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!
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?