Island Blog – Autumn, Our Gift.

I almost didn’t go to the pier today, to sit on the flat rock and to watch the tidal activity. Almost. Waking twirly and feeling it as the day slowed on, I conversed with myself as though to allow such a falter, to give it credence and approval. I will walk the short walk today, I said. It’s fine. I am allowed. But, as I moved closer to the exit opportunity, the rebel in me drew blood and stood in my path. I could see her in my mind’s eye and she laughed me. Ok, ok, I said, I will walk on. She withdrew to allow safe passage. I would so not want to challenge her.

Leaves are turning. Above my head, beech, alder, hornbeam and birch show me tip. That tip into Autumn, that acceptance with a rebel of colour shouting at them. No dying without colour, she says, no dying without that glorious dress of swish and ruby, of gold and speckles, that differentness that comes only now, only as Summer with all her flounce and confidence yawns like a princess and takes a first class flight across the world. There, she can astonish as only she can, lifting tired human minds, human bodies into swimsuits and flowing wraps and barbecues and beach encounters, but Autumn is pragmatic. She speaks to the dying light, to those on the cusp of change, she is change. And she does it well. Even though the storms may come and the light give way to a big dark, she is clever with time, for those who are watching. She is not one to sleep in.

The light lifts as I walk. Although it seems that the sky is closed, all grey and without comment, there is a shift. I can feel blue coming even if I cannot see it and it comes, with dissonant clouding and cerulean blue. For now it is just sweaty and cloying and my frocks clamp my skin. Then home again as Father Sun finds his spot and beams hot and sweaty after a jumper and boot day. I roll my eyes and peel off morning layers, damp down the fire. The temperature flips from nothing much to 27 degrees in a matter of moments. My neighbours suddenly barbecue. It is what we do if we are working with what is on offer, much like Autumn. I like her. She is feisty and determined. She is beauty in the face of death only it isn’t death. Death is forever, whereas she, Autumn is just one of four and playing her part. She is that jazz singer with a whisky/cigarette voice you hear whilst walking home, one that draws you in to hear more. She is nuts and berries, vibrant and wild, offering a harvest that comes only to her. She is preparation for the winter months when we all lose the plot, light endless candles, and pretend we don’t mind the dark and the cold. She is a herald, nonetheless. She is saying, get ready, pay attention, get real about this time, in particular, This Time, for we are all afraid, all wondering, all peering out at a world we are no longer sure about nor confident to walk in.

I won’t do the cheesy and say that this is nothing. It is not nothing. But we humans have survived, lived, loved danced and made a difference over and over for thousands of years. None of us know what will happen next but next is out there and we are right here, right now and this is Autumn. Our gift.

Island Blog – Cusp

I like being on the cusp of change, even as I sometimes am a fearty. This day I walked beneath a billow of grey clouds and thought, well, at least the sky isn’t flat. I’m not great at flat, unless it refers to my midriff, in which case I am delighted. The sun is closed and already lowering in our skies which brings a change of light. Another cusp. As Summer concedes to Autumn, I wonder if they discuss when and how and if there is any resistance or if all the seasons are good students and just know their places. You go, no, You go, No you, or something, or is it silent, peaceful and are the four of them friends? I have met Autumn in the mornings, a thrill of chill, a shiver, a rush to light the wood burner, only to end up with burned skin in the afternoon. In the laze of Spring, for she is lazy up here, I can dress in thunder resistant woollens, mighty leggings and at least four frocks plus jumper and be trounced and bounced into stripping off by lunchtime, only to fall back into shivers by wine O’clock. The seasons are capricious.

It can frazzle me. And then it thinks me. Perhaps the seasons are like us, ditzy and unpredictable. Perhaps they too are unsure of their roles, of who they are are in the now-now of now. Old people in my young days and in my middle age could bore my tonsils loose going on about how long the summers were, how on time the snow fell for Christmas, how floods never flooded and how we never knew what a hosepipe ban was. I can hear myself now, telling a young granddaughter about the ‘simple’ days but I notice and pause and erase and laugh for this is memorical nonsense and so very flat sky.

I walk the same track, the Tapselteerie track and it never bores me for it is always changing as the seasons change. Today beneath the yellow, umber, Payne’s grey and white of the bumpy clouds, the scabious lights up. Peacock butterflies show me wild strong colours and sea-dandelions are so yellow I want to spread their buttery gold on my toast. I peer into the woods and see the green slowly change from lemony lime to deep wine bottle. Summer in there is moving out. The grasses are dying and so they should for we will need them next year. Nonetheless it is a gasp, the watching of it, of their turning. Where sunlight lifted and tousled, danced and elevated these emerald fronds, he is abandoning them now for he cannot reach from his louring face in the western sky. And it is right and it is time and it is preparing us if we just care to notice. Bracken stems copper and begin to fall, to fail. Different birds fly over, birds that will leave us soon for the north, for the south. Go safe, I call out. Come back to us.

Mushrooms and toadstools stand like sentries along the track, big-chested, bullish, almost scary, some tempting and beautiful. I touch nothing. A choir of temptresses, all perfect and come-eat-me have erupted overnight on a tree stump. Hallo, I say. Not interested, I say, and not because I don’t eat mushrooms but because I have no knowledge of the safe and of the deadly. I do look back. They are beautiful. I walk to the old pier and sit a while. The wind is snappy, cooler but the tide is gentle, ebbing but softly. Two herons screech at each other like women at a WI cake sale and I smile, rest on a basalt rock and look out while someone across the sea-loch pushes out a dingy and heads for his fishing boat. I stay as they spin by and wave, heading out to catch dinner perhaps. The coolth lifts me from my rock and I wander back home. I check the fire, bring in logs, close a window. I slide down the cusp and go in search of my boots.

Hallo Autumn. Welcome. In you come.

Island Blog – Alpha Beta and The Geese

I walk today, peaceful like. The wee track is even wee-er now after the rains have turned the bracken tips face down and dripping. Branches bow low creating a sort of trunnel for me to dip and duck through, the leftover drips cool down my neck. Sunshine catches diamonds like pearl painted finger nails glinting rainbows at me. I don’t mind getting wet. Although heavy (and, apparently dangerous) rainfall was prophesied, like many prophesies, it never came to bear and I risk setting off sans jacket, just free, a light cardy and walking trainer thingies that look like flippers but work just fine. After all, nobody is looking.

I just know that after this ‘dangerous’ rainfall and the subsequent hot hot of Father Sun, anything green is going to go crazy bonkers. The bracken, already over my head and, I am sure, burgeoning with bloodthirsty ticks, will soon turret the track. Bracken looks harmless enough but don’t read this book by its cover. It may look pretty with its green finger fronds and the way light can show through the forest it creates but underneath the ground it is a pernicious killer and will take over anything with hopeful shoots, stifling it until it breathes no more. Bracken is for Mordor not this lovely island, nor anywhere else for that matter. Just saying.

Me and the Popster walk to the shore, to the old pier where Alpha Beta slept. Perhaps she is in my mind once I heard that she featured on TV last evening with Gordon Buchanan. She, wonderful she, who safely transported so many people out into the ocean to find whales met with a very sad end. She took us to Minke whales, and on a really special occasion, Killer whale. Her body was strong, her engines pure and true. She had props all over the place for turning on a sixpence and for exiting danger quickquick. She carried hopeful souls on her back and never seemed to mind and she was as faithful as a collie. I stand beside the pier where, many years ago, she waited patiently for everyone to step aboard. It is a skeleton now, draped in dried kelp, blackened and hanging like witch hair. The breeze moves it a little and I can hear the crackle. The rocks are coppered with living kelp, a lie if you cared to walk across. You would sink. Or I would. Kelp looks so solid in such a mass. We move through a canopy of gorse and I remember how the old Sea Dog would cut and slash this now 8 ft high mass into submission. Cutting it down is good, he would puff, slashing and snapping the limbs. It will all grow stronger next year. It thinks me. It must be four years since he could walk never mind swing the slash-cut weapon without spinning into the brink. I stay with that remembering, holding the memories when both Alpha Beta and the Seadog were upright and strong, and I say to the skeleton pier, one the SD built, Thank you. You may look wind blown, wonky chops, and whitened by salt but I remember you strong and proud. I still see that in you. Thank you for your grace, your strength, your loyalty.

We sit on a flat rock having navigated the gorse forest. Pods are popping. I can hear them. They sound like a cap gun. It smiles me how life goes on going on with fierce determination. The sun is warm on my arms and back, my face. The Narrows sparkle, diamonds on the water which I think is just beginning to flow in again from who knows where. I ponder on the tidal flow, not just here but the one that circumnavigates the world. There are new stories coming in, I can smell them, those whispers of hope of pain of joy, all flooding in right here and right now. An otter pops up like a cork. He is fishing, I can see that. The fish in his grasp has no chance. He bites off its waggling head but the waggling goes on. He leans back, peaceful like, and floats while he eats the rest. Then he is off again, sleek, dark, fleeting, a gymnast. I watch him cross the Narrows in seconds where a few Greylags have landed for a splash. He threads through the group and they yell and flap at him. Returning to their bathing, once he is gone, I watch them lift water over their wings, bury their heads in the brine, lift their tails and then they begin to play. I know play and this is play. One hurtles at another, and another scoots off. Chase me, chase me…..

I can hear them still laughing as me and the popster wander home.

Island Blog – This Goodly Day (even if it is Monday)

A bit sleepless for no good reason. I wasn’t bothered, nor troubled. I just experienced awokeness. When dawn tiptoed in around my blackout curtains I decided up was for me, so I upped accordingly. Coffee and a watch for the rise of light, the lift of garden birds, the backdrop of accompanying sounds. I heard the trickle of the burn. Trickle for now but in the Autumn its voice is wild with flood, catapulting over rocks and plummeting into the pool, then under the track and offski to the sea. The eternal flow. Rain falls, burns erupt in noisy excitement and then spend days splashing everyone on their way to join Mother. It is indeed a joyous sound.

I hear the tap tap of my complication of creepers, wisteria, jasmine, clematis as their floating fingers try to gain some sort of purchase. Might need help, I tell them, and they waggle at me. I see an otter fishing in the sea-loch, flipping silver fish against the morning light, the darkling hills. Geese set forth and fifth and sixth, in fact, make that double figures, across the flat water with goslings in tow. One parent leading (guess that’s himself), then babies, then mother. A line, no ten, twelve lines crossing together as the black backed gulls circle. I watch them. The airborne predators lift, and lower, tip and flip and by golly if I see just one of them pick off a babe, I swear I will finally wild swim. They all arrive safely and now, my coffee cold, I can draw breath once more. It is quite a wide loch and I am, on reflection, rather proud of my ability to hold my breath. I remember trying it in a bath as a girl and exploding back into the air after about 60 seconds in a state of snot and sneeze. Not something I put on my CV.

I weeded a bit and discovered a tiny clematis creeper (who planted that?). I madly cleared the grass and such like around it to give it space. The flowers are huge and magenta. So brave. Not just the colour, nor the size of the flowers but all that struggle beneath Aquilegia, and other tall things I cannot name. I affixed the stems to the structure that upholds the original clematis which is 30 years old and not flowering quite as much as she once did. I know that state. Then I remember who planted the wee magenta thing. It was I some 3 years ago and I allow myself the forgetness of such a birthing because I was thwack in the thick of caring during that year. Nonetheless it is such a relief to solve such a question, I find. Reminds me I am not losing any plot.

I walk beneath brilliant green boughs, dappled sunlit tracks and take myself, slightly resistantly, to the old pier. The pier that Popz built and from where he ran the whale-watching trips for many years. Latterly, when the trips no longer left from that pier and he was no longer captain of the ship, he took down a plank of wood to make a sitting bench. Using old stones to form the elevation, he laid the plank and many many times we went there. First, he walked, his little Poppy dog beside him barking at pretty much everything, and latterly, driving on his quad. Sometimes he could get off the bike and sit with me on the bench, sometimes he could not. We would take tea in a flask and biscuits and just sit, often in companionable silence whilst we listened to the geese, the oystercatchers, the curlews, the gulls, seals and herons, marvelling at dragonflies of electric colours, butterflies and various buzzing thingies. We talked over that explosion of Thrift (Sea Pinks) that fanned out from the rocks, the bloom of downy feathers here, the way the seagrass chooses where it wants to grow, the slip and slide of the tide. I sat there in the sunshine for a while and took it all in. I am glad I went today. I could see his smile, the Old Impossible, and we walked back together, even if I cannot remember him walking in my memory.

T’was a goodly day.