Island Blog – The Best View

Heavy rain, like water bullets, straight down rain, none of this fluffing fallshift of soft water dash against my face. This was a wetting. I watched the opportunity for a while. I considered my cloaking, my ineffective coveration, my footwear, and pulled back. I pulled back long enough for even the Pull Back to raise its eyebrows. Are you going or are you planning to spend the day lurching towards the window like a catapult with old pants elastic?

I don’t like the old pants bit and it stirred me somewhat. I stand taller. Ok, I say, I am offski. Before the old girl in me can catch up I am footed and rainproofed and attaching the wee dog to her lead. Door open. We are out. Good grief! This rain is pelting like reproval. It is so straight down I turn to yell (and regret it) Bend Somewhat! It is either deaf, the rain or determined. I sigh, open the gate and head for the wild place. The track is jiggling water in potholes, the rain-off sloughing like a serpent down into anywhere that’s down. Water always seeking the sea, the river, the outfall, the easy way to go. I am not doing ‘easy way’ but I am not water, I remind myself.

As I wander, because I like the whole wander thing, even in the rain, I observe. The chestnut tree is hanging low, branches so huge and so powerful are bending. I look up and say hi. On and more trees, bowed in fragility and yet still so strong. The wind rises and rises puffing and luffing, lifting, playful. It wonders me as I see massive wood limbs holding life-giving leaves, reach out way too far from the body, from the mother trunk. And yet there is power there, control and the fabulous knowing that that ancient trunk is holding you, holding and holding.

The leaves are already turning, I see the beech leaves twisting at the edges and giving in to copper. I hear the woodland choir, led by the wind. At the shore, where I walk every day to remind myself of not where we began but where so many hundreds, thousands of others began their beginning with us. The chance to see whales. I can smell the excitement even now as I wander in a past land, through gorse, popping seeds and noisily, where the seaweed lays across the out-tide rocks, copper, flaxen, lime, blood and where a heron squawks at me and lifts in lazy flaps; where oystercatchers fly above the tide, turn to me, catch the sudden sunlight and turn into fluttering pearls; where the chance of seeing some wild thing lifts a head above the water in an hour’s watching. We yearn for the wild encounter. We always did and we always will.

Let the seasons be. They are not as we once knew them, predictable and uniform, to a degree. They are wild now, and free. We have a hand in that but it is not the hand that gives up, that turns, that lifts in latent anger. It is done. We are here. We can dance through them, adapt and welcome. We can be a part of what is happening now or we can whine and criticise from the sidelines of life. Eish…….don’t do that. Engage. Join me in the frontline. We’ll get the best view.

Island Blog – Rain, Cloud Talk and Moving On

The garden drinks deep as it must when rain falls, a goodly rain, one that isn’t just a wheech of drops that barely land at all. I can see the flowers, the shrubs and the trees looking up, hopefully. Not enough, they say and I agree and then yesterday their looking and pleading brought the clouds to compassion which is an achievement when you know clouds. They are crabbit creatures, no, not just crabbit. It must be a big responsibility to have the remit of collecting droplets from myriad bodies of water and such a relief to dump what you have have been carrying for ages, as it is a relief for one of us to lay down our long held baggage. It thinks me and asks me this:- what baggage can you lay down you island wife? Well, where do I begin with all my guilt and shame and regret and failures?

Ach wheesht, come the clouds back. You think you are special or something?

Well, no, I say, a tad humbled. I was just saying.

Don’t say. Do!

Okay, I reply, hesitantly as I lay down my ‘Special’ fixation. It was quite heavy, although that is an oxymoron. Something cannot be ‘quite’ heavy. It is either heavy or it is light and the prefix ‘quite’ means absolutely nothing. It is a sort of burble, a mumble word in such a grammatical position. I could say, should someone ask me if this child is alike to his mother, Well, he is quite like her, thus meaning not exactly, but as a prefix it says nothing about the thing and everything about the person busy oxymoroning. Just saying.

Then I ferret about for other baggage. Regret. Hmmm. Describe that. I cannot. So I lay it down. I am beginning to feel light about the ankles, flexing, able to move more easily.

Shame. At what? Oh, well, at, er, at my past behaviours? I make a mistake turning this into a question. I am now at the mercy of the cloud response. One of them does, the big Payne’s Grey one with a truckload of wet just about to head earthwards. He looks like my dad in a fury. Are those past behaviours still an active choice in your present?

I resist the urge to remind him that, by definition, my present and his are the same. No, I say, firmly.

Lay it down, he barks, and then barfs rain.

Guilt. List your crimes, says the softer cloud butting up against the empty Payne’s Grey, now shredding into whisps. She says it gently. I wonder if she has some of her own to consider. She sounds empathetic.

At my choices, the things I sometimes say that hurt another.

Can you make amends? She asks. I like her voice. It’s warm like melted cheese.

Yes, I say. I already did.

Then lay it down.

I am now almost able to fly I am so light. The sky is clearing and so is my scurrilous brain.

Failures. She is still with me, the melted cheese cloud, but there is another big fat grey one right up her aspidistra. She sighs and moves on. I wait.

What failures? he asks, not aggressive despite his load.

Oh, general failures.

Is that a military title? he asks then guffaws. I roll my eyes and say nothing. There are jokers everywhere. Go on, he says, once he recovers from his obvious cloud brilliance.

Well, I wasn’t the mother I planned to be.

Who is? he says, having not a clue about what being a mother means, but I go with it and bend to lay that one down.

Next? he asks.

I could have been kinder to my husband, particularly as he folded into dementia.

Well, he says, it is too late now. Lay it down. Is that it?

Pretty much. Now here is another nonsense response. Not quite an oxymoron, more just moron.

Move on, he says, as another cloud butts up against him.

Just Move on.

And I do.

Island Blog – I would tell you

This is for you my one and only husband. As you know (I am sure the angels will have reminded you) today is our 49th wedding anniversary. I can barely believe either of us stuck it out for so many years. I see you smile at that. Neither of us had a scooby about such an intensely complex relationship, speaking out the vows with all that enthusiasm and emotion and blissfully unaware that things would change. That we would change, not at the same time, which was always deeply inconvenient, but singularly and fully expectant of the other to adapt immediately, without a cross word spoken. How naive we were, how trusting in our own set of plans, dreams and expectations. We said we would do it different, remember that? We would never alienate each other, never endure long periods of stony silence, never break apart, never run away, and yet we did all those things. And we survived it all. Did our children, I wonder? Do any children? They are so aware of parental strife, of tension within mother, within father, it cannot leave them undamaged. I suspect we are all damaged, bringing into all our relationships the breaks and black holes from our pasts. As much as I look for the ‘perfect’, there is none.

I would tell you these things. Today I walked beneath the rain-heavy boughs and caught the raindrops, the water from heaven. I cupped them in my hand from a delicate larch limb and drank in the rain. I watched the grey above me, saw the light over the Isle of Coll, open as a window into the sky beyond. A beckoning of light. Look, I said to you, can you see? I wonder how it looks from wherever you are now. How I look, a pinprick dodging puddles in my favourite boots. Did I tell you how hard I have looked for a repeat pair? I find them nowhere. I found five orchids beside the track, no idea what sort of orchids but that doesn’t matter to me. Pink and sudden, for they weren’t there just yesterday and to see an orchid is to find myself in some foreign land. The walk today was the short one. I find walking in the rain jacket a cumbersome sort of walk. My frocks are curtailed from their desire to swish and they mutter beneath the waxed waterproof coat thing that weighs a ton and is far from a pleasant covering. As you know, my slim puffa jacket is as ready to absorb the rain as a sponge might be, although I have donned it pre a rainy walk purely out of vanity and respect for the swish of my frocks, returning drenched.

Then I showered and changed. In other times, this would have been in anticipation of an evening out to celebrate. Not this year. I walked barefoot through the garden to pick myself some flowers and you would not believe the rose you planted some years back, the one called Wedding Anniversary, the one that has heretofore only ever produced 4 or 5 buds. This year it is heavy with blooms and I hope you can see them. And I have been remembering past anniversaries, even as I do have to dig my way back before dementia to find the happier ones. I remember you saying, we are going out at 7. I held the excitement all day long, thinking about what I would wear, what we would talk about, where we would go. You were always the best at celebrations, thinking of everything. Even during dementia years, when you could barely eat, let alone drive me somewhere, let alone walk, you could still smile up at me and I would smile back, so much said, so much unsaid.

I want to tell you I am ok. Better than that, I am doing well. I am learning how to let go and how to make myself into a whole me. I am supported, safe and warm. I am also, finally independent. I know you hated that word, fought like mad against it, but it means something different to me. Independence does not mean a person needs nobody. Oh no. We all need somebody or we die of loneliness. What I mean by that word now is that I have confidence in myself, in my choices, my actions. I take full responsibility for everything in my life and I lay no blame, not even on myself. Although there are things I would have done differently given the chance, I am proud of who I am. And I am thankful. Thankful to you for being my broken rock, for protecting me and our children in the only way you knew; for loving and living as you did and you did your best. I can see that now, for all the squawking I did along the way.

I touch your face in a photograph and remember the feel of your skin. I remember your hands, strong, warm. I remember your smile and the ice blue of your eyes, a gift to our daughter.

These are what I would tell you this day, my husband.

Maybe I just did.

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 – Touch only Rain

Rain, at 0400 is a sigh, a shake of my head, a slump in my gut, yet I know the flowers need it so and it makes a pretty mist picture-coat on my window pane. The sky is heavy with it, with rain, fat pregnant greys all lined up like women at an anti natal clinic, emitting rain. The morning seems just fine with it. There’s no sense of disapproval, no cross words flitting across the in between where humans like me are earthly bound and at the whim of weathers. The birds don’t mind enough not to fly, to swoop down for soggish seed and to rise up again quickquick into shelter, although it is not from the rain they hide. I sit on the other side of the window, watching rain. My phone app tells me in an inappropriately luminous yellow that there is an 100% chance of rain the live long day and I slump again. What is all this slumping? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps I am bemoaning the loss of those recent balmy summer days, the ones we recently enjoyed on our rain-sodden island. Our summer could already be over. We all know that. We are well known for being sodden, have been rain sodden for about 600 years give or take and we are also well known for going completely bonkers on sunny days, completing gargantuan tasks in record time like re-roofing a hotel, landscaping a 20 acre garden or building Gran a bungalow by tea-time, foundations and all. Or perhaps this slump is that I am thinking of another’s tears.

The wood pile is rained wet but the wood pile has no care of such a minor incursion. This wood grew from sapling right here on the island after all and has rain in its DNA. It burns regardless, wet or dry, no smoking. No bees though. Bees don’t like to fly in rain. I imagine them all peeping out through that tiny hole watching the clouds and needing a sugar rush. Buzz buzz, not yet ladies. How’s Her Majesty? She’s fine the old bat and who wouldn’t be with all that royal jelly plus, if you don’t mind, 1000 nurse bees at her every whim whenever she fancies whimming?

Gulls cut the sky looking white as newborn snowflakes against the greys, lazy, leisurely, nae rush at all, whilst other colours sharpen and shout new defiant music into the sleepy air. Rain turns ferns apple green. Moss and lichen lift into shades of Ochre, Sienna, Olive and prick tears to my eyes, Granite rocks divide into maps of the world, the cracks darkling with wet. There, the Mason Dixon Line, here, the continent of Africa minus Angola and over there, Iceland, more or less. Rhododendron leaves are polished to a sheen. My face drips as I walk and the little dog grows ever mud coloured. Puddles big enough to bathe in squat along the track, rain plash hiding tree reflections beneath its surface. Come another day reflections, for this day has no time for such gob-smacking indulgence. Mirror another day, bring out the cameras, click, post, marvel, compete, Like. We raindrops are legion and extremely busy watering the flowers and pissing people off. In short, we are having fun rumpling puddles and filling the wellies of anyone who stands still too long. We are chewing up the mud for the spreading, clarting the roads with it and sinking the baleful cows up to their knees as they wait to grab mouthfuls of hay before it becomes insulation for wall cavities.

Diamonds shiver at the tips of weeping larch, hundreds of them, thousands, perfect pear drops of heavenly water held in stasis, catching the light, on hold until it is their turn to fall into the mud. Still, it is surely a wondrous thing to be a light catching water diamond even once in a lifetime. Rain popples the sea-loch, lifting, luffing, tickling the surface until it giggles. A single heron stands as if on water, still and patient. Beneath a spread of hardwoods, beech, chestnut, elm, birch and ash, their branches lowed with rain weight, the ground glows liquid green, a molten gold carpet of Creeping Buttercup and Lady Elizabeth poppies. Even the wheelie bins gleam bright.

I remember rain, as slump and lift, as promise and disappointment, as joy and sadness. Rain, tears; Rain diamonds; Rain liquid life; Rain skid death; wash clean, wash away, wash out; I remember the joy of rain and the unjoy of it. Walking in the rain helps to shift a slump even if I cannot stop thinking of the family who will reach arms out to a beloved pet this day and touch only rain.

Island Blog – After the Rain, Relation Ships and a Blackbird.

This weekend my daughter came with her girls. I know they all love it here, the freedom, the wild swimming, the spontaneous Let’s Do it thingy. Even I did that. Boots at the ready. My daughter knew little else other than ‘here’, the wild places, the free flow of life, even as she had to go through the awful teenage years, the indecision, the lost and found of herself. But, still, she, like her brothers, think of this place as home. It was a wonderful two days, jam packed with pretty much everything and nothing really planned. We went with our moment, as you have to with all the sudden island rain and the shapeshift of seasons within a single day. If you are busy not paying attention, a whole gamut of weather can swamp you, or, worse, you can miss a sunlift, an elevation, an invitation to connect. Get involved with Spotify or something on TV or your FB page and an opportunity moves on by, missing you as you, with hindsight, will miss it. As a result of this missing thing it is easy to see rain as a continuity. Which, btw, it is not.

The day my girls left, it rained stair rods. I doubt all of you know what the heck stair rods are. They are those rigid steel rods that hold (or held) carpets down on stairs where the horizontal meets the riser. They were ferocious in my rememberings. Meeting one of those in bare feet with the enthusiasm of youth in an exuberant push t’wards elevation and the ensuing pain did stay with that foot for some time to come, gaining no sympathy, despite the bruise. Those were the days when I knew that butting up against a rigid was altogether my fault, as was pretty much everything else involving collisions. Too fast, not thinking, not planning ya-di-ya. But as it still happens to me, although not with stair rods for they no longer exist, I can still bruise and bash myself through sheer exuberance, acting spontaneously and without considered thought. It is either that with me or it’s frozen immobility. I have never managed to be grey.

My daughter is the opposite of me. She always was. She is very obviously a lady. She is calm, quiet, considered, gracious and thoughtful. She would never dive into a swimming pool before first checking it has enough water in its belly. Our differences have been both a perfect match, like yin and yang, or a pulling away. This visit brought a new light to our connection. We are learning to grow an adult friendship. Now it may seem that this beginning has come a little late to those who managed to forge adult relationships with daughters when the daughters first became young women, but in my family it could never be that way because himself required full spotlight, leaving only a little glow for the rest of us to forge anything at all. He was unable to allow us time together without him and so his departure has gifted just that to us. I observe all our relation ships now have new rigging. Slowly, slowly, we are setting sail on a different sea and in a new direction. It is not something I ever expected but I am loving it. How strange life is. How heavy is the influence on children when parents still hold on to their own childhood baggage, that learned behaviour that, on reflection, can be destructive and can keep a unit confined to barracks over many long years. I know I colluded in that confining thingy but, as is obvious, there is nothing I can do to change what was, what I was, who he was and what we did to our children. They are, each one of them, strong, dynamic and good loving people. And, like us, damaged. But I can do something about the Now. I can change, say sorry, listen and learn. I can be humble and encouraging, I can leap into the new with open eyes and an open heart. I can sail alongside each one as we adventure on, working with the wind shifts, the tidal turns, the clouds, the sun and the rain.

‘After the rain’ doesn’t always apply to the outside stair rods making way for the sun. Rain will fall on the inside and the outside of us, and rain is life-giving water. We need it and when it does slow and stop and the world opens up like a smiling face, we can be thankful for both the rain and for the stopping of it. Taking every moment as a gift, not missing a single one, watching, learning, observing and listening, we can change or begin anew at any age. I find saying sorry for being crap at times very freeing. I am learning how to honour whom I was as a mother. Both awful and wonderful, rain and sun. It is the best anyone can be. To have the courage to be vulnerable, especially around children can mean so much to those children. I recommend it. I don’t recall ever hearing my parents say they were sorry for the things they got horribly wrong. Their generation held it all inside, too afraid to be humble for fear of losing control and status. I can see that. But we, my generation, have learned from this and have discovered that, contrary to old beliefs, it is a strong and brave man or woman who steps up, palms open and says I am sorry and who really means it. And, after the rain, the blackbird’s song is pure and bright and completely new.

Island Blog – This Journey

I will agree that these lockdowns have given us time to reflect. It has also given us fear and a stuttering of easy movement. Any journey holds both. Even going to the local shop on a little island. Imaginary demons lurk on every door handle and in every breathy encounter. Even from behind a mask we are cautious of guffaws so we try not to be funny, even if being funny is our absolute thing. For those of us who love to cheer others no matter what, our vocal chords are compromised if not fettered, our lungs on hold. We turn our faces away from other faces we know so well, pushing out a gentle Good Morning with as little puff as we can, for we must not forget the responsibility we carry. Touching anything is risky. Touching each other, forbidden, even if touching is our absolute thing. It is stultifying at times and we must not give in to imaginary fears. We must keep journeying for we cannot hold back the days any more than we can hold back the virus. Both are invisible.

Other invisible things also keep coming, rolling beneath our feet like thunder. These things can confound. Not now, we say, Not Now! But they do come anyway, bringing birds into bellies, all a-flutter and a-twist. Some of us must go to another place, a hospital, perhaps, for a check up or an essential operation. We must ride the road, traverse the water, open doors, breathe in air that may or may not be healthy and fresh. I think of these folk, compromised, fearful. I hope they have good family support. I wish them the very best outcome and enough courage to push away the fear. These journeys, in ordinary times, were bad enough. Now it must feel like a walk into Dante’s Inferno. I know of some who are back home now and healing well, who have journeyed through the Inferno and are cool again and safe. This is how it can be and this is what to focus on, never mind the flutter and twist of belly birds. It is natural to be afraid at such times. We feel thus as we face the unknown.

My way is to look at the other side of things, the flip side, the arrival and not the departure. When a journey is inevitable, no matter how badly we might wish it away, there is a choice. Look at the fear and feed it, or don’t. Instead look at the smile on your face when it is all behind you, when this journey that looms is already a fading memory. Look at what you can learn as the journey flows beneath you. Notice and reflect and store these observations away for a future think. Precious are these observations, the shared chuckles, the muffle of masked conversation. Look out and up at Nature as she flies by the car window. See how the clouds part and conjoin, how the sun takes a quick peek at you, enough to dazzle. See how quiet are the roads, how the rain spits up from the car ahead, how crimson are the tail lights. Listen to the music coming from the speaker. In other words create a distraction, create many of them. What you allow into your mind is what your mind will develop. It is such a powerful lesson to learn. No matter the journey, no matter the timing, we have a chance to learn something we never imagined was there at all.

Island Blog – Rain, Wolves and Happiness

It rained on all of us this day. Rain brings out the best people and the best in people. It also brings out the worst in them, in us. Black wolf/White wolf analogy. Sometimes we feed Black wolf, sometimes White wolf in response to something or someone, to events or lack of them. Rain after such a spell of stunningly white slippage is, indeed, an event. On the island, as a rule, rain is no such thing. It is just…..well, a ‘thing’, and a thing that is always upon us or drenching us or causing us to hide away and shiver. It leaks through roofs and drips down walls, necks and wood piles in its attempt to reduce us to varying stages of ‘puddle.’ Thus it is yet another reason to find cheerful, to be cheerful. How exhausting all this effort is! According to the uniform teaching on the pursuit of Happiness, we can never rest, for all of the work is done within. Not one single one of us can change what comes at us, after all. And the within of us is fickle and full of expectations. We should be happy and if we are not then it is his fault, or hers, or theirs or the rain. It might be quite marvellous if this contained a shred of truth, giving us strong purchase on an abdication from responsibility, but it does not. Unfortunately. Whatever slants sideways at us in its attempt to fell us is all in our minds. How we respond to that onslaught, whatever it is, will immediately decide our state of happiness. This is truth and, at the same time, a pain in the aspidistra.

This day I shiver. This day I huddle into extra clothing, despite the rise in temperature from -1 to 4 degrees, despite that. This day I wake twirly (too early in Edinburgh Speke) and dark myself all the way up to a boiled egg with ryvita at 0600. I inch through the morning, Oh Blam it’s only 10.30 and it feels like lunchtime. Now I have had enough. I stoke the merry log burner and climb the stairs to read in bed. My book is a fascinator. Madame Tussaud’s story dictated by her and called Little. I had no idea she was so small and so tenacious. Heart high to a small man, and orphaned early, she found her way to happiness through the most dire of circumstances and a deal of rain, not all of it from heaven. And then she left a legacy the whole world has embraced and exhibited. I read awhile as the clouds twist and billow, my window an ever-changing canvas, the light shifting, brightening, flexing, a light show no amount of rain can suppress. It smiles me, encourages me up, up and up again. So I ‘up’ in respectful obedience. I watch wheeling gulls and listen to their cries, their gull-talk. What are they saying, I wonder? The songbirds chatter to each other and warn of danger, walkers, vehicles, sparrow hawks and sudden human movements behind glass. Always alert, always focussed, always driven by the need to survive and to survive well. This might be named Happiness. It might.

Later I walk and blow the rain. Clouds come with me, from bright white puffs to the dip-fingers of grey spit, from purple angry to the slidescape of soft smokey wisps, linear, leaving-the-party sort of clouds. It wisnae me, they are saying as they slide sideways and away from the billows, innocent as baby’s breath. Diamonds adorn the birch branches and I duck to avoid knocking them from their perch, Rose gold on the far hills, sun kissed, a last farewell to the rainday, for the sun did show his face now and again, reticent, shy, or maybe just resting like me with a good book. Ach, do I have to turn up every day to make this race smile for goodness sake? Is that what he is saying?

On my walk, the initial bit of it, I see a friend. I am glad of it. I walk alone every single day after all. And, he might be happy to walk with me. I like him. He is an intelligent, questing young man and our conversations are always immediate, as if neither of us has to ferret about in our pockets for something to say, some pleasantry that may or may not lead beyond the weather, the rain. We agree we are happy to share our walk, although our terriers take a while to stop narking at each other. No, that’s not true. His terrier is no narker. It is my old and deaf border who shouts at everything and everydog. I learn what books he likes to read and he learns my choices. We meet on one and discuss it at length in lively bounce and laughter and develop each other’s fixed opinions into a sort of rain, a sort of rendering. We are not fixed. We are flexible, open, curious, interested. We were happy as we slithered a bit now and then across the ice plains that refuse to reduce or assimilate, and I am lifted. I am lifted not just because he was there and we did share, but because he touched the me in me, that core intelligence that oft feels like moving clouds, blame and rain. My meeting with him was random.

Or was it?

Island Blog – Rain Light

I walked today with my eyes open, as best I could in the slanty rain showers. I need to see, and everything, not just the odd one or two things of spectacularness. Actually, if I look with intent, a great many things take on such a quality. Marching past, thinking ‘rain shooting up my frocks or stones kicked inside my boots to irritate my bare toes’ I can easily miss something I should not miss if I want this walk to mean anything more than a mere mindless exercise for both myself and the Poppy dog. She, needless to report, has no issues with frocks or stones in boots and I am glad of it, for her sake.

Lifting my mind from the aforesaid, I steady my gait, slow my footsteps, turn my face to the rain and all the skinly benefits it has to offer me, for I know it does, I can feel it prickle and stipple my wrinkly face, making it really quite lively. My mascara will not run, and if it does, I won’t mind because the feel of this heavenly water is so much more refreshing than the slosh of chlorine controlled tap water. I look about me. The leaf mulch is like burnished copper and the stems of strong-backed bracken think me of bare trees in a fairy forest. Rose Bay Willow Herb (such a mouthful of a name) stems are of similar beauty. I wonder when they will all finally fall to earth. Perhaps never. I forget.

Moss coats the trees. Beech, Alder, Sycamore, Hornbeam, Oak. All of them gleam and glow, luminescent, elvish, the tiny moss tops holding the droplet diamonds. Thousands of them, on closer study. The sycamores or plane trees patched like the necks of giraffes show me burnt siena and umber. Some trees are bald and the rain has shone them into beacons of light, like wraiths among the living, standing without breath. All sung out. The flash of a Jay overhead, the greyling light illuminating its colours, the translucence of its wings in flight. A buzzard hums the air, holding it, balanced to perfection, almost still as punctuation. Poor rabbit, I think, or mouse. You will see nothing coming as you scurry from cover to cover, always hiding, hiding for a lifetime.

The track is puddled, the extraneous rain pitching down through little gullies, down, always down, as freshwater will always down to the mother sea. The loch popples, tiny drops peppering the surface whilst beneath, salt meets fresh and the inevitable collision shows me a frothy curve of resistance and attack. Sticks lie here and there, thrown perhaps for laughing dogs with play in their mouths and dance in their legs, abandoned like dropped kindling on the path of a forager. I remember each Autumn walking up here on dry days to forage for kindling. There was something wonderful about knowing who lit my fire. Buying bags of split wood never felt the same. I like provenance, stories, meaning behind things. I felt the respect owed and due as I lifted, carried and then lit my fire with something from the woods of Tapselteerie. So much of my life lived there. It matters. Thank you, I breathe, as I lay the gathered sticks, marking, in my mind, the tree they fell from, the one still living, or the wraith that once flowered and spread, following the seasons and just begging to be noticed.

Almost home and I hear the chatter of a very busy household. I can see the evergreen shrub shaking with all this noise and bustle. Hallo Sparrows, I say, but quietly so as not to disturb or alarm. I toss up a prayer of thanks for their safety in concealment. I like that they can live together this way, as I absolutely could not. A commune never attracted me but sparrows seem to love it. They are safe for now, for this time when the sun, barely able to lift his head over the horizon offers a shortling day in which to feed or to forage. T’is the season, I tell them, as I walk by and they, having paused at my footsteps, in an alert concern, relax and chatter back to me. I know how to move around birds; slow and with a soft, reassuring voice. In the mornings as I fill the feeders, the birds come close, even the male blackbirds and that was my best delight for they are the biggest panic merchants I have ever encountered, screaming alarm at the slightest twist in proceedings and frightening all the other birds into bushes and over fences, their little hearts beating like a drumroll, and oft for nothing.

Another day passes. This one with rain light in its eyes. I meet those eyes. And I see.

Island Blog – Ice and Fire

The past 3 days have been glorious. Cold, freezing, in fact, with clear skies and sunshine. T’is rare on this rainy promontory to enjoy such clarity on joined up days. We mostly slop through puddles, our frocks flying out like sails and our wellies musty with damp. Although the faithful rain returned last night, somewhere in the middle of it, and the wind rose to shouting point, it is enough to have had those 3 joined up days. People’s faces shine with light, cheeks pinking, noses dripping, as they stride out along the track. Even the dogs bounce, no slinking, no wet backs, chasing sticks and each other. The stones hold fast to the ground and the puddles are all but gone. Stands of pooled spring water show me a tapestry of ice lace, greened brightly by the strangled mosses. Long grasses, now the colour of sand, stand proud and stiff, frosted with crystals and the cobwebs white-lace in between. I watch the sky through the branches of the trees, lit as they are by sunlight in shades of red and gold. Songbirds chitter all around, a musical accompaniment, their colours brighter, their flight light-hearted in the absolute stillness of the air. Ducks fly fast just above the surface of a sea-loch, cloudy with ice. Water sprites shimmer like mist, ice maidens dancing. Geese lift into the cold sky and I wonder how high they can go before their wings freeze, Oystercatchers twitter down by the water’s edge and closer to where the sea-loch becomes the sea, I watch curlews and herons and scan the water for sight of the resident otter and her cubs. A bright red fishing boat gentles its way back to harbour and I consider the haul of lobster and crab on board. It must be cold work for those human fingers, bringing in the fleets of creels in such low temperatures. I wish them hot tea and safe home to the fireside for the sun is sinking now and the sky is taking centre stage. The cold sharpens, nudging us all back home, reminding us that darkness is coming and she will bring a billion stars for our delight. Even when the sun has dipped below the hill, the colours remain. Blood red, platinum, gold and silver twists of cloud like angel hair, slowly disappearing into the darkling air.

Walking out in the night I see those billion stars, recognising only a few constellations, which doesn’t bother me one jot. What difference would it make to them, to me, to anyone if I could rattle off each name? Zip, that’s what. I don’t need to know, don’t need to photograph, don’t need to understand or explain any of this majestic beauty to anyone, even to myself. I simply need to watch it, notice it and to move into it, fully engaged. All bothersome things, all worries and concerns are not welcome as I meander along. I am intensely focussed on what I see, what I hear and smell, the sensation of extreme cold and the clarity of the air I breathe. And, after it is gone, blown or washed away, I will be able at any time to take myself back into those 3 days and to feel as I felt inside them.

This day, the day of rain, I will walk again, this time my frocks flying out like sails and my boots bravely rejecting water ingress as best they can. Ice stands will be puddles again and rising, birds will need to look to their flight plans and trees will drip. The fisherman’s fingers will thaw and the wind will cause my wheelie bins to buck and dance. I will notice the beauty of raindrops held in the branches and shivering on the tall grasses. I will feel the bite of cold wet wind on my face and hear the wind singing the pines into melody.

It is as it is. This day, those days, all just days, but there is nothing ‘just’ about any of them. Whether ice clear and light or dusky with rain and grumpy clouds in varying shades of grey, each day is precious. Many won’t have this day at all. For some it might be their last. All that really makes us truly alive regardless of weather or worries, ailments, lacks and losses is the noticing of each and every day. To mindfully walk through the minutes and the hours, paying attention to every small thing, is how to feel well. If each day is noticed and engaged in, mindfully, there is no waste of time, no ungrateful thinking and see that chattering jibber jabber of bothersome worries and concerns?

Fire it.