Island Blog – Moonlight and Shadows

05.15 and something wakes me. Light. Light has a sound, or, more accurately, a vibration but I can hear it as well as feel it. As a sleeper just below the surface at all times (thank you motherhood) any change in what was becomes a new what is and this morning’s ‘what is’ has pulled me out of my dreams and back into my bed. I was floating high above the world, looking down whilst faces long gone joined me, their long gone voices humming familiar. I turn to check the window and see light pushing around the blackout curtains, almost aggressively, demanding to be recognised and framing the thrush eating strawberries patterned curtains like a huge canvas. Light is calling me up and out and there she is, huge as a giant’s eyeball and looking pinkly drunk. Aaah! I sigh and just know I have to respond for sleep has left the building, that fickle friend who always seems intent on escape for unknown reasons. Perhaps, I wonder, as I buckle up my fluffy and impossibly white dressing gown, sleep also needs sleep. Has anyone ever considered that?

Downstairs at a dash and into the sunroom where my breath escapes in a whoosh. She is magnificent, overflowing with soft pink light, a perfect sphere in her dying throes. I kind of plan such a spectacular death as I imagine we all do although I don’t really want this spectacular death throe-ing thing to last thousands of years. Just saying. There is so much beauty up there among the dying, it wonders me how our own can be so unattractive by comparison. I watch her for a while, only noticing I am no long breathing when I get that underwater feeling, my lungs screaming at me to get back on the programme. She watches me. We eyeball each other. A few passing clouds try to eat her but she simply lights them up, sapphire, rose quartz, a lace rainbow veil on a bride to be. As they pass, I see a lunar halo, cirrus clouds glittering with ice crystals so high up in the atmosphere to be reassuring. There is an atmosphere, for now.

I sit with coffee in the not dark, the silence absolute for even the firstbird song is halted in the face of such majesty. Moonlight shadows pin my walls in the shape of geraniums, the blooms salmon pink and almost luminous in the lemony light and on the backside of this wide and slow dawning, as the moon submits to father sun, sinking to her knees behind the hills, deep grey clouds like flying saucers hold in stillness.

Island Blog – Watching, Waiting, Wondering

The morning begins well in that I wake up and it’s morning, well almost, still dark but the clock tells me of others who rise at this hour, dark or no dark. I slip into my dressing gown, thank my bed, pat the dog and glide down the stairs. I remember actually doing that once, for a dare of course, on a tin tray and an oak stair case that dog-legged into the room. Not a good plan. I started off well, gathered warp speed and just knew I was about to be sliced like an egg when I hit the sharp corner, all balustrades and newel posts and rigid as if it had rooted into the earth’s core. The wails arose in me, alerting all inmates who were quietly sipping Earl Grey from china cups and pretending they didn’t want another scone. My mama was livid even if she feigned compassion. I could see it in the slit of her mouth, the narrowing of her eyes as she scooped me up and marched me away, my knees bleeding, my face scratched and my mouth yelling out a storm. This morning’s glide was more gentle, my hands holding both bannisters and my cautious eyes wide open for the fall that always threatens old folk, the one that leaps out for a rugby tackle from somewhere in my blind spot.

I descend in regal safety and round the corner for coffee and a peer into the darkness. No moon, but she is coming, the Beaver Moon, tomorrow I believe, although why the moon has to keep to a schedule un-moons me somewhat. I had thought her above such calendar control. I perceive her as reckless, upskittling, wild, and that’s because her full bellied lightshow creates that reaction in most women I know and some men too. I tap tap wait for the light to rise. I iron something, sweep another thing, flip through Facebook, write some notes about what I will do with my day, this day, today, most of which will be scratched out by breakfast once I realise that the ladder to any of them has faulty rungs, most of them missing.

I WhatsApp chat with my best friend and she laughs me and we share all our familial concerns and delights. We have done this for years now and her face takes me right back to her, the way she waggles her head when telling me of something that pains or puzzles her, the way she looks straight at me when she asks how I am. I know why. When I say ‘Fine’ she smirks and challenges, but I will always say ‘Fine’ because mostly, I am just that. However, as the day rolls on, not like chocolate, more like a stubble field and with me barefoot, I am ratty with the dog. It shocks me for I am only occasionally ratty and I don’t like it in me at all. I watch the wind, hear the roar of the whips and twisting punches of it, see it scrape rain across my window and bend the trees like torture, laughing at its bully power. Reluctantly I decide to walk, no matter the rain, the bully punching wind, the darkling grey, the wet underfoot.

To begin with, I stomp. I know I am stomping and the track looks up at me, eyebrows raised. I pause and smile and slow my boots. Then, as I rise into the woods, the rise of the track lifting me from my earthly grump, I begin to see, to notice, to watch. The bare limbs stick out like old fingers, old friends, the ancients who still stay to protect and to remind. Leaves still holding on, copper, gold and blood, tremble in the wind, showing me this face, then that. I hear the tic-a-tic-a-tic of their dance and I stop to watch. Beneath my skinny soled boots, a bronze carpet tongues out before me, inviting. The wind lifts again and the pines sing as the wind combs the needles, the ones that don’t ever give up, the ones I will see all winter long. A stand of ditchwater has been claimed by water moss and I chuckle at the emerald courage of this survivor. Well done you, I say, as I pause to wonder and I swear it shimmies. Tree ferns waggle like random hair tufts all the way up an alder tree, flapping at me as I meander beneath the high stretch of ancient trunk. Geese navigate the sky wind adjusting their positions and I wonder again at their understanding of all this power and of my complete lack.

I will never understand the power of watching, waiting and wondering, will even thwack it away with an irritable flap, but once I step out into it, bring myself to walk, to stand as a part of it, engaged with it, no distractions from it, I return with hope. Where the hell I found that hope, I can not answer, but it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that in my reclusive sadness there is a beckoning, one irritating enough to get me inside my boots and out there.

Island Blog – Natural Friends

It is one thing to find friends among other humans and quite another to make a friend of Circumstance or Fear, of Change and of Time.

To elucidate, I have finally cleared out the last of his shirts, the plaid ones, the ones I kept just in case. In case of what? I asked myself, somewhat irritably, just yesterday morning. In case he returns from the grave? Well no, I hope not as I doubt he would be in good condition after all these months in a wooden box. Well, why then? I find myself infuriatingly persistent at times. I thought I might cut them into patchwork squares for my baby mats, I say, whilst flicking through the big pile of clean and folded items, all blues and reds, lines of colour running through, the material soft and warm. Time steps into the room and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. I know, I whisper, not turning around. Time is invisible after all and isn’t expecting me to look her in the eye.

I go downstairs and pull out the last black bag. She is right. Time is right. Time is my friend and kindly even if she does nudge me forward when I often want to stay stuck in the mud. I take a deep breath and begin to load up. Black is a good colour for this task as I don’t have to see any of its contents once swallowed up by the dark. I tie the top of the bag and harrumph it into the little reading room. I still have to drive it to the charity shop but that will happen when it happens. You can’t go back to it, warns myself as she stands in the doorway like a prefect. I bat her away, head back down the stairs and prepare my bagel, avocado and poached egg breakfast. The first mouthful sticks a bit but I keep going. Thank you Time, I say.

The wind has howled and battered against my windows for days now. Wind at night, that big, noisy crashbang of a thing, has always scared me. Fear comes up to attempt sleep when I do and she stays all night long, waking me often. She, Fear, is an insomniac after all. Everyone knows that. By the morning my bed looks like I hosted a wrestling matching it, the sheets all twisted and the duvet turned around until the fixing buttons clack against my ear piercings like a tap dance. I avoid thinking about the night ahead, the next night in this hooligan of a wind. I lash down the wheelies, close the garage door, watch the birds ding about like shuttlecocks, pretend I’ll be fine. In other words, I am resisting Fear, pushing her aside, singing la-la-la a lot.

My little sister calls. I call her that even though she is a grandmother twice over because she is a lot younger than me and the size of a dart, tiny, feisty, accurate in her projections. She talks about the full moon, how it upsets her sleep every single month, how her fed is right up on all things moon. She asks me how I am sleeping and I tell her just fine, well fine for me which means about 4/5 hours of a night. No moon trouble for me because I’ve got her number. Great! she comes back. Send it to me so I can tell her to eff off. I chuckle. Ah, No, that’s not the way. You have to befriend her, not fight her. She tells me she slept fine the following night.

It thinks me as I realise that I am fighting Fear of the big wind and this is what wakes me, scares me, upsets my sheets and twists my duvet around. I listen again to my own advice. Make friends with the moon and she will stop bothering you. Ha! So if I make friends with the wind I will free myself from the Fear of it. I do exactly that and, although the wind, which must surely be exhausted by now, keeps up her crashbang, sleep comes and stays a while.

Then my mind turns to Circumstance. I think she is a different matter altogether because of her unpredictability and her tenacity. She is going nowhere, no matter how much wishing and whining goes on. She is no respecter of wealth, colour, age or choice. She is solid and she is flighty. To make friends with her requires a lot of inner thinking, because to be able to accept her inevitable presence inside a life is the key to peace and we all love that one. I have enjoyed glorious visits from my siblings and now they have gone. My days are my days now and I must approach each one with a Tigger and a Pooh in my mind. I will begin a new landscape tapestry. I will settle forward into my solitary life once more. I will walk the Poppy dog, catch a falling leaf, watch the colours rainbow as they die. I will laugh at my imaginings and write down the ones that laugh me most. And, every time Circumstance or Fear, Change or Time appear at my side to ruffle my feathers, I will say Welcome, come in, let’s chat my friend.

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 – Till Tomorrow

The seals are calling today. I hear them as I round the point but I can’t see them. Their eerie crooning comes on the breeze, one, two, maybe three of them. I stand to listen, allowing the song without words to enter my body, my mind, my soul. It shivers me but in a wonderful way. I cannot live without the sea and all her friends. She lives inside me, her tidal ebb and flow, the pull of the moon, today a pink fingernail hanging like parenthesis. The seals sing on, the lift and fall of their melody something unreal, ghostly. I am not surprised that such music terrified sailors back in the days when they feared falling off the edge of the world and felt the dread of scurvy. Safely rooted here on the Tapselteerie track and inside the knowledge we have today about seals and their singing, not to mention the confidence that neither I nor anyone else will ever fall off the edge of the world, I smile and linger. Taking the song home with me I wonder what they are saying. It will be for a purpose, that’s for sure. There is no sentimentality in the animal kingdom. Every sound, every move is about survival.

I meet nobody on the track. It is just me, the turning trees, the dying bracken and sunlight dapples. Birds flit and flutter, busy on the berries now red as blood and just asking to be eaten, the seeds spread only by travelling through the digestive system of the birds that respond. Scabious host peacock butterflies, blue, red, purple and of such delicate beauty. Harebells, heather and many bullish seps, big enough to shelter a small rabbit from a rainshower, flank the track. Leaf fall carpets the woodland cut-through, red, gold, brown, butter yellow and copper and I see nature’s artwork laid out below my feet. A cooler breeze today I think. Autumn is moving in, but softly this year.

The last visit to the sea takes us down a steep slope and across crunchy seaweed. It sounds like I am walking on crisp packets. Last week this weed was stodgy soft, greened up again in the high tides of a full moon. Be patient, I tell it. High tides will come again soon when that fingernail gets above herself and puffs out like a balloon, causing many of us sleepless nights and itchy teeth. It will wait. It knows how to wait, has done this waiting thing for thousands of years, after all. I heft my old self onto a tall flat rock. After himself died I did no hefting at all. I just stood like a dwarf before a giant and longed. Now my hefting ability is growing balls and I am thankful. I am no good at dwarfing. Although I am shrinking, it is normal but I know that it is just my body, not my mind.

I sit in the sun and watch the water. A Merlin erupts from the bow-backed shore hazels behind me in a startle. He lifts and floats across the narrows to scoop up into a distant tree, startling a heron who lifts with a screech. Ordinarily, the wee doglet would ignore a heron but as it lifts, it screeches and that screech bounces back from the far rocks creating an echo. She is startled, the doglet, and barks back. In turn, her bark barks back at her, once, twice. She barks again, certain there is another dog around even if she cannot see it. I clap my hands to stop her and the far rocks clap back. Good Lord this is turning into a situation. I am aware that the folk in the holiday cottage are at home today and I don’t want this echoing percussion to upset their peaceful afternoon. I heft myself down and whisper a farewell to the sea, the Merlin, the heron and the echo rocks. Was I to speak it out loud, the whole echo thing would kick off again.

Till tomorrow, I breathe. Till tomorrow.

Island Blog – Fractal Dance and Twee Storms

I leave my little home and swing right onto the Tapselteerie track. There are no cars parked in the wheen of a passing place so that means no walkers unless they arrived on foot. Good. I love solitary walking. As the sea breeze lifts and luffs around me I get a faceful of wispy down, seeds from the rose bay willow herb, white, soft, fractal. I don’t take a deep breath as the cloud floats around me and away into the sky. Thistles are also setting flight their hopes for the future, and this down is hardier, more able to land with a modicum of precision. The cloud down can blow on for days, weeks, at the mercy of a capricious breeze, ever changing its direction over this land of rocks and tides and capricious breezes. I have found cloud seed everywhere, inside the house, in the bird food bins, stuck to the washing on the line, in my knicker drawer. I’m not hopeful for them. I catch some seed and study one. Aeronautical perfection with tiny limbs, one weighted and with a tiny barb for holding on. The seeds spin like tops through the air, catch on clothing which then travels home with the wearer only to be shaken off in a new garden. Nature is genius.

The Tapselteerie track is dappled mosaic. Sunlight creates a masterpiece beneath my feet, a work of art. As I walk over such beauty my eyes lift up through the canopy of hazels to a mosaic of cerulean blue, bright green and icewhite, then back down to golden hexagons, polygons and all the other gons laid out before me like a star studded carpet. I hear long-tailed tits somewhere in the density of woodland, warblers and the prrrt of a robin’s warning. Two herons flap and screech at each other on the shore, vying for territorial rights. They lumber and flap, crashing into bowed-back hazels as if nobody ever taught them how to fly with elegance and precision, as if they still have dinosaur blood coursing through their veins and the wing thing is, well, awkward. The tides are both very high and very low just now because of the full moon, the Sturgeon Moon. The full moons were named by the ancients, called to reflect the season. How sensible. Not like the naming of hurricanes or storms which always scoffs me. A twee name for a disturbing natural eruption of astonishing energy tells me much about how our current culture really isn’t taking life seriously at all.

The tappsled seaweed is flung across the rocks in a sort of gay abandon. Gold and copper, black and emerald against the black of the basalt and I wish once again I had brought my phone for a photo. No matter, myself says. You can just take it in through your eyes, feel it sink into your body, your mind and your heart and by the way who on earth goes for a walk in the wild with a phone? Good point, I concede. My sensible self, my let go and shut-the-hell-up self is often right. She is all about just enjoying the moment or, if the moment is a shit storm, then not enjoying it at all and just waiting until it moves on to the next moment. It’s a good ethos.

The oyster farmers are working across the narrows now the tide is low enough to walk across from one side to the other at such tidal times. Their puffing tractors work the shore, the men in full body wellie boots as they tend to the cages. I wonder what they need to do and how hard the work might be, probably is. In sunshine weather it must be easy, in sharpening bite-cold, not such fun. The oysters are the best I have ever tasted and we can enjoy them anytime we choose. The shucking shed is big and green and sometimes I can hear voices floating across the search as the men and women work. I can hear laughter, jokes shared and it reminds me of working on our farm way back in Norfolk, way back in the 1970’s when I first learned that being part of a ‘waulking’ team was the warmest and happiest I ever could be.

Deer can swim over the narrows and we did warn the new owners of Tapselteerie once we heard they were deer fencing the estate. Don’t bother, we said, the deer swim and nobody can deer fence an entire rock-solid shoreline. They didn’t heed us. I remember wondering back then if my heeding skills might be due an MOT. Now the fences sag and flop anyway and the deer go wherever they please. Once I watched a stag leap said fence, startled by me. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him head for the impossible. I envisioned broken limbs, damage, wounds and general disaster. What actually happened was that he cleared the fence but his back legs caught, bringing down the whole thing as if it was matchwood and string. Once the clanging and puffing and snorting and leaping and heart-in-mouthing thing was over, he stopped, looked back at his awaiting hinds, all shivering and silent on the ridge above him, above me. I drew respectfully back quietly, my eyes down. Make no eye contact, I remember that lesson in Africa and it makes sense to me. No eye contact, no challenge, no threat. With nervous steps, the 3 hinds descended the ridge, stopped once to look at the not-looking me and the not-looking dog clamped under my arm, and then elegantly flowed over the matchstick fence, up, up and away into the trees.

These sunshine days are a gift. The winter is long enough, loud enough, scary enough with twee named storms causing danger of death which is very real for some. We have lived with storms and disturbing natural eruptions for thousands of years. The problem is dissociation. Instead of connecting with what is way bigger than us, way more powerful, we are hiding. And, thus being fools. I know I am fortunate, living high enough on these old rocks to avoid flooding and all the horrors that brings to bear and I am glad that my husband was overly alert to nature’s power along with her gifts. He taught me to be vigilant, to be aware, to make sudden decisions based on what was plucking at his gut and not what we heard on the news which, sadly, is often too cautious in its decision not to cause panic. If we as alert and intelligent human beings felt confident enough to decide for ourselves, what spirit would come to life! What powerful and intuitive choices would be made, what influence that might have, and how many lives could be saved! These are not questions.

All this on my dappled seed blown walk today. Let us, people, learn things, like CPR, like what happens in a tidal flow, a flood, a storm. From what direction? How much build up is there, considering the friction, drag and density of that tidal flow. Tidal spiders, taken into account. The earthly tides flow widdershins but not always. I am not saying that everyone needs to know what the tides are doing but I am saying learn something. You might live in Glasgow or Stevenage. No matter. You will be affected by the tidal flow and the altercation that is going on between the heavens and the earth. And it is real. We must teach our children. We absolutely must.

Island Blog – Transverse

Not the same as Traverse, but pretty similar in the depth of itself. One, the ‘traverse’ thingy is about zig-zagging through difficult terrain, the other from the Latin (I was so good at Latin) referring to a beam that supports two other things that require supporting. Sounds like a marriage to me. And the Traverse bit is what we do inside a marriage because, let’s be honest, when the first fire of attraction has fizzled out like a Catherine wheel or a rocket and it’s cold out there and the embers are dwindling like embers do, we are both facing ‘traverse’.

I think we all expect a fairytale. Although I might be tempted to respond that there is no such thing, I cannot. I am definitely a believer in fairies, in magical, in angels and all the other dodgy beasts on the other side of that coin. At times it can feel like I am down with the dodgy and then something, or someone, lifts me into the world of ‘happy’. I have lived long enough as a fairy with dodgy pulls to know that this is life. This is my ‘traverse’. If you relate, then you will know. The problem we have is the Blame Ground. Ach, I know it well. It is bloody and rocky and without water for many miles. This ground can claim you, sorry, me. It can seduce.

As I am now wandering in the traverse, those endless miles of absolutely nothing and a load of absolutely somethings that bite and nip and trip and flounder me, I find myself seeking out a transverse, that lode bearing beam that links, that makes impossible possible. Okay it is with hindsight but who says I cannot achieve this now? Maybe that house on the hill that we built, the one that stayed standing but flooded us out, can live again. The more I age and the more I look to the future of the next lock keepers on life, the more I let go.

And as I do, even as I cannot see any future, I rest and just watch the sunset, the gift of it, gilt, and backing with a full moon, antsy and blue and commanding, and I chuckle.

Time I did.

Island Blog – Add the New and Let us Heal

Well, today was interesting. I went through my check list of new habits, ticking off this one and that. During that process, there were times of momental anxiety, as ever. Self doubt, quandary, up the stairs and down again. The usual. Moments when I doubt myself and never, ps and btw in the moment. I know my moments and they are mine and they are themselves and we work together nae bother. It is the times when I doubt something much bigger and all because a thought comes in. I now recognise these confounding thoughts as those rooted in the past, in childhood, in my marriage, in my gawky and faulty motherhood walk. Oh, Hallo, I say, I see you, I recognise you, I would like you to move back for now so I can see the moment. The moment shows clouds, bird-fly, trees moving in response to the wind, skies responding to whatever shit is going on up there way way way above my understanding.

I walked, although, confessing, I did not walk mindfully today. I walked blind. I was caught up in my thoughts, a gazillion of them and not many of them, if any, helpful nor relevant to the now me. This is the human condition. We are always at the mercy of our thoughts until we learn cognitive management and that is not control, much as we might long for it. No. It is the practice of noticing our thoughts, of stepping back from them and of assessing whether or not they are helpful in the now now. Our new now now. It does take practice. Hoping to be able to cope with a welter of thoughts at anytime is wanting to live in Disney. And, for you Scots, it disnae. I know Ive been at this for years but I am no model student. I can be overwhelmed easy. Like this day.

I am out there in my garden, which happens to be at the front of a lovely old stone house with views fantastic. Anyway, I am out there with seedlings and they are shouting at me to be planted, like we are so tired of this tiny pot, our roots are wound up like Freddie Mercury and Hallo? So I go out there with gravel for the planters and peat and topsoil and other witchy growing helpers and then in they come, the visitors, the lively, lovely dog-tastic, kitted up visitors with bins and backpacks and enthusiasm and a merry smile, their mouths oped for greeting and my peace is shattered. My nearly deaf dog catapults into hysterical terrier barking which has to be in discordant A minor on a badly tuned piano, and because she is fast, I can’t catch her, and because she is nearly deaf she can’t hear my voice and the whole lovely visitor thing turns into a frightful afternoon. Just like that.

They move on with their lovely dogs that don’t bark and I hide within in my turmoil. I know what this is. This is my challenge to get back out there, to get real, to find life again, the new life that I know will come from over a year of being in jail. For all of us. I shower. Change frocks. Look forward to seeing my beloved son tomorrow when his boat comes in to Tobermory. I get over myself. Do you?

This is an opportunity to hang on to the old. Or, it’s an opportunity to be curious about every single thing. This is a new world people. Do we want to be an active and loving part of it, or are we going to stay where we were, constrained by old ways and (seriously?) thinking that was ever helpful to a broken world that yearns to heal?

Island Blog – Avoiding Collisions

The big window is speckled with raindrops, held in stasis and they glisten. I look through the children’s doodles, the glistening raindrops, my eyes moving into the garden and the brave early flowers. Grassland flows down towards the sea-loch and up the other side, up and up until I find the clouds, a tangle of them, I think at first, and many shades of grey. Watching most closely I can see the layers. Up front, the cobwebby dark fast moving clouds, see-through and spitting rain. Behind them the fat blowsy white ones, lazy, taking their time too respond to a rising wind. They are weighty with knowing and in no rush, not see-through at all, like old professors who know they have a job for life. Further back, the clouds that don’t seem to move at all, flat like naan breads, backlit by a little flash of sun, and beyond them just whispy white sky, acres of it. Acres. How many layers are there? How far back, up, across do they stretch? For ever? I see these levels as closely bunched, micro managing their individual trajectories, but I am wrong. There is only accord. Room for all of us, they seem to say, effortlessly avoiding collisions.

The birds are more than ready for me this morning, one of cloud and cold rain. Many goldfinch, greenfinch, redpoll, siskin, sparrow, blackbird, robin, hawfinch, thrush, starling and rock dove. They line the fence, balance on shrubs, flit and flutter like music notes blown off the stave. Time to reel them in before the wind speed confounds and the rain turns weighty. I fill each feeder as the braver musical notes play around my feet, my head. Two goldfinch watch me from the inside of an ornamental maple, red now, red as good claret. The second I leave, they are down like a swarm of bees. As walkers pass by they rise back into the air, flitting between the feeders, between the shrubs, between each other, to land down again the moment the coast is clear, and all the time they chatter. Some feed young on the fence, some feed themselves, and in all this flitting and lifting, fighting and feeding, rising and landing, there is perfect precision. We know what we are doing, they seem to say, naturally avoiding collisions.

This land is walked on, now, by many more feet. The ferries are booked, the accommodation scrubbed and ready. In the air around us, anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear layer up, cloudlike . We are grounded and can only go on, steady, determined not to hide away any longer. Peeping through fearful curtains, opening doors that squeak from lack of use, scrubbing doorsteps, we emerge tentatively into a world that barely recognises itself. Who am I now? Who are you, now? Do we still know our way around each other, feel the same way about this, about that, about all the important things that ran strong within us but whose names I have forgotten? My sense of import has changed, my value rating. Has yours, and, if so, will we know each other, have anything to say in this changed world? We know we must brave up and out for we are not moles or worms to need the dark because we have no seeing eyes. We need the light, crave the light, the sky the birds the clouds the sun the tidal moon shift and the story-carrying winds that blow from one side of this planet to the other and back again. We need each other, even if the otherness has become a hesitation when we meet once again. Like all other members of our natural world, we can adapt. We are not going back to normal, an eye-rolling ghastly grammar-makes-no-sense contradiction of a sentence if ever I heard one, because that ‘normal’ is light years behind us now. There is only forward and we are all unsure of our footing. Let those of us who refuse to bring the past along with us hold fast to not having the faintest clue about what happens next, what the ground is like, what clouds will come, what shape the future. Burn the old book that speaks of separation, segregation, prejudice and domination. That book needs to go. It has been outdated for many many years. We might write a new book together. Meantime let us step out, step in, step through and around, consciously avoiding collisions.

Island Blog – Free Thinking

Cicero said, way back in the day when men wore skirts and women bathed in milk, Our Thoughts Are Free. I’ve thought about that a lot. My thoughts seem to come to me unbidden and unsought, triggered by something I have seen, heard or read. Some rogue thoughts are dangerous as they push like an uncontrolled mob into my mind, each jostling for prime position. Prime position requires the loudest voice and that voice is always critical, angry, accusing. How strange. How infuriating. Does this seriously mean that, even at my age, I must needs deal with these uninvited guests? Must I catch them sneaking in through the doors and windows of my mind and fell them with my trusty thought-feller?

I must – and daily. Thoughts are things, or they can become things – things like a choice of action or the decision to develop them inside my mind, bringing in my own resident judge, jury and courtroom full of hissing hecklers. I have done this a thousand times in the past until now. Now I am learning to stop and notice each thought, critical or uplifting; to step away from myself and to watch, a sort of eagle eye view of things, of me and my current thought. If the thought connects with something from the past, a cruel comment, a rejection or a mocking, it grows legs. I watch it happen. Now I have a choice, me on the outside of me. Will I allow this to grow and develop or will I tell it that it does not serve me, is irrelevant to who I am now, and that it should scoot back to the past. Even then, if I am completely honest, it was a cruel put down, unnecessary, point scoring. It was only me not noticing and thus allowing it to feed something I had heard in my youth, an opinion I then adopted. ‘That colour does not suit you at all!’ This just as we are leaving for an evening out. Or, ‘Your bottom is getting fat.’ These cruel comments can lead to a lifetime’s self-obsession, turning a grown woman into a jibbering wreck at the very thought of an evening out with her burgeoning bottom and her wardrobe full of unsuitable colours.

Now I laugh at all of it, now that I can see that my thoughts are under my control and not one other soul, living or dead, can take command. I wonder what life might have been had I noticed all this before, as a younger woman. Might I have laughed such comments away and said ‘I’m driving tonight; move over, my fat bottom needs more room and, just for the record, I am going out to buy another dress in this exact colour. Ready to go now?’ What might the response have been had I disarmed the attack without aggression? I have tried it, as an older woman, being assertive, and it absolutely works a treat. There is no winner because there is no fight. When himself told me, in anger, “You are just like your mother!” thinking to confound me, I responded with a big smile. ‘What a compliment!’ I said. He was silenced.

This morning I woke to an eerie light. Moonglow on the mist, the sunrise red gold through the pines. I watched this moving landscape, this ever changing masterpiece, unframed, free to move, year by year, month by month, day by day and my mind filled with thoughts. One was that I must call the plumber because the thermostat is set too high on the water tank, followed by various others. I noticed, made a list to remind me, set them free and turned back to the morning. Stags bellow, birds sing, the golden kelp floats up and down with the tides, and the moon, circled by a rainbow ring is lingering yet. Blue sky pushes away the clouds, and off they fly to other lands, just memories.

I have many frocks in the colour that doesn’t suit me. It isn’t rebellion. There is no fight. I just love it, that’s all, and now my bottom can fit comfortably in a high chair. I did no work on it at all. I simply began to notice my thoughts, work out the ancient connection to the past, separate and release. I recommend the work. It frees me from anxious fretting, lack of self-confidence, control by another (kept alive by me) and the chance to really live the way I choose to live.

‘If I could start again a million miles away, I would keep myself. I would find a way. ‘ Johnny Cash