Island Blog – Needs, Things and Each Other

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I need, what I think I need and what I don’t actually need at all. What I need is one thing and what I think I need quite another. What I need is what we all need, love, community, friendship, social encounters, a roof over our heads, food for our bellies, heat to warm us on cold days and nights. We need a bed to sleep in, a pan to cook with, a plate to eat off. And so on.

The second need is the one ‘I think’ I need and thoughts, as we all know, can be fickle friends. As I dash to re-purchase this thing online, or jot that one down on a shopping list, I pause to question myself. Could I manage without this thing? Do I really need to Subscribe and Save on mascara for instance or Evening Primrose oil or Dog chews? Could I find, perhaps, an alternative once the one I have turns solid or runs out or better, learn to live without it at all? The answers are all in the affirmative (although stepping out without mascara is a scary thought) so I make myself wait a while in order to stop my knee jerking. The absolute necessity of most ‘things’ fade into mist eventually. It is astonishing how very much I can easily do without and, I notice, these apparent needs that caused me momentary panic not so long ago, are always just things. After all I never need to write down, Call this child of mine, remember a birthday, send a card or letter or email of encouragement. I never forget the not things in my life. But in the realm of things lie all the troubles. Things need us too much, and not the other way around. They matter disproportionately, our material needs, the number of ‘Likes’ we get on Facebook, for example or the followers on Instagram and so on.

But it is people who matter, not things, never things. Rich or poor, surrounded by ‘things’ or without them we have a choice when it comes to sharing ourselves, our light, our conversation and our interest in each other. All the not things worth everything cost absolutely nothing, not a penny, not a sou. So next time you are assailed by a sudden need for a thing, even to the point of complete panic, breathe out that breath, blow it away and with it all the nonsense thought-chatter because inside that huge brain of yours lie a million neural pathways, each one leading somewhere you may never have travelled before. And, given enough quiet breathing in and out, enough space created between the apparent need and that sweet but infuriating voice of inner intelligence, you may well discover, as have I, that whatever promised to make life perfect is a liar.

The issue of what I actually don’t need at all lies entirely inside my own head. Now that I have learned to stop and to question the knee jerk, the have-to-have thing, I am laughed at how faithfully I have responded to date. I was a sheep, in truth, following the flock even if each one ahead of me fell off the cliff. How ridiculous! But once aware, always aware and I am busy awareing, particularly so since the hacking when access to any purchase slammed a door in my face, when this hacker infiltrated my social media, broke down the very walls within which I had felt completely safe. It is freeing. I can feel myself rising from sheep into intelligent woman and it’s not a new feeling. Each time I have noticed my fall into mindlessness, in whatever area of my life, the thoughtless following behind the others, it has laughed me. Good lord, what the heck am I doing, or, more likely, not doing? I think we can all be mindless at certain times in our lives when we find our ship foundering on the rocks of trouble, when the walls fall down and we stand naked in the wind and rain. In desperation we try to grab hold of all we held so dear, all that, we thought, kept our walls firmly around us. And although we might blame the ‘hacker’ initially, we can be honest with ourselves. We needed this rock-founder in order to think as an intelligent being, to reconsider the way we are living our life. But we are normal, we are human and all of us want our life to continue just as it did before. However, Life never goes back, only forwards and if we can accept this, embrace Change in her attending discomfiture, then we are the ones who are truly alive. We are adventurers, we are brave, we are mindful beings in a mindless world.

So let the stop stop you. Let time go by and ask yourself, as I asked my own self, What is really lacking here? Is it the thing I feel I cannot live without or am I just lonely, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, sad? When a person has the courage to ask those questions, the patience to wait for an answer and the trust to address the real issue, a way will show itself. Not the old way but a strange new way on a road heretofore untravelled, at least by us. On this road, this path there is laughter. On this path everyone makes mistakes, founders and falls down but all around are those to lift, to encourage, to make you laugh, to hold you up until you once more find your footing because all around you are others who know, have learned themselves, that what we all really need is each other.

Island Blog – Try It

I don’t have a single thing to grumble about, not one, not even half of one. I have a roof over my head, one I can safely presume will be still over my head on waking the morra. I have five strong and healthy children and 12 ditto grandchildren. I have the freedom to choose what I will eat tonight with no fear of lack or hunger pains. I have fresh clean ever-flowing water, a telephone, a cooker, a bathroom and flushing loo, two of the latter. I have no restraints on my goings out nor my comings in. My day is my own. The list could fill a book and I am daily grateful for my health, my lot in life, my past and my present and there’s the key. To live in the present is to have life by the cajones. To be in touch, connected, engaged and curious is the only way to live a life to the full. Of course there are sad moments, down days, self-pity parties and la la but who doesn’t have them? However a grateful heart will always find something to be thankful for even in those times, even if it is only appreciating the fact that there are shoes on feet that fit, ones without sole holes.

I think that humans spend way too much time overthinking themselves. Burrowing into the regrets, blame and resentment of the past is so daft it’s hilarious. Oh, so you think you can change the past by doing this burrowing thing? You cannot. It was. It is not anymore. So, looking at the anymore right now begs a curiosity, a thankfulness for the butter on my bread, the fact that I can walk, hear, see, hold someone close and give the gift of a smile or a kindly word means everything. There is no other thing as good as everything and those of us who live by this creed, who have done the daily work required to shift a natural negative outlook on life to a positive and thankful one are the happiest people in the world. We are not cash rich and there are ‘things’ we might think we want. We are possibly bereaved, abandoned, neglected or even abused but none of these will control our thinking and, as you already know, our thoughts control our perception of life and even create our circumstances. Think well on that the next time you begin to list your ailments. Nobody wants to hear because every single one of us has them, one way or another. Instead, ask how are you? Did you love ice cream when you were a kid? What’s the naughtiest thing you ever did? What’s your favourite music? Do you have bluebells in your garden? Do you have a pet parrot, pig, lizard, rat, horse, dog, cat, extra terrestrial?

In other words, (or questions) lift lift the conversation until you are the one upbeat person everyone wants to bump into. The elevation you bring will elevate you too. Trust me, I am flying home from the local shop most days. It really works and the long term benefit of a fun, upbeat, interest-in-others attitude means that try as I might to find something to grumble about, either in the present or the past, I find myself at the bottom of the barrel with nothing in my hands. And, as to the future…..well I am certain that a heart thankful for every tiny little thing that means I am still alive and really appreciating every single gift might well mean that heart beats on because it is excited, enlivened, shared and treasured.

Try it.

Island Blog – Nothing Else Matters

My life is golden, a flower, one that has lain dormant (but plotting) for many soggy months, one that is now above ground, looking up and out towards summer. I have seen oh so many summers but this one is new to me and I can feel the fizz of excitement in anticipation. As I sit on the stoep, feeling the warmth of Father Sun on my bare skin and watching seabirds wheel and cant, hear the chase-off when a buzzard comes in to their air space, or a sea-eagle, I smile and whisper a thank you. As I hear a distant woodpecker nattering at deadwood in a call for a mate or see siskin and goldfinch on the nijer seed, I feel the free space around my body for I am a part of this burgeoning Spring day. I listen to my neighbours enjoying a barbecue with friends, a just over the hedge spiral of shared talk and laughter as their little ones demand another rib or a water pistol and I smile through my happy solitude. I see the sea-loch calm and soft beneath a wide sky and wonder about the life beneath the surface. I think about ‘surface’, the way I can see something that appears to be the truth only to discover that it is anything but, like the way I might think a person is until I get to hear their story. So much depth, so much history, so much about experiences I have never had nor ever will. I hear the words, Be Careful, in my head and I will. Be Care Full. I want everyone to know the peace I feel, the acceptance of a life golden because for those of us who do not face danger every single minute, nor abuse, we who have a home, a place in space, enough food in the fridge and our health and strength, our memories and our family do indeed live a golden life. A daffodil life. We can rise through the sog and bog of winter into a new timeline, a new day every day. We can walk in freedom and, if we have eyes to see, we can watch it all in awe and gratitude. We cannot change the lives of all those millions of others who have not even one of our life gifts but we can spend time appreciating our own, noticing them, naming them, listing them.

My children and theirs are well and happy. My siblings ditto. I have friends, moon rises, sunsets, tasks to complete, people to encourage, letters to write that will be received with a smile, frogspawn to move before it dries out a thousand tadpoles, supper to choose, music to listen to, a beloved dog to walk with and to cuddle. In this world right now, all of those are privileged gifts. To whom much is given, much is expected. I get it. I really do. To be thankful, mindfully thankful despite loss and a mucky past, despite the inner demons that have no power unless I give it to them, is key. Key to what? The door to the next big adventure, that’s what, and we all have one of those just around the corner. Life is golden for any of us who are not running from war, from abuse, from ethnic cleansing, from a painful past, but even they, one day, will find the golden. Let us who have it now rise into the sunshine because the truth is this:-

Nothing else matters.

Island Blog – From Four Stone Walls to Wild Places

I have been too scared to go anywhere beyond the safe confines of the little village. Most days I spend right here within my four stone walls (best song ever, in my opinion, by Capercaillie) or out there in the out there-ness of a wild place. I can walk a whole walk and meet nobody. Well, nobody with two legs and coated in either lycra, weather permitting, or waterproofs. I meet plenty of other-legged creatures of course. Spiders spinning, deer bolting, rabbits wiggling noses, an otter or two and plenty seabirds. I chat with the trees, imagine their long strong roots and know they help keep each other up, much as we humans could do if we just understood the power of it, instead of jousting at windmills.

I am mostly content with my life, the island wife without a husband. Mostly. Some days are black as the soot in my flue, some days bright as a lighthouse and I never know what will be which. It doesn’t matter what I do or do not do the day before the soot day, it dogs me like the shadow of a giant and no matter how fast I move, I am always in the dark of it. I have spent over a year searching for an answer to this upsy-downsy nonsense and find no answer at all and this is why. It is not a question with one answer at the other end of it. ‘Why’ is never a good question. ‘Why’ is a journey within, a quiet and solo traipse across a mind, not one to be voiced because any answer will fall short of the mark. The voiced question invites opinions. The one who receives this Why question can never respond with a solution. Not never. No other person in the whole wide world, across a zillion continents across all those wild oceans tossing stories and songs into the air, through the air that blows around the globe, can ever know the answer for someone else, because each one of us, like snowflakes and zebra stripes, is unique and therefore alone. So don’t bother with a ‘Why.’

I digress.

I am fearful, yes we got that. I am mostly content, yes, yes. Where is this leading? Ah, thank you. It leads to a phone call from one of my marvellous sons, one of the skippers, the skipper who skippers right here. Would you come on a cruise mama, a loch cruise for four nights on board? We have had a cancellation. My heart takes off but I catch it before it makes a hole in the conservatory roof. I hesitate, visualising massive waves, those ones I remember in a small bouncy thing of a boat crossing to Coll in a hooligan, the ones that, when they rose up like my swimming teacher in a furious mood with her eyes on me, blocked out the light. Then the fall, the slow slip down the other side in the sure knowledge that we would just keep on going down all the way to Atlantis. Or Hell. I breathe. Yes, I say. Yes. And then I twist to look at myself in horror.

I have days to organise things. How many things, I ask myself, noticing my endless pacing and the 2 pages of A4 lists. Well, not much in truth. Just some loving person to look after Poppy dog and my four stone walls. At short notice. A text to friends, a link, a number and she is found. Yes she can come, yes no worries, yes yes and yes. Committed now and planning my approaches, my frockstock, my beanie, socks (never wear socks) my underpinnings, enough for 4 nights. I wait for the fear to giant-shadow me. Nothing. I wait for indigestion, doubt, sheer terror, nights dense with 40ft waves and not a mermaid in sight. Nothing. Momentarily I wonder if I am finally going the way of the senile, that time I remember with Himself when nothing really mattered beyond his clear traverse up to bed. No, I am not there yet. But this is odd, this is strange, strange and rather wonderful.

On the day, Susie arrives, Sunshine Susie and she beams just like the sun which is a timely reminder that there is one at all, a sun I mean. I had quite forgot inside all these days of endless rain and cloud cover. I depart and manage the ferry thing just fine, staying outside the minute I board and arriving on familiar concrete, knowing my way. I keep my new mask firmly affixed to my face but find I am struggling to breathe, so efficient is it in keeping out all breaths, coughs and sneezes including my own. I walk around the harbour, among the visitors, along to the North Pier where the boats will meet and greet us. There are two boats ready for us this wet afternoon. The company is Hebrides Cruises and I recommend an online check. We, the guests, gather atop the pontoon and begin to introduce ourselves to each other. Some have travelled the length of the country for this cruise and me? Oh, me. Well I live over there, I tell them, waving my arm towards the island. I can tell they are amused, interested and disappointed all at the same time. I notice this and turn the conversation back to them, their tales of train changes, delays and clogs on the motorway. I just stepped on and off the ferry after all, did I not? They, on the other hand have much to say and much to share and I listen in pleasure because other peoples’ stories are always a fascination to me. They live a life I just don’t remember, one of limitations, of traffic, of timelines, of restrictions and rules whereas I am always free. Leaning against some metal thing that appears to have no reason to be there, I listen and watch and wonder. These lives, a glimpse. Just a glimpse. Faces, eyes, body language, baggage, all of it a wonderment to me.

Then the metal walkway rattles and we all turn. The skippers are rising like gods from the pontoon, together with the guides and the squeaky baggage trolleys that nobody ever bothers to oil. Relieved of our cases, we walk down the narrow ramps, back in our own thoughts, moving ever closer to the shining bellies of the boats that will be our home for the next 4 nights. They gleam, the superstructure white and all aglow. Our confidence rises yet again although it did already once we met the skippers. This one for you, that one for me. We separate on the floating pontoon and turn to the steps that will lead us all in to an adventure. I don’t know who is scared, who is dealing with something sad, who is hoping that this time will teach them something new, open a new window, show an escape. But as I wave goodbye to those on the other ship and move into the arms and the safety of my son, I know I made the right decision. To go or not to go? Always, always go.

Welcomed with pink champagne, cake and introductions, we heave-ho as the skipper turns the snout of the ship seawards. Into a pink cloudlight, into a blueing sky we move smooth as melting chocolate. Everyone is on the fly deck, binoculars at the ready, looking, searching, hoping for the wonderful.

And so it begins.

Island Blog – I Dare You and Defiance

There’s a natural space in the woods that always looks me in. It’s as if I lose control of my eyes for they slide to the right even if I am captivated by the left where wind-bowed hazels dense the hill flow down to the shore. The gap shows me promise, hope, a further on, an invitation. I know, because I have gone in before, that a rise of scrub grass and big rocks will lead me, puffing like an old Billy, right up to the top only to show me a short down and another challenging up. But today I don’t accept the invitation, not least because of……what, I ask myself and myself as ever has a quickquick answer. Because you are scared of falling and of lying up there in the silent depths of the wood where nobody will find you for days, maybe weeks. I silence her with a sharp hiss which alarms the walkers coming towards me on the track. I feel that overwhelming need to explain that I am not mad (really?) and not a daft old woman talking to myself, which, of course, I am. I roll my eyes and once far enough away from the looking-back walkers and after checking the wind direction, I ask myself why it is that I always have to explain my actions. I yearn, and always have yearned, to be one of those women who can beatifically smile at sudden encounters that encroach on private moments and to not give a monkeys whatnot as to their reactionary thoughts or whispers. I have a long way to go on that one.

Not going in doesn’t mean I cannot pause and send my eyes scooping through the darkling gap to rise and rise again to where the top of the first hill hits the sky. I notice the grass that has fought its way into a piddling light all summer. Now its fronds are bending over and soon they will die their yearly death, kidding on that they are done for good. I smile. I know their root system. I have met that root system in my own little garden. There is way more of that below the surface, below my seeing, than there ever is above ground. The fallen beech tree just within the. wood still sends out leaves, clever limbs reaching reaching up into whatever light sustains the ancient fingers below ground, the ones that garner every bit of moisture they can find, and year after year. It is a long time fallen, this old beech and yet still it blooms. I step in and put my hand on its belly, its trunk, thick as a planet and as long as time. Well done my friend I say. You inspire me.

Fallen I am not and yet when life changed for ever just over a year ago, I can feel a bit fallen at times. Perhaps Nature is teaching me. No, Nature is definitely teaching me. The flower that blooms between paving stones, the cowslip that grows butter yellow and flowers for many days perched atop a big fence post and this beech. It is never about perfect growing conditions, never. I have known so many who seeded, bloomed and blossomed in impossible places under appalling circumstances, defying loss and pain, and who did it anyway. It was never for show, but to shout to the naysayers or to those all settled and comfortable in those perfect conditions, Defiance. Shout Defiance. Shout it. But do something. Shouting alone gives your throat a horsewhip and achieves as little. Choose, instead, to bloom. Go on. I dare you.

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 – 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 – upper, Lower case

I love to mess with the way things ‘should’ be. Accordion to whom, is what I want to ask? Although I do recall, clearly, the easy hours of English Literature at A level, the rule book the size of a small country and berating my errors like a crowd of elders blocking any off roading. It isn’t that I don’t respect the construction of a good sentence. I absolutely do. In fact, I am the very first to throw a badly written book out the window. However, the essence of good writing is not a perfection of grammar. But, wait. This may not reflect my own truth. As a student of the language, of the best way to construct a sentence with noun and verb, avoiding adjectives, adverbs and other ads and coming into land on the line to say something remarkable, I appreciate that the only time anyone can play with a structure is when they know it very well. Perhaps this is why, when I read bad spelling in an official piece of writing, I cringe and throw. There is no excuse, these days with every help available online. Grammar check, spell check, information check, all is there. It is a case of not bothering and not bothering is, well, cringe and throw.

But, and this is key, the person who dreams about writing a book, essay, short story or children’s book, should never ever and ever again bother with whether or not they have a diploma in the complete labyrinth of English language, and it is. A labryinth. You can get lost in it for weeks and nobody is looking for you. You have to get up, dust off and keep going with your eyes crossed. and your brain a bucket of worms. It is important, nonetheless, to gain understanding of how language works and this is why. We have softened the borders of our language and let in some ghastlies. We have allowed in the complete change of a single word’s meaning, losing, on the way, a g or an h and this does matter, not necessarily to hold on to the old, onto what was, but just to know it was there, once, a part of the scaffold that lifted a writer higher. We, the Brits, are still celebrated world wide for our writing, our films, plays and tv series. We are strong with our understanding of our language, and its structure. And sometimes that confines us, especially if we did not do ‘well’ at English in school or have been ridiculed and mocked for our ‘wrong’ use of words in a sentence.

Bin all of that. We need writers and not just those who have gained degrees or diplomas and (often) done little with that stored knowledge. We need enthusiastic passionate writers who don’t even believe they are writers. The works, the classics, the honoured novelists, I revere and respect. But, people, these times are new. We are living in a conundrum (look that up!). An anomaly, a confusion, a splitting of the ways, a confoundment on boundaries and with a big hole in that wall which offers an opening into something new and scary. If you have that drive, do not die with your song still in you. Do not accommodate old rules, confinements, mockings or perceived prison bars. Fly. Do it. Write. The experiences each one of us have tucked under our belts over this past year are fuel for Talk, for Story, for Ideas that break boundaries of space, time and language.

Come on people. I know there are many out there and I will tell you why. We have so very much to say now. We have gone through loss, grief and struggle, pain, abandonment, sleepless nights, eating up, eating down, evasion, confusion, anxiety and identity crises. In the old days (I remember them) we knew who we were, where and when we met. We collided, avoided or we came together. We knew parameters and levels and the land on which we stood. We knew the way forward and the way back. This all came from the ‘elders’. They spoke and we believed, well, not me, but I went with it anyway because there was no other direction on offer. Now we are spinning like tops. Circling each other, unsure. And it is a writer’s perfect space. Use it. Talk about it, write about it. Let the pain rise and the sky fall. Let the anger out and watch it turn into rocket boosters. Let it out. ‘out’. because it if doesn’t ‘out’ we, as dynamically creative individuals, will just join the ranks of those with mental health issues who have gone beyond inspiration, inventive creativity and a Sunday dinner with pavlova instead of tinned custard; those who will bury this year of troubles and sink down into a permanent Lower case.

Just saying.

Island Blog – Shining the Light

When I write about my dark days, my darkness, I don’t do so to elicit sympathy. I don’t write out of self-pity, nor do I write to say how much tougher my life is than anyone else’s. No. I write to shine a light on the truth we all experience at times. In our culture of stiff upper lip-ness, we might forget that the lower lip is wobbling, and it is the larger lip. We might feel that we always have to show our positive attitude towards our negative emotions. We can tell ourselves we ‘should’ not feel this way considering that socking long list of blessings as others keep reminding us. We can beat ourselves up for walking in darkness when all we have to do is to reach out for the light switch. In short, we are terrified of feeling utterly lost inside a life we ‘normally’ control perfectly. Perfection is our enemy and perfection is unattainable for every single one of us. Once we get that little nugget, we free ourselves from its chains and bars. I can put out to the world that I am always ok because I decide to be ok but it is a lie. So, when I write of darkness, I write to connect with anyone else who experiences the clutching fear of failure, the self-doubt and the loneliness of that darkness. The words ‘mental health issues’ make us run for cover. We don’t have them after all. They are for people who have lost the plot, are locked up, are to be pitied and avoided. Well, aren’t they?

No. We all have them. But it is only some of us who have the courage to come out from hiding and to say It Is Ok To Feel This Way. I know it is not easy to see sadness, loneliness and the dark in another’s eyes. We immediately want to proffer upbeat hopeful words, to fix their ‘problem’, when, instead, a soft smile, a virtual hug, a kind silence shared is all anyone needs at a time when their world looks dull and hopeless. For the one in pain and sadness, just to know there is someone who cares and who believes in them, means everything. During these lockdowns and without knowing when our current restrictions will ever end, there are many of us who experience days of feeling lost and hopeless. We can help each other if we are honest about our own pain and and this is why I write honestly, in order to shine that light on our hiding from the truth. There is no shame in feeling down and we don’t need fixing, nor reminding of our long list of blessings. We know them already. We just can’t access them right now and if we speak them out they sound like platitudes at best. However, we have had a million sunshine days so we know they have not abandoned us for ever and we will find our feet again once we relocate our big boots.

This day is bright and welcoming. A complete change from the darkliness of yesterday. I never doubted it even without a map. Although the sky is still goose-grey, the clouds all tapselteerie and pregnant with yet more rain, it doesn’t matter today. Something has shifted, lifted back into light. I don’t have to hold onto it. It is bigger than I, stronger, wiser, less human. Buffeted by the winds of change, rolling with the clouds, flying, falling, failing, worrying, laughing, moving, watching, sliding, running, slipping, arms wide, eyes open, heart full of only love for the turbulence of this precious life, I walk on into the next moment, my blessings fluttering around me like chirruping birds.

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.