Island Blog – Day Enough

Sometimes there are days when everything seems possible and then from nowhere and for no reason arrives one that seriously does not want to be with me at all. I could barely get it out of bed. I had to wheech off the duvet and sing loudly in its ear to get any reaction at all. It wasn’t me feeling this way, no indeed, for I was all bounce and twinkle as usual, but the day itself lay heavy and disinterested in itself even with the prospect of mashed avocado and poached eggs for candlelit breakfast. Needless to say, a sad mood inside a home is going to affect all within those walls and I gradually found myself feeling listless and lost. I didn’t want to sew, nor alter a frock, nor any of the other time-filling things I employ these widow days, like wood chopping or stacking, garage floor sweeping, bird feeding, hoovering the carpets or cleaning the windows. I can make even those mundane tasks into a party. T’is my gift. I can chat to my new electric blue stick hoover with headlights and a wonderful base note in the key of B. I find my melody to match her base and off we go like ballerinas, scooting round corners and sucking up the drift, minding the spiders of course. She knows not to go there and her headlights make it so much easier. I tell Henry, as I return Blu to her spot in the dark cupboard under the stairs, that had he headlights and were he to let go of control by holding back his power instead of showing off by lifting newly laid carpets from their nail tracks, and if he smelled as fresh as she does, he would have more exciting excursions around our home. Chopping wood is my stress release. I don’t imagine anyone’s head on the block but simply see the challenge of this big ass half tree before me as one I am more than able to accept and complete successfully. I have a wonderful axe, t’is true and she and I have had many adventures in our time together.

But thanks to the Grumpy Day, I feel I am blowing into the wind, fully expecting it to say “oops’ and to turn around. I whacked up the tunes, made coffee, told myself to lift, lift and lift but the lift was out of order and no amount of poking at the buttons shifted the damn thing. I was slumped and furious at my slumping. So weak, so not like me, so lazy, so ungrateful, so pathetic. Then I remembered something my African son posted on his (Y)our Happy Place Facebook page just yesterday. I don’t remember the exact words but the message was to allow rest and revival rather than dashing into this new year with impossible goals that often lead to failure and self-flagellation. Well, I hadn’t set any goals beyond getting beyond all the fallout from a decade of dementia care followed by death, a process everybody tells me, helpfully, that can take years. But it was the ‘allowing’ thingy that stopped me beating myself up. I have never been good at allowing myself to ‘fail’ my high standards for self even as I am the best and warmest mother hug for anyone else who believes it for themselves. How riddickerluss is that.

The thing I do know about such days when nothing feels easy and all you can see out there is rain and mizzle and dark, is that they are not my fault. These days just come and there is only one way to get to the end of them and that’s to make them warm and welcome, knowing they are random and that everything about their gloom and slump is their stuff, not yours. I watched a movie, sat by the fire, watched the neighbour’s beautiful cat pad around my bird feeders and allowed myself many allowings Although I do feel a bit overwhelmed with all the positive thixotrons that invade social media, posted and re-posted, thus allowing people to say nothing from their own mouths, I do get it. Covid has locked us down too long and that hiding away has conflounced our equilibrium, upset our balance and challenged what we always understood as the pattern of our lives. We are all wide-eyed children now, wondering, peeking out, unsure and we don’t really know what to say next. When I say something next and out loud my dog barks. That is how silent life is when one goes and the other stays behind.

But, I digress. This day is almost gone. Actually it has because I made it some good sandwiches and a flask of tea and waved it off a few moments ago. It was a sad old thing for sure but I did dry off its jacket and boots and we did chat and I did make it very clear it is never welcome but that I will never turn it away and that made it smile. Which made me smile. And that was enough.

Island Blog – A Friend Gone

It took a while. She wasn’t well for a while but inside that ‘while’ she stayed lively and strong.

Now she is gone. Too soon, too young, behind me by two decades, ages with my own children.

It snaps me. Confounds me. And then I land and allow. She was a light. Now her light has gone out.

It is a shame and a longing hand reach for her friends who remain on the land of life. Watching her float away is tough.

But let her go. She was light and lively and red blood rebellion. She thought to gift at times when nobody else thought. She came when nobody else did. She was not afeared in the face of sickness or decay. She came. She always came. And now we need to free her.

Salut my lovely woman

Island Blog – Dark Light

The past few days have shown me things. Things I welcomed, things I turned away from like a girl from a stalker. The morning came and eventually went, turning into another long afternoon. I find afternoons go on for far too flipping long, not least because some people consider the hour of 5 o’clock as being the fulcrum of an afternoon whereas I see it as a thank goodness it’s evening at last, and no fulcrum of anything at all but more a springboard into the warm waters of relief. Now, at last, I can turn my tired body into collapso armchairo, thus making it okay to watch Line of Duty or whatever. And my body does get tired, but only when I notice it. Before I do this noticing thing, I am simply aware of confusion, a confusion of bone, muscle, emotion and tension. I ask What is Wrong with me? Me says nothing for she has no answer in her mouth. Perhaps her silence communicates her lack of any answer at all. Perhaps she is mocking me, eyebrow arched, snort at the ready. You should know the answer, she might say, had I waited long enough. Should. That most unfavourite word, that remonstration, that inference of judgment, the one that always shoots me back down the snake to square one.

I went to church today for the first time in over a year. I had lost my something or other before lockdown and didn’t attend, couldn’t face people, concerned questions that would have demanded answers for these are good people, friends. I had nothing in my head, nothing in my mouth but spit and poison. He was dying by then, fading, departing and with such good grace, that good grace that leaves the one left behind with a shit load of stuff to sort, organise, plan and implement. And he was fine about all of that. I recall the biggest trouble in the home was if the local shop had run out of apricot yoghurt, full fat. It made for an indigestional return to HQ. It was all he ate.

The church is beautiful with stained glass images sensitively painted, a curved dome ceiling, decorated in colour and flight, old oak pews and warmth. We spaced ourselves (distantly) wearing our masks. The organist, a woman, girl really, danced her fingers over the keys lifting us and the glorious music into the perfect acoustical space. It was a gentle time, and I hadn’t wanted to go at all despite volunteering to write an opening prayer. People? Gathering? Driving down the road in this rain? None of it. But I am so glad I went, for it proved to be a something I welcomed in. The ridiculousness of waving at each other when once we hugged and blew laughs and stories right into each others’ faces; the way we sat, not together, sharing tales of the week, but two pews apart, all mystical and bonkers. I hunkered into my warm jacket, wondered if it was clean, if my boots had mud on them, if anyone behind me was wondering How is She? Only 6 and a bit months since her husband of almost 50 years just yoghurted out. I thought, How shall I sit so as not to bother anyone? Head bowed, head up, legs crossed, not crossed? Will I falter as I read this prayer, will the music unravel me?

All of that happened but it didn’t matter. Why is that? because, despite a year of tribbling and swithering about God being in his heaven or even if either of those big things exist at all, I was among my friends, those who care about me as I do about them. I come home in the rain feeling different. This unwelcome thing became a welcome one. It thinks me of dark light. I know dark light. I met it this morning at 3.45 am. Oh good lord, I said, then swore. You again. And swore once more only better. I got up, pulled on warm stuff and made for the kettle. I sat in the dark conservatory, no moon, no stars, slow clouds, no birds. This, I said, is the dark light poets write about, this place between night and day, between welcome and unwelcome, between me and the next chapter, between fear and action, between anxiety and decision. I know you Dark Light, I whispered.

Hallo, said Dark Light. And we chatted for a while until the sun hefted his ass above the horizon. Can you tell me something? I asked, turning back to my companion. But he was gone

Island Blog – Gone

When a someone very close is gone, all that is left is a big silence, as if the rooms stop breathing too. In this case, the ‘gone’ is a husband of 48 years, a father to five, a grandfather to 10, a brother to one and a friend to thousands. Nothing he ever did went unnoticed. His high profile life meant he touched on many others, affecting their decisions, choices and opinions. He had plenty of those and was certain he was right. Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, his core beliefs were like solid boundary walls, impossible to scale. Nonetheless, he made us all think from the other side of what we might have believed to be fact.

I have a million memories. In equal amounts I have been furiously distant, happy to leave him inside his fortress and then right beside him, looking out across the wild expanse of life. I suspect this is marriage in all its honest and raw truth. Nothing worth its salt is consistently simple, not if it has mettle and fire in its belly and our life had plenty of both. When I think back to my rebellious youth I roll my eyes. I was heading off piste rather a lot. In fact, I am not sure I was ever on piste. Then I met him and he seemed able to play both like music, ready for nonsense and lunatic forays onto unexplored slopes and then sliding easily back onto the path well travelled. And, always, guiding me, holding my hand, yanking me back to safety, always my rock. Even when he could no longer do the things he used to be able to do, his very presence made me feel safe. I’ve no idea how I’ll brave the next bit of my life, but I do remember all he taught me and I will always be able to stop, breathe, remember and get the hell on with it.

Rest in peace, you old sea dog. I’m going to miss you for the longest time, even if I can, now, move the furniture around, go where I please, talk LOUDLY on the phone, guffaw at random, turn the tunes up at 7 am and eat celery sticks without having to go to another room for the crunching. The hole you left will probably get bigger. I have no idea who I am without you. It will be an interesting journey for sure and it begins now.