Island Blog – Alone with Poppy

Me and Poppy watch the sky, she, in Popz’s marvellous chair that electrically lifts a human to standing point, and I in mine, that doesn’t. Mine is an ancient Orkney chair, all oak seat and rush backed, sturdy as a woman in a storm. I am fond of this chair. it wisnae mine, not really. My mother-in-law sat in it, her rightful place, although it dwarfed her, the wee round midget that she was with enough authority to clear a car park of hoodlums in seconds. I am not she, but I did learn from her and, from her, inherited my current seating.

Like her, I am now alone in this 1830 stone built home. Like her, although she never said, I feel the expanse of walls around me. I see the fields of carpet, the stretch of old floorboards. Like her I hear the hum of ancient plumbing in the night, random, unexpected, like burps. Like her, I study my old gnarled fingers and feel the tweaks as I try to sew and, like her, I say damn you old age! I will not give in easily.

We watch, me and Poppy, the cormorants on the rocks, their curved necks so telling. They preen and prink, black silhouettes from where we stand. Further along the track we find long tailed tits. I hear them and stop. When I stop, Poppy does too, alert. But she looks ahead, along the track whereas my eyes scan the trees. They are here, somewhere. And then I find them, picking off the new shoots from the birch and hazel. Of course they are. No tit could tackle a hazel nut. It would have to be this, the young shoots, the ones that bravely come out even knowing the next frost will kill them dead. The birds are on such an error of choice. They flit, dance, and are gone.

Last night we heard the darkling migration of swans. It woke us both, Poppy barking, me shushing her. Although we could not see a thing, we both moved to the window. She jumped up on the sill and my eyes scanned the black dark, knowing it was a fruitless attempt. We stopped. We looked. We heard them pass. Who knows how many but it took some minutes.

Well, I said, shall I make tea? Her huge eyes watched my face. Neither of us was going to settle immediately. In silence we descended the stairs. I know I am alone, but I am not lonely. I also know that this dog, this Poppy, is a helpmeet even if she has no clue what I am looking at, nor why. She just responds because she is tuned to me as I am to her. And, for all the time I have her, I am thankful.

Being lonely and being alone are not the same thing. I have been more lonely in a crowd, in a gathering, in a family, in my marriage than I ever am now. And, yet, it is new ground. This is it. This is for real.

I am glad I have Poppy.

Island Blog 80 Acorns

Dreams

Let’s say I have a dream.  Not one that requires a fairy and a wand, but  more like I’ve felt a change in the wind and I need to tighten my sail.  Oh, I’ll still arrive at the next shore in the end, but I could make all the difference to the quality of that arriving, if I made a correction or two.

Well that’s fine.  In the bag you might say.  After all, my big and agile brain has come to this conclusion.  I can just sit back now and watch it happen.

Wrong.

As the day begins I am a veritable bounce of good intentions.  I go about my list of tasks in the way I usually go about my list of tasks, but this time my step is lighter and my inner movie is definitely Disney.  I reel in the line of hours, wind them around my spool.  Done.

Ahead of me, I can see the old habit coming closer.  It’s part of the pattern, of course, so it will come closer and closer until it is right in my face and looking at me expectantly.

This is when I begin to tell myself that the whole commitment thing is pointless.  Who’s looking anyway?  Who cares?  I am still dashing along with verve and vigour, sails full, ahead of the game, aren’t I?

But I know different.  So how to make this change, that’s the question, and the answer is, baby steps.  I just need to correct my sail once, just once, and then to feel the shift and tell myself, Well Done!

Then, do it again the next day.

People we admire are always those who overcome themselves.  We all know what it is to be ‘ok’, doing away, not bad, and other such beige states of being.  We also, I think, imagine that those who overcome themselves, and therefore the mountains that block out their sun, are just lucky.

Lucky Schmucky.  No such thing.

You don’t get through to the Olympic team by luck, nor to Wimbledon, nor to the finals of The Voice.

What those ‘lucky’ people chose to do was to tighten their sails every single day and often during it.  They pushed themselves when others sat back in the sun with a pint pondering the meaning of life.  Over long lonely hours, they kept practising over and over and over again until they stepped out into the light with a Da-dah! and we all marvelled at their superhuman-ness, something each one of them would deny with a derisive snort.

I may not want to play at Wimbledon, join the Olympic team or sing on TV, but there will be something in my life I just know I want to change, if only that fairy would appear with her wand and make it happen.  If I do nothing, nobody will know.  But I will.  And when the fat lady sings, will I know that at least I tried?

We found an acorn and planted it in the woods, just pushed it into the soft peaty floor and moved on.

So did the acorn.  Now, it’s shade from the sun and shelter in a rain shower.