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 – Darkling grey, Gulls, Chips and Walking together

Rain soft morning, grey enough for the gulls to look like white-light dancers as they cut the sky, wheel, cant, tip and slide, effortless flight like they belong which of course they do. I watch with yearning. They make flight look so easy and their beauty erases the memory of fearsome beaks and stolen chips. I once sat on the harbour wall with chips and within seconds was every gull’s friend. They are massive close up and not very white and sky cutting once their big yellow webbed feet slink closer with a look of black intent in their currant eyes. A sideways step becomes a menace when flanked as I then was and I confess I did elevate my butt, moving it and the rest of me back into the safety of a tourism crowd.

However from my big picture window I can dream. I can watch the spike flight, the lift and luff of not-white currant-eyed, yellow footed gulls become snowy dancers against the grey rain sky and smile. We are miles apart after all and there’s this big picture window keeping me safe from beaks and chip snatchers. I watched the grey and the soft rain all morning, the way it slides my window into smoke, the garden bird colours losing their integrity, becoming a brush stroke flow and return as they flit from feeder to feeder. I sewed a bit, noticing the pinks of this baby girl playmat dulling somewhat. Oh, I thought. These pinks were brighter yesterday. And then I remembered art school. Everything affects everything. On dull grey days in Falkirk (plenty of those) even the primary colours were confounded. We can’t work with this, they said and refused to flow freely from their tubes. The grey weather (is it yellow grey or blue grey?) is sending you, art student, into a dithery looking thing. Concepts, precepts, upsets and greyness are colluding to confine you. It is the real artist who can rise from this, who can utilise whatever is on offer this grey day. I am thankful for those grey Falkirk days. Others might, and did, shake their heads and head for the pub on such grey days. But I wanted to learn, not just how to work with grey days but more, how to walk beside the grey, to have that conversation, and not to turn away. To engage with the grey and to find the colours within, the ask of colour, the beg for it, to take flight.

Life. Yes? It thinks me. Whilst walking beneath the grey soft rain, which I love because rain enhances colour in everything. An upside down electric blue beetle , a feather caught in branches, leaves, speedwell blue, buttery cups, the honey back of a bumble bee, the float and breeze flow of wild grasses, the imprint of horse hooves in sucky mud, even the shine on my jack boots, so much glisten. If I am looking I will see. If I am aware, present, engaged, I will find the art. When I look back on the gull thing, I know that, had I not felt watched by the crowd of tourists, I might well have stayed my ground. I wish I had. I wish I did not give a hoot about being watched. However, I was right in front of an outside cafe and there is only one way to look when the sea beckons and there I was, sat sitting on the harbour wall plus chips. Plus gulls.

In the grey lies endless opportunity. I tell myself that and myself knows it to be the truth. Grey is my life right now, of course it is. When a life goes into grey it has options. Think grey, dive in or flipping don’t. I’m a flipping don’t sort of woman. Even as I flounder and plod, wonder and dither, fill up endless hours with a this or a that, I know that this grey has colours. It isn’t that I must needs grow beyond grey because that says grey is dull and grey is far from dull. To make good grey on an artist’s palette I must bring in rose madder, cadmium red, ultra marine, cadmium yellow, maybe, cobalt, maybe, plenty maybes’ to be honest. Just a touch, just a tiny touch and everything changes. Just like life. I am working with the grey, looking deep into the eyes of it, the currant eyes, and saying, I am not afraid of you. In fact, I like you. Shall we walk together?

Island Blog – A Glorious Freedom

I set myself a challenge. This day I will not say a single negative word about a single soul, and, if a negative thought comes in about any said soul, I will picture them happy, laughing, safe, peaceful. Easy Peasy from my breakfast table, easy indeed from the early hour within which I awoke to a new day. T’was a lovely soft morning, the moon still hovering, the sun rising pink across the over-by hills. No worries.

I set off on the alpine switchback road to the little harbour town to hook up with a friend for a bench picnic, feeling quite the thing, until I met a ‘toddler’. This is a car inhabited by, usually, two old folks, with no plans to hurry. However, the driver does have plans. Whilst he, usually a ‘he’, and his she are watching the sky for birds, the hills for a Wow, the sudden dips that show deep lochs all blue and fabulous, and causing them to slide to an almost stop mid road, I am about to be late for my bench picnic meet. I hold back, understanding, until my understanding muscle is a taught rope, and I, politely, move closer. No change. We swing around another 25 bends passing endless passing places, and still he will not let me pass. Incoming friendly suggests to me that he might now pause so that he and his she can watch the flowers grow without me in my sassy Mini Cooper hooking onto his old butt. No, he pulls out quick. He stays his course. I hear my inner talk. He is telling me I should not be in a rush. I consider this ‘rush’ thingy. Ah, maybe he is right. Maybe I, too, can watch the flowers grow for another 8 miles. I think on the past year when the only people I ever met on this single track were carriers, workers, carers, the postpeople. All of a sudden, the toddlers are back and I know, I know, we need them and they are welcome and I love all people ya-di-ya.

Eventually he lets me by and his face is turned away from my ebullient sunshine thank you smile. Okay, whatever. I collect my friend and I tell her of my personal challenge for the day. She chuckles. Ah, you may have invited in something there my friend. Ha! I say and we swing into the big harbour car park because I need fuel and this is where the garage is located. As I drive in, just as I have done for over 43 years towards the pumps, a big ass vehicle comes right at me, nose to nose. I stop, thinking no judgement, and reverse back. As he (!) comes forward he winds down his window. I smile. I think you will find that this is a one way system, he says. For a moment I am confounded. A lot goes through my head. I have been here 43 years. I know this is the way to the pumps, or one of two ways. I see no one way system sign. Then I feel outrage build. But I cannot allow it because of my stupid self challenge. My friend beside me snorts into her hands and the giggle rises in me. I didn’t say Why, Thank you Kind Sir For Guiding Me Right. Sadly. I wasn’t quick enough with myself. I just looked at him in amazement. I thought, gosh how sad your life is that you need to be aggressive on your holiday. And I binned that because I wasn’t seeing him happy, laughing, safe and peaceful. What shall we we do now? asked my friend. This was an easy answer. We, I replied, are going to drive all the way around the one way system that does exist, the wrong way. And we did.

The picnic was fab. We sat on a bench in the sunshine having bought quiches from the bakery and we laughed like girls. We are both heading for 70 but somehow nothing changes when girls/women get together. We laughed about the One Way Man and sent him whatever he needs which is probably quite a lot, and walked, talked and helped the Navy moor up their ships on the pontoon. What I learned from this, from my self challenge, is that irritation is human, hard not to buy in to. But not to buy into it feels like a glorious freedom.

Island Blog – Little Giants

As the rain and wind continue for us on the island, I hear of sunshine weather on the East. Conflicted am I in my response to this for we are so very sick of soggy sheep, no grass and battered daffydowndillies. We are now officially up-fed of jumping in muddy puddles. They have, quite simply, lost their first flush. Our wellies are as wet within as they are without. Now just listen to me! I have lived 40 plus years on this, my beloved rock of ages, and the weather has aye been thus. I say that the weather doesn’t bother me. I speak it from my mouth, let it spurt from my lips. I snort derisively at all weatherly complaints, but there are times when what comes from my mouth bears little relation to the words in my heart. This, I tell myself, is living positively. My filtration system is strong. I am in control of my words. Feelings come, despondency comes, hope escapes to warmer climes, vision blurs and I can sink into the circumstances. But not for long and this is why. I see myself. Look, there you are you eejit, with your insidely wet wellies, all puddled and, well, stupid, that’s what. First I chuckle at the very sight of me. Then I grab my puddled self by the oxters and heave. Get the flip up, and right now. The little giant in me is back in charge. I apply more mascara, blusher and liner to remind myself how I can look when I de-puddle. Not bad for an old girl. Not bad for a little giant.

I like feeling little, with potential. I don’t actually want to be a giant on the outside of me but I am more than happy to nourish the one within. She, btw, is uber strong, indomitable, open and beneficent, even to herself. She has weapons but rarely employs them. They are more for a swashbuckle show to be honest but she loves the whoosh of a razor sharp blade cutting through the air. She loves to hit bullseye. She enjoys leaping fences and boundaries if someone else is in trouble. She loves to be ready. On the outside of her, she looks as she always looked but within…….oh the within is busy honing hope into ploughshares, ready for every twist, turn and puddle of life.

However, it is very important for her not to waste time wishing she never puddled in the first place, for she is as likely to catch a chill as anyone else. It thinks me, well, both of us. We could do with getting closer to each other but not to make anyone else feel they have got it all wrong, that an innate giant comes as a gift to some and not to others. This is bullshit. The thing about the inner little giant is a simple decision to believe there is one in there somewhere, no matter how much puddling has gone before, no matter failures, mistakes, regrets, shames and lost opportunities. It makes no odds to this sleeping power how long it has been required to sleep. In fact, the longer the sleep, the more refreshed is this inner self, the one who can always be called upon, once awakened. All that matters is to awaken it, to awaken her, or him. To say a tentative ‘hallo……are you there?’ To believe in her. And, the wonderful thing is that, once awake, this little giant needs no further sleep. Not never.

‘Little’ suggests potential growth and development and this is the best news of all. We all begin little, peering up at big people, watching their every move, learning daily by example. The little giant is the same but with a twist. This little giant has already learned whilst asleep, has absorbed every single thought, feeling, action we ever made in our whole life and her only purpose is to build on our strengths. The giant is not interested in wasting time over failures, regrets, shames and lost opportunities. Poof to that load of whatever! This inner power is ready, only, to educate us in who we can become from where we are right now. We might to begin by sharpening a pencil and writing one sentence. We might choose an online course that excites and terrifies us. We might decide to embark on a healthier way to live. But whatever we choose begins with an idea, a tiny baby of a thing, with no surety of success, whatever that means. We will still puddle, we will still hear the skittering of past failures, regrets and shames across the attic of our minds, but once the little giant gains purchase, they will just run away, because there is no point remaining if they are never listened to. They will just scoot off to find someone else in a puddle.

So, the beginning is now. For me the beginning is every morning. I can still flip from puddle to sky and back again but the little giant is one hell of a woman and I want her at my side. The skitterers can not helpful to me anymore, if, indeed they ever were. Oh, I still hear them in the attic, little feets across the boards up there among old black cobwebs long devoid of living spiders. I roll my eyes and smile at my giant and, together, we frock up and descend the stairs into a new day of god knows what.

Island Blog – Dark Light

The past few days have shown me things. Things I welcomed, things I turned away from like a girl from a stalker. The morning came and eventually went, turning into another long afternoon. I find afternoons go on for far too flipping long, not least because some people consider the hour of 5 o’clock as being the fulcrum of an afternoon whereas I see it as a thank goodness it’s evening at last, and no fulcrum of anything at all but more a springboard into the warm waters of relief. Now, at last, I can turn my tired body into collapso armchairo, thus making it okay to watch Line of Duty or whatever. And my body does get tired, but only when I notice it. Before I do this noticing thing, I am simply aware of confusion, a confusion of bone, muscle, emotion and tension. I ask What is Wrong with me? Me says nothing for she has no answer in her mouth. Perhaps her silence communicates her lack of any answer at all. Perhaps she is mocking me, eyebrow arched, snort at the ready. You should know the answer, she might say, had I waited long enough. Should. That most unfavourite word, that remonstration, that inference of judgment, the one that always shoots me back down the snake to square one.

I went to church today for the first time in over a year. I had lost my something or other before lockdown and didn’t attend, couldn’t face people, concerned questions that would have demanded answers for these are good people, friends. I had nothing in my head, nothing in my mouth but spit and poison. He was dying by then, fading, departing and with such good grace, that good grace that leaves the one left behind with a shit load of stuff to sort, organise, plan and implement. And he was fine about all of that. I recall the biggest trouble in the home was if the local shop had run out of apricot yoghurt, full fat. It made for an indigestional return to HQ. It was all he ate.

The church is beautiful with stained glass images sensitively painted, a curved dome ceiling, decorated in colour and flight, old oak pews and warmth. We spaced ourselves (distantly) wearing our masks. The organist, a woman, girl really, danced her fingers over the keys lifting us and the glorious music into the perfect acoustical space. It was a gentle time, and I hadn’t wanted to go at all despite volunteering to write an opening prayer. People? Gathering? Driving down the road in this rain? None of it. But I am so glad I went, for it proved to be a something I welcomed in. The ridiculousness of waving at each other when once we hugged and blew laughs and stories right into each others’ faces; the way we sat, not together, sharing tales of the week, but two pews apart, all mystical and bonkers. I hunkered into my warm jacket, wondered if it was clean, if my boots had mud on them, if anyone behind me was wondering How is She? Only 6 and a bit months since her husband of almost 50 years just yoghurted out. I thought, How shall I sit so as not to bother anyone? Head bowed, head up, legs crossed, not crossed? Will I falter as I read this prayer, will the music unravel me?

All of that happened but it didn’t matter. Why is that? because, despite a year of tribbling and swithering about God being in his heaven or even if either of those big things exist at all, I was among my friends, those who care about me as I do about them. I come home in the rain feeling different. This unwelcome thing became a welcome one. It thinks me of dark light. I know dark light. I met it this morning at 3.45 am. Oh good lord, I said, then swore. You again. And swore once more only better. I got up, pulled on warm stuff and made for the kettle. I sat in the dark conservatory, no moon, no stars, slow clouds, no birds. This, I said, is the dark light poets write about, this place between night and day, between welcome and unwelcome, between me and the next chapter, between fear and action, between anxiety and decision. I know you Dark Light, I whispered.

Hallo, said Dark Light. And we chatted for a while until the sun hefted his ass above the horizon. Can you tell me something? I asked, turning back to my companion. But he was gone

Island Blog – Grief, Music and Cooking

I miss him. It’s like I am forgetting the last ten years of caring and remembering the before times, the good times. I wake at 2 am, cold, and turn to borrow his warmth. It really shakes me at first until I remember where his body now lies, in the frozen ground. I feel the warmth of his hand in mine, that I Am Safe Now feeling. I never slept well, unlike him but he always woke enough to calm whatever storm was going on inside me. I miss him. I wish I had told him he was my everything but I did not. The way we changed, the children who came and whose needs became our modus operandi and our division bell, the way life upped and downed us, all stopped my mouth. Why didn’t I say it? I just don’t know. My deep need for independence was of such importance to me that I forgot to remember the basics. Ah, regrets! All I can do now is to talk to him as I move alone through my days. I am thankful for the rise of good memories even as they do not come without guilt and regret. This is grieving.

Downstairs I flip on the radio. The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. A tad cruel. I think back on Mike, Angie and their two sons in our big kitchen at Tapselteerie. We are sharing tea and cake and Mike is telling my kids, whose eyes are on stalks before this celebrity visitor, that he had never had a guitar lesson in his life, that he taught himself in his bedroom. It is just what they needed to hear. it doesn’t matter how you develop your passion, he says, just as long as you do develop it. Remember that. When I look at my five children now, as adults, passionate about their work and with barely a qualification between them, I know they took Mike’s words to heart.

I empty the fridge drawers of veg. Onion, garlic, butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes, apple, ginger, lime, red pepper, leek and kalamata olives. Add honey, balsamic vinegar, tinned tomatoes, white wine, herbs and seasoning. It simmers now on the range and will last me days. I always cook for a platoon. Old habits die hard. I make a flavoured olive oil (extra virgin) mix and pour it into one of those sealable jars. I soak more sun-dried tomatoes for a little, chop them and add them to the oil mix, for later, for lunch perhaps, in a tortilla wrap, not that I have ever worked out how to fold those damn things effectively. I always need a shower after a tortilla wrap. The music plays on.

Poppy dog comes downstairs. She doesn’t mind that it is still night time for most people; she just works with my wakefulness and if I am up then it must be breakfast time. I boot her out into minus 2 degrees for a quick pee and prepare her food. Dried kibble topped with raw carrot slices and a few bits of chopped chicken to draw her in. Kibble, after all, is a bit dull on its own. I order a small extending lead for our daily walks for she is going deaf and no longer hears my callback should we meet another dog. Although she is all bark and no bite, or all fur coat and no nickers, it can alarm folk, the noise and the rush of her. I think of how it is these days without tourists and of how all that will change when they return to walk around Tapselteerie, to lose themselves inside her wild beauty. We islanders have enjoyed a year now of peaceful bliss even as we need visitors and their cash. One side of the coin and the other. It thinks me.

Ten years of caring and I am glad it is over. 49 years of marriage and I miss him. How tricky it is to find perspective in those two opposing thoughts. How fine it will be when I do. When he was declining, I became practical and cool. I stayed that way right up to his dying. Perhaps I became what was necessary and productive for the times but now, as I begin to soften, I have regrets. Can anyone hold balance when facing the appalling horrors of dementia? Perhaps not. One day I will write on this, but not yet. My inner writer tells me there are many miles to go yet. Many miles too, till morning.

Island Blog – All About Henry

I awaken into a beautiful crisp morning, all blue sky and Wolf Moon shining enough light to afford me a greenish wander from kitchen door to kettle. Barefoot, I encounter what I already knew was there, even if I have been keeping my eyes above floor level for a few days. Dust. Bits of dropped food. Fluff. Well Dammit, I mutter. I will need to take action today. Knowing, as I do, my excellent ability to distract myself from housework, I decide to add another dull task as a sort of punishment. The bathroom needs cleaning. These days I can ignore the bathroom-needing-cleaning thingy for days. When Himself was still above ground, it needed cleaning daily and I accepted the work as a part of my morning routine without question. Even before that I would clean it just in case the Bathroom Police dropped in to check. But, now there is no Himself and absolutely no chance of anyone dropping in, let alone the BP, I have grown indolent and Henry mutters away to himself in the dark of the cupboard below stairs. He is bored, I know it, but I also know that precisely because I have neglected him, he will take full advantage of today’s outing for he is mischievous and resourceful.

I can hear him now, as if he is reading my thoughts, or maybe I spoke out loud. He has perfect hearing and I know this as he knows I know this. I move towards the door and open it a glimpse. I hear rustling. It could be him or it might be a scuttle of mice who have enjoyed a long period of quiet, undisturbed. Hallo Henry, I say, my moon face peering into the darkness. Are you where I left you or have you relocated? Are you hiding? I know he is shy. My hands find him and I begin to tell him where we will work this morning. He grins. It’s quite an area of carpet I plan to let him loose upon and he is full of anticipation.

First we climb the stairs and I thank him for being light. My previous carpet sucker, a very expensive Miele, weighed a flipping ton and refused to recover on stair work after I pulled too hard on her trunk, thus sending her into a series of backflips thus landing her, most undignifiedly, on her back, her belly exposed to the world. At that point I recall sitting down for a think. Perhaps, I thought, I should buy myself a male hoover this time and one that weighs less than an SUV, one with a very long and hand-winding flex, no electric one that almost but not quite draws in the cable, one with bags I can bin instead of having to wash out the catacomb of Miss Miele every time in order to get rid of the smell and the bits.

When I first met Henry, I thought everything would now be easy and un-smelly. I was wrong on the second count. It was so depressing because now I had no chance of washing out the innards. I was hardly going to bin a bag after every hoovering session after all. Once I had risen from my depression, I decided to seek some fragrant oil, one that could be dripped onto the filter, and one that just might do the trick. It did. But for Henry’s shyness there seems to be no cure. He snags in every doorway. I encourage, wheedle, soothe, beg even, but nothing overcomes this unfortunate trait. I try empathetic questions. Is it because you are embarrassed to be cleaning? Is this a Macho Man thing? Are you afraid the Bathroom Police are in the next room just waiting to laugh at you, to mock and deride? To say, This is Women’s Work, in that idiot man sort of way? Henry just grins and keeps schtum.

In the bathroom, quite alone with me, Henry sucks bravely, intent on his work. I wheech off the brush and point the nozzle at the corners and the edges. We move behind and under everything that isn’t stuck down and I feel quite jaunty at the difference we are making. Hoover/Woman synergy, a sort of bond between us and I turn to tell him so. My mistake. Never trust the smile of a man who says nothing, for there is a deal of control planning going on behind that face. In that moment of complacence Henry sucks up a cleaning sponge and a cloth. Just like that, straight into his belly, no chewing. Henry! I admonish, and here he turns to the skirt of my frock. It takes me a few seconds to reclaim myself even if I do realise there is no chance said frock would disappear in the same way up that proboscis, affixed as it is to other parts of my body which would need surgical removal in order to allow such a snatch. After I have a word with him about respect for a co-worker, the engine silenced, we continue across the landing and down the stairs. He only backflips once and I right him with abject apology. Now we are cruising and, apart from two further attempts to pull my frock off, eliciting a raised eyebrow from me, we lift the dirt from all floors, up and down.

I thank him and return him to the mice and the dark. The house smells lovely and I tell him so. I thank him for his help and say magnanimously, as an afterthought, that he can keep the cloth and the cleaning sponge. As I close the door, I can hear him chuckle.

Island Blog – Shape Shift, Jump and Dream

I woke this morning with thoughts of a lowly nature, aka, negative. Although I find the way our culture always veers from one extreme to another, from superb to ghastly, from white to black without any noticement of the myriad greys betwixt and between, infuriating, I cannot easily find said greys between negative and positive. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that your light is either on or it’s off and were you to affix your wires wrongly, you might explode.

So, back to the negative thoughts. I am unworthy of joy, of any good thing coming to me; I am not God’s favourite wee girl; I do not deserve to be happy. That sort of negativity. On rising into my frocks and warm woolly jumper (positive word, for one cannot jump much when feeling un-jumpworthy), I considered my thinking. We humans have approximately 6000 thoughts each day. If, I mused, each thought was worth, say, £1, then by close of play this night, I will have earned myself £6,000, whether negative or positive in construction. It is quite a thought, and that’s another £1 in the bag. However, this amount of cash in my mental bank account does not determine my level of happiness nor my sense of well-being (another phrase I detest). So, how might I both earn the cash and update my bank of happiness? Let’s break it down.

I have one egg left. Negatively speaking. But at least I have one egg left. Positive update. My pile of logs is outside and it’s raining. But I have logs and a waterproof jacket. I am not feeling like sewing today. I have sewing to occupy my hours. My audio book is about to finish and I have used my free credit for this month. I have access to many more, some of them free.

I am sure you are getting this. As I turn around my thinking, I begin to feel much better. Just look at how lucky I am, how blest, how filled with abundance in my life! I even feel like a wee jump or two, and all I have done is to re-arrange my thoughts, to shape shift them. It is the easiest thing in the world to do, this inner flipping, but I must be vigilant and diligent and on the ball with myself in order to avoid the claggy bog. And I want to avoid it. Life is short (another detestable cliche) and I wish my own life to mean something to me, not just to other people. For most of this short life I have made others my priority. Now there is just me and it would be so easy to fall into despair and pointlessness. I will not do it. It becomes a game. A thought comes in, earning me cash. I look it straight in the eye. You do not serve me, I say out loud to no-one there. I shall flip you. And, thus I earn another £1.

Today I plan to apply for a renewal on my passport. On reading the instructions online, I discover that the photo of this old girl must be taken with no background at all, no pictures, plants or shadows. A cursory glance around my rooms tells me the photo won’t be taken here. And, there’s another thing. My photo must be captured from 5 feet away. Now even I will find it hard to be 5 feet away from myself. Well, dammit, she says, negatively. So, plan B must involve another person who could easily stand 5 feet away from me. I can remove pictures from a blank wall, not smile, not look away, stand absolutely still and wait for the click. However miserable I look in this stand-still-don’t-smile photo, the image will not stop my thinking. All the while I will be adding cash to my inner bank as I travel back to Africa, or to Spain, or to wherever the heck I choose. I will be walking on board, showing my blank face to some official, endeavouring, as I always do, to make him or her smile and failing as I always do. I will come through passport control with anticipation butterflying beneath my ribcage, my eyes searching for that well-loved face, anticipating that bear hug. This time will come again, one day, and I just earned myself another bunch of cash.

Meanwhile, I will continue to shape-shift my thoughts. I will listen to audio books whilst I sew and jump and dream of the lands of Faraway where we can all be our own selves once again, when we can look up into the wide open sky and know we got through this, not by doing nothing, but by doing absolutely everything we could possibly do in the most positive of ways.

Island Blog – Up to Me

Morning has broken on this beautiful island and I am ready for the day. I write down all my sins of yesterday, something I do in order to release them. I see them fall away into the earth as neutral energy. Any actions I regret, thoughts that don’t serve me and, in particular, any poor-little-me conversations with my inner self, are all dealt with pre the boiled egg. It has become a habit. Once a habit is formed, it begins to trust in me and grows roots whilst pushing up a bit of green to catch any sunlight that might just be available in between hail showers. Life is like this, I think. I may be alone with nobody now to correct the trim of my sails with a raised eyebrow or a ‘shush’ or a ‘do you mind if I tell you something’ pre-cursor to criticism, but I am still responsible for my behaviour at all times. I yawn. It was so much easier when the judge lived with me (not that he always donned his wig and banged his gavel) to live in a well-established state of defence and defiance. Now that all of me is down to, well, all of me, I can spin a bit on my axis, if I am honest.

When everything, every moment, is my own choice, I no longer have to fight. I longed for that back when the naughty step grew flat and submissive beneath my butt. My voice does not rise in a whine and nor does my wordsmithing brain need to find big long words to justify or explain myself, as I sought to confound him with eloquence and delivery. Arguing with myself takes longer, seeing as both of us are wordsmithing away with equal power and a shared determination not to lose the battle, and it seems pointless anyway, because I know what I am going to say and what the impact of it will be and so does she. It’s like playing scrabble with myself.

Once I have written down my sins and before delivering them, mindfully, back into the earth as neutral energy, I eat the bit of paper. Biro tastes better than felt tip pen, I have discovered, even if it does turn my tongue black. The symbolism amuses me. Eat your sins, swallow, digest and let them go. Then decide not to sin again. Roger that, I say, even as I know that I must stick to my habit forming programme if I wish to avoid falling into the same sinship today. To be honest, my ‘sins’ are more like errors of judgement but I use the ‘sin’ word because it fits me like a crown, or it used to. Believing that you never quite get it right for decades makes it harder to budge such a belief, for it has big strong roots and a good ear for triggers. The cadence of a voice can flip doodle me; certain words or the catch of a sideways look; a silence; a less than welcome ‘Welcome!’ And these are fed by my incredible imagination, one that scoots me from Alice to the Wicked Witch of the West in a heartbeat. I hear what I think I want to hear even if I never want to hear it again.

What to do?, I ask myself, but she is as clueless as me and just sits there looking like a spare part, her face vacant. Well, someone needs to think this through and that’ll be me and so I write down everything from my thoughts, through to my ‘sins’, and on beyond to my goals and aspirations. Then I jot down the ‘how to’ of each and I’m already rolling my eyes at all that homework. But homework always was and is the key to change as I discovered by not doing it when at school. When Penny or Liz or Melanie charged forth in History or Maths or even Latin, with smug smiles and a pat on the head from Teacher, I was sent to the naughty step. What I didn’t seem to understand is that being a rebel is all very well providing you have a cause, and know clearly what that cause is, the how to and what and why of it. I have learned since those days that homework is essential, whatever life I choose to live, that daily practice (yawn) is the key to that door into a new place, and the only one. I honestly believed that something or someone would come to save me, make me happy and free of sins, but, of course, this is just a fairytale and never happens to nobody, including me.

So, once again, and with renewed energy, I start stepping through the morning, the hail stones, the beauty of this sea-girt land. I notice everything (excluding the un-hoovered carpet which is an exception to all rules) mindfully. I notice how I feel and what I think. I notice what tries to push me forward into action. Will it serve me, make me feel good about me, ease my troubled conscience? If t’is a no, then no it shall be, even though it is much harder to stay strong when there is only me and myself watching.

The naughty step is lonely now. I feel a bit sorry for it and sit on it now and again whilst I read from a book on self-improvement or happiness or self-control for we are long time friends. Then I look up and I smile out into the empty room, remembering that if it is to be, it is now entirely and exclusively up to me.

Island Blog – Eating Crow and the Saltbreaker

This morning opens wide, unfractured by rain, rain we have enjoyed for what feels like weeks, although it is probably only days. Funny that, how much heavy rains weigh on a soul. The ground is soft and boggy, the puddles digging the ground deep as if a mighty spoon had dipped at random into the earth, tasting it, and leaving we-with-legs at a disadvantage. In among the trees, the stand-water is peaty brown and clear but for the drowning mosses, a vibrant green for now. Coppery beech leaves and sienna needles lay on their backs looking up. I see the sky in the gaps between, the arms of the overhanging trees, bare now, skeletal. On the track the puddles are the colour of milky coffee and blank, saying nothing much. The road mix does that when so rudely rained upon, releasing the concrete from the concrete bits and, then sulking. Jumping in these scooped out holes can be risky. I have lost half a small child before now and had to carry her home soaked and wailing in fury at this assault on her trusting young self.

Along the shore the freshwater springs bubble in excitement. They love heavy rain, as do the burns that slip over old rocks, tumbling into a wild froth as they plash into deep pools. Under the track, over the track and down the track this clear clean life-giving water flows with confidence, pausing only to navigate a fallen branch. I wade in to remove it and am rewarded with the music of uninterrupted water flow. I think on the endlessness of such a flow on the island and it gives me comfort. I tell myself that the turning of the world, the rise and fall of the tides, the lift and glow of Father Sun and Mother Moon all contrive to assure me that no matter what goes on for me, for the rest of us living out our lives, all these are magnificent constants. For all my sins and mistakes, for all my errors of judgement, my flapdoodles, my panics, doubts and fears, the earth keeps on keeping on. And I am instantly at peace. After all, can I add one day to the rest of my life by worrying about it? Obviously not! I am surely better to engage with the magnificence of life, reminding myself by walking out into its ever-changing beauty, regardless of the weather, paying focussed attention to every single thing I see; being curious; stopping to really look and to notice how I feel about what I see.

There is a crow in my garden. It entertains me daily as it heralds its appearance with flaps and caws. First it lands on the fence and looks rather stunning against the cloud-shift sky. It eyes me, black jet, and obviously decides I am no threat. Then it performs a loop and twist until it (just) manages to duck under the roof of the bird table, landing clumsily among the spread of songbird seed. It’s songbird seed, I tell it through my window, not crow seed. In fact, I thought crows favoured carrion and rubbish from dustbins. Not songbird seed. It ignores me and scoops up beakfuls of what does not belong to it, quite without guilt. I wonder what it’s like to be without guilt? I have no idea, being more than ready to feel it most of the time. Eating crow. It thinks me. The past is, well, past and I can do diddly squat about it beyond giving it my appreciation and gratitude. It did, after all, get me this far. It made me who I am and I am mostly okay with I Am. But, and here’s the rap, I must be consciously aware all of the time, of the power of inner heavy rain and drowning puddles. This is my work. This is my purpose. I am that purpose and from me will come many wonderful things as long as I am vigilant and curious, grateful and looking up and out, always ready to learn.

When saltwater meets fresh they work together. Saltwater is dense, heavy and a pushy creature; freshwater, bubbling spring water from deep deep down inside the earth is lighter but an equal to its cousin. Fresh water dilutes salinity, floats on top of the mighty ocean, reflecting the sky, bringing in nutrients and stories, creating more. The saltbreaker. I like that, this synergy, this endless, boundless wealth of water, and it reminds me that all of this is living inside me too. The ebb and flow of days, the wax and wane of the moon, the golden glow of an inner sun, the healing rain and the odd crow.