Island Blog – Someday Blues

It amazeballs me how anyone so practical and unsentimental can swing from joyous to dark subterranea overnight. But it sure happens to me. Perhaps, and this will bring on an eye roll from those in the know, it is a lot to do with bereavement and grieving. Grieving……an interesting word and not one I thought I related to, for I am not grieving, or I thought I wisnae. The thing is that words are semantical. They mean different things to different folk. Grieving, to me, feels like endless tears and slippers on all day long; it means I don’t eat or wash or bother with anything much or anyone much at all, and all of that is not me. I bother a lot about caring for myself. It is all a matter of pride and performance to me, whether or not I meet another soul for a whole week. I am not awash with tears. In fact, I have barely managed a baker’s dozen since he died. It isn’t that I am a cold fish, not at all, but after being right beside him for over 10 years as he slowly fell to ruin, I suspect I have gone through most of the stages of grief whilst he yet lived.

Today I awoke with it. Subterranea. I knew it the minute I attempted to open my eyes, knew they were slits in my pale face and that they would barely widen no matter what the day held for me. I lay back and considered the fact that I was not really in charge of myself at all; that something else was playing out its own drama on my inner stage, something I could not name but did not like one bit, as I did not like one bit certain girls at school, and for no obvious reason. Certainly not something I could explain nor would it be a discourse I might enter into, should someone ask me what or why. So what is this flip and doodle of days? Why, when I believe, or tell myself, that my craft is finally harbouring safely in a dock of my own choosing, does my ship ready about and head back to sea where chaos reigns and the weather is lord of all?

I sigh. I have no answer to any of it. This is why I walk out in the fairy woods, wander (slip and skid) across the rocks on the shore and spend hours watching the sky change, change and change again. It seems to me that all I can do for now until this painful rollercoaster finally runs out of juice, until the music stops and the fairground moves on to somewhere else, is to move like an observer and not a player. In the morass of legal requirements and paperwork, of photocopies and of rifling through filing cabinets in the (vain) hope that himself kept at least some semblance of a paper trail, I will eventually find completion; not of me, but of his dissembled estate. Some order from his chaos. I hope so, and, if I don’t, then this will meander on for years and incur great costs, enough for lawyers to choose a 3 month winter holiday with wide smiles and a loud wahoo.

I am lucky, nonetheless. Our children are right beside me. They understand legalise as I do not. They gently guide and sort and support through this process of ‘enveloping’ up a life, a long life of decisions made; of carelessness and devil-may-care; of the wildness of just living and blow the consequences, consequences that now fall to me, to our children. A part of me gets it. A part of me remembers that man, the man I chose and the man who spent the next 42 years infuriating me as I grew up as he decided not to. In a long life shared, and with hindsight, it is easy to look back and to be wise, but I cannot. I remember not paying attention to things that required exactly that. I remember enjoying the crazy. And here is where I find contradiction. Had I been more engaged, braver, more determined to be the grown-up I purported to be, would the memories have changed? Would I have been able and willing to join in the wildness of his life, if I had been the schoolmarm in the relationship? Probably not.

So, as the days flip and doodle, I must keep on searching for a paper trail; keep on searching for the answers the probate lawyer seeks; keep on calling on our children for their support. I must, also keep walking in the wilds, watching the sky light change and change and change again, until the time comes when this is done, as tidy as it can be whilst accepting that I was concomitant to his way of living, and then to celebrate the chaos of those shared years.

I must engage with the sunshine and with the someday blues, both.

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.