Island Blog – The Sky, Skerries and Staying

Today it is falling, the sky I mean. Earlier the pocks of deeper grey sat like skerries in a white sea. A few spots of soft rain fell, hardly worth a mention, but the wind was cooler than of late. Now the sky is leaking down onto the land, covering the hills, blanking out the trees, undefining contours of a land I know like I know myself. But do I know myself, I wonder? I think I do, and yet, there are times I catch my reflection and stop, mildly astonished (oxymoron). You do know, I tell myself in my best English student remonstratory voice, that it is impossible to be mildly astonished. This is lazy ‘speke’. Astonished, is, after all, a superlative and ‘mildly’ does little more than dilute with too much milk. It blands itself. And it thinks me.

I studied and loved language. English, French, German, even Latin, and am still a devotee of the way language flows like a river. Or it can do but, if I am honest, less and less nowadays in the ways learned by me. I remember my old dad with his linguistic brilliance, puffing like an old pipe should he encounter poor English, poor grammar, the ‘wrong’ use of punctuation. I also recall a conversation with him about acceptance. As cultures collide and collude, language shifts. We adopt and adapt and before we know it, words fall away like birds. When I read a classic novel, superbly crafted and written, it seems effortlessly and in lingual confidence, I can see that without incursive verbalism such writing would indeed flow like a river for a creator of stories. So do we, the now ‘we’, who must work with the fast moving changes of our world, go with what is, or resist and remain in academic slippers? We could, but we would risk losing a load of readers because language is changing. We might find ourselves moving up a floor, and up again, until the only person left is a lonely one. All the rest have died off, and their slippers are too worn for a charity shop, and burned as litter.

I find new language dynamic and fascinating, even as my eyes roll at much of what I read. Get with it old woman, I tell myself, because if you do, you remain in the game, the game that is life in motion. To refuse to abdicate the throne of those torn and floppy slippers is to choose loneliness. As writers, and we can all be a writer if we just pick up a pen and are ready to learn and grow in the world of words, we are duty bound to be gymnasts. Not actually gymnasts, the thought exhausts me, but acceptance gymnasts. There is another type, the one that holds on to the slippers for grounding, and who does a lot of eye rolling and pipe puffing and shuffles from room to room as if there is no world out there and if there is then I want none of it. I am not this person.

We live with danger, threat and menace. We are hacked and hi-jacked. We are compromised, surprised, confined and defined. Out there racial and sexual prejudice is alive and kicking, literally. The sky is falling. But wait. Look at how the sky reaches down both to confuse and to alter our perceptional lens. See how, in the not-seeing of what we know invites us to look at something another way. We can dismiss this as an opportunity, ignore it, even, say Mist, say Fog, say Close the Curtains. Or we can actually look and if we do, we will marvel. It is the same with words, with language, with change and with people. I get that it is exhausting (nearly said pretty exhausting #oxymoron) to be always required to adapt and adopt, but it is the way the world is spinning, faster and faster. New technology brings both healing and death, the whole circle, and the greys in between are like the skerries in a white sky sea. There are millions of them and each one offers footfall. They are like stepping stones. We might not know where they lead but if we don’t keep leaping from one to the next, we remain lonely, in slippers and pipe puffing at what only we consider lost.

I can write into the mist, or it can blind me. I can see banks of clouds or I can see skerries in a white sea. I can allow new cultures to enhance me or inhibit. I can hold to the old or I can estew the new, allowing myself to simmer and to blend with whatever comes in. Together we can make a delicious meal. I am not a new writer. I am honed from past teachings but I am curious and interested and I want to stay in the game.

Island Blog 35 – Speaking without Words

Island Blog 35

 

For the first time since beginning this blog, I really don’t know what to write.  Perhaps it is, as my youngest son used to say with all the confidence in the world, that my daily allocation of words has been quite used up.  He didn’t actually use that big long word, but in his ‘little boy speke’, he communicated clearly enough.

The conversation that morning had been about his brother who talked sometimes in his sleep.

‘It’s because he hasn’t said all the words he was given for the day’ said the tutfy-headed small boy as he munched on his toast and ‘hunny’.

Perfectly logical of course, and why not?

It also means that the converse is probably true as well.  So, when I cannot find a single thing to say, it isn’t necessarily because I know nothing of the subject under discussion.  It could simply be that I have used up my daily quota, sprayed words across a wasteland where they may just have fallen on stony ground and come to nowt.  Or, worse, launched them at some poor soul who couldn’t be less interested in whatever wisdoms I might think crucial to this point in their life.  Those words either fly off into the sky over their heads or they land in the wrong place and cause that person, who was fine thank you very much before I and my ego came along on our white charger suggesting they required certain repairs, much inner angst.

I’ve done it all, and may well again, in spite of all my good intentions.  My mind can fox me into all sorts of do-gooder situations. With heavenly choirs, soaring violins and a strong wind section,  I can ‘Mother Theresa’ anyone whether they want it or not.

And, often, they do not.  I can see it on their faces.  It’s either frustration or irritation, neither of which was in my plan.  What I foresaw, in the bestowing of my gracious wisdom, was, first, the early dawn light.  Then the epiphany.  Then, over time, the transformation.

Oh for goodness sake!

The good news is that, if I shut up and observe only, I won’t land in the poo.  If I come with no agenda of my own, such as a long list of easy things they can do to make their life so much better, but simply walk beside them, if indeed they have asked me to in the first instance, asking the odd question that relates directly to whatever they have just said to me, and then listen again, I may just help a fellow traveller a little way down their own road.

Not mine.

 

Island Blog 24 – Many a Mile

Island Blog 24

(c) Jennifer Fairbairns

On the eve of a journey I get collywobbles.  That is a word, I just checked, although it not being a word, as in a dictionary word, would never stop me writing it.  Sometimes there is just no acceptable word or phrase to describe what I am feeling, or seeing and so I just make it up.

In my young days of being the Elocution Queen, propelling my voice, ‘Chin UP girl!’ with my neck pushed forward like a goose on the attack and all my tendons tight as telephone wires. I would have been upbraided by Miss Stuffy Drawers endlessly.  She of the stuffy drawers is long dead, bless her old heart, so I feel quite reckless these days when choosing my words.

Onomatopoeic, they are, in the main, and sounding like themselves, the way they feel.  I could waffle on about the colour of my feelings too, but I might lose you sensible readers who like to hear a regimental march in the laying down of prose, although nowadays anything goes.

Or does it?

I love language, any language, whether it be Spanish or street talk, even if I don’t understand one word, as long as it is spoken from the heart and not contrived.  Sometimes even the Queen’s English can sound contrived, if it is pompously delivered and devoid of feeling.  Words are music after all;  they have a rhythm, phrasing.  They need to convey both information and emotion, even if it is just giving someone directions to the station.

Which brings me neatly back to my collywobbles.

Tomorrow I fly.  Not with the geese, as I have always wanted to do, but with British Airways back up to Scotland.  I have, by mistake, booked an aisle seat so I won’t see any more than the back of someone’s head.  It’s not that I am fearful of flying, nor of a train bus or car journey, so I can’t really explain my inner state at all.  Perhaps it is just stepping away from what has become the norm for me.  Perhaps there is a frisson of anxiety about going back to whatever I am going back to.

How can I get back into the old routine?  Do I want to get back into the old routine?  Do I even have one?

And so on.

I felt this way starting a new school, or the first day of a new job, and there is a beauty in there somewhere if I can just lay my hands on it.  If I can rest in the process, if I can worry not, but trust that all is just as it should be and I am the only one who can do whatever I must do, then I will take each step mindfully and be inside the moment.

Holy men have learned themselves into such a state.  Hermits live alone for years to find it, this inner peace.  Material things will never be enough, however much I may think they are the solution.  Enlightenment is a personal journey, a quiet reflective one, one lived step by step, inch by inch, and all my anxieties do is rush me ahead of myself, into an imagined non-reality.

I met someone once who told me he was enlightened.  I fought back a snort.  If someone has to tell me he is enlightened, he is most definitely not.  No-one who has reached that state would ever feel the need to say a single word.

I obviously have miles to go.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–        Robert Frost