Island Blog – Featherlight, Low Cloud and Lift

The morning comes all blurry, a white light, stilted, unclear. No sun to golden a dawn. I rise and go to the window. Low cloud is caping the land, disappearing the hills and the fir trees across the sea-loch, almost wiping out the water completely. I cannot see if the tide is coming in, going out, or slack and waiting. The garden is caped in a dripping veil, its soft folds blinding me to the contours of shrubs, daffodils, the bird table. Everything looks eerie. I remember a bad vampire movie and laugh out loud, waking the dog into a bark of startlement. In other parts of this country it might be named a fog but we don’t have fog here. We have low cloud, far more interesting and making us think of just how low a cloud can go when it decides to and how whispy thin it can become, the closer it gets to the ground. I remember flying through clouds. They appear so solid until a socking great plane cuts a dash and sops our little windows with wet. I also know that one cloud can hold thousands of tons of water. Such power and such a mixed message. I pad through the cloud on my way to feed the birds and feel the damp on my bare legs. It wets my frock and clings to my face, refreshing me after a sleepless night.

I didn’t dream of clouds, nor fog. I dream of falling or of not being able to move. T’is grieving, they tell me. It takes time to see through the clouds, the fog of loss. A year and a day, at best. I am looking forward to August 20th 2021. Perhaps I will awaken on that day and say Yippee it’s done! Perhaps it will take longer but I am gunning for a cloud shift around that time. It is what we tell ourselves, our brains, that alters facts. I know this. Meantime, I park my dreams upstairs. Stay there, I tell them in quite a threatening voice. It used to work with my kids so why not bad dreams? This is my game, if a game can be all but fun. Down the stairs and into the garden works for me, even if I am just filling bird feeders. Bird feeders bring birds and birds are life, movement, clarity in low cloud. They dart and swoop and chatter and sing and lift my spirits. The loch stays closed, the hills absent all day long. But now I can see the fir trees, silhouettes, hill soldiers standing to attention. Their tops are in the cloud, wispy, compelling, etherial. I know you are there, I say, for how can a bottom be without a top when you were altogether just yesterday? Well, they reply, so were you. Oh……yes so I was. Ok an off day for fir trees? Mmmm, they say and I catch it over the water, words pushing through the cloud. It is reassuring to know that even trees can have an off day.

A pair of snow geese fly by. The sound they make is soft and considered, not like the hectic honk of greylags. It is as if they have learned how to distil their words into haiku. I watch them with respect. You know where you are going and what to do next, I say. Like a good poet. Not like me. I haven’t a scooby. On my walk I was joined by my little granddaughter in her ‘puddle suit’. It is bright green and makes her look like a burst of Spring with her pale skin and long red hair and her big wellies on the wrong feet. She skips and chatters, runs ahead, challenges me to climb hills, giving me information at every step. Daddy’s new haircut is terrible. Mummy is putting Nina down for a nap. There are disgusting frogs or toads in the pond. Did you know it’s your birthday tomorrow Gaga? That’s Lady Gaga to you, not ‘gaga’. Just saying. Her older sister named me thus and it continues. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps until I was breathless and losing every time, clambering up hills, over rocks, through the fairy woods and alongside the veiled sea-loch. Nothing bothers her and that lifts me too. A cup of tea on my return with her Daddy and his ‘terrible’ hair cut and her Mummy who put Nina down for a nap but obviously that didn’t last long as Nina crawls outside in her puddle suit, wheechs off her bootees and shares her cookie with one of the hens.

So, my night have been sleepless, again, but there have been many lifts from the sticky cloud. So many. I decide, as I always do, to hold on to each one, to put each one in my heart, because the nothing becomes something when I choose to focus on the cloud lifts. The low cloud will come. And then, lift.

Island Blog – Heart lift

Soft, loving compost is heaped on my garden. I made it myself and it is thunderous with worms, not that any of them will survive this new exposure to light. They are worms of the dark, of the fetid warmth and gentle darkness of a dialek bin, creatures of a season and doomed to face change, one they won’t like much. Robin, blackbird and thrush gather as if they know there is a feast for an early arriver. Within minutes these compostian beings will have dug themselves deep, dug for death.

Heretofore I had always shovelled, laborious shovelfuls into a big bucket, then lugged said laborious shovelfuls down the back steps and into the front garden. Then came muscle man. He just wheeched the whole dialek off the ground and shook him a bit to release the dark, wormy soft heap of live-giving goodness from his interior. I was impressed. Now he can do the lugging and he did, hence my thoroughly over excited flower beds. They are giggling. I can hear them even through the regular hail shower attacks. I see an eggshell, a bit of cauliflower stalk, garden cuttings and they smile me. Go to work my lovelies, I tell them and together, we wait, even though they know more than I about what is happening beneath their butts. It is such a quiet thing, this growing, this birthing of new life and the mystery of survival no matter what frollocks happens above ground.

Primroses are showing sunshine faces along the drystone walls. No larch buds yet but I can hear them whispering as I pass. We are coming, they say. Keep watching. And I will. I do. As I walk, I remember. This time last year I shut down, locked out the world, kept vigil for any invaders. How strange to still be thinking the same way and, yet, not quite in the same way. It isn’t that I mind locking down in principle. It isn’t that I am afraid. It isn’t that I no longer have anyone to protect other than myself. It is simply strange, as if I, like the compostian worms, have become accustomed to a darkness, one that has proffered an unexpected sense of security, and now I am not sure who I will be. All through this past year my lack of desire to go out, to meet anyone, to entertain visitors confirmed me as a student hermit. None of the lockdown, bar the initial fear of an invisible and extremely powerful enemy, phased me.

But I have had enough now. Rising, unlike the worms but very like the new shoots, the daffydowndillies, the tulips, the snowdrops and with new leaves twinkling at me under the weight of thawing hailstones, I want to keep rising and that means forward into life. My fed is suddenly up. I want freedom of choice once again. My choice to go here or there, to this person or that should be my own now. How clearly I see the way a revolutionary spirit rises within us. Living under any regime is everything inhuman and that’s what this feels like now. Enough Covid! with all your tentacles and your new names and strains, your machination against the human race, the one I belong to, by the way, the one I seriously care about! I want to yell. Actually I did yesterday and it felt good.

However, there is little we can do than behave ourselves a bit longer and keep watching for Spring. She will go a long way in saving us, for now. However it doesn’t stop the fury at continuous imprisonment. I think of the ones who have died and those who couldn’t be there at the end of a loved life. I think of the painful separations, the people who will suffer deeply from this enforced isolation, those living lives of deprivation and of constant pain. Who will lift them into Spring, I wonder? Here am I frapping about renewing my passport and then there are they, stuck, trapped, broken, sick, dead. It is humbling.

Best I can do is write. Best I can do is keep living. Best I can do is to watch for Spring. Sometimes others walk with me. Not weirdo dead people, although occasionally they do, but those I think about, the ones I don’t know and will never meet, the ones who have found this past year a deal more than merely inconvenient. Hey, I say, come with me. I can take you to the fairy woods, show you the elvish trees, now a bit stripped of moss for the deer are starving here. I can walk you through where wild garlic will flower, take you to eider nests, show you oystercatcher eggs among salty basalt, lift your eyes to a skylark, watch your face soaked in salt spray and old stories, and watch you catch them, the stories ,and even if you don’t understand the language, your eyes will tell me you have those stories in your heart. A heart lift. A change for the ever-ness of life.

Island Blog – You First My Friend

Lockdown, schmockdown. Time gentlemen, please! It is almost a year since this whole stay home thing began and it feels like it may never end, even as I know it will. Of course winter hasn’t helped in our slow trudge back to what we took for granted so easily before. This time has made us think, stretched our inner resources and taught us new skills. Some of us have become bakers, some painters, some just good with the management of Time which, to be honest, has turned into something we all notice and some of us, minute by minute. To say ‘I am Too Busy’ are words for caseworkers and frontliners but not for most of us. Most of us can spend ages staring out at the rainy dark wondering what on earth we can do to turn this day into something other than a trudge.

I know we must wait. I know not one of us wants yet another lockdown as the restrictions lessen their grip on our days. I know this, but knowing something and living it are two very different things. So how do we continue when we feel fed up with the prison we are all in? One day at a time, that’s how. There is no other way to face this. Many of us, if not most, have hit rock bottom a few times over the past year and for good reason. Not being able to hold and hug, meet and talk, visit and touch are all alien concepts for a human race. No travel, no lift share, no hand holding, no gathering of friends around a table. And, for some, the death of a loved one. It abnormals us, all of us. And yet we must abide and we all know it. However, the damage done by such restraints will show once we re-emerge into the light of ordinary life, it has to for we are not all strong like bull. Some of us, isolated with our fears and doubts, our imaginings and anxieties, will need a hand to walk again. Some of us will have lost confidence around more than two people, two we know well. Strangers may appear even stranger. We may be asking ourselves, Where have they been, what have they touched, who have they met with? The natural reach out for a handshake may be compromised, a hesitation freezing our limbs and stumbling our words. We are going to need help.

Let us who are strong like bull consider all of this. In any mix of people there will be ‘outsiders’, folk who hesitate, who are shy, afraid, unsure and compromised by this long incarceration. Emotionally we may be damaged and damage takes time to heal and then only with help. Let us remind ourselves that odd behaviour may well emerge alongside the damaged ones and let us keep our hearts open. Let us wear our coat of empathy in our rush to the shops or the cinema, theatre, concert. To consider all other human beings is to be truly human. We are, after all, a team. Together is the word for the future, not alone, not any more. It didn’t work after all, now did it, this alone thing? I beat you to the front of the queue might have felt good at first, been reflected in a higher salary or the best parking space, but the elevation of such ‘success’ will never sustain its position, not for long, and it brings no lasting peace, not to the winner, not to the ones left behind. How much more benefit might be felt if I was to turn in grace to another and to say ‘You first my friend.’?

You first my friend.

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.

Island Blog – Funambulist v Fatalist

I like a challenge which is just as well considering recent events. Although I, like everyone else, can plummet the depths of fear and confoundment, I can also rise quick quick once I spot myself down there in the dumps, all sog and sniffle. Get back up here you daft woman and check out the light. Look how much there is! Down there is dark and cantankerous and, besides, you are beginning to dissolve. I can see that from here.

I yank myself back up because there is something rather embarrassing about being the centre of such attention. She, the upper me, could sit there all day. She could drop rocks or eggs or derisive comments and I could not stop her, nor defend myself against her as she works hand in hand with gravity. I am, after all, stuck in the middle with clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, a portrait of me I would rather not see on Facebook. Once back inside the light, I look down. Why did I ever think being soggily there would help? I know not but I did not consciously lower myself down. It took weeks, months in truth and I hardly knew I was becoming slippage. Inch by slimy inch I got used to the darkling, found it pleasantly concealing even, so that, by the time I was rock bottom, it felt like protection. I could hide, did hide and then She found me as I knew she would eventually. I guess she missed me.

It is over 5 months since my lord and master went underground; 3 or so weeks since the rather dimwitted abusive caller was pounced upon by the Malevolence Police and a few days since the Breast Clinic journey. It feels like I am free now, no longer a fatalist, and back in the light, not one I have seen before. It has changed, shifted beyond the old way of being and I look around me in awe. Having followed Himself’s light for centuries, I am now presented with own. What will I do with it? How will I use it, cherish it, work with it? Well, I don’t know just yet but what I do know is that, for now, for a while perhaps, I will employ my inner Alice and walk in curiosity, wide-eyed and open-hearted. How strange life is. We lose someone and feel horribly alone with our fears and doubts, with the who-the-hec-am-I-now thingy. Hesitation, the inability to stop monkey-mind chatter, frustration, anger and the quieting of natural laughter and joy. The dumps, in other words. It must be, I tell myself, because such a massive shift in my tectonic plates is bound to destroy before it heals in fresh alignment.

I balance on a new wire and I must keep that balance for I do not want to fall. Watching a tightrope walker is almost impossible for me unless I am behind about 10 cushions and with my hands covering my face. Falling seems inevitable. Hundreds of feet above the ground and not a wing in sight. How can anyone think of this as fun and, yet, fun is the beginning of the word. Fun. Ambulist. A fun walker? Ok, I will accept that. Although I am not and never will be a funambulist in the full meaning of the word, I like it, like speaking it out, like the fact that it is the opposite of fatalist. I believe that every single move of my life, however domestic and ordinary, is under my control; not what happens but how I respond to what happens. Everyone will meet tragedy and disaster, will slump with despair and loss of hope, will fight against the inevitability of a mind-blowing change. It is natural, understandable, acceptable and many other ables for we are soft warm loving human beings who resist mind-blowing changes in the main, who long for what we once had, not because it was comfortable but because we knew it so well.

Now we are required to walk in a new light, one we don’t yet understand; one we have never handled before, nor worked with, unsure, unsteady and hundreds of feet above the ground so well travelled by our beforefeet. Now we are funambulists and once we have found our own balance we will climb back down to the goodly earth with a confident step, our caps tilted, our backs straight and our wide eyes open to whatever this new life has in store.

Island Blog – This Journey

I will agree that these lockdowns have given us time to reflect. It has also given us fear and a stuttering of easy movement. Any journey holds both. Even going to the local shop on a little island. Imaginary demons lurk on every door handle and in every breathy encounter. Even from behind a mask we are cautious of guffaws so we try not to be funny, even if being funny is our absolute thing. For those of us who love to cheer others no matter what, our vocal chords are compromised if not fettered, our lungs on hold. We turn our faces away from other faces we know so well, pushing out a gentle Good Morning with as little puff as we can, for we must not forget the responsibility we carry. Touching anything is risky. Touching each other, forbidden, even if touching is our absolute thing. It is stultifying at times and we must not give in to imaginary fears. We must keep journeying for we cannot hold back the days any more than we can hold back the virus. Both are invisible.

Other invisible things also keep coming, rolling beneath our feet like thunder. These things can confound. Not now, we say, Not Now! But they do come anyway, bringing birds into bellies, all a-flutter and a-twist. Some of us must go to another place, a hospital, perhaps, for a check up or an essential operation. We must ride the road, traverse the water, open doors, breathe in air that may or may not be healthy and fresh. I think of these folk, compromised, fearful. I hope they have good family support. I wish them the very best outcome and enough courage to push away the fear. These journeys, in ordinary times, were bad enough. Now it must feel like a walk into Dante’s Inferno. I know of some who are back home now and healing well, who have journeyed through the Inferno and are cool again and safe. This is how it can be and this is what to focus on, never mind the flutter and twist of belly birds. It is natural to be afraid at such times. We feel thus as we face the unknown.

My way is to look at the other side of things, the flip side, the arrival and not the departure. When a journey is inevitable, no matter how badly we might wish it away, there is a choice. Look at the fear and feed it, or don’t. Instead look at the smile on your face when it is all behind you, when this journey that looms is already a fading memory. Look at what you can learn as the journey flows beneath you. Notice and reflect and store these observations away for a future think. Precious are these observations, the shared chuckles, the muffle of masked conversation. Look out and up at Nature as she flies by the car window. See how the clouds part and conjoin, how the sun takes a quick peek at you, enough to dazzle. See how quiet are the roads, how the rain spits up from the car ahead, how crimson are the tail lights. Listen to the music coming from the speaker. In other words create a distraction, create many of them. What you allow into your mind is what your mind will develop. It is such a powerful lesson to learn. No matter the journey, no matter the timing, we have a chance to learn something we never imagined was there at all.

Island Blog – Arrested

I remember one winter when the ice was added to nightly, and fixated itself on the job in hand, the taming of the flow of water, from fresh spring to confoundment, from easy movement to an arrest. It worked well for our pleasure. Kids, labradors and even parents scooted on feet or backsides right across a freshwater loch that could have sunk any one of us at a whim and the light was dipping, even then. The scuff of new frost shot up our trouser legs and under our jackets and fingernails. It hurt like hell but the laughter thawed the hurt, as did the shared laughter. It doesn’t happen this way now. Is it that the ice is not longer a jailor, or is it that we are so threaded with fear that we never scoot anywhere much, least across what might be an illusion?

Today I noticed how much more frozen were the grasses and the trees. Yesterday it was like the First Night of a show, a promise and full of hope for a duration of weeks but with no surety. Frost, tiptoed into her place, delicate and fragile, ever looking to her back. Rain can come any day here, without a warning. Rain flips the clouds, warms them like a mother with intent until they cannot but spill their load over our land. She has done this for decades, centuries, arresting us, because when rain comes it never comes for a moment of delight and refreshment, but for days and weeks, like a jailor. We have to change our clothing, our boots, our timings. We play happy around her. We pretend we are fine with all this rain, sogging our land, our gardens and out woodpiles, but we feel the wet of her, the insulting slap of her minions against our face and the way they insinuate themselves into our bins and paths and up our skirts.

Now, we have Big Lockdown once more and the fear is back. Who, what, when, shall we, should we…..? All of that. The weather matters. In this frostdown, we can play like kids scooting across frozen freshwater lochs without fear; we can remind ourselves of past times when this threat lay not over our heads and we had no jailor. But life goes on and we know what we know now and it is not as it was. Lambing comes, markets must open, growers must grow or we will not find any grab on to the circle of life we know and understand. Our voices are quiet now. Muffled, unsure. Mine too. The constants in which we trusted are floating away. When I see, as I did this day, a fallen tree breaking a fence, I got it. I thought, nothing is permanent and this is exactly what we don’t want to see. I study it. It is a deer fence. Quite pointless in this place. Deer have no boundaries. Then I looked at the fallen tree, an ancient larch, possibly over 100 years old. Timely old soul. You just decided you had had enough. Respect. Sorry about the fence but it is far from pretty and old and possibly rotting.

Walking today, I could see that the delicate fingers of frost and ice had become determined. The grasses were thicker with frost, their stem bodies more assertive, catching more sun rainbows. The tablecloths of open space showed me milieu and yet I knew there were was a rebel of individuals standing there in triumph against Winter’s rages. And yet we concede to what we know and trust. And so I did. and so I understand. We cannot fight this jailor, this arresting, but as we walk through our days, confounded, altered, scared and angry, we can still remember who we were before and how we might grow beyond this prison. ice

I know. I know. Get lost with all positive talk. I agree. But, as I scratch my head and look at my wrinkles, I still think there is a light and bright out there and it just might be be up to those of us who can still, albeit mentally, scoot across a loch in the dying light, just once, just for now.

Island Blog – Father Christmas and Old Gloom

Mince pies out for Father Christmas and carrots for his reindeer plus a wee shot of brandy to warm the old man’s cockles as he continues on his merry way through the skies. Not that he ever got the chance in our home. Himself knocked back the booze and ate the mince pie, once the children had finally gone to sleep and I got the carrots. Not sure it was quite fair but hey ho, t’was the way of things. There are lots of reindeer, little voices told me. We should leave lots of carrots! I tried very hard to explain that reindeer are good at sharing and that I needed said carrots for the Christmas dinner but all I got were dirty looks and muffled comments on how mean I was. I recall stuffing those carrots under the mattress and sleeping on them, firmly.

I had not realised how tough this time would be. I think of those lorry drivers stuck still on their way to nowhere, in small cabs and with little hope of getting home to their families. I think of homeless people, those in isolation, those, like me, holding a death in clear memory, those who face a terrifying future of loss and lack, and those whose life’s work is about to go down the plughole. I also know it will all pass, if not in any of the ways we imagine right now. For instance I know I miss people, family, a husband and that missing is not about to change, not yet. We have months yet to come of fear and separation, of confusion and loneliness, no matter what our circumstances. This pandemic has shifted us onto a new plane and we will think differently, act differently from now, whether through necessity or choice. I know it.

So what to do with what we have? If we have anything at all, we are very fortunate indeed. We can eat. We can put up lights. We can make ourselves warm, give gifts, send messages, zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and call. But the hardest part of all of this is how we decide to think; what message we give out in our words and our responses; how we act during the days ahead, during this day. Will we bemoan our fate or celebrate the fact that we have one at all to do with as we choose. Okay I know we cannot change the circumstances but we absolutely can think independent of all circumstances. I am lonely. Well, that’s ok and understandable. What do you plan to do about it? I am frightened. That’s ok too and understandable. What can you look at instead? If you look long enough and with consistency at happy things, you will find they come quicker next time and so on until they jump right in the minute Old Gloom plods into a mind, all damp and dark and doomish. Swap Old Gloom for Father Christmas, that’s what I say. Doubts fizzle to nothing but bubbles when you think fairies and magic, or elves and reindeer and it is quite possible to sustain this method of thinking for a very long time.

At Tapselteerie when Old Gloom arrived, I would look out of the window, or, better still, take myself off for a walk along the Atlantic shoreline. The weather was irrelevant. I just knew, and still do, that we humans lean towards the negative and must be alert and vigilant in order to avoid being taken over. I also know how tempting it can be to give in and sigh a great big sigh. There are days and times when it feels like just too much effort is required to even bother with drumming up a single happy thought, but it is our only recourse if we want to avoid sinking. Life is such a gift. Christmas is such a gift. Even too many carrots are a gift. There are many who would relish too many carrots, after all. Thinking wide and beautiful thoughts is a daily duty and, trust me, it can take away any amount of pain whilst banishing Old Gloom to his own darkness. So, shine your light this Christmas, this winter, and remember, often, that if you have anything or anyone at all, you are so lucky it’s embarrassing. That’s what I tell myself.

And Old Gloom is nowhere to be seen.

Island Blog – Lightcast

The clouds are curved like greying lips, white mountains frothing up at their backs. Light, always strong, pushes through in slits and slants and sudden glories, whole and holding the sky for just a few moments. Further back the blue is stern and cold, sullen and persistent. To my right, seaward, the grey carpet threatens. More hail? More soggy snow that lumps to the ground only to melt into an unattractive slosh? But it is all fur coat and no nickers and comes to nothing. A comment unheard or ignored by most, like a swagger. I watch the sky, gulls white against the grey, lifting, luffing, tilting the breeze above the sea-loch, now calming down from the full moon rise and diminish. Must be restful for the saltwater, the times in between new and full moons, when the snitchy witchy fingers rile the waters up, rile us up.

My walk today was soggy. I notice big paw prints in the mud and remember the wolf prints I saw from the cable car in the Alps. I almost laugh. Big here is not big there. Wolf prints are huge and pronounced. Captured in the snow, they show me every part of the pad, the claws sinking deep, clear and almost musical. I think about this. Do the individual ‘fingers’ lower at different times……the outside first, then the next and so on or is it a solid and uniform punch to the ground? As I walk, I consider my own toes inside my own boots. For me, it is a rounding from little toe to big, but almost instantaneous, happening in a few seconds and without my conscious connection. It kind of changes how I walk, thinking this way. The dog prints are slurry, slipped and shifted by the bog and the mud, slewed and stretched into unreality.

The bracken still talls copper aside the track. It is amazing how strong those stalks are. I remember gathering them with a friend, every day, in the cold and snow-wet, as bedding for her dairy cow, their only source of milk, living as they did a great distance from help, or milk. We gathered in armfuls and tramped the hill ground to the stall that was the cow’s nightlay, laying out the bracken until the layer was thick enough for a bed. It took both of us a daylight. As I left I wondered how she managed it on her own. But she was tough and determined and loved her cow so I guess she managed. No lorry would deliver straw or hay, not down that precipitous fall of a track, the length of it, the fall away just there and the drop over 60 feet. When they moved, the furniture van came so far and then stopped. No chance, they said. So, they shifted their lovely furniture from van to tractor bed and had to hump and shift and position each piece by themselves. As I already said, my friend was tough. There was a light in her that no arrogant grey could snuff out. Salut Jenny.

Light thinks me. It is a constant. It is there when it chooses. No dark can ever defeat it. Once light is cast, darkness defers and retreats. It is the same in a person, in a nightmare, in the dark reaches of a night. Light will always win. Always. However, we can seek light in things that are not of us. In various and ‘ya-di-ya’ instant lifts, like buying more stuff. We can find it, momentarily in a new relationship, in the trust of it, in a something or a someone and that could well be real. Or it could be the dark, kidding us. Because we, as humans, and particularly now in this covid restraint, are hungry for light, any lights we can make a mistake. I tell myself this….remember who you are, who you have invested in, whom you have learned to be and when that lightcast comes at you, in whatever form, pause and then pause again.

Then decide.

Island Blog – Looking through Windows

My impatience, during this ‘grieving’ thing, oft gets the better of me. Why am I not sorted yet? After all, I knew he was going to die earlier than he might have done because dementia grabbed him by the throat. Why do my emotions swing like an overly excited pendulum, from an inner darkness to the bright light of freedom and opportunity, not once a day, not twice, but non flaming stop?

‘Ah, you humans……..don’t you know that your time is not my Time? My Time is a very different creature, one unfettered by schedules and earthly dates. You expect things to fit in with your plans but this is not how life works’. And that is that, apparently. I know it has only been just over 3 months. I know that those who have gone before me will say it will take 12 to 18 months to re-locate myself, not least because the last time I knew myself was almost 50 years ago; that time when I could say “I’ without being sternly reminded that ‘I’ is now ‘We’ and that most of that ‘We’ was on his terms of employment. To be honest, the ‘I’ I was back then was a strange creature, lost in Wonderland, curious, yes, but scared of my own shadow, unlike Alice. Understandable, then, that the promise of safety and shelter beneath the ‘We’ umbrella drew me in and out of that sharp, cold teenage rain. But now I am required to find myself again.

I didn’t think I was lost, not really. Despite the rollercoaster of marriage, children and rules, I knew who I was. I was a wife and a mother. I was cook and cleaner, business gofer, facilitator of others’ dreams and goals, full of sparkle and energy and quite able (a lot of the time) to ignore any inner cries for escape. Now all those memories face me through each window. Hallo, they say, noses pressed to the glass. We are all still here, you know, Mrs, not Mrs anymore. I don’t want them peering in at all. I don’t want to look out upon them all tattered and gnarled and persistent, jigging with that glee that thinks me of bullies. I could close the curtains, t’is true, but that doesn’t mean they go away. I could ignore them but, well, ditto. Apparently I just have to let them have their day and to keep walking down this new path.

I remember, well, looking through windows and wishing I could fly south with the geese. I would even have accepted ‘north’ in the darkest of times, but I am a grounded woman and we tend not to be flyers, Mary Poppins notwithstanding. However, inside a mind, the opportunities are endless. I know now that the worst failures and the best adventures happen inside a mind. In there, all choices and decisions are made. Right argues with wrong, downs argue with ups and light dances with dark. It doesn’t really matter what physically happens inside a life if the inner windows are kept clean and clear. Demons, bullies, failures, regrets come to us all and it is up to each one of us as to how we empower or disempower them. On the side of Light, we have the same choices. Although nobody can sustain a positive outlook on everything and everyone all of the time, it is possible to develop a strong reserve of endorphins so that, when the demons dance and cackle through the windows of a mind, a person can just watch without attachment or engagement.

Especially if those windows are triple glazed.