Island Blog – To be seen and heard

The tide is pushing out from the sea-loch in such a rush I wonder if it is late for something. As the tides change to fit the pull of Mother Moon, everything, including we humans, respond, even if we don’t know we are doing that responding thing. The light is lower in the sky, the skyscape more dynamic and suddenly there’s a chill out there, a chill of clarity. Against a Payne’s grey this afternoon, just as the rain stopped and the sun appeared, 12 hooper swans cut through the sky. Such beauty, their white wings on slow-flap, their pattern not for my pleasure but for their ease of passage. Nonetheless I can marvel at their passing as they curve the sea-loch, change leadership and fly on to God knows where. Moments like this come suddenly and, I have realised, only because I want to witness such moments, such passing beauty, and that means refusing to spend too much time inside the limitations of my own head.

A nature walk with two of my little granddaughters yesterday took us along the same track, the Tapselteerie track, the one that offers a glimpse of change every single time I set foot on it. This particular walk was one that required a deal of looking. Naturally, there were two of us who needed to run, to jump in the puddles, to throw laughter up into the Autumn air, but old granny just walked, just looked. We found acorns, beech nuts, brave wee oak saplings, rowan berries, autumn coloured leaves, lichen, old man’s beard on an alder, shells on the beach, bits of sky, reflections, a change in the wind. Some of these could be popped into their collecting bags, some just wanted to be seen, to be noticed, as we all do.

It thinks me. These little ones are already forming their view of the world as they know it. They are learning to win, to be bigger, faster, kinder, brighter than someone else. It isn’t that parents teach this. It is survival and the wee ones are hungry for it. Although they are dependent for now, they long for a degree of independence. They want to be safe and they want to be free. They want friends and to be alone and above all they want to be noticed. As I watch them and the others grow and shape themselves, I know that my role is to observe and to learn, to bear witness and to really see them, for each one is longing to be him or her self, and that self is as delicate as a candle in the wind.

On the final leg of our walk in Nature, one girl ran far ahead, the other calling for her to wait. Being the older sister she reluctantly stopped and waited only to watch her sister run right past her and on. ‘She just wants to beat me, she said. She ruins my fun.’ I thought about this, about what to say. ‘What do you want to do right now?’

‘I want to run all the way to the gate.’

‘Do it’

‘What if she cries?’ (kindness. I’m impressed)

”Let her cry.’

She took off with a big smile, running running past the wailing sister and I just watched whilst I caught up with the ‘left behind’. Holding her wee hand I told her about a snake her uncle had found in his swimming pool. Although it looked scary, it was non venomous. It’s not a snake natural to Spain, I told her and it isn’t good for the snakes that are.

She thought for a moment and looked up at me, not a tear in sight.

Maybe it came in from South America, she said, skipping along beside me.

She is five in November.

Island Blog – Translation

Geese woke me this morning. It seems they are quite unable to go anywhere at all without engaging in a loud conversation, as if, their vocal chords are wired to their wings. It’s 4 am, I said, but they ignored me, honking on as they skimmed past my open window to land with effortless grace on the water. It’s all but flat, the water, and the far shore reflection of striated rocks, adorned like bridesmaids in butter yellow lichen, shivers – a slight surface rebellion, probably the translation of a tidal undertow. It makes the rocks look like they’re shimmy shimmy shaking. Perhaps they are. What goes on beneath the surface is only a guess, for me, but the body of water understands itself and knows from long experience how to communicate.

I eat breakfast, change bed sheets, clean up, ready for a new day, and all the while, my thoughts flow along, mostly unchecked by me. Sometimes a hand goes up. We need more blue milk. Or, I must water those little seedlings. Those thoughts alert me, ask for immediate action, or they might float off into the, now clean, ether to become part of a cloud and thus lost to me. Weetabix without milk is a crunchy thought, dry, not the same at all. Seedlings will flop and die of thirst. So, I must make a note of both and right now. Other thoughts circle a bit before they flee and I bring my brain to bear, make it listen, make it follow through. Sometimes that’s a mistake. By employing my logic I can see a seedling thought die of boredom. This thought doesn’t want to be fixed, arrested and imprisoned by me. It just wants to stay as a thought and the only reason it circled at all was to say Hallo and to hear Hallo back. Hallo, I say, and off it goes.

In these times of slowdown-lockdown #not meltdown, thoughts are busy. I suspect thoughts are busy in everyone’s head. All of a sudden there is time for them, space to circle and float without being batted away like bluebottles. It serves us well to allow this space to widen, to deepen, until we can learn, not to organise our thoughts, but to conjoin with them, for they are ours, they are us. The translation of these thoughts might, in the busy past, have been misleading. Reacting immediately, without due process, to a thought can lead us to making poor decisions. We don’t need to do that now. Now, we can spend time with them, get to understand the craziness inside our minds, see that every thought is there because of who we are, because of what we do, or what we did. This way we teach ourselves to reconnect with the whole body and it feels good.

Although you will never know all my thoughts, as I will never know all of yours, we will both be able to see a person who has reconnected with their undertow. It probably takes a lifetime. All the great thinkers who understood the power of this reconnection, of creating a synergistic relationship with their own thoughts, are ancient by the time they ‘get it’. Right now we have this gift, this opportunity, to consider understanding our own selves a bit better. If we can allow our thoughts just to be thoughts, to say Hallo when they circle awhile, they will flow at ease, no matter what.

The geese are diddling about on the field now, chattering incessantly, picking at the grass, preparing for young. Later, when the chicks are ready to swim, they will lead their young across the sea-loch, on a day when the water is a mirror, when it looks like they are paddling through the sky, when the undertow is at peace. I will watch them and I will smile as thoughts float through my head like will o the wisps.