Island Blog – An Old Lady and This Day

Today I watched, on a Zoom meet, a woman of almost 90 and obviously quite the thing around the interworld. She, elegant and with the bright eyes of a bird, was clearly confident. She uses WhatsApp, Facebook and other apps with strange names, although she didn’t announce it in search of a Goodlordwelldonehowamazingyouare response. In fact I suspect she might have looked astonished had any of us shown our resistance or lack of interest in being thus in touch with cyber space. I thought on her life, about which I know absolutely nothing. She knew war and deprivation, loss and fear, possibly hunger and cold. She knew flappers and bombs, new jazz and silent movies. What things she has seen in her long lifetime, what things! And she is not confused, not at all, nor has she lost her beauty, that soft-lined old face with more laugh lines than wrinkles and not a whine in sight. I suspect she was fierce, could be fierce and might yet be fierce and that thinks me. In her days of simple but harsh life, she had to keep her humour and her resilience, her softness and her fight. She needed both heart and claws. I imagine she was decisive and direct, unfearful as we are now fearful to confront rudeness, untruth, injustice and wrongdoings. She looks pint sized but never let a pint sized woman kid you into thinking you are stronger, because you are not. It isn’t about size nor physical strength but about courage, passion and backbone. I wanted to sit at her feet to hear her stories. I just hope her young ask her for I do regret not asking enough for stories from my own old ones.

So an ordinary morning was flipped on its aspidistra. Just like that. An invite to a zoom, to meet women I don’t know turned into a whole day of thinks and mind flips, memories and chuckles. Ah, when we greet the day with open hearts, what delights and sights await our looking eyes! If we are looking, that is. I am always looking so that every incoming thing catches my eyes. Was I born with this? Perhaps, but that perhaps can get subsumed by lifely demands, lists, children, workloads and drudge until it becomes something you can’t really taste in a tired sandwich. I’ve been lost there too. But there is this thing in me that refuses not to live, to really live, even on shambolic tricksy days. I can feel low and full of self-pity and there’s a word or two on that. Self pity is everywhere inside us. It is an easy go-to when life happens, when life throws the shit our way and laughs in our faces. I tried resisting, I tried reasoning, I tried logic and denial and not one of them ever worked. Ok, I said. This is not working. Let us meet, my unwelcome visitor, across the table, my table, and discuss. I soon saw it, Self Pity, for what it is and, after a few direct questions, its voice became skinny against my inner core strength, my own self. It surprised me at first, and then as confidence grew, I took my power back. I am taking my power back, I had said in my best strong voice and it bent and cracked and crumbled until there was nobody but me at that table. It was a gasp for me because I never felt any inner core strength, nor power, but just ran into the fight with heart and claws and with no idea of the outcome. I bluffed, basically.

I wonder how many times that long-living woman did just that right out on the street of her life, within her home, along her neighbourhood. These days we fight with ourselves. In her day there was no such thinking. The tough survived, the weak did not, although I bet she helped a few. Back then, thinking was for the thinkers and not for we ordinary folks. We just pulled on our stockings and got on with it, with all of the ‘its’ day after day after day. Not a bad way to live. Although I do bow to the thinkers, they have, unintentionally, opened up a can of worms because many of us stay with the worms and forget to live, to dance, to fight for injustice, to laugh at disaster because we know what we can do in the face of it. Like her, like that old lady who changed my day and not just this one.

Island Blog – Snow Angels

This very day I set sail, winds permitting, for the mainland. Destination the French Alps. I travel with family, kiddies and adults and am away for a week. In theory I will don ski boots and give the slopes a chance to delight and excite me, but my last efforts at maintaining the vertical in such conditions warn me that I may not continue with my lessons. Back in the day when I was a tricky teenager I really hated ski lessons. In fact, I only had one and that was enough. I am a walker by nature, taking my time, gathering no speed and certainly not at the mercy of those long Turkish slippers. In walking, I control myself.

It thinks me. Although I am not interested in gathering unnecessary speed either grounded or in elevated position, such as on the back of a horse, or inside a car, or, even, on skis, I always like to give something my best shot before saying this is not for me. It is the same with anything I do in life. To say ‘this is not for me’ without experiential knowledge of that to which I say No, is just plain foolish. How can I possibly know from the outside of anything? Of course, there are many things in this life, in any life, to which saying No is just not an option. But there are ways around that too.

Say I am stuck in a job I dislike, that doesn’t float my boat. I may dread stepping into another day of this arduous drudgery, among these people who aren’t of my tribe, who don’t respect and value my work, and yet it seems I have no choice if the bread is to be earned. There are two ways to change how this goes. Either I tell myself that these people do not define me, that I know my work is of value and that I wholly respect myself, leading me to research new work and to give in my notice, or I take a good look at my perception of the situation and work on changing it. I know, from experience that this is entirely possible when giving in notice is a million miles from possible.

Snow is both cold and exciting. If I don’t continue with my lessons there is a vast array of alternative pleasures. I could walk over it, listening to the scrunch of it beneath my feet, look back on my footprints alongside all the others of those who have walked this way before me. I could consider their lives, their size and weight, their choice of boot. I could look up to where the mountains point into the sky, imagine the cold up there, wonder who climbed so high and how it might have changed their view on life. I could see the flowers in Springtime, now sleeping beneath their winter blanket, careless of the weight of human trudge. I could hear the laughter, ride on the chairlift, laugh and play with snowballs, breathe in the ice and feel it freeze my face. I could watch the skiers and marvel at their skill, my heart in my mouth as they hurtle down the breast of this huge majestic mountain. I could even see Hannibal and his elephants and wonder at his courage.

In ordinary times, as the West Coast rain rains and rains without ceasing, it is hard to imagine that in a few hours I will be in a very different landscape. I have my writing pad, my books, my waterproof kit and, most important of all, I have me. How this holiday goes for me is down to me, no matter how many others I may share it with. In order to really ‘see’ it all, I must clear my misperceptions and step out naked, obviously not literally or I may not get home at all, and be as a child, ready for any mystery to open out before me. It is no different at home, just much harder to believe in, but it is the key to life and I have proved it over and over again. The drudge is inside a mind, not out there, as is my definition of myself, my love and respect of self, my childlike sense of mystery ahead. And, although it could be hard to make a snow angel from rain, I will give it my best shot when I get home.