Island Blog – A 3 Frock Day

The wind is up and my wheelies are dancing. Only yesterday I freed them from their storm restraint, a rope affixed around their bellies and secured to my fence with chandler’s hook thingies that would normally keep boats from taking off to Holland. I forget their names. I was certain the gales had stopped and it laughs me as I watch the newly freed and recently emptied bins having a blast out there. My fence is smirking at me, I know that look. As a new gust, circa 40 knots, barrels up the loch, one bin, then the next open and shut their mouths. I can’t hear what they say but they are definitely talking. Or laughing.

It’s a three frock day for me, as I cannot risk going out there with anything light and floaty. Light and floaty could bring on an exposure I would rather not experience and nor would anyone else who happened to be nearby. And yet walking in high winds is exhilarating so I will still go out to watch the skinny trees bend towards each other, towards me, creaking and groaning like old women at a WRI meeting. There’s always lots of chat on gale days. The mail might not arrive and the ferry may not run. We are used to this even if it is an infuriation to the best laid plans. Deciding to pop over to the mainland for a shopping spree can lose its shine if a person is still over there 3 days later without a spare pair of knickers and a dog shut up at home. We live dramatically on the island. Nothing is ever a given and I think that’s what makes us so enterprising and so ready to help each other out.

There was no indication yesterday afternoon that a gale was filling its lungs in preparation for a dawning onslaught. The barometer read ‘Set Fair’, and this morning it shouts ‘Hooligan’. I don’t mind so much if I have warning, the time to batten down flapping things, but coming all of a sudden is just plain rude. Birds are flying backwards or in scoops and dives and the bird seed is half way out to sea by now. The feeders swing like ships lanterns in a force 10 and any bird that dares to catch on must feel bilious. I do, just watching them and am very thankful that I can eat a poached egg from a dependably calm and static plate.

The sea-loch is a rise of spume and irritable wavelets, wind blasting over the incoming tide, a conflict of interest. Geese honk over the house and I have no idea how they manage to stay the right way up. If I was up there I would be spinning like a top. It’s hard enough to remain the right way up with two feet on the ground and 3 frocks for ballast. But the weather up here is what keeps me balanced which may sound bizarre until you understand that the capricious sudden-ness of it has become the norm. When visitors rapture on about a beautiful sunshine day of calm and tweeting, they don’t see the truth. Make the most of today, I smile at them. Tomorrow could lose someone their garden shed. They eye me as they might a crazy woman. Sometimes they decide to move up here based on the untruth and then they meet the winter which begins in November and might possibly depart mid May. Endless rain, persistent gales to excite the wheelie bins and power cuts are all a given but we who know this are usually prepared. We have nourishing soup on the hob, loads of frocks and a great attitude. Or we don’t live here at all.

I could live nowhere else.

Island Blog – From Four Stone Walls to Wild Places

I have been too scared to go anywhere beyond the safe confines of the little village. Most days I spend right here within my four stone walls (best song ever, in my opinion, by Capercaillie) or out there in the out there-ness of a wild place. I can walk a whole walk and meet nobody. Well, nobody with two legs and coated in either lycra, weather permitting, or waterproofs. I meet plenty of other-legged creatures of course. Spiders spinning, deer bolting, rabbits wiggling noses, an otter or two and plenty seabirds. I chat with the trees, imagine their long strong roots and know they help keep each other up, much as we humans could do if we just understood the power of it, instead of jousting at windmills.

I am mostly content with my life, the island wife without a husband. Mostly. Some days are black as the soot in my flue, some days bright as a lighthouse and I never know what will be which. It doesn’t matter what I do or do not do the day before the soot day, it dogs me like the shadow of a giant and no matter how fast I move, I am always in the dark of it. I have spent over a year searching for an answer to this upsy-downsy nonsense and find no answer at all and this is why. It is not a question with one answer at the other end of it. ‘Why’ is never a good question. ‘Why’ is a journey within, a quiet and solo traipse across a mind, not one to be voiced because any answer will fall short of the mark. The voiced question invites opinions. The one who receives this Why question can never respond with a solution. Not never. No other person in the whole wide world, across a zillion continents across all those wild oceans tossing stories and songs into the air, through the air that blows around the globe, can ever know the answer for someone else, because each one of us, like snowflakes and zebra stripes, is unique and therefore alone. So don’t bother with a ‘Why.’

I digress.

I am fearful, yes we got that. I am mostly content, yes, yes. Where is this leading? Ah, thank you. It leads to a phone call from one of my marvellous sons, one of the skippers, the skipper who skippers right here. Would you come on a cruise mama, a loch cruise for four nights on board? We have had a cancellation. My heart takes off but I catch it before it makes a hole in the conservatory roof. I hesitate, visualising massive waves, those ones I remember in a small bouncy thing of a boat crossing to Coll in a hooligan, the ones that, when they rose up like my swimming teacher in a furious mood with her eyes on me, blocked out the light. Then the fall, the slow slip down the other side in the sure knowledge that we would just keep on going down all the way to Atlantis. Or Hell. I breathe. Yes, I say. Yes. And then I twist to look at myself in horror.

I have days to organise things. How many things, I ask myself, noticing my endless pacing and the 2 pages of A4 lists. Well, not much in truth. Just some loving person to look after Poppy dog and my four stone walls. At short notice. A text to friends, a link, a number and she is found. Yes she can come, yes no worries, yes yes and yes. Committed now and planning my approaches, my frockstock, my beanie, socks (never wear socks) my underpinnings, enough for 4 nights. I wait for the fear to giant-shadow me. Nothing. I wait for indigestion, doubt, sheer terror, nights dense with 40ft waves and not a mermaid in sight. Nothing. Momentarily I wonder if I am finally going the way of the senile, that time I remember with Himself when nothing really mattered beyond his clear traverse up to bed. No, I am not there yet. But this is odd, this is strange, strange and rather wonderful.

On the day, Susie arrives, Sunshine Susie and she beams just like the sun which is a timely reminder that there is one at all, a sun I mean. I had quite forgot inside all these days of endless rain and cloud cover. I depart and manage the ferry thing just fine, staying outside the minute I board and arriving on familiar concrete, knowing my way. I keep my new mask firmly affixed to my face but find I am struggling to breathe, so efficient is it in keeping out all breaths, coughs and sneezes including my own. I walk around the harbour, among the visitors, along to the North Pier where the boats will meet and greet us. There are two boats ready for us this wet afternoon. The company is Hebrides Cruises and I recommend an online check. We, the guests, gather atop the pontoon and begin to introduce ourselves to each other. Some have travelled the length of the country for this cruise and me? Oh, me. Well I live over there, I tell them, waving my arm towards the island. I can tell they are amused, interested and disappointed all at the same time. I notice this and turn the conversation back to them, their tales of train changes, delays and clogs on the motorway. I just stepped on and off the ferry after all, did I not? They, on the other hand have much to say and much to share and I listen in pleasure because other peoples’ stories are always a fascination to me. They live a life I just don’t remember, one of limitations, of traffic, of timelines, of restrictions and rules whereas I am always free. Leaning against some metal thing that appears to have no reason to be there, I listen and watch and wonder. These lives, a glimpse. Just a glimpse. Faces, eyes, body language, baggage, all of it a wonderment to me.

Then the metal walkway rattles and we all turn. The skippers are rising like gods from the pontoon, together with the guides and the squeaky baggage trolleys that nobody ever bothers to oil. Relieved of our cases, we walk down the narrow ramps, back in our own thoughts, moving ever closer to the shining bellies of the boats that will be our home for the next 4 nights. They gleam, the superstructure white and all aglow. Our confidence rises yet again although it did already once we met the skippers. This one for you, that one for me. We separate on the floating pontoon and turn to the steps that will lead us all in to an adventure. I don’t know who is scared, who is dealing with something sad, who is hoping that this time will teach them something new, open a new window, show an escape. But as I wave goodbye to those on the other ship and move into the arms and the safety of my son, I know I made the right decision. To go or not to go? Always, always go.

Welcomed with pink champagne, cake and introductions, we heave-ho as the skipper turns the snout of the ship seawards. Into a pink cloudlight, into a blueing sky we move smooth as melting chocolate. Everyone is on the fly deck, binoculars at the ready, looking, searching, hoping for the wonderful.

And so it begins.

Island Blog – A Tawdry Spin and Miss Rose

When standing before my minute but ferocious execution teacher, Miss Rose, I might have matched her height even though I was twelve and she many twelves and counting, I was diminished by her power and knowledge. She was so confident, standing there just above the floor with her fingers pointing, her arms working, no fear of taking up space. I wondered, even then, if she had wanted to be on stage. She would have been someone noticed and that’s for sure, but back then beauty and elegance was all the fickle world of theatre wanted unless you wanted to play Bottom. Nowadays, there is more room for character actresses. I say Actresses because Actors could get away with no end of compromises to their body and still be taken for a chance. Let’s see how you act. Not so women. I am happy it has changed. Back to the point.

El-oo-si-date! She annunciated at me from behind the desk that dwarfed her, her whole body shouting at me. Not a shortened ‘oo’ but a loooong one. I did that, forming my lips into a ridiculous fish pout. Better, she said. Go again. I also remember the word snow. You must round on the O, she said, like this. And did the O thing with her own shaky old lips. I heard her, wanted to please her, wanted to be the best. I noticed I was standing on tippytoe as if my height could alter anything. Relax your heels, she said, without looking. She just felt what I was doing and could hear it in my voice. Even then I was marvelled. How did she know? Well, she was passionate about her work, that diminutive woman in a sensible frock that never showed her knees because knees meant something dodgy, like an invitation and she was of a generation that thought that way, or, at least, her parents did. Did she have parents? I could barely imagine them. Was her first name Rose, or her surname? I never knew, never asked. I just brought my heels down and practised enunciation for hours.

I did win the elocution cup. I recall the thrill of it, that being called up to the stage, a grass stage that Shakespeare would have known well, the parental audience flanked in rows that spread all the way back to the headmistress’s office with its big light-wild windows. She, the headmistress was also both diminutive and powerful and all her dresses forbad knee escape. Did they have knees these women, these women with all the heart longings and losses and confinements we know today but now have the ok to talk about, as they did not? I may forever wonder that and in that wondering send back a great big hug. But with that freedom we now have, that chance to speak out and to be taken seriously, there is still the old cover-your-knees thing in our thinking. Who among you has not wanted to step out in something a bit different to the ‘brown’ functional clothes you once wore? Who has not wanted to show her knees and more? I understand why so many young women go crazy with their clothes for a night out, I really do. There is something blood red and fire inside each one of us that is so easily extinguished for ever.

Oh, the point……trust me to forget that. Rein in you blood red and fire woman with knee issues.

I walked the doglet to the old pier, the skeleton and I know that the old sea dog is now just that. I wonder how it is inside that coffin. Of course I do. So much not to bother about in that safe case. Just let go. The old pier, my husband, is diminishing now. He would have hated that, but he is not here to do the hating thing. He had a big problem about letting go. I pick up a feather, divided into white and black, and wonder which bit of Goose this came from. Not a wing feather, not a kill, just a shed. Ok. We walk on, the doglet watching my every move, ahead of me, looking back, behind me, following up, always there, always right there. We pass Scabious flowers and watch honey bees (who’s?) and two peacock butterflies, blue, eyed-up, blood red, letting me watch the beauty of them as they go about their work. The tide is outing, the oystermen at work across the inlet. We sit awhile and the doglet keeps vigil. Actually, I ignore her keeping vigil thing because it is relentless. Every single sound alerts her to ‘vigilling’. I begin to swing back to my watching, curlew, gulls of many a hue, oystercatchers, a seal, the flip of an otter, the indecision of the tide. Still she alerts. Turning, eventually, (a tawdry spin) I see a young woman coming across the seagrass. She hesitates and I welcome her. We talk. She is French and on holiday. She wants to explore. Can I guide her someway? I do, with my heart right in it. She smiles, thanks me for my ‘direction’. She understands me, she says, because my English is proper.

God bless Miss Rose.

Island Blog – Little Adventures

I know, I know, that’s another oxymoron. Love that word, and it catches at my skirts oftentimes. It’s like a sudden Monroe wind, lifting things above gratings. Ach shoot. And, yet I love to trouble grammar and ‘the way it was’. Back to the aforesaid. There is no Little Adventure. All adventures are, by definition, Big. Just saying.

This morning I changed frocks 3 times. I showered and painted me up before a mirror that makes me look like I am Balloon Woman, which is necessary to ensure that my eyeliner and rouge (is it still called that?) are both in the right places. A woman could regret getting that wrong. I am heading to the streets. Well, to be honest, I am going for a hair trim in a harbour town/village on an island but as this place is what I know and have known for 40 odd years, this is my IT and still scary. England has come in. Squillions of England. The whole ‘staycation’ thingy means that this island which is only just abroad, allows in tons of camper vans and others who are longing for a break in a happy place. I get it. And I also get it, like full in the face, on our little skinny roads with swipes and flips and ups and scary downs, as big SUV’s pummel towards me with a punch and big faces and with no intention of reversing. Breathe.

Frocked up, I am heading in for a hair trim. No parking, like no parking. I anticipate this and park early. Walking is no problem for me. I also have a mission. I am to collect something nourishing for a bench lunch with a dear friend. I have to mask up and go in. Cover me. I stand outside in the sunshine, quivering. A young dad shunts in behind me. I ask him, Are you on holiday? He is open and responds with an unfearful smile, mask on. He tells me he is here for the week. I tell him he picked a good one. Sun is forecast. A faithful collie waits at the door for the ‘only four’ people in there, and we have a chat. No lead, just leadership for the that collie. I love to see that trust.

I see so many people without masks, hear their voices, know they are not from here. I walk down the centre of the skinny road, waving at the locals who drive past, meet other locals who also choose the mid road walk. I am guessing there are many places like ours full of locals who are wondering.

Later, once home, I walk my wee dog. She welcomes me as if I have been gone for years, as she always does. Then my faithful not-son comes to strim my overblown garden, topping the clover and the wild flowers that still have time to come again. He smiles at me, knows what I like in my garden, and can answer every single question. I am so lucky.

I think this virus is still alive and kicking. It will affect my choices from now on. I also see that, was I younger, I might think differently, my fingers holding onto life well into denial. I know it. But not now. This is a different world. We have this and we need to accept and deal with it, not in thirsty denial as I met today on the island streets. Even with two jags, we can carry it. I don’t want to do that. And I was always a Get Real woman. Life is as it is. Those who hide or run away never solve things. I like the whole ‘solving things’ thing. I want to be there, as a frontliner, solving, or, at least, helping.

So many adventures today. Actual and thinkingful.

Island Blog – After the Rain, Relation Ships and a Blackbird.

This weekend my daughter came with her girls. I know they all love it here, the freedom, the wild swimming, the spontaneous Let’s Do it thingy. Even I did that. Boots at the ready. My daughter knew little else other than ‘here’, the wild places, the free flow of life, even as she had to go through the awful teenage years, the indecision, the lost and found of herself. But, still, she, like her brothers, think of this place as home. It was a wonderful two days, jam packed with pretty much everything and nothing really planned. We went with our moment, as you have to with all the sudden island rain and the shapeshift of seasons within a single day. If you are busy not paying attention, a whole gamut of weather can swamp you, or, worse, you can miss a sunlift, an elevation, an invitation to connect. Get involved with Spotify or something on TV or your FB page and an opportunity moves on by, missing you as you, with hindsight, will miss it. As a result of this missing thing it is easy to see rain as a continuity. Which, btw, it is not.

The day my girls left, it rained stair rods. I doubt all of you know what the heck stair rods are. They are those rigid steel rods that hold (or held) carpets down on stairs where the horizontal meets the riser. They were ferocious in my rememberings. Meeting one of those in bare feet with the enthusiasm of youth in an exuberant push t’wards elevation and the ensuing pain did stay with that foot for some time to come, gaining no sympathy, despite the bruise. Those were the days when I knew that butting up against a rigid was altogether my fault, as was pretty much everything else involving collisions. Too fast, not thinking, not planning ya-di-ya. But as it still happens to me, although not with stair rods for they no longer exist, I can still bruise and bash myself through sheer exuberance, acting spontaneously and without considered thought. It is either that with me or it’s frozen immobility. I have never managed to be grey.

My daughter is the opposite of me. She always was. She is very obviously a lady. She is calm, quiet, considered, gracious and thoughtful. She would never dive into a swimming pool before first checking it has enough water in its belly. Our differences have been both a perfect match, like yin and yang, or a pulling away. This visit brought a new light to our connection. We are learning to grow an adult friendship. Now it may seem that this beginning has come a little late to those who managed to forge adult relationships with daughters when the daughters first became young women, but in my family it could never be that way because himself required full spotlight, leaving only a little glow for the rest of us to forge anything at all. He was unable to allow us time together without him and so his departure has gifted just that to us. I observe all our relation ships now have new rigging. Slowly, slowly, we are setting sail on a different sea and in a new direction. It is not something I ever expected but I am loving it. How strange life is. How heavy is the influence on children when parents still hold on to their own childhood baggage, that learned behaviour that, on reflection, can be destructive and can keep a unit confined to barracks over many long years. I know I colluded in that confining thingy but, as is obvious, there is nothing I can do to change what was, what I was, who he was and what we did to our children. They are, each one of them, strong, dynamic and good loving people. And, like us, damaged. But I can do something about the Now. I can change, say sorry, listen and learn. I can be humble and encouraging, I can leap into the new with open eyes and an open heart. I can sail alongside each one as we adventure on, working with the wind shifts, the tidal turns, the clouds, the sun and the rain.

‘After the rain’ doesn’t always apply to the outside stair rods making way for the sun. Rain will fall on the inside and the outside of us, and rain is life-giving water. We need it and when it does slow and stop and the world opens up like a smiling face, we can be thankful for both the rain and for the stopping of it. Taking every moment as a gift, not missing a single one, watching, learning, observing and listening, we can change or begin anew at any age. I find saying sorry for being crap at times very freeing. I am learning how to honour whom I was as a mother. Both awful and wonderful, rain and sun. It is the best anyone can be. To have the courage to be vulnerable, especially around children can mean so much to those children. I recommend it. I don’t recall ever hearing my parents say they were sorry for the things they got horribly wrong. Their generation held it all inside, too afraid to be humble for fear of losing control and status. I can see that. But we, my generation, have learned from this and have discovered that, contrary to old beliefs, it is a strong and brave man or woman who steps up, palms open and says I am sorry and who really means it. And, after the rain, the blackbird’s song is pure and bright and completely new.

Island Blog – Anything I Want and Magic

Out walking this morning, something came to me. It made me laugh out loud, which thoroughly startled the air around me, sent little birds bursting up like fireworks and caused two doe-eyed rabbits to hurtle into the underpinnings of the wood. It was this. I can do anything I want in this lockdown time. There are no checkers with opinions popping their heads around doors at random times of the day. I don’t need to close the loo door when going for a pee. I can wear my frocks inside out, put my pants on my head, cook in just a pinny, drink 3 bottles of wine with lunch and sleep in the same sheets for a month. This freedom is a chuckling thought and my imagination is already running wild.

So, what did it mean before this, before all checkers with opinions were checked out, and for some time to come? Well, I reckon I may well have kept my standards high precisely because of their startlement tactics. If I thought someone might catch me cooking in just a pinny, or appear as the third bottle of wine sank to the dregs, it would think me, and more than once. This structure is/was a good thing, and it will be again, once we are all free to check on each other once more. In fact, I could feel rather unhinged if I considered the possibility that I might never be checked on again. Being checked on created me a discipline, a structure, a blue print by which to navigate my daily life. It kept me upright and moderately sane, grounded and with a strong idea of how things should be on any given day. Does this mean I am now running rampant like a rebellious teenager? No, thankfully. I did that once and it brought me no end of bother, not least because I had no idea of where I was running to, and had I kept on running I would have fallen off the edge of the world. Eventually.

But considering this thought is leading me to all sorts of things. What I am doing these lockdown days is pretty much what I always did. How encouraging that is. For a woman like me who is prone to fantasies of flight on a broomstick it is hugely reassuring to learn that I am grounded in an ungrounded sort of way, but grounded enough to be continuing my standard of living. In truth, it is an elevated one. Now that all the caring is down to me and I am well occupied with an endless list of exciting tasks, I find I have raised the bar. My husband, the sheets, the floors and dishes within this island home are all polished to a shine. Does this mean that I don’t need to feel answerable to anyone but myself? Absolutely. Why didn’t I realise that when checkers with opinions lurked around my peripheries? I cannot answer that, but to understand in the mind of my heart that I am complete, that my conscience is my true guide and that it is I who can give me all the answers, is very refreshing. It means I can talk to myself, always a delightful interaction and most revealing in that I know how me thinks, what irritates me and which way the pair of us want to go.

I am not saying I don’t miss the chance of new light being thrown on an old absolute from the mouth of a friend, but I can still source that via the phone. What I am saying is that this morning I understood something I have preached to both myself and others for years, the fact that I have all that I need for me right here inside this brain, this body, this place, this situation. I just need to go within to look for the answers. They have possibly been waiting for ages, patiently, rolling their eyes every time I expected someone else to bring me the magic I needed. Now I know its inside me and that is a wonderful thought.

We are all enough for ourselves. No, not just enough. More than that. We are completely complete just where we stand right now. And we are the Magic.

Island Blog – Sunrise, Nature and the beginning of Humanity

It’s 5am. My favourite time of the day. I used to say it was because there’s nobody about, but now there’s always nobody about, so it’s not the truth anymore. I consider how many other absolutes will lose purchase on my mind and will just drift away, like the will o’ wisps over there, floating on the ebb tide, backlit by sunfire. They remind me of water sprites, beneficent creatures, transitional, made of water and to water they will always return. Black-throated divers fly by right on time, turning pink as they head into the sun and the sea beneath their wings glows like rose quartz. Anyone rising from slumber later than this will miss it all. But not I said the island wife. I have always been a dawn raider, greedy for everything my eyes can gobble up, catching every spark and twist, every snatch of colour, every bird flit or cloud shift, each start of new beginnings, life whispering into life.

Walking along the Tapseteerie track, dry-cracked and steady underfoot, I feel the weight of the canopy. This horse-chestnut has never been so abundant with huge green leaves, richly bottle green, a strong spread of gratitude, for whilst we desist in our race to disaster, we gift back life to nature. A robin flits with me, from branch to branch, tree to tree, telling me something that sounds wonderfully joyous but which is beyond my understanding. Bees and other buzzing creatures fill the branches, all of them. I have never heard such a buzz and it smiles me. New mosses adorn the floor of the woods, some emerald green and star-tipped, some gathered in perfectly smooth igloo shapes, the colour of lemon sorbet. I can see the tracks left by deer in their darkling wander, the grasses flattened by hoof-scuff. They will always walk this way, along this ley line, the ancient wander path, following the ones who learned it before them and then taught it on.

Flowers watch me pass, their faces tipped to sunlight. Wood sorrel, violets, primroses, anemone, bluebells, campanula, and stitchwort. Tiny alpines cling to cracks in the drystone wall, feathery ferns, arched like question marks, will open this day to spread their soft fingers wide. Orange tip, tortoiseshell and brown spot butterflies dance around my head as I move through the warmth of the morning. Everywhere I look, there is abundance. Wasn’t it always so and I just didn’t see it, or is it true that our land is healing herself? I believe the latter.

As I turn for home, a flash of silver in the tidal flow shows me a big fish, a salmon, perhaps, or a sea trout on its arduous journey to find a place to spawn, and then to die. Gulls shriek overhead, little gulls, black backs, herring gulls and other gulls I cannot name, for they saw it too. No doubt the otter did as well. I know she is down there somewhere with her kits and soon I will see her on a still morning from my bedroom window as she teaches them to hunt or to play touch-tig.

Writing about the beauty through which I can walk every day is not something I take for granted. This lockdown has gone on long enough now, that’s what I think, although wild horses wouldn’t drag me back among people, knowing as I do, how easily the virus can spread, silent and deadly, invisible to the naked eye. So I consider this. If I, who have barely had to change my life at all, am feeling this way, then what about those whose entire lives have been full-stopped? Starved of social oxygen, meetings, encounters, business flow, cash income, school friends, loved ones and options for free travel, what life are they, you, living now? Many, I am sure will thrill to the peace of it all, perhaps all of us do, some of the time, but when I am told I absolutely cannot do something, it is the thing I want to do most of all.

When I write about my encounters in nature, it isn’t to gloat, but to show to others, who last saw nature in 2019 on a country break, that life is still living on, whether we can see it or not. In fact, the regeneration of this earth is a wonderful thing to hear about, and perhaps it makes the sacrifice worth the pain. I had no idea the ozone layer could heal. I thought it was already dying and so were we all. But it isn’t true, for it is healing, repairing itself and offering us another go at a good life. And so, I write on, a witness to the changes, sending anyone and everyone who is finding this all just too much, who is frightened, lonely, depressed or sick, my deepest respect and encouragement to stick with isolation until we can meet again, and once more walk free.

This could have been the end of humanity. Let us hold fast and make it the beginning.

Island Blog – Watcher

In this clifftop cottage I have panoptic view. The sky fall, the sea-rise, the shapeshifter clouds, the sempiternal changes of light and the communication between them all. I am not a member of their group, merely an electrified and interested observer. I cannot watch enough, hear enough, sense enough. I’m always hungry for more, more change, more manifestations of a slant in the conversation, a break down, a loving reconciliation, from peace to a wild fury. Much like a family I suppose. One misplaced word, one tipped comment, one challenging stand and Boom is an understatement. Not that I know. My family is too focussed on the greater good of the whole, thankfully, no matter what.

The days have been tipsy. Rain, hail, sun, calm, hooligan winds, complete still, noise, silence, birds, no birds and so on. Life is exciting on a clifftop on the West Coast of Scotland and very unpredictable. I doubt I could ever live a life that wasn’t either of those. We come back from a wild walk, soaked through and frozen. Wet leggings, rain heavy frock-tails, dripping faces, happy, alive, rejuvenated. Now that we are inside, the sun laughs a big Haha from the sky, a great, round, hot orb of fire who, by the way, was nowhere to be seen whilst we pushed against a wall of hail-gusty wind. Thanks, I say, looking him (the sun) straight in the eye. He isn’t remotely bothered. At his back another load of watery ice gathers a boil of grey into which he will evanesce without a backwards glance. I think he’s enjoying himself. If I was him, so would I. We mere mortals who take 20 minutes from decision to departure, wrapping, zipping, pushing feet into socks, then boots, re-locating gloves and tissues are a joke at our own expense.

Niveous spume froths around the rocky shore, sometimes leaping feet into the air as the sky messes with the ocean which in turn messes with the shore. Oystercatchers lift and land like pinging tiddlywinks, their voices carried on the wind. A sea eagle startles a bunch of Herdwick sheep as it floats like a small plane overhead. They scatter and I wonder if they’ll do that once they lamb. I hope their instinct to protect will decide them on that although sheep are not known for their large brains. I have seen hens do a much better job. Once, when leaving a cottage we had cleaned for the new guests I caught a large shape overhead. A buzzard. On the ground along with me, a hen clucked her tiny brood under the protection of her wings, filling me with a new respect for the farmyard hen. If she can do this, why not a ewe?

In the warmth of the conservatory we, my best friend and I, sew and knit and tell our stories. We are no influence at all on the conversation between the sky, the ocean and the land, and, yet, we are an integral part of the group. Our influence is made evident in many ways, not all of them empathetic. But this bit of the island is in good and intelligent hands. We watch the farmer fork a huge load of kelp onto the grassland which will feed the grass, the wildflowers, the insects, the birds and the sheep. They, in turn, will feed him and his family. This is active participation in the pursuit of the greater good and I am uplifted every time I stay here, just knowing that one small corner of our beautiful worldly conversation is unhindered by short-sighted greed. The place is heaven (www.treshnish.co.uk). Isolation, comfort, welcoming warmth and a family who take their role as caretakers very seriously indeed. My kind of people.

The sun is out now, big and brassy and with no threatening backdrop. The farm tracks bifurcate into the distance. It’s down for the ocean, along to Treshnish Point and up to where the hills nudge the sky. I can choose my way as I do with everything else. Whatever life expects of me, I always have that choice, as do we all. I may not be free to follow my heart at all times but I can always have a conversation with my heart….. and together we can, and we will, go always forward into whatever happens next.

Island Blog 162 Blue Moon

Blue moon

‘A blue moon traditionally marks a time of change and possibility in the astrological world. The blue moon is the first since August 31, 2012, and won’t be seen again until January 31, 2018.’

It won’t be blue, however. The Blue bit refers to the fact that there will be two full moons this month, this lunar month; a phenomenon, and we like those.  For the star-friendly among us, it denotes a time of change, of possibility.  We say that something happens ‘once, in a blue moon,’ as we refer to the rarity of an event.  We, on the island, might struggle to see any moon at all through a closed and soggy sky, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going on beyond our vision.

Although I usually avoid anything political or strug-mental (my word) inside my blogs, there is a time for every season, one of which is to be counted, to stand tall for something I believe in.  Okay, I’m not so tall, not so important that my little stand can change circumstances, but perhaps, by becoming one of a crowd of ‘standers’ I can make a difference.

On the island, no business, no charity can survive without extra oomph.  That old ferry boat divides us from access to all the instant supports you mainlanders take for granted.  Every one of us has to work that bit harder, that bit longer, our wits and ideas our lifelines.  Tourists come in the Summer months, in the main, although a friendly Autumn or Spring can bring stout-footed walkers and hikers, lycra-clad cyclists to pump their calves into balloons as they rise and descend our endless hills and valleys, eagle-nest watchers and so on.

So, the work we think about all winter long is distilled into a powerful action once the snowdrops begin to show and what should pass for Spring (but forgot this year) lifts the sun a centimetre or two higher in our skies, to illuminate the snow patches, many of which have only just thawed.

One of these worthy and high-profile attractions is our theatre and arts centre, Comar.  I remember, and many of you will too, watching excellent theatre in the barn in this village, where the idea was birthed and delivered to the world.  The Smallest Theatre In The World.  It attracted thousands of thespians and the excellence of this theatre spread far and wide.

Nowadays, it is bigger business, grown from that tiny seed and tended and loved and fed and watered by those whose passion for theatre, music, dance and art led them to invest themselves completely in its development.  Today, amongst its ranks, chaos reigns.  It seems that some now consider it not an island thing anymore and, in their eagerness to make money, have removed the control of it from the very hands, the talented and caring hands of two men whose life revolved around little else, such is their passion.  Being made redundant is not fun for anyone, but on an island it is tough indeed.  Jobs are few and there are many more months without visitors than with.

I am not able, nor willing to state accurate facts about this situation, but the press is doing a good job thus far.  You can read it for yourselves.

http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.heraldscotland.com%2Fnews%2F13521125.Equity_calls_for_board_of_Mull_arts_company_to_resign_en_masse%2F%3Fref%3Dtwtrec&h=DAQExViOo&s=1

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-33728339

What I can do is stand beside these island folk, and I am and I will.  Too often we overthink ourselves into stillness, watching precious moments pass us by because we feel the fear of challenging the bully and we logic ourselves back home where life is safe enough, where we can pretend everything is okay.

Theatre and art and music and dance are quite without logic, and all about emotion, about passion, about the red blood of who we are. The island is like no other place.

Once, in a Blue Moon, we must stand and be counted.

 

Island Blog 150 Space and Time

 

 

 

Space station 1Space station

 

 

Last night I watched the International Space Station move across the starry sky. A golden orb it was, arcing overhead, just a tiny dot. Six atronauts are aboard. I waved. I know, sad really, but you never know what a welcome wave can impart across space and time. I’m thinking ‘butterfly wings. The illusion of ‘just a dot’ in the wide sky of a sparsely inhabited island would be no less to anyone who glimpsed it last night between high rise buildings in a big city. And, yet, six whole living people are aboard. To them, we, the whole WE, that is, the Earth, is also illusive. They know we are millions, we are legion, and yet, all they see is a rolling ball of mountains, plains and seas. They don’t see us and we don’t see them, but because of our vast technology, we know we are all where we are.

Let’s look closer.

Up there, last night, NASA emailed a racheting socket wrench. Well, not quite the actual wrench, but a 3D image via a 3D printer that guided the Commander to fashion one himself. It would have taken months for supply vessel to deliver one. Months.

When we look up, we imagine stars to be small sparkly lights dinging about when the clouds are away bothering someone else, even though we know that some of them are much bigger than our own world.  Still, as we point them out to a little one, to gaze up in wonder, we don’t think of great lumbering planets, already dying, but of diamonds in the night.

The International Space Station travels at 27,000 km per hour at an orbit height of 431 km, and here I am wondering how long it will take to drive to Doune for Christmas with all that festive traffic.  But, my place is down here, not up there, and here is where I need to remember the illusions of time and of space.  We know both are always with us, always influencing our decisions, our routines, our days and our nights, but because we cannot control either of them, tame either of them, rule over either of them, we just have to let them be.  We must walk with them, through them and around them as fellow miracles.

Now, we may not think of others as fellow miracles.  In fact, some are way off miracle grade, in our opinion.  But again, this is an illusion.  I know that, at this time of year, everyone is ‘goodwilling’ themselves to death, smiling when before there was no smile, giving when we only take for the rest of the year, lifting our care-worn spirits  and tired bodies in frightful jumpers and paper hats and telling ourselves it’s fun, and I never did understand why January is all about diets and New Year’s Resolutions.  Why don’t we eat sensibly and employ self-control all through the year?  Why can’t we give to those who need something we have, and they don’t, every single month? It seems we turn back to ourselves after this crazy happy festive season to face the big black hole inside every one of us all over again.

Black holes.  They’re in space too, and in time.  Those who are lonely are often closer by than we might like, often in the family.  In space, they eat you.  As they do down here.  For all the technology, the space research, the developments in education, social media, lifestyle (for some) and health care, we are still lost.

And yet, we are found too.  If every one of us chose not to turn back in, to scrabble around in the illusion that we are not enough, not clever, not destined for greatness, not important, we might learn, bit by bit, to look out, to see other walking miracles, to learn from them.  It isn’t easy for any of us.  We all have black holes, black illusions.  But those who do make a difference, who do become important, who are clever and definitely more than enough, are those little people who choose not to be consumed by self-pity, guilt and regret. Not one of them was born with anything more than the rest of us.  There’s no magic here.  Every single one of us grows a black hole.  Once we acknowledge that, we can move on beyond it, whether we have ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’.

Another human illusion.

The people who have chosen not to turn back in are the heroes, the warriors, the fighters for life. And they began right here, taking one step at a time, one day at a time.

It’s a new day today.  Christmas is coming.  But Christmas will also go, leaving us behind.

What will you make of yourself when it does?