Island Blog – The Great Sadness

I have no other name for it. Nor can I explain it, although I have tried, many times over the decades of my long life. In the search for meaning, for an explanation, we are forgiven our walks up blind alleys. It is only human to want an answer. As a child I felt it. It would suddenly invade my mind when I was most definitely looking the other way. Suddenly, even in a gathering of family or peers, in what seemed to be a happy moment, it would hit me full whack. At a young age I had no way of understanding it. I just thought that it was because Angela had pink flashing socks and mine were ordinary white, albeit with a Daz sparkle. Or that Mary had a hamster.

Later, as a supposedly intelligent and educated young women it still hit me. At a party, for which I had taken about five hours to dress, and surrounded by friends and music and a short term freedom, or walking down the town on a Saturday morning with money to spend on something ridiculous like shiny hot pants or chain-rattling tough girl boots, the Great Sadness would punch me in the gut and stumble me. it would leave me completely alone in a huge crowd, like a girl on a raft mid Pacific. Sometimes someone would spot the change and ask a kindly question, but I soon lost them as I explained what a weirdo I was. I think they were scared they might catch something dodgy. I find the same now, in the evening of my life. The only people who don’t run for the next bus are intuits, counsellors or very close friends. Friend, actually. She gets me, even if she does also consider me a weirdo.

As a child I was considered strange, difficult, obtuse etc. I could be brilliant, and I was, supreming at music, writing and insight, but the latter threw even the most open-hearted guides. I was too young, too confounded by the Sadness and, thus, too much of a threat to my peers who seemed not to ever think beyond hamsters or pink flashing socks. I felt alienated and had no idea why. This huge thing I still cannot explain shows me much. I have now learned to welcome it and to walk beside it, even if it really hurts. I used to hang it on pegs. Must be this thing, this person, this event, this fear. Not now. As I grow a stronger connection to nature and to the wildness around me, I accept the Great Sadness as an integral part of the whole point of things, of life and not just this one but the millions of lives already lived to the end. I consider myself privileged to have been visited by it from childhood, even if it did cause a tapselteerie; even if it did label me a weirdo; even if my friends’ mothers shook their heads and scuttled their daughters away; even if my own mum looked at me as she might look at ET.

There are times when I cannot lift my mental boots out of the mud. It is not that I am depressed. There are days when I imagine flying off a cliff. I do not plan to. I am just the honoured host for the Great Sadness, one that shows me all the pain in the world. I hear the cries, feel, intensely, the agony of struggle and cruelty, feel the joy and the happiness too. It’s like being in balance. I can hold the pain and the joy inside me at the same time without having to explain or justify a thing. Nor does it fear me. It gives me a real good look into the truth. And that is something most of us avoid. We would rather push it away when it hurts, buy something, plan a holiday, phone a friend, turn on the TV. But to sit with it when it comes in is not for the faint hearted. It is uncomfortable at best, and this visitor stays just as long as they like.

I am still a student. for over 60 years I have run from the Great Sadness, but it won’t go away, no matter what I do. I think when a person is very creative, the Great Sadness comes too. I see it in art and writing and music that gasps me. Oh, I think, there it is. It won’t be explained, nor justified, nor hung on a peg. It makes its choice. The key is to let it in, like a visitor you don’t much want, who has arrived at the most inconvenient time, and who has no plans to leave for a while. It will not be rebuked, nor thrown out. I am only sad I didn’t read the Great Sadness manual aged six.

Might have been just a bit further on by now.

Island Blog 74 – Spontaneous Adventures

The Boat House

 

I rarely plan adventures.  They just happen to me, swooping round corners and whopping me in the eyeballs.

Here I am !  Look at me!

And there it is, the adventure, full frontal and blocking my path.

I could, of course I could, step around it.  I could cite a whole gamut of plausible and dull reasons why I can’t take this adventure by the hand and let it lead me astray; like it’s nearly lunchtime for instance, or I must catch this ‘dry’ for a load of wet sheets, or it’s only Wednesday and nobody adventures on a Wednesday.

But, I say, and but again, the best times I have had in my bonkers life have been spontaneous adventures, when logic is wheeched over the fence leaving ample room for imagination and emotion to fill the inner void.  Then, and only then, does the adrenaline fizz like bubbles in my veins and my head feel light as goose down. I never get that fizz hanging out the sheets.

 

Yesterday we were planning to turn left.  The day had arrived in its customary shapeless grey but as we walked the little girls through the woods that climbed into the sky, we noticed a patch or two of blue.  Avoiding as best we could, the manic desire to search for more, we found a bridge with fast-running peaty mountain water and looked down to play Pooh Sticks.  We went under the bridge and sloshed over the slippy rocks, and climbed up the banks till our knees were brown as caramel and we were dizzy with giggles.  When we looked up again the day had shucked off the shapeless grey and the sky smiled blue and gold and warm.

 

So, instead of turning left for home, a sensible lunch preparation and an even more sensible change of trews and wellies, wet on the inside, (overly enthusiastic Pooh Stickery), we turned right and headed up and over the hill on the skinny track that first laid itself down, hundreds of years ago, beneath the feet of animals.  We turned up the tunes and sang our way up and down again, stopping only to remove a jumper or to admire the view or to encourage a mother and lamb to step onto the verge.  We passed by the little school shed with its beach hut stripes (The Square Rainbow) and turned down the track to where the little ferry would take us over to lunch. We pulled back the slide to reveal the red square, and the little boat cast off it’s moorings and began to move towards us.

 

Lunch, as I have said before, is a really delicious experience at the Boat House.  The welcome is warm and gentle, the food superbly prepared and presented.  We sat outside, watching the seabirds, and eating fresh prawns and I don’t mean those piddling shrimps most people understand to be prawns.  I mean island prawns, big and meaty and you only need four to be quite filled up.  The bread was straight from the baking oven with a lovely crust, the salad crisp and fresh and the dressing delicious.  But, it is not just the food that makes this place, run by Becky and Emma, so very good.  It’s the light in their eyes, the passion and enthusiasm for their business, their island welcome, their no-fuss-about-anything attitude.  They think outside the box.  They don’t say NO.  In fact, there is not a single NO visible on the island – such a joy to see in a world where NO is the most overly used word in all public places.

 

On the way home over the hill, past the Square Rainbow, we stopped to buy fresh strawberries from a roadside stall with an honesty box.  It was the last bag and as we put our money in the little till, and I saw the amount of cash already there, I thought…. how wonderful it is to adventure, to take risks, whether it be leaving an honesty box by the roadside, or opening a restaurant on a tiny little island or simply by turning right instead of left.