Island Blog – Open and Close

Because I live at both ends of the day, like the animals, like the flowers, I see much. At 5 am the dandelions are closed, the daisies too and other sun-following flowers, the intelligent ones. The hybrids, I notice, just stay open, to night, to cold, to frost and I do, I confess, roll my eyes a bit. Your mummy didn’t teach you things, I think, but you are still beautiful. Maybe not long living, not survivors, not canny, but still beautiful short term. And that is how some people are, how youth is, supple and without dents and the lashes of life, the experiences. An one show. We have all had one of those had we just noticed we were having it instead of wishing we could just get to the next bit.

Slowly, and with the sun, the dandelions open, cautiously. I so get the cautious thingy as we have frost most nights. Just putting my nose and toes out there draws me back in to wait. That’s what the knowing flowers and birds do. They have centuries of experience in the fickle dance of nature. You say it is May? Ha…….let me play with you awhile. I think of the patient understanding of this. These flowers, these birds, adapt. It thinks me.

As we floundering humans with more intelligence (apparently) than the flowers and the birds, adapt, or attempt, to our release back into what we once thought Normal, we are foundering. The way things were will never be again. We are facing a new and uncharted terrain. How glorious. How natural. But we may have forgot the ‘Natural’ within us, that ability to adapt, to confound the voice of May, of any month in our given situation. I hear so many folk say they are relieved we are going back to normal and I recoil, like a snake. Hopefully unnoticed. How can anyone go back, first off, and then back to normal when normal is far from herself. She is ways off what she once was and we need to get that. Okay, I get the yearning for what was, what we understood, what we knew as absolute, the very ground beneath our feet, but that ground is no longer there so don’t think it will hold you up. This Covid has been a warning and one we must pay close attention to. I am no catastrophist other that the times when I have been. But not on this. We are perennials. We know how to follow the sun, our faces lifted and glowing in the light. We also know how to close and to go within, in to the warm, in to the loved ones, away from the cold and the winds that could blow the walls of Jericho down in a nanosecond sans trumpets. Are we paying attention? Life from now-now is not normal. It will be about acceptance and compassion. It will not be about waving fists at camper vans. It will not be about exclusion. It must be about the opposite, about sharing, about kindness, about, let us say, learning how other people work, those who do not have the mummy training that we did.

I watch the dandelions slowly close. I can see it happen because I can sit long just to watch. No other agenda now. Time? I have plenty. No interruptions. I recall agonising about the lack of it, yearning for it, shouting and raging for it. Now it is here, in abundance and if I am not engaged with that state, I can get angsty, fretful. But I am learning and in the main I know it as a gift and I am thankful, although not all the time. I remember my days as a thoughtless hybrid, dancing the light and believing it would last. I remember the sprinter in me and I also remember the long distance runner and my vote, now, goes to the latter. I am with the dandelions and the daisies, even as I love the short term glorious flourish of those blooms that have no flipping idea what they are doing.

So. We open and we close. We might like to think about that, as the borders open, the doors open. We are going to meet others who have really struggled through this past year; those who were stuck at home with those they were, before, able to live with only because they could get away to work. We are going to meet angry, upset, resentful, pressured beyond what we can imagine, on roads, in cafes, in pub gardens, in doorways and outside our safe picket fence. Let us allow everyone to regain some hold on what it is to be a part of the human race. Let us be kind, pull back, let forward, offer, pause, consider and, most important of all, deal with our own anger and frustration within ourselves and all by ourselves without projecting our pain on someone else who has more than enough to deal with anyway. Who said that if we really want to heal the pain the world, first we need to heal our own pain? I forget, but it is worth saying again.

Let us close to what we knew, what was and let us open to whatever comes next. After all, not one us has a scooby.

Island Blog – Without and Within a Human Heart

There are swirls of good advice-ness spinning around me like birds. You should #getoutmore. You should #interractwithotherhumans. And so on etcetera etcetera. Hmmm. Should is not a word I enjoy listening to. It sounds like two things. One, that I am not ‘shoulding’ as I should. Two that this is a judgement on my Now. Just to be clear, I am now speaking directly to anyone who is ‘supposedly’ hiding from ‘life’. Please excuse the overuse of hyphens,commas and speech thingies. I am feeling strong about this, wobbling on my wee rock in a big ocean of shoulds.

I walked today. Well, who could resist? The sunshine shined and. the ground warmed and the invitation was as hard to resist as the ones I recall as a turbulent teenager faced with a Saturday night watching Dixon of Dock Green with my parents. So, me and wee terrier set off into nature. We had spent the morning, she and I dithering about bird song and bird recognition. What is this bird? I ask her. She blanks and turns a circle or two before going back to sleep. I watch a huge white bird I don’t recognize pulling across the sea-loch, calling something not in my musical dictionary. I hear little birdsong I don’t recognise. Have I moved continents? I know my birdsong. I know the changes, the Spring songs, the calling songs for young, the mating songs. I know them. But, I am confounded. I decide it is all to do with the state of the world and, in small part, it reassures me. ish.

It thinks me. We change. All of us. The bird kingdom according to what works at specific times. Animals too, I guess. But we humans respond differently to a plate shift. Not only do we have to find a new way, or lose ourselves, but also this plate shift invites us to inventiveness. We can use this thing, this crash, this loss. Again I am talking to anyone who just wants to hide right now because the world is way too full of shoulds and oughts. Hallo.

The buds are budding. I look up and marvel at the pearl glitter of their outer cases. I see the emerald in the larch pines, just soft babies now and soon to be needle sharp. It thinks me of women. We start soft and turn needle sharp. Or, is that just me? I see an egret, a pair of yellow wagtails, robins that bounce with me the whole way, from branch to branch, saying not one word. I see mallards, herons, buzzards, geese. In my garden, siskin feeding their young, goldfinch, greenfinch, sparrow, blackbird, chaffinch, collard dove, starling.

Life goes on, indeed. But we are not animals or birds. A human heart needs to know itself and to challenge, without and within.

Island Blog – Featherlight, Low Cloud and Lift

The morning comes all blurry, a white light, stilted, unclear. No sun to golden a dawn. I rise and go to the window. Low cloud is caping the land, disappearing the hills and the fir trees across the sea-loch, almost wiping out the water completely. I cannot see if the tide is coming in, going out, or slack and waiting. The garden is caped in a dripping veil, its soft folds blinding me to the contours of shrubs, daffodils, the bird table. Everything looks eerie. I remember a bad vampire movie and laugh out loud, waking the dog into a bark of startlement. In other parts of this country it might be named a fog but we don’t have fog here. We have low cloud, far more interesting and making us think of just how low a cloud can go when it decides to and how whispy thin it can become, the closer it gets to the ground. I remember flying through clouds. They appear so solid until a socking great plane cuts a dash and sops our little windows with wet. I also know that one cloud can hold thousands of tons of water. Such power and such a mixed message. I pad through the cloud on my way to feed the birds and feel the damp on my bare legs. It wets my frock and clings to my face, refreshing me after a sleepless night.

I didn’t dream of clouds, nor fog. I dream of falling or of not being able to move. T’is grieving, they tell me. It takes time to see through the clouds, the fog of loss. A year and a day, at best. I am looking forward to August 20th 2021. Perhaps I will awaken on that day and say Yippee it’s done! Perhaps it will take longer but I am gunning for a cloud shift around that time. It is what we tell ourselves, our brains, that alters facts. I know this. Meantime, I park my dreams upstairs. Stay there, I tell them in quite a threatening voice. It used to work with my kids so why not bad dreams? This is my game, if a game can be all but fun. Down the stairs and into the garden works for me, even if I am just filling bird feeders. Bird feeders bring birds and birds are life, movement, clarity in low cloud. They dart and swoop and chatter and sing and lift my spirits. The loch stays closed, the hills absent all day long. But now I can see the fir trees, silhouettes, hill soldiers standing to attention. Their tops are in the cloud, wispy, compelling, etherial. I know you are there, I say, for how can a bottom be without a top when you were altogether just yesterday? Well, they reply, so were you. Oh……yes so I was. Ok an off day for fir trees? Mmmm, they say and I catch it over the water, words pushing through the cloud. It is reassuring to know that even trees can have an off day.

A pair of snow geese fly by. The sound they make is soft and considered, not like the hectic honk of greylags. It is as if they have learned how to distil their words into haiku. I watch them with respect. You know where you are going and what to do next, I say. Like a good poet. Not like me. I haven’t a scooby. On my walk I was joined by my little granddaughter in her ‘puddle suit’. It is bright green and makes her look like a burst of Spring with her pale skin and long red hair and her big wellies on the wrong feet. She skips and chatters, runs ahead, challenges me to climb hills, giving me information at every step. Daddy’s new haircut is terrible. Mummy is putting Nina down for a nap. There are disgusting frogs or toads in the pond. Did you know it’s your birthday tomorrow Gaga? That’s Lady Gaga to you, not ‘gaga’. Just saying. Her older sister named me thus and it continues. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps until I was breathless and losing every time, clambering up hills, over rocks, through the fairy woods and alongside the veiled sea-loch. Nothing bothers her and that lifts me too. A cup of tea on my return with her Daddy and his ‘terrible’ hair cut and her Mummy who put Nina down for a nap but obviously that didn’t last long as Nina crawls outside in her puddle suit, wheechs off her bootees and shares her cookie with one of the hens.

So, my night have been sleepless, again, but there have been many lifts from the sticky cloud. So many. I decide, as I always do, to hold on to each one, to put each one in my heart, because the nothing becomes something when I choose to focus on the cloud lifts. The low cloud will come. And then, lift.

Island Blog – Heart lift

Soft, loving compost is heaped on my garden. I made it myself and it is thunderous with worms, not that any of them will survive this new exposure to light. They are worms of the dark, of the fetid warmth and gentle darkness of a dialek bin, creatures of a season and doomed to face change, one they won’t like much. Robin, blackbird and thrush gather as if they know there is a feast for an early arriver. Within minutes these compostian beings will have dug themselves deep, dug for death.

Heretofore I had always shovelled, laborious shovelfuls into a big bucket, then lugged said laborious shovelfuls down the back steps and into the front garden. Then came muscle man. He just wheeched the whole dialek off the ground and shook him a bit to release the dark, wormy soft heap of live-giving goodness from his interior. I was impressed. Now he can do the lugging and he did, hence my thoroughly over excited flower beds. They are giggling. I can hear them even through the regular hail shower attacks. I see an eggshell, a bit of cauliflower stalk, garden cuttings and they smile me. Go to work my lovelies, I tell them and together, we wait, even though they know more than I about what is happening beneath their butts. It is such a quiet thing, this growing, this birthing of new life and the mystery of survival no matter what frollocks happens above ground.

Primroses are showing sunshine faces along the drystone walls. No larch buds yet but I can hear them whispering as I pass. We are coming, they say. Keep watching. And I will. I do. As I walk, I remember. This time last year I shut down, locked out the world, kept vigil for any invaders. How strange to still be thinking the same way and, yet, not quite in the same way. It isn’t that I mind locking down in principle. It isn’t that I am afraid. It isn’t that I no longer have anyone to protect other than myself. It is simply strange, as if I, like the compostian worms, have become accustomed to a darkness, one that has proffered an unexpected sense of security, and now I am not sure who I will be. All through this past year my lack of desire to go out, to meet anyone, to entertain visitors confirmed me as a student hermit. None of the lockdown, bar the initial fear of an invisible and extremely powerful enemy, phased me.

But I have had enough now. Rising, unlike the worms but very like the new shoots, the daffydowndillies, the tulips, the snowdrops and with new leaves twinkling at me under the weight of thawing hailstones, I want to keep rising and that means forward into life. My fed is suddenly up. I want freedom of choice once again. My choice to go here or there, to this person or that should be my own now. How clearly I see the way a revolutionary spirit rises within us. Living under any regime is everything inhuman and that’s what this feels like now. Enough Covid! with all your tentacles and your new names and strains, your machination against the human race, the one I belong to, by the way, the one I seriously care about! I want to yell. Actually I did yesterday and it felt good.

However, there is little we can do than behave ourselves a bit longer and keep watching for Spring. She will go a long way in saving us, for now. However it doesn’t stop the fury at continuous imprisonment. I think of the ones who have died and those who couldn’t be there at the end of a loved life. I think of the painful separations, the people who will suffer deeply from this enforced isolation, those living lives of deprivation and of constant pain. Who will lift them into Spring, I wonder? Here am I frapping about renewing my passport and then there are they, stuck, trapped, broken, sick, dead. It is humbling.

Best I can do is write. Best I can do is keep living. Best I can do is to watch for Spring. Sometimes others walk with me. Not weirdo dead people, although occasionally they do, but those I think about, the ones I don’t know and will never meet, the ones who have found this past year a deal more than merely inconvenient. Hey, I say, come with me. I can take you to the fairy woods, show you the elvish trees, now a bit stripped of moss for the deer are starving here. I can walk you through where wild garlic will flower, take you to eider nests, show you oystercatcher eggs among salty basalt, lift your eyes to a skylark, watch your face soaked in salt spray and old stories, and watch you catch them, the stories ,and even if you don’t understand the language, your eyes will tell me you have those stories in your heart. A heart lift. A change for the ever-ness of life.

Island Blog – Conversation

I miss it. Conversation. Talking to myself is all very well but I know what is coming next, in the main. This morning, from 4 am, I soaked some sun-dried tomatoes in fragrant herby oil, washed spinach leaves for later, ironed my latest baby playmat and ate breakfast at 5. This means I feel like lunch by 11 so I asked the clock not to look at me like that and proceeded to fry 3 small slices of Hallumi cheese, adding salad, tomatoes and olives. Lunch done by 11.15. Now what? I’m bored of you, I tell myself. I can sense her behind me. She is a bit huffy at first but she is me and me stands her ground. We face each other. Look, I say, no offence but we have been stuck together since March 14th 2020 and apart from Himself #compromisedandsilent, carers, nurses and doctors, it has been just us. I think we have both aged ten years. It certainly looks like it in those mirrored reflections. We have just run out of interesting things to say to each other. Oh, we can jibber about what to eat for lunch, and jabber about timing for a dog walk or the rain or puddles or the mail arriving or if this tree will finally land on the house having threatened it, noisily, for days now, but it is just is not enough. Not any more. Our thrill today was two phone calls, one to call me in for a covid jag and the second to tell my my application for a postal vote is being considered. The excitement is deafening.

After we have talked awhile, she suggests, as we are both extremely tired, that we watch some TV. TV? Inside the daylight? You are so kidding me, no way. Aw, come on, she soothes. I know that tone and I bristle. We are weary and bored of each other, she reminds me. I feel a bit uncomfortable as I hadn’t considered she was bored of me too, but I got over that quickquick. Stand, ground etc. I capitulate. I don’t want to sew, nor clear the mess in the garden, nor lug in the logs, nor pretty much everything else. Ok, I concede and make tea. Call the Midwife, that will do nicely. I turn my back to the light, to the view, to the window and the rain and slump down in my horrible cream leather armchair with push button leg elevation thing. I bought these horrible cream leather sitapons for easy wiping down when Himself was dropping food like there was no tomorrowland. Anyway, once I have watched one, cried every time a baby was born and moved on to the next, I know she made the right decision for us both. It passed the time for starters and somehow calmed me. Now that thinks me.

Triggers. I was told and in no uncertain terms by my mother-in-law that sitting down in the daytime was unforgivable, as was buying myself flowers or a ring, definitely not that. Watching TV in the daylight was about the worst of them all. It was perfectly fine for men to do that, to watch cricket or football or Parliament in session but not for we women. Good god no. We should be ironing, washing, preparing food, preserving fruits, shelling peas, that sort of thing. We could read a book as long as it was a cookery book or one that guided us through the vast and imprisoning rulebook on wifedom, motherhood and active community engagement. It seems that trigger is alive and kicking for I feel it sharp-toothed and even have to check that my guide on How To Be The Perfect Woman isn’t standing right behind me with that look on her face. Ah. Let us take a look at this. It bizarres me in this considerably more freeing but not finished yet by a long chalk culture around what women should and should not do or be, that the voices of my past still hold sway.

I walk the dog, a bit wearily I must confess and she, the dog, was a tad miffed at the shortness of it, but it was raining and I was weary and just how much do you think I care about that? All over her face, yes, it was. Home, and some exercise for Henry who was surprisingly agile considering all that time he sits on his butt in the cupboard under the stairs with the spiders and the mice and the old photos of people nobody has a clue about. I am glad the gale has blown herself out. She was way too loud for me. I wonder where she is gone? Does a gale dissipate, fliffle away to nothing or does she hit another shore with the same ferocity she brought to bear here? I don’t know. I am just happy to have her gone. I see the branches, limbs, strewn across the track, in my garden. The bird seed is everywhere but on the table. But it is quiet now. There is peace now. And for that I am thankful.

The fire burns merrily. I am safe with myself and she’s a good egg to be honest. I suspect this marriage of minds is complex. We have never had so long together, never. There was always someone else, or someone elses to chip in comment, demand, decide, guide, lead and support. Now it is just us. It may take awhile to learn how to live together.

Island Blog – Island Mothers

Many of us are islands this day, kept from our children by a common enemy. What this enforced ‘islanding’ is doing to us is a lonely and a sad thing. What it is doing for us is quite a different matter. Everyone, it seems to me, is finding other ways to send loving messages through calls, texts, emails and letters and cards or through phoned in messages to radio stations. In these mediums the words must be more carefully considered. Although the usual “Best Mum in the World’ sentence may well apply, we search our minds for more. We think carefully of specific words that apply just to our mum. In short, we acknowledge and we affirm who she has been to and for us, how she lifted our flagging spirits, caught us out when we said “I’m fine, Mum” with a staying put stand in our bedroom doorway. We remember when she cooked something different for us on the days we purported to be sudden vegetarians; we remember the time she didn’t go where she wanted so much to go because we were sick or low or angry. She knew we needed her more than she needed her. We might remind ourselves of the time she stayed up for most of the night making a fancy dress costume for us, or sat in an upright chair through the long darkness when we had a fever, no matter what Dad might have said about it. that time we were in mental agony, remember that time? When nobody loved us and everybody hated us. Well, she did, and she didn’t and she put her feet firmly on mother ground and stuck beside us, even if we brushed away her reassuring words as so much tripe. She didn’t budge, even when her heart was cut right down the middle, because that is what mothers do.

They also get it all wrong. Most of us know how wrong we got it and still can, but it doesn’t falter our determination to launch a child into whatever world they want to move into. And it doesn’t stop on the launch pad. It never stops, even when our children have children of their own. We can still spend nights awake in an upright chair, our hearts bleeding for the pain our child is going through. We can still call to reassure “Bad timing Mum’ or stand square in a doorway refusing to budge until this child, who has grown his or her own set of protective armour plating, lets us in, just a bit.

My mum is gone now. We all had a list of how wrong she got things and we would laugh about them, once. We still can, but now I think more of all those times, those specific times, she stood to be counted for one of us and there are plenty of those. I think that this attack of Covid 19 is making us all think, changing our perspective on life. Perhaps we are finding the compassion that is the life blood of life herself. Perhaps we are thinking less of our own selves and more of how others are living (hopefully) through these times of inordinate change, and it is a very good thing. We have lived too selfishly for far too long. Nature is fighting back. Now is the time to stick a pin in our own little bubbles so that we can really see the rest of humanity and not just with our eyes, but with our hearts and minds.

And in the meantime, let us hold mothers high, for this is their day, our day, to be recognised for all the love that overwhelmed us at every birth; a love we could hardly understand, a love gifted to us by Mother Nature herself.