Island Blog – Keep Going

The Sadness has come to visit. I’ve felt it all week long. At first, I berate myself, tell myself that my inner talk needs a thwack on the butt and a strong invitation to leave. But that doesn’t work. I busy myself with small chores, checking them off my check list, as if I was an early wife with no clue what to do next. But the small chores do not fill the aching black hole, nor do they last very long. I am efficient in my tasking skills and they are all completed by 10am. Good lord, now what? I watch my hands as they thread wool onto a needle, my fingers gnarled as old oak limbs but still they know their way. I rise from my sewing chair and walk through to the kitchen. I could cook something but don’t want to; I could change the sheets but I just did that; I could sweep the floor of pepper brown larch needles that come in without invitation and all the Autumn time. I could. I could. But with the Sadness heavy on my shoulders, as if I was carrying boulders in a rucksack, I am bent down, weary of the weight.

So, what to do? I ask this out loud and rather aggressively into a nothing space, empty and somehow consuming. The Sadness says not one word. Okay, I rise, swing around and face the nothing that is definitely Something. What do you say I should do? Standing there, uncomfortable and weighed down, I feel foolish and it’s not because I am talking to nothing. I smell the metal air and notice the lack of geranium fragrance within the sunroom. I swing round to them. Where did you go? I ask the salmon pink blooms, still salmon pink blooming even now. They just look at me and continue blooming. I do not know what to do with this Sadness, I confess. Just keep going, comes to mind and those are wise words indeed. Be thankful for everything. What? I interrupt rudely. Everything? Even the Sadness?

Well, yes, even the Sadness, because if you keep batting it away when it comes, it will just come back again. In fact it will come back again whatever fixing you fix, whatever you do because you are grieving and there is no end to that state of being. Just think, the voice goes on, is there ever a way to rub out a life, to pretend, now that life is gone, you can just forget all shared history? Oh, well, no, maybe not. I sit with a cup of tea and try not to think because thinking is just white noise in my head, no, not white noise, not ambient, but sharp needles of thought, of memories, switched and twitched and foundering on the rocks of my Now, my silent now, my empty now. Metallica sort of thoughts. I shake my head to clear it but that doesn’t clear my heart and as my head comes back to base, the thoughts scurry back in like ants when level re-levels. All week my wee dog has noticed. She follows me everywhere, looking up, those chestnut eyes wide and questioning. Her normal distant behaviour has changed. She comes to bed when I do and watches me from the floor until I flip the light. I can’t explain her intelligence but I am glad of it, nonetheless.

I walk out, me and the watching dog, in between rain showers, a short one today, too tired with all those boulders on my back. Then I shower and change my frocks. Now, this is a weird one. Showering, for me, symbolises change, as does the frock thing. It betters me, sloughing off old skin, old thoughts, old grief, old frocks. I come home to a warm fire and a darkling sky. I watch the garden fade into night and find a new sense of peace. I am accepting the Sadness. Sit down with me, I say. Welcome. I lay down the boulders and they turn to dust. I decide to let it be, whatever it and be means. I don’t need to understand, nor explain. This evening I think. There are those who just watched their loved one die. I look back up the track I have already walked, knowing they are out there right now, at the beginning. And, although I am thankful I am further into the wilderness, I can turn around to see them coming and I can smile and lift some light, saying Keep Going my friend. Keep Going.

Island Blog – Circle, Cheat and Language

I write much about the circle, the cycle of life and death. My belief is that we are too afraid of both. We take life for granted, afraid that the life we know will be taken or destroyed and when that life is threatened or stolen, we cannot accept it. Well, I get that bit. When someone beloved dies it is nothing less than catastrophic. But death? If we could step back a bit we might just be able to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever, no-one lasts for ever. That sounds sensible, as long as I am not the one with the beloved who died. It doesn’t matter how it happens, expected, sudden, too young, too soon, it always cuts like a knife and that wound takes forever to heal, if, indeed it ever does.

So how do I walk my talk? I have no answer right now because each time I hear of a young life snuffed out before that person had a chance to shine, I feel a punch in my gut. This is not right. This is not the order of things. Life is a cheat. I look for reasons even if I really don’t want to find them. I hesitate and dither. I want to see that vibrant person laughing across the table from me, that snapshot that I take into my heart and fix on my wall. I don’t want to think about any pain or struggle. I don’t want to know that someone as young or younger than my own children has gone. I cannot imagine the grief of a parent in the face of a young death, their chances of ever recovering. It is a stone too big and too powerful with ripples that go on and on and on.

So, I am not so smart about death, it seems. As much as I would like to be as peacefully accepting as those in cultures who are taught about loss and about death as an honourable and inevitable place of spirit and connectivity, I founder on the rocks. I know those damn rocks and have foundered and foundered, not when my husband died because his death was sort of natural and his age made it all sort of okay, but when a child dies. A child dies. It is too much to bear. I sit here, useless and sad, wondering and clueless. I can do nothing, say nothing because I know nothing about this and I pray I never will. My mum died first and that is how it should be, but it is no given, as I know.

I honour anyone who knows what it is like to bury a child, however old that child was. I know a few and when I think of them I stand on tippytoe, on the rocks, waving like a fool because what else is there to do in the onslaught of such a storm? They are alone and will always be, in that grief. I ache for mother, for father, I wave for them but I am not them. I am a million miles away with all children intact and with a heart full of sadness. Life is a cheat, but so is Death. We just don’t know the language of either.

Island Blog – Some Time and the God Mother

Recently I have watched change develop, a responsive change to what is happening with the season. Local dog walkers are now clad in jumpers, one or two (jumpers) I recognise from last year, at a similar time. They sauntered by in teeshirts and shorts, it seems like moments ago. Was I asleep for days? Did I miss something and, whilst I did this sleeping thing, did the weather send these goodly folk into their drawers for a wheeching out of warmer kit? No, I didn’t sleep, rarely do, so it wasn’t that. Maybe the gods of weather flipped a switch, laughing at us down-belows and deciding to stir things up a bit, because body language speaks volumes. Instead of ‘sauntering’, these folk are bowed, bent and clad in plastic. Where before they walked with jaunty air companionable with time as if it was a holiday stretching out for days, they now march, get out, get back, wet and longing for a hot cuppa, teeth gritted, defences up against the sideways rain avoiding puddles deep enough to sink a vicar. I feel it myself, the oh-god-do-I-have-to thing pre dog walk. I resent, big time, the reach for the plastic covering, the boots. I feel irritation as the doglet pauses to sniff at every other blade of grass, yanking her on and then carrying the guilt of grumpy yanking for another half mile, at least. Walks are shorter, faster, marchier. Dammit.

Then I remember the discomfort of change. Ah…….yes. Every time a season changes it feels too soon, even when the coming season is Spring and this is why. I like to know where I stand within my environment, my life. I want ‘ordinary’ to remain so, even as I absolutely don’t. Eventually, I get comfortable with the change until it isn’t change at all. It just is as it is. The in-between time, when I am on the cusp of things, I swither, feel out of sorts, resistant. It’s not anticipation of a seasonal change because it slam dunks me. I don’t know what it is, and I get bored of myself looking for reasons. I work not to be crabbit. I poke about in my insides to find some explanation and find none. This finding none thing also irritates me. I like an answer, that lovely well-honed explanation, much like a well-penned musical phrase that jitters, lifts, curves and flows down to an Aha. Nothing. Dammit again.

When dressing these chillsome mornings, I paint my way through my frock layers. This, yes, that, maybe, and this one onatop. No, try again, and again and again. What is wrong with me? For many lovely months I just rose from beneath my duvet, picked up this or that for its colour, or shape, or layering power. Now I am a snivelling child of a morning, with no power at all. I realise, I know, as I write this, that it is a First World problem. I remind myself of that as I stomp down the stairs to yet another dark morning. Is it morning at all?

There are so many who dread mornings. There are so many who have left their last ever morning behind, lost like a full stop in the dark. I have frocks and choice. I have Autumn and change. I have rain-soaked dog walks. I have Christmas ahead, visits from family and friends, my children, their partners and the grandchildren. I have my eyes, my ears, my legs, my face, my arms and a choice for dinner. I have enough money, enough warmth, enough light, enough dark to remember the full stops for others. Again I ask, what is wrong with me?

The Soft Voice comes to me. Nothing, she says, this God Mother, Nothing at all. You are but human (the ‘but’ bit clicking me into pause. And, she continues, there may well be another day, another morning. There may not, but there may be. Keep living, not just breathing. Keep fannying about with your frock talk, keep dithering and swithering and be grumpy if it helps. All is allowed, is normal. But one thing……

Yes? I ask.

You have one time, some time. Use it, dance with it, in it, play with it, have fun with it, make it hilarious and precarious, vicarious, salubrious, nefarious, whatever. But notice which and what. Choose from your own ground, your own roots, where and when you will spread and when you will flower.

She’s wise, the God Mother.

Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

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.