Eng Lit teacher. If you actually think about it, there is Now and then there is After. There is also Before. Before the Now, which is in my case, now After, there was a Before. I am now stopping the capitals.

The anticipation of my singer songwriter friends coming to stay lasted a few days. The beds ready and ironed, the wood ordered, ditto wine, the house cleaned, although not by me #veryblest, and endless lifts of doubt. Will they feel comfortable? How will it work? Do I have the right food? Bla, bla,bla. Offs, I know these people as longtime friends! What is all this faff? Good question. T’is normal, I have heard and even more so since Covid swiped our freedom to move, to share, to connect.

They swing in a few days ago with smiles and hugs and a ton of music making instrumental kit. I am already buzzing, remembering the days when arriving musicians, including them and often them, was an everyday experience. I just know we are going to gel even though I couldn’t find any good harmonies for the songs they sent me. I thought, at first, that I had lost it. (No comments please at this point) But it took just an hour or two of settling in and catching up for me to feel the electricity between us. It was the same as we put together my music CD. Most songs were written in under an hour and adorned with a musical skeleton an hour after that. The rest was building, swapping ideas, changing this, developing that. It was the same here, in the now. We worked for four days on two lovely songs holding a poignant storyline captured in musical collaboration. Dynamic is too small a word for what happened during those days.

Now it is after. We have recorded, laughed, racked up the fire, sung before breakfast and they have gone. But not really, because the before of now is a functional surface thing and the now of now a whole multi-depth experience, as tangled and as complex as a lift from the before with all its house cleaning nonsense into a surprising and sudden connection with the whole universe, with the rain, the gales, the stars, the tides and a surprise of gulls making ribbons against a wide grey sky.

And the after of now will live for a very long time.

Island Blog – Flowing Free

I hear the drips plopping into my little jug below the hole in the plaster. It used to infuriate me. Ach, another leak, even though it was not ‘another’, but instead the only one after years of buckets catching loads of leaks. How odd it is, when I think on it, that my leaking past jumps into my now, irrelevantly. I pause and rejig myself. Always a good idea and certainly for me. It is so easy to wear the gloom clothing, after all when Gloom is busy elsewhere and quite fed up with the fact that yet another human is calling him back. I wonder about Gloom. Is he actually an okay sort of person, one who had no idea when the gods gave him the Gloom job that he would be so busy and for so long? I have one small leak in a place where the rain falls like it just has to barf and the only place that allows is it in is here on the very Westerly West of Scotland; the last place before said rain makes no impact whatsoever in the wild expanse of the great Atlantic Ocean, an expanse of so much water that any amount of rain spill goes unnoticed. And we all want to be noticed.

I see the mosaic of infracted plaster overhead and I see art. Soon, I will need to pull it down, again. But, for now, it is rather beautiful and it thinks me. This morning woke me different. Yes, I had been up within the night, padding down for a cup of herbal and to leave my worries behind. Why they all tangle in the bed sheets is a mystery to me, but they do. If I walk down the stairs, I leave them behind and when I return, they’ve bored themselves out in the waiting and I can lie down without the damn things. I secretly believe they have no substance, hence the frishing away so quickquick. I have learned this technique over many years of believing they were the truth and holding on to them, thus allowing them to define me, to trip me up, to collude and to coagulate so that breakfast is always, was always, a guilt trip. To hell with that nonsense now. Here I am, dancing alone to Mr Beaujangles, in my kitchen, remembering the days when I could actually dance, catching my face in a passing mirror and seeing an old white haired woman who bears no relation to the one I know myself to be, and I rest and I chuckle. A So What, rises in me. And I like So What.

I spend the day completing a tapestry. For me, there is a story in every one. I give them away. I don’t sell. If someone identifies with the mountains, the tidal flow, the moon, the little home tucked away behind rocks, a safe place, then their story connects with mine. It was all I ever wanted and I got my dream. I am lucky. Folk say that we make our own luck and I agree to a degree but they miss the point. It is gratitude I am feeling, communicating, and the rest is just semantics. Words change, meanings change over time, over generations, and all of that is just as it is. Flow is key. Moving on with whatever comes at us, no matter how much value we put on the past of our past, means we don’t die wishing things were as they were. And I am so not doing that. Was is, not is. Can never be.

I walk inside the sheets of rain this afternoon as the light dims with two friends. We laugh in the rain, the diversity of dogs and their boundary shouts. To be honest, the only shouter was Poppy, but, thankfully, my friends were kind about her issues with any dog walking on what she considers to be her patch and her patch alone. No matter how often I tell her we do not own these lands, she is strong in her confidence, but it slows and calms quite quickly and so we walk together through lashing rain and bright fallen beech leaves coppering our path, larch needles like exclamation marks, crushed rowan berries, blood drops beneath our feet. We talk of village matters, of a strong and wonderful man who died yesterday, and, at that, we pause. This man is gone. His wife is in shock. We are not in that place. She and her children are not in free flow, but we are. We cannot change their situation but we can change ours because of their situation. We do it as we come through the kissing gate. We hold the news, together. And, in a few seconds we rejig our own lives, our own petty angst and we flow again, we flow free.

Island Blog – Dark Woods and Renaissance

Through life and laughter, love and longing, light and loss and lift I become myself.

Who said that? I did.

Many poets and thinking writers have writ of the dark woods, the dark night of the soul, the longing for meaning, the whole point of this life and I am one. I am not afraid, as the world is, of what the world calls the dark side. We all have one, we all know it is there with us even as we run from it. I don’t run. Unless the twin is recognised and acknowledged, the unit will never be complete, never whole and never at peace. Life and death are such twins, one we love and celebrate and repeat stupid platitudes about, the other is whispered and avoided at all cost. I notice it when a blog I write is not about the ice cream and candy side of our human condition. Less comments come through. Nobody wants to think about the pain they all carry, we all carry but cannot quite explain. We wish it away, cover it with sprinkles or ignore it hoping it will give up trying to get our attention. But, like a toddler on a mission, it will never do that. Turn around. Look at it. Say hallo, I see you, shall we talk awhile? It is a rare human who has that level of courage and vulnerability and yet it is the only way to fill the big black hole inside, the one we hope will accept the material wealth we throw at it – the millions of hours we take away from our families in order to climb the social or corporate ladder, in the foolish hope that this will be enough. It isn’t, wasn’t and never will be.

In my life now there is only me here to fill the hours. This means I can read and study, ponder and reflect without interruption. I have never known such a state, interruptions having been the norm for 68 years. I have even been that interruption myself, on occasions. These long stretches of time afford me space and peace within which to pursue whatever I fancy. I can follow the flight of a bumble bee, a dragonfly, a thought. I can read for hours until my bum is numb. I can wear my frocks back to front, inside out, eat banana with marmite on muesli, sing loudly in Portuguese and dance Tango with a chair. I know that the older we get the thinkier we become. It is as if we finally begin to understand the Elusive Puzzle – what the hell am I here for? Yes we work, bring up kids, do our best, learn how not to overcook sprouts and other important things, but even with a socking great list of lifely achievements, that list never really satisfies, never brings the aha we seek.

I spend a great deal of time saying thank you. For pretty much everything, the bad and the good. Why, you ask, are you thankful for the bad? Because the bad, so named, is actually of immense value. It is the shadow side, the dark side of the whole, of life in all her beautiful and mysterious self. To be thankful for all that happens, all that has already happened, warts, whips and wastes is to begin to understand the point of being alive, of being here right now wherever you are. Precious human, pointfull life-liver, valued, important, needed. Every single one of us. The mistake we all make in this life, and I include myself, is that we focus on what we get, or got, wrong. It feels like an impossible flight to make, the one that shows us all we do and have done right, those times we laughed with friends, with family, shared their joys and pain, engaged in a way that held us fully present within the moment. There will be zillions of those times in every single life. Why do we remember the times we ‘failed’? I have no answer but I do know enough now to consciously shift my thought plates into a new dynamic, one that affords my feet purchase on level ground and from where I can still be of good use to others, even at my age. If I am always slipping down my own slippery slope, thinking only of my faults, falls and failings, I am of little use to my own self, never mind that of others. Yet, in our culture of running away from our own darkness in the mistaken belief that we could ever outrun such a sentient presence, we simply exhaust ourselves, and then we slip once more down our own slippery slope.

We all know and remember how quick our primary caregivers were to judge us. To varying degrees, in surprising amounts, we all know. This decides our adult thinking unless we choose to build ourselves anew, once we fly the nest. It is not simples, not at all. It takes a ‘traveller’s’ mindset. We read that anything is possible if we just believe. believe in what? Yes, we can believe in what someone else achieves but in our own self? No, that is never going to happen. As I said before, it takes the willingness to be vulnerable and to find a strong source of courage, in spite of seeing nothing ahead but the dark woods.

A while back, I was asked a question. What would you be right now, if you could choose your life? No thinking, just a first response, thus not based on your own limited mental DNA, your own experience thus far. I didn’t think. A Tracker, I said. Good lord, where in the heck did that come from? Me, a tracker? I am scared of everything. I would be a terrible tracker, snivelling on the peripheries and wishing I was home by the fire with a cup of rosy. When we are put on the spot like that, no over-thinking-just-respond, we speak our own truth. Having come from a town, known pavements better than I knew any field of wildflowers or expanse of tundra, or wilderness, forget wilderness, this tracker thing is nonsense. I have been watching too many Pixar movies. But, hold. Wait. Why not? I see everything when I walk. I know every track, even the slide of a snake across my path. I see the flattened grass beside a kill and know it is otter or mink. I see spoor and know the night animal who passed this way, and when. I know. I know. I am a tracker. Then I remember how I am curious about how this person got here, how their eyes tell me more than their mouths will ever do. I see what others miss. I am a tracker. And my brain knows this.

Our lives are so much richer and deeper than we realise as we bound away from the shadow self. We are more than we think, more than the tight pants the world has told us are the best fit. The most joyful people I have ever met have done something outrageously courageous at the wrong time in their lives, according to the world. They said a big NO to corporate misery and went across oceans to work with dolphins. They said a big NO to a broken relationship and moved into the dark woods, though the long labour of renaissance and into a new light. They moved from city to wilderness, to a shack without power or running water and opened an orphanage for street kids. Their eyes tell me everything. They found their ‘tracker’ and it is good. Courage. Vulnerability. Are you who you really want to be? If so, I am happy for you. If not, check out the dark woods. the thing about darkness is that, pretty soon, our eyes adapt and the way reveals itself.

Island Blog – It’s okay that it’s not okay

I could have said that better, my English tutor would have told me, her huge bosom leaning over me so that the whole room went momentarily dark. I can still smell the tweedy smell of her fitted (very well fitted) jacket and hear the scritch-scratch of her thickly nylon-ed thighs as she travelled the distance to my desk, then home again jigetty-jig to the safety of her chalk blown upfront tutor desk. And she is right, was right then. I am very thankful for my English tutors down the ages, who challenged my brain to dig deep for words, old words, old ways of saying, poetically, what turned into street talk. Not that I mind street talk at all, for it has rhythm and beat to it and I am ever the dancer. But when writing it is important for me to stretch my brain, to find a way of saying an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way.

Forward to the point. I honestly believed I had got away with it, the grieving thing, this widowhood thing. At first, I felt only relief. 10 years of caring for a big man who was slowly falling away, was horrible, even though he himself was always positive no matter the declination. His peaceful and accepting dying brought relief to him, to all of us. I thought, maybe this lovely gentle leaving after all those years of angst and battle (on my part) would rub out the horrible, like my old India rubber did for my spelling mistakes. A foolish thinking. Here I am two months off the anniversary of his death and everything hurts. A bird caught in a fence (thankfully freed and flown), a child crying, the hearing of someone else’s pain, the fact that the stairlift has stopped working, the leaks in my ceiling, the stubbing of a toe en route to the wood pile. Sharp as needles, these ‘small’ things that were okay are not any more. I tell myself I am doing okay, that this is normal, that it will pass and myself rolls her eyes and goes “ya-di-ya”. What did we say before ‘ya-di-ya’ I wonder?

I know of others. Those who, since the Covid lockdown and the fear and fallacy this past year and more has brought to us, are scared of going out, unsure if they actually want to do the going out thing at all. I know I can be confounded at the gate of my gypsy home, in the so called middle of nowhere, if I see walkers moving up the tiny track on their way to Tapselteerie and her wild delights, her vision, her stretch right out into the Atlantic Ocean. And I pull back, hide, wait. This happening-to-us thing is what is happening to us. And, although it feels thoroughly not okay, it has to be okay. Our clenched teeth, our fears, our resulting flip into nowhere, well, owe have to find a landing. I haven’t yet, even here, even in this free, gentle land, and if I haven’t then how the heck is it for those who have survived in cities? I have no answer for that. Only respect.

And then there is the grief. Not mine, not just mine but the everyman, everywoman grief because it is loud in my ears and a strong part of the music that sentient composers will play into our future days, in our remembering days. As will poets and novel writers with their prose. They are working on it now, this omg (sorry) in our lives and they will come up bright, intelligent and colourful, I just know it.

Till then, I, and hopefully you, have family, siblings, kids, grandkids who lift us into ourselves, the ones we knew so well a year and then some ago. They are still with us as we are with them. This connection is rooted and unbreakable. Friends too, formed way back or even more recent. Roots grow quick and they need to.

I am thankful. I am broken. I am me. And, I am okay that I’m not okay.

Island Blog – Monday, Monday

Mondays have always been the one day when I really felt like dressing up and going out. It seemed that the weekend fell about my ears most welcomely, bringing a drive of its own; the sleep ins, the pyjama days, the allowances. Then, well refreshed by all of that, Monday arrived like a stand-up soldier, bristling. I wanted to punch it in the face. No, I said, you don’t do this to me. You don’t ‘tell’ me I can’t want this or feel that just because, in your arrogance, you reckon you are Day One of a new week. All those groany rules. All those restrictions like you think its ok to pull in my stays and what…..I eat gruel or something in deference to your pedigoguery? This is World Women’s Day btw, so I am not playing, not that I ever did.

This Monday, as has oftentimes befallen me afore, I have a deep yearning to go out, to share a wonderful vibrant, candlelit evening with friends. I realise this will not be, as I spin fresh coriander, garlic, tomato and condiments into a bowl to mix with my pasta. Pasta again. Actually I don’t mind pasta again but on this Monday I absolutely do and a half. I remind myself there is a pandemic. Check. I remind myself that my dinner date is dead. Check. I remind myself that all restaurants on the island, along with the beautician and the hairdresser are shut on a Monday. Well, pants to that. I attempt to scoot my Monday longings into Tuesday but Tuesday is a very different creature. Tuesday is gentle and not combative. Tuesday is happy being where she is, after Monday. I would be happy too, if I was Tuesday and after Monday. Monday is a menace and she has way too big a sense of herself. She is almost male.

So, I fanny about with mending jeans, sewing things, watching birds, walking in the rain and making that coriander thing for my pasta. I also clear even more of my dead husband’s stuff and the binman waves at me and mouths something I don’t hear, but his smile is delicious and it almost saves the Monday thing. I check my geranium seedlings, haul in wood, mutter about the freckles on the butt of my car # toonearthepothole, respond to some lawyer emails, send a text, make tsaziki. I love tsaziki and it is an art form. Too sloppy a grated cucumber and it becomes mush. This one worked just fine and I flagged down my daughter-in-law on her return from school collection to give her some.

But I still have that yearning to dress up and go out. Of course ‘out’ is off limits and has been for considerable yonks, but it doesn’t stop the feeling, the yearning. It thinks me. I wonder, when this is all behind us, will we go wild? Will we have cowered in our darkened dens for long enough to have lost skin tone, pliancy and the connection with our wild spirits? Or will we, instead be much quicker at being ready for the excitement of an evening out with friends, even if it is a Monday?

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.