Island Blog – So Will I

This day, in a fallout of death, I am aware of Life. I decide thus, Let me feel every single minute of this day, every soigné one. It is dark when I wake but there is a slither of light around my blackout curtains. I know the colour and my heart smiles. T’is not the moon, no, for this light is golden and the moon is never thus. She is slice white, cold blue, lemon if indeed she ever gets anywhere near anything yellow, which, she rarely does. Maybe in her summer coat. Maybe. But now, in the days of incoming cold and threat, she is clear in her colour. So, I am delighted to see that warm glow framing my blackout curtains and I just know is it morning. Oh glorious morning. I love mornings and have little regard for their start point as I ever did of the mother of boys. Boys have no start point, in my experience and just lift and run just whenever they feel like doing so. I have found confusion, then allowance, then engagement with the lunacy of boys. And, in girls too, although I only had one, yet she was match for any of her brothers since first she clocked her situation. She never looked back.

Back to me. It is so strange to walk into a familiar world knowing that someone, younger than my eldest son, is dead. I cannot conceive it, nor allow it and yet here it is. It is not my grief, primarily, not at all. There is a big and grieving family right there in the thick of it all, those who will, for many years, try to make sense of a daughter who died too young. They might question, they might take a dose of pain to their own hearts, they may confuse and dissemble. I would. if my own daughter had died within her 40 years, I would. I cannot, nor can anyone who has not gone through this, say anything. I can say nothing at all and perhaps that is just as it should be.

This day the Rose Bay Willowherb dispelled her seeds. I watched those seeds flit by my window. As the sun pulled pliance the seeds tipped and flowed and moved on as if they knew where they were going. All my spider webs are revealed, beneath chair, above curtain rails, over stairwells. Highlighted in a mist, snowflakes encaptured. I move out for a walk with the doglet. Breathing, honestly, today was a tricky thing. Any breath swooped in seeds. I am not going to let that stop me, not in the face of young death and my olding life.

Coming back into land, into my own home space I think this. I know that Nikki lived her life with wild and colourful dance. And I know this too. So will I.

Island Blog – A Beetle, Selkie Song and Kitchen Units

I met a beetle last night in the middle of it. The night, I mean. He was rather spectacular with a long oval back, shiny black, indented white. I was sitting drinking a herbal knockout tea around 2am and he ran along the wainscot, bumping against it every few seconds as if he had forgotten where it was. I hunkered down to watch him and he saw me, rising his pincers at me, his body an oblique accent with waggles. I laughed a guffaw, almost blowing him right back to base, and then apologising as he had to do the whole journey again. So brave, I schmoozed, as he repeated the laborious thing. I wondered where he was headed, and my eyes followed him as I thinked. He likes the dark. I just turned on the sun, well, for him, anyway and he is freaking out. He scuttles, bumps and scuttles again his way to where the old kitchen units don’t meet the ground, a thing that seems legion in old houses build almost 200 years ago and with no thought for foundations nor levelling. At least not in inanimate things. I suspect there was a great deal of levelling going on between sentient beings. As he got closer to that perfect lift of warped unit and sinking floor about 6 spiders scooted down their silken ropes, their legs clutching and flailing. Oh don’t be silly, I said to them. Just look at you all, you skinny little things and look at him, armoured up and with a serious pincer waggle going on. They ignored me as they all pretended they had just popped out for air without any beetle-munch intention, performing a few trapezoid spins and then disappearing back into my units.

I wonder, often actually, about the wildlife inside my units. I have met plenty over the years. A family of slugs, no, a whole township. Spiders of every size and colour. Mice. There have been times, when I felt so compromised and overwhelmed that I might take a deep breath prior to opening a door in search of ordinary dinner plates for an ordinary dinner and been quite prepared to encounter some big predator, one that has grown weary of a spider/slug/mouse diet and is ready for change. It has never happened for real. Not yet. Living in the places I have lived, around horses, cattle, sheep and feral children, anything has always been possible and I am no fool. I am prepared. Have always been. Mostly I don’t mind at all but since the old man is gone, I am requiring myself to learn my own courage. Things can overwhelm even as I know for sure that I was always the bravest. However, being brave beside someone else, a husband, a wife, a child, is so much braver than mere courage for self and alone is a load scarier. My beetle encounter teaches me. I could imagine an infestation of waggling warriors or I could decide to marvel at the extraordinary beauty of both the chance encounter and the creature itself. I am just glad I turned on the ‘sun’ prior to entering the lift and luff of my kitchen, thus avoiding crunching this stunning creature under a careless foot.

Later I walked the Tapselteerie loop. As I rounded the point, the breeze caught my breath, salty, straight from the great wide ocean. I saw Sgeir Mhor rock, peaceful today. A singing came to me. My dog twisted and stopped dead at the sound. The Selkies, I said. No worries. I hear them, I tell her, the seal people singing. It is a beautiful song and we stand awhile to listen. I wander home in a smile. Ah wildlife! The one thing that is a gazillion things. Is that a collective noun? And if I am wild, does that make me a part of wildlife or do I need to grow more legs or feathers, or fur, or fins to join this glorious freedom?

I feather home. Open the mail box, deal with probate, answer emails, remindings of the duality of my life. Wild at times, unwild at others, and yet, and yet, if I am learning anything from my innovative (and feral) children, I am beginning to think that, although I have no plan to scuttle nor waggle, nor, if possible, inhabit the night, I can become conscious of both worlds, of all worlds. Being conscious is not about knowing what the hellikins you do next, but about just being open. Life can feel like boots stuck in mud, can it not? But we don’t have to stay stuck. I am learning and loving the learning even when it scares me. Remember the Selkies, I tell myself. They were there and you couldn’t see them but their song, their perfect pure song reached you and stopped you in your tracks.

I am learning. Curious. And learning again. Now, this is living.

Island Blog – Twins and Laugh Lines

I wake this morning at 4 to one big golden star. Not in my head but outside my window. The morning smells fresh and cool and I say a big thank you that I live in this peaceful place. Nothing but bird squeaks and chirrups, for now. Later, happy walkers will happily walk by my gate and we will smile at each other as they move into the wild places. They will marvel at my ‘ordinary’, maybe talk about how lucky I am to have that view every single day. I rise and dress, make coffee, plan my hours. For some time now, I have allowed foreigners in to my head, those worries and fears that rumble and twist in my gut. Winter coming. Loneliness. Missing. And others. I realise we all have these. Different shapes, different rumblings and twists, yes, but we all have them and it is easy, as I have discovered, to allow these foreigners to take root, to settle in. But once this realisation lights up the attic of my chaotic head, I can see the old cobwebs, the dust, the decay and I know I must needs perform a clean-up. It laughs me, the state of things. I can do this. I am strong, protected and safe, if I decide to think that way. The foreigner dolls I have pulled towards me of late need a frock change, a jolly good scrub and bows tied into their hair. A dash of lipstick, perhaps.

There is not one of us who isn’t fearful right now. I have not been especially selected for racks of gloom and despondency. My circumstances may not be yours but you will have similar feelings. And that is somehow reassuring. Instead of focussing on little me and my ‘stuff’, I can stretch my mind, rearrange it, clean up the foreigners and turn them into friends. Every fear has a twin and that twin is the stronger by far. I cannot deny whatever fear because denying its existence merely pushes it to the back row where it will always find its way forward again. Fear is healthy, in balance. Fear warns us of danger and we need that fight or flight part of our brains for survival. However, in our current situation, fear can grow meat on its bones, flesh up, work out, strengthen unless we are duly diligent. Okay, so I do feel a perfectly understandable fear of being alone through a dark winter. Where is the twin? Hiding, undernourished and abandoned. Well that has to change. Hallo, I say to the scrawny twin. Come into the light, let me look at you. It moves towards me. Ah, now I see you, you poor thing. I am so sorry I have ignored you for this long. The twin smiles at me, wide and beamy and I can see the gifts it brings me and hear the gentle questions. What do you love? What do you have? What are you thankful for? Good questions indeed and I will busy myself considering them all, making a list and reading it back. I will add to it daily. I am thankful for the smell of this morning, for my faithful little dog, for my home, my family, friends and the happy walkers. For Tapselteerie wild places always open to me, for my garden, the flowers, the space in which I am safe. You will have a list too, the twin to all you don’t have and don’t love, but remember that each one of those also has a twin, one you might have been starving unconsciously.

We can live unconsciously. It is dead easy and the danger of such a way of being is that is creeps in like mould, silent and corrosive until we notice and take action. Sometimes, and I know this place well, the darkness can grow. Life feels chaotic, unpredictable, alarming and overwhelming. There is so much ‘don’t’ and doubt and confusion out there for all of us no matter where we live or what scary changes we may be facing. To remain absent from really living whatever life we currently live will only result in nothing changing. But the good and wonderful news is that we are wondrously strong creatures, inventive and powerful, way more than we may think. By making just a tiny change, such as deciding that this day I will look at all that I do have, all that I do love, and my eyes will hold that looking even as the fears niggle and chatter. I will drown out their voices for they are not helpful, not at all, not today.

And then, I will repeat this exercise the next time a morning rises. My inner talk will not be all about covid and fears and doubts. I will notice if this happens, if the words begin to spill out of my mouth and I will laugh and swallow them down. It takes practice, this practice, but you will be astonished at how quickly it begins to flow naturally. It’s as if my brain is bored of them too. After all, what do they bring but sadness and a downturned mouth. I want laugh lines, not wrinkles.

How about you?

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 – Dark Woods and Renaissance

Through life and laughter, love and longing, light and loss and lift I become myself.

Who said that? I did.

Many poets and thinking writers have writ of the dark woods, the dark night of the soul, the longing for meaning, the whole point of this life and I am one. I am not afraid, as the world is, of what the world calls the dark side. We all have one, we all know it is there with us even as we run from it. I don’t run. Unless the twin is recognised and acknowledged, the unit will never be complete, never whole and never at peace. Life and death are such twins, one we love and celebrate and repeat stupid platitudes about, the other is whispered and avoided at all cost. I notice it when a blog I write is not about the ice cream and candy side of our human condition. Less comments come through. Nobody wants to think about the pain they all carry, we all carry but cannot quite explain. We wish it away, cover it with sprinkles or ignore it hoping it will give up trying to get our attention. But, like a toddler on a mission, it will never do that. Turn around. Look at it. Say hallo, I see you, shall we talk awhile? It is a rare human who has that level of courage and vulnerability and yet it is the only way to fill the big black hole inside, the one we hope will accept the material wealth we throw at it – the millions of hours we take away from our families in order to climb the social or corporate ladder, in the foolish hope that this will be enough. It isn’t, wasn’t and never will be.

In my life now there is only me here to fill the hours. This means I can read and study, ponder and reflect without interruption. I have never known such a state, interruptions having been the norm for 68 years. I have even been that interruption myself, on occasions. These long stretches of time afford me space and peace within which to pursue whatever I fancy. I can follow the flight of a bumble bee, a dragonfly, a thought. I can read for hours until my bum is numb. I can wear my frocks back to front, inside out, eat banana with marmite on muesli, sing loudly in Portuguese and dance Tango with a chair. I know that the older we get the thinkier we become. It is as if we finally begin to understand the Elusive Puzzle – what the hell am I here for? Yes we work, bring up kids, do our best, learn how not to overcook sprouts and other important things, but even with a socking great list of lifely achievements, that list never really satisfies, never brings the aha we seek.

I spend a great deal of time saying thank you. For pretty much everything, the bad and the good. Why, you ask, are you thankful for the bad? Because the bad, so named, is actually of immense value. It is the shadow side, the dark side of the whole, of life in all her beautiful and mysterious self. To be thankful for all that happens, all that has already happened, warts, whips and wastes is to begin to understand the point of being alive, of being here right now wherever you are. Precious human, pointfull life-liver, valued, important, needed. Every single one of us. The mistake we all make in this life, and I include myself, is that we focus on what we get, or got, wrong. It feels like an impossible flight to make, the one that shows us all we do and have done right, those times we laughed with friends, with family, shared their joys and pain, engaged in a way that held us fully present within the moment. There will be zillions of those times in every single life. Why do we remember the times we ‘failed’? I have no answer but I do know enough now to consciously shift my thought plates into a new dynamic, one that affords my feet purchase on level ground and from where I can still be of good use to others, even at my age. If I am always slipping down my own slippery slope, thinking only of my faults, falls and failings, I am of little use to my own self, never mind that of others. Yet, in our culture of running away from our own darkness in the mistaken belief that we could ever outrun such a sentient presence, we simply exhaust ourselves, and then we slip once more down our own slippery slope.

We all know and remember how quick our primary caregivers were to judge us. To varying degrees, in surprising amounts, we all know. This decides our adult thinking unless we choose to build ourselves anew, once we fly the nest. It is not simples, not at all. It takes a ‘traveller’s’ mindset. We read that anything is possible if we just believe. believe in what? Yes, we can believe in what someone else achieves but in our own self? No, that is never going to happen. As I said before, it takes the willingness to be vulnerable and to find a strong source of courage, in spite of seeing nothing ahead but the dark woods.

A while back, I was asked a question. What would you be right now, if you could choose your life? No thinking, just a first response, thus not based on your own limited mental DNA, your own experience thus far. I didn’t think. A Tracker, I said. Good lord, where in the heck did that come from? Me, a tracker? I am scared of everything. I would be a terrible tracker, snivelling on the peripheries and wishing I was home by the fire with a cup of rosy. When we are put on the spot like that, no over-thinking-just-respond, we speak our own truth. Having come from a town, known pavements better than I knew any field of wildflowers or expanse of tundra, or wilderness, forget wilderness, this tracker thing is nonsense. I have been watching too many Pixar movies. But, hold. Wait. Why not? I see everything when I walk. I know every track, even the slide of a snake across my path. I see the flattened grass beside a kill and know it is otter or mink. I see spoor and know the night animal who passed this way, and when. I know. I know. I am a tracker. Then I remember how I am curious about how this person got here, how their eyes tell me more than their mouths will ever do. I see what others miss. I am a tracker. And my brain knows this.

Our lives are so much richer and deeper than we realise as we bound away from the shadow self. We are more than we think, more than the tight pants the world has told us are the best fit. The most joyful people I have ever met have done something outrageously courageous at the wrong time in their lives, according to the world. They said a big NO to corporate misery and went across oceans to work with dolphins. They said a big NO to a broken relationship and moved into the dark woods, though the long labour of renaissance and into a new light. They moved from city to wilderness, to a shack without power or running water and opened an orphanage for street kids. Their eyes tell me everything. They found their ‘tracker’ and it is good. Courage. Vulnerability. Are you who you really want to be? If so, I am happy for you. If not, check out the dark woods. the thing about darkness is that, pretty soon, our eyes adapt and the way reveals itself.

Island Blog – If This Life

I love audio books. While I sew or cook or fanny about, I listen to those who know a deal more than I. If I run water for washing dishes or flip the electric kettle on to boil I must needs whack up the volume or hold my phone to my ear, but you could never say I am not committed. Is that a double negative…….?

My books could be scientific, factual or fictional fairyness. I love love both. This began during covid and isolation even before himself left the planet. I love to read an actual book and do so at night, pre sleep, but the thing about an audio book, if I like the reader voice, is that my brain absorbs it in a different way. I couldn’t tell you in what way different, but I am aware that the information I can take in from a very factual book is something I could never cope with as an eye reader.

So and thus, I can listen to some tricky stuff on audible. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate. Why Love Matters, Sue Gerhardt. Eish I could never read than stuff in a book, stuff I want to hear because even at my age, I am curious and keen to understand and to learn. The former book is on addictions stemming from childhood abuse or neglect. The latter on the effect of parenting on children and its subsequent manifestations. Yes, I know, tough, and most of us won’t go there because we can’t face the guilt, but what I am discovering is not what I feared. We do the best we can, clueless like every new parents are, as they always have been and always will be. I have felt sharp heart bites and warm yesses. I have remembered being present yet absent (aka distracted with guests, husband etc) and that hurts, but I hope I gave the warmth and love and attention to my children at the times they most needed that from me. We mothers are so quick to take the blame, the blood red tsunami of it, upon ourselves. I know this.

With my own mother and many of her generation, there was no desire to look back over the child rearing years. What happened happened. What was done or said was done or said, belonging only in the past and the past is dead as a dodo. My own generation initiated a change in that thinking, deciding to do things differently because we knew we were damaged by a Victorian-ish upbringing to some degree or another, and wanted our own children to feel more obviously loved. Although that old nonsense of ‘this will hurt but it’s for your own good’ still came into my head when some sort of retribution for a crime committed was required, I remember thinking long and hard about a kinder way of getting the same message across. I wasn’t always so clever. Kids drive you bonkers and always at times when your own chips are down. I lashed out in anger at times and the regret and shame consumed me. I learned to say I Am Sorry, something my parents never said. Keeping that regret and shame quiet is very damaging to the self, to both selves in fact.

Listening to these audio books and more besides is not doing me any harm at all. When I relate to something the writer says, something either painful in recollection or uplifting and empathetic, I have the choice to take any action required. The intelligence, backed up by scientific research on children (and I was one once) helps me to smile at myself as a faulty mother. It also kinds me towards my own self as a little girl who believed in fairies and happiness and who was astonished and hurt to discover that her own mother was also faulty and broken. I now know why but I didn’t back then. She, who never got from her own mother the love she needed, did not have the benefit of information available to me and to future mothers and fathers. Knowing this as I do now, affords me the chance to empathise with her, to understand why she was who she was and to love and appreciate her backwards.

It does take courage and the willingness to be vulnerable to read or listen to such information, but if this life is the only one I get, then I want to get to the end of it knowing I have understood myself to a high degree, to have made amends wherever I could and to have learned that we are all broken humans with a huge capacity for loving and understanding others and ourselves. And it is never too late to learn something new.

Island Blog – Turbulence, Calm and Letting Be

Good heavens how life can tumble us! One minute I am tootling aboot inside my ordinary and the next I hear news of someone mid turbulence. It slams me to the wall and I can feel my breath hold as I try to make sense of the shock. It is not easy for me inside my ordinary to completely get what they are going through. How can I? I am not who they are; I don’t live in their home, have their concerns or know their joys. As I peel myself off the wall and breathe out, I find myself pacing a bit as if my pacing a bit will create a map that leads me to a solution, to the beyond of their sadness. But all I can see is a load of disconnected squiggles, in my ears the sound of another heart breaking.

It thinks me. Do we, do I, believe that the easy and ordinary days will always be here, holding us up, boring us to distraction, keeping us safe? Well, no. If I look out upon the natural world (interesting that we as humans appear to be separate from the ‘natural world’) there is nothing but turbulence with spots of calm. It is a constant whirlwind out there. There is life, there is death. There is freedom and there is entrapment. There is safe and there is danger. Nature understands herself and she has left us far behind. As I walk beneath the sky-tipping trees I stop awhile amongst the snatch-shadow of limbs, wind-buffeted. Shadows do not lie before me like palm branches for my walking. No, they are dinging about like disco dancers in a frenzy and the mud track lights and darkens strobe-like. The sky-tipper branches create mosaic of the blue sky, moving, shifting, dancers in the wind, waving their arms like longing mothers welcoming children home. Come to me, come to my arms, my mother warmth, my love. I can make everything better for you.

I hear the songs. Pines shoosh, beech leaves clatter and click, hazels and willows whisper. A whole symphony with the wind as conductor. I walk alone but I am not alone at all, not if I mindfully engage with everything I see, hear, smell, touch or taste.

Today it might be still. Today it may only be for those tree intuits to hear the voices of the trees and the soft wave sound of the wild grasses. Or, there might be a raging red blooded hooligan who decides, well, I am bored, It’s Thursday (Thor’s Day #God of Thunder) and I just fancy a rampage. I confess I never know. Himself always did. Batten the hatches, he would say. Bring in the sunshine chairs. I walk now clueless but mindful and noticing and curious and I am learning to connect as he did. I don’t know all my clouds. I don’t understand the sky formations that formation over me but I am learning.

I remember turbulence and calm. Turbulence was the norm and calm the odd moment, so that my ordinary days showed up as turbulence. I got the hang of it. In fact, I rather liked it. There was never anything boring about turbulence. I knew the language, met it head on in doorways and grew strong in myself, in the confidence of my elastication, my bounce back and I was strong enough to adapt and to resolve. Children returning from school brought turbulence, a hooligan, a hurricane of limbs and shout. I learned how to bring them down. Not literally, although it has been known. No, it was more about allowing, noticing, being patient and kind and a whole load of letting go.

In my now life, most of the turbulence is within. I argue with myself about who I am now, what is my purpose, where am I going, if anywhere and, if there is a ‘where’ left, how the hell I get there. There will be an answer, or answers, of course. To look back with a smile and with thankfulness across a long expanse of a life shared, of memories burgeoning with colour, sounds, sights and experiences, is crucial. The smile, I mean. Although there are things I think I would have done differently was it possible to address those situations with my now head (impossible) I am not burdened by regrets. I am practical, after all. I know it is a fool’s errand to imagine I could change anything in the past. I also know how possible it is to change things in the present and that is exciting. Playing around with frock-layering, tapestry landscapes, baby playmats, music, TED talks, audio books, walks in the wild, albeit each one worked on in solitude, gives me great pleasure. Within each activity I may be alone with my thoughts and memories but when I step into one of those memories I find the young woman I was, one who achieved so very much and who was so damn lucky in life. She always landed on her feet. She was loved and respected. She was good at negotiating with turbulence and she was kind. Quite a list. Now she needs to be kind to herself, the hardest thing for all of us because our inner critic appears to be in good voice. I have no clue why we listen to that voice above the other softer, kinder, more understanding voices, but we all do it.

So, frocked up, music on, sun up, rain down, I look sideways. I was never a fan of Either and Or. There is a vast expanse of opportunities between those horns and even if I must needs pay attention to the instant way I default to either this or that thinking, I won’t give up. I know I cannot sort everyone’s life out and I also know that they can and will. I begin from here. And the best I can do for those whose lives I would dearly love to put back in a happy order, is to just be there for them and to let be.

Island Blog – Curiosity and Attitude

I love mornings. Always have and I don’t mind early. According to my ma I could lounge about in bed till lunchtime as a grumpy teenager but all that changed once I floated up the aisle in my Edwardian frock and made my vows, sans obedience, for the record. I cannot imagine the damage that vow has done to so many women of generations past. Well, actually, I can. It was hard enough sticking with ‘in sickness and in health’ or ’till death do us part’, which it eventually did of course. I never thought I would manage that bit having been infuriated for decades. I had wings but they were clipped, or maybe I clipped them myself. Who cares. What I feel good about now is that, in spite of me wishing I had been born a greylag goose with all the challenges and thrills and freedom of migration being quite acceptable in all their circles, I accomplished the whole shebang. Let us not dig too deep into the way I accomplished this massive accomplishment. A lot of the time I slammed doors, ran away, hid my secrets and spat into his coffee. That’s enough for now on the subject.

Mornings. Curiosity. Opening like a flower to each day. Sometimes I am like a daffodil that needs de-heading, sometimes a vibrant rose, smelling divine and perfectly formed. I never know what way the which of it will be. I just spring out of bed, ping into the bathroom and out again, pull on a frock or jeans and scoot downstairs towards the coffee pot. Since himself flew to the higher realms I haven’t always been the rose. Sometimes I sprang, pinged and scooted just to outrun the mare of the previous night, but didn’t always manage it. She has four legs after all and I only two. But, in the main, it was my decision not to repeat the mare even to myself. Always the same theme, wanting to run but stuck in glue, wanting to scream with a mouth full of silence, the usual. At least I don’t meet an overrun of rats as my old ma did. I told her she deserved it. All those years of criticism and judgement. And we laughed about it because she thought I was making a joke, which I wasn’t.

Each day comes anew, obviously, and with potential. A deal of the unfolding of that potential lies inside me, in my attitude, my list of ‘ways to live again’. There are many. But the most important start point, the blocks from which to leap, ping and scoot through whatever the day brings, is my attitude, followed closely by my action. I like A words. They are beginnings and that’s a favourite B word. A and B. Much better than beginning sloppily midway through the alphabet. I mean, do I go back or forward now? I never do that. I start at the beginning with a big fat A. Or two.

I notice, have oft noticed, that without himself to ‘correct’ my diction, choice of clothing and sound levels, I am surrounded, enclosed and flailing at times within a new freedom. Freedom, another favourite word, and, as a word, it is the call of the wild, a heart thriller, new lands, new skies, new choices, independence and excessive sound levels, but to actually live in freedom is quite a different flower, sometimes a daffodil needing decapitation, sometimes a rose. I swing from one to the other, sometimes hour by hour. I don’t know what to do with all this freedom. Could someone hem me in please? I know how that feels, how to live as a reactionary, how to slam doors, swear like a fishwife and throw spectacular tantrums. All that pent up energy has nowhere to go now. It can feel like a phantom pregnancy. No chance of birthing. How bizarre.

I am learning to step out of myself, just a few steps back, and to observe. I am rather interesting, I decide. A query in a frock, someone worth further investigation, more study. I am curious about who I am just now. The overstory is still me, looks like me, sounds like me, laughs and jokes and cries like me but beneath what you see, what I see in the mirror, lies complexity personified. Both dead daffodil and vibrant rose. Very confusilating. But I know enough to know that it has only been a few months after almost 50 years of having my diction corrected and my sound levels on mute, so patience is required. That’s a P word, yes, but I know that attitude and action are my ways to be patient, so I’m allowed a P dash. If I am thankful for all of my life, all of it, the memories, the darkling times, the fear, love, misery and joy of it and I let it all settle within, patiently, then this gratitude will grow a new flower in me. As will action. Not the sort of frenetic action that hides me from the grieving process but the little insignificant-in-themselves actions I take daily; a little sewing, a bit of reading, a lot of bird watching and a moderate amount of walking in the wild, all actions that lift my eyes off myself and into the real ‘out there’. These actions create my attitude and as the circle circles, my attitude creates more action, more interest in ways to live again, to flower anew and to keep moving on through the alphabet, letter by letter.

Island Blog – All Rise

There is a rising. There always is one of those for we who believe that nothing and nobody stays down for long. Even the dead rise in spirit, lodging in our hearts and minds, refreshing our memories, balancing them. We rise from bed, from a chair, from grief, from a dark season. The moon is half herself this morning, shining like a beacon in a flip-flop sky of pink clouds and blue promise. In my garden green things are pointing to the heavens. I have no idea what some of them are, only remembering in a vague way what bulbs I sunk six inches deep, and where. Surprises appear daily and I stand at the window watching a little more green, a little more bulk, a little more determination to sprout in the goodly earth. Birds lift and flit among the emerald leaves, land, peck at the seed which will insist on falling off the bird table even without a wind blow.

I light the woodburner to ward off the morning chill. It is light already. I recall those endless darkling mornings, mornings that never seemed to un-darkle all the way up to tea time. They are behind us now and I am glad of it. Going too is that bitter cold, the threat of chilblains and spine shivers, frozen fingers and numb toes. We are rising, all of us, together, as we move into Spring. We are brave enough to come downstairs barefoot, leaving our fluffy slippers under the bed; soon we will no longer need our thermal vests, socks or pyjamas and we will be able to talk with a passerby without risking hypothermia. It is a good thing, a much needed thing, a promise, a rising. We have come through the longest winter I have ever known bar one – the first winter on Tapselteerie when the cold froze itself, when it was warmer to be outside, when the vast halls and walls of a mansion house tried to break me. She did not succeed because I was determined to rise, will always rise, no matter who, no matter what. Just like you. How marvellous we are, we humans, we risers, in spite of the ground shifting beneath our feet, the storms tearing us to shreds, the rain calling us to drown. We are fractals in Euclidian space, individual elements, but we are also unconfined, wild, feral, unpredictable and there is a glory in that, a rising. Something or someone tries to keep us down but we refuse to stay down. Against all odds we will always push out new shoots, always point to the sky, always bloom and flourish, even from a dying bed, even from within a prison, a castle of cold and unforgiving walls. We are invincible because we are in complete control of our thoughts and our thoughts can rise us from the darkest places. I know this. It is my firm, immovable belief and it always has been. Oh, I have fallen, believe me and oftentimes, but I have not stayed down. Life is such a beautiful and precious gift and we only have one.

Let us keep rising into whatever this beautiful and precious life offers. Let us see with wide open eyes every tiny gift that comes our way, no matter what. A smile, a conversation, a zoom, an unexpected kindness given or the chance to gift one, a word or two of encouragement, a helping hand, time, love, compassion, empathy. After all, not one of us will survive this life and we are a longtime dead. The time for rising is right now, this minute, this day.

All rise……..

Island Blog – Free to Live

Yesterday I went for my covid vaccination. There is a new something in my blood, in my muscle tissue, that will forever change me. I am not the woman I was when I left home, all nervous and in loose fitting clothes for easy access and with my mask in my hand. The swerve and swoop of the drive through the silent and single tracked glen showed me big warm cows and fluttering water birds already singing a Spring song and behaving like they just fell in love. This swerve and swoop thingy will tell those who know me that I was not in the driver’s seat. I haven’t swerved or swooped for decades. I prefer 30mph at best. My son drove me and here’s another change. That time in the car with him was energising. We spoke of this and that, of cabbages and kings, of children and DIY and how am I and how is he. He made a mental note to collect fuel at the garage once we arrive and whilst he waits for me.

We arrived at the church with its footsteps urging Faith, Hope and Love and I walked over them feeling all three. I walk to the door of the church hall and see about 5 women sitting apart. I presume these are vaccinatees awaiting their jags so I pull away and back to the car to wait, for we are early by ten minutes. More cars pull up. Through their windows I see well known faces I have not seen for at least a year and it lifts me. We smile and wave at each other. They are also nervous and in loose fitting clothing. And waiting. After a few more minutes I go back, thinking this:- Flaming Hec, Fairbairns, why are you always so obliging? Get up and go ask! jeez…… perhaps these figures through the glass door are nurses, waiting inside whilst we litter the road with our own waiting. We could all be here for days. So I did walk back up over Faith, Hope and Love and those 5 women did indeed turn out to the nurses having a lunch break. They beckoned me in, more faces I know so well and have not seen for almost a year. Smiles and welcomes and how are you/s. It felt so good to be among people. It felt so good to see their bodies move, watch them laugh and interact and to flow like fresh, living water. The jag took seconds. Relax your arm. I chose my left, for I have heard an arm can be a bit sore for a couple of days and I am a rightie. Love your tattoo she said as the needle went in. Everyone does. It is, after all, a work of art.

Thats you! She smiled and I reapplied my loose fitting clothing. As I moved back to the car, to my son, I spoke with the queue of other 60 odd year olds, friends, familiar and loved faces and ones I have not seen for almost a year. We shared news, briefly. How is life? Oh, you know, ok. I saw their eyes above their masks and saw the strain. We will all feel it but seeing it in another’s eyes tells us the truth. This past year and the not knowing of the one in which we have now landed will show in our eyes and on our faces once the bandit coverings come off. It has to. Loneliness and isolation, fear and frustration, exhaustion and the loss of faith and hope is inevitable.

We have sunlight. That is what we tell ourselves. We have a new day, our inner core strength and our gratitude list. But there is a cost. Any time of deprivation will cost us. However we do have resourcefulness and that bloody mindedness that keeps us rising like the light, like the tide. Ebb and flow we are, rise and fall; sometimes a lift for others and sometimes needing a lift ourselves. It is reassuring somehow, this need for each other, this need to have a visual on those we took for granted before, calling out a brief Hallo as we hurtled through our to-do list for the day. Can’t stop, must dash, another time. And now we move sluggish and slow, filling in the hours, wondering when we can get back to that unthinking normal.

Another night, another morning. I move like an automaton through the early chores, light the fire, make breakfast. The silence in the house feels like a weight today. So many questions float around with the dust motes and with nowhere to land. Life with another is all about interaction. Question asked, question answered. Now I have to answer for myself. Agreed, the irritability factor is removed from my life now but a part of me, on mornings like this, long for it, for connection, communication, interaction; a meet in a doorway, a stand back, an ‘after you’; a smile, a laugh, a ‘listen to this’ or a ‘did you know that..’ Nothing. I hear a song come on the radio and the lyrics sing me. I hear about some stranger’s achievement or a joke or a story. I listen to the wind and hear the rain blatter the conservatory roof as those little bits of fallen masonry skitter about like mice tap dancing. Still dark, but I did lug in wood yesterday having checked the forecast so it’s only a garage snatch and grab.

All across the UK people are coping or not coping with this extended isolation and the discomfort of not knowing when it will all finally get better. Sometimes I play a game. I take myself into the little town to meet a friend for lunch in the bakery. I hear the buzz and bustle, the exchange of chat between other tabled folk, between the serving lassies and the customers in for a pie or a cake. It’s warm in here, happy, ordinary, normal. Later I decide to dress up and to go out for dinner. Seafood I think. I always do. Candles, the clink of glasses, the smiles of the waitress, the wave to the chef as he pops up for air, the feel of my dress and the chats with those who pass my table on their way to theirs. These are distant memories, once the norm and taken for granted, for who could have predicted the life we are all now living? I remember signing up to work in the hospital cafe on the mainland as a volunteer. My shift was settled, my uniform secured. That was almost a year ago.

I wonder what will come of this time? The faces I met with yesterday told me we have all changed in ways we never imagined. The easy flow of conversation was not as before. Standing back, no hugging, no touching, no sneezing, guffawing or coughing. Moving awkwardly around each other is confusing. We are not like this and yet we have had to learn new ways and the toughest part of all lies in our not knowing when it will stop. Will we remain fearful and awkward long after life begins to flow once again or will we let go of that fear and awkwardness? I have no answer. Friendships may have been lost through this time and new ones forged. We will emerge as newborns into the light of ordinary life I suspect, blinking in the sudden light of it, our eyes looking out for love, for connection, for purpose and direction; for lunch al fresco, picnics, dinner by candlelight, impromptu parties or just walking with mates, close up, touching, hugging, sharing rise and fall, ebb and flow, free to live once again.