Island Blog – Skitterlings, Venus and Mars

A skitterling of sparrows erupts from a dense thicket of rhododendrons as I wander by. I was in the harbour town this morning by 8.15 for a few errands. The sun blinds me on my drive, rising fierce and dominant into a vast expanse of blue. Earlier, like at 5 am, a wispy mist danced through the forest across the sea-loch as the tide slacked, paused and began to ebb beneath a gibbous moon and Venus. Hallo Venus, I said, even as I wondered if it was, in fact, Mars. It is a mistake to mistake Venus for Mars but the other way around just makes the heavens laugh. Venus is just fine with that mistake. She never got on well with Mars anyway and she likes to watch him huff and disappoint, as his ego flops somewhat.

The ground is hot to the tough, the air almost still but not quite. There is a quiver in the ferns, a wiggle and I feel sorry for them, the ferns. That one fat stalk holding a gay abandon of green fronds is compromised when the breeze hits it. All I can do is this rigid left to right thing whilst you fronds dance your dance, feathering the wind and sometimes I wonder if you are reaching for your freedom. The fronds chuckle. I can hear them and chuckle too. I walk to the old pier as I always do. Sandpipers call out in alarm, curlews erupt from the shore, an oystercatcher too. Herons screech at each other and I am tempted to tell them they both need counselling. The wee dog suddenly growls, turning towards the dense overgrowth behind me, up there on the rocks. If I was in Africa, I tell her, I would be very afraid. She keeps growling and heads for the dense overgrowth. She won’t go in. She’s a great big jessie after all. We sit awhile, watching the birds watching us, the oystermen at work and the tide ebbing away. Soon it will have its mind changed once again and the endless widdershins of a greater tidal flow will decide what these underlings must do, these inlets, these sea-lochs, these beaches and promontories. They are not in control but we don’t tell them that because nobody wants to hear such a truth.

Home again and music on and then an invite to dinner with my beautiful gift-daughter (Such a more truthful name than ‘daughter-in-law’ and way less of a mouthful) her sister and the three wee skitterling daughters, precious children, out future, our delight, my future, my delight. I did think of himself as I walked. I did. I thought I would never be so free if you were here. I thought, how much you are missing, even though you wouldn’t have joined me. I felt a Venus uplift, guilt at that uplift and then I laughed, not at Mars, of course not, but at the fact that still this separatist thinking lives on.

Island Blog – Grace of an Otter

Life comes and goes in waves. That’s what I think, but as I think the think, I wonder what I mean by that. Life, by definition, as long as I am alive, is a constant. More a line than a wave, like a path I walk each day. It is my nature to deviate as often as possible, but even my deviations are visible. Oh, yesterday I must have pathed off this way and last week, accordion to the way grass has grown back, I meandered that way. Unless the path is well-trod and regularly, grass will grow over quickquick, beginning it all over again as an opportunity to head off piste and, perhaps this is good enough in the limitations of my deviousness.

One of the most infuriating, at worst, or thought provoking, at best, sayings is ‘I always do it this way, or I usually walk this way, or I always have lunch at midday and so on. I work on not falling into the always and the usually, simply because of my desire for deviation and also because it heralds a setting in of routine and the shutting down of curiosity and imagination. Living this way is living in the past and not with an eye on the future, in my opinion.

Today I set off for my ‘usual’ walk. Oh, Hallo. As I wander up the track towards the sea, I stop to locate the sudden of fragrance, stand quite still and just breathe it in. Honeysuckle tumbling over a long fallen pine trunk. I watch the bees disappear into the cream and yellow trumpets, whizzing like an electric egg whisk pulled from the froth of albumen, and then emerging laden with pollen and free to fly. I notice brown leaves beneath the Horse Chestnut and find my eyes looking for conkers. No No Silly…….not yet (please not yet). These leaves just fell and turned brown on the track, that’s all. There’s a soft warm breeze and I shuck off my jumper to feel the sun on my skin, nice skin, brown skin thanks to these glorious summer days. My tattoos catch my eye as my arms swing. Each one marking an event. This one, Pegasus the Flying Horse, affixed in Glasgow when Himself was airlifted into the Uk after a massive African stroke. I had to do something that flew me above it all and Pegasus came to life. That one, the dragonfly curlicues, on a visit to Edinburgh with a lovely friend. She bought a lighthouse and I, a tattoo. This is my favourite. The artist so talented. There’s a Butterfly, a Quill, another dragonfly and I am not done yet. I have a date with my niece in Glasgow to visit her tattooist and, although I cannot go there yet, I enjoy searching through designs and placings. It matters not to me that my skin, my lovely skin, is wrinkled. Not one tiny bit.

I turn down towards the sea on a sudden whim, open the gate and read the sign affixed. YOU ARE NOW ENTERING…….and then nothing. I enter. Walking through thrift and wild grasses we reach the flat rocks, smell the salt and the kelp. I sit whilst the wee dog bolts in and out of the shallows barking at nothing. The tide is flooding, the air warm, the sun hot, the peace complete. There is nobody here but me. I remember things, like the whale-watching boat departing from the pier just behind me, returning with happy visitors, day after day after day. I hear their voices, their laughter, their whoops of delight if they had encountered whale. You will sleep well this night, I told them, and they always did. I remember Himself, all grizzled and strong, the Whale Father, the cantankerous hero. Suddenly a head pops up, sleek, black, fleeting and is gone again. I watch the water for some time. A young seal perhaps, a big otter? I am not sure, it was fleeting.

I am just about to leave when the sleekest finest dog otter rises effortlessly onto a rock not 12 feet away from me and the wee dog. She doesn’t see it and I grab her collar to stay her with me. The otter rests on a rock and crunches away at something. He is so clear to me but with his poor eyesight, he doesn’t see me. I watch him complete his meal, slide back under the kelp and reappear moments later with another crunchy thing. He is even nearer now, looks straight at me, but still doesn’t see. The wee dog makes a small bark and he looks at me square, holds, holds, then goes back to his meal. I can hardly believe my luck. I watch this wild creature, flow like liquid, sleek dark, effortless, easy in the tide tow, the flood and ebb, the wild and calm of an ocean. Elemental grace. I totter carefully away across the rocks looking back again and again. The otter just keeps being an otter. It reminds me that my very best bet is to be what I am. A woman aging, a woman strong, a woman who likes adventure, deviation and tattoos. A woman open and wild. A woman who cannot take on an ocean but who surely can take on her own life, the tide tow, the flood and ebb, the wild and calm and with as much grace as an otter.

Here comes a wind change. A door slamming, fly curtain whipsnap sort of wind. Puff clouds rise above the Blue Ben and the sea-loch ruffles and skids to the shore where, if I could hear it, there would be an argument with the rocks. From up here I can only imagine it, unhook the fly curtain and retreat into my home. Changes. At times infuriating, at best thought provoking. I like the latter best. I will be an otter inside my life of changes. I may have to swim faster or hunker down within the safety of rocks. I may enjoy sunshine kelp slip and slide days when apparent threat just observes me but does not confront. I may face off fears, imagined or real. I may bask in family or feel completely alone. None of these are in my control but I am. I. Am.

Think Otter and take on your ocean. It works.

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.

Island Blog – Thought, Feeling, Action

This day I have spent in my bed watching an otter take on a sea-loch. I saw the briny surface break and explode as the creature chased down salmon. I saw the flash of silver as the fish leapt to escape, caught by gravity and doomed to curve back down into the ready jaws. I sipped beef tea and listened to Hilary Mantel’s book, the Mirror and the Light read by Ben Miles. It is captivating.

My reason for being so indolent is one of the aftermath. Although I know that my home telephone number has now been changed and that the police have located the abusive caller, one who, thankfully I do not know and who lives hundreds of miles away, I am left upset and sleepless. I am a child now, afraid of the dark as I remember being when my shoes were mouse sized and sensibly buckled up. I lock my doors at all times and have to check the surrounding area before going out for wood. The fire burns all day long, a friend to warm and a living light to watch. I hide from phone calls and conversations. I am momentarily caught in the gravity of the situation.

However, I am not a salmon and I no longer have an otter-like predator stalking me. I am not bound for doom and probably never was for if this perpetrator had known how old I am, I doubt he would have persisted as he did. I also know that these fears and frets will ease over time. They are all, of course, in my imagination. Where he left off, hung up having delivered his explicit threat or promise, my mind took up the line and held on to it. Even waking in the night, something I can easily do at any time, I no longer feel confident about going downstairs to make tea and to sit awhile in my cosy kitchen awaiting further sleep to soften me, to lead me back upstairs and to hold me till morning.

As I lay in my bed today, I realised how much I miss, and have always loved, the sound of someone downstairs, someone pottering about doing this or that. The sound of the kettle coming to the boil; a door opening and closing, the radio chattering quietly in the distance. Any incoming phone call or knock at the door would be answered by someone else, and I could safely lie watching otters take on a sea-loch without a care in the world. As a child I could only go to sleep if I could hear my parents beneath my floor, the television on, their muted voices. Were I to awaken into silence, the fear would grab me at my throat, refusing to let me go. I had to speak firmly to my jangled nerves, unravel them enough to walk along the darkened landing and into my parents room in search of a hug or a story.

As dusk begins to fall and the otter, sated and spent, is back in its holt, another night lies ahead of me. But I am safe. I know that now. My thoughts, bellowed into flame by my own unrealistic imaginings, will not imprison me. I have been offered only kindness and action from the police, from Victim Support, from friends and family, and I am mindful of the fact that to allow any theatre to develop inside my head, inside my body, is the short walk to madness. My old ma would immediately respond. You are already mad Duckie. And maybe she is right, but fear will take no root in me. No flag will stay in the ground for I will see it and remove it. However, for now, the aftermath will be my companion, for a while, until this thing passes as all things always do, and if I decide to watch an otter take on a sea-loch, drink beef tea and listen to Hilary Mantel then I will do just that.

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.

Island Blog – Elephants, Clouds and Paper Smoke

This morning starts at 4am whilst the night sleeps on. In the time between dark and light, the darkling, I sip tea and watch the sea-loch. The air is flat, the sky the colour of paper smoke. Nothing moves, not yet. Then, a sudden arc of silver burst into the sky above the flat water and I know there’s an otter on the hunt somewhere in the filmy depths. The ripples ripple on. Then I see it, the hunter, its black head piercing the surface, only to disappear again into the deep down dark.

I feel dark, even though I know that once the light blossoms into morning, it will fill me up, the light, infusing my skin as hot water does a teabag. They say women are like teabags. You don’t know their strength until you drop them in hot water. It laughs me, even as I know it’s the truth. Today, like every other day, will be a round of mopping and cleaning, washing and caring. And yet, now there is a difference, now that I have admitted to myself and to my family that I am no longer able to care all by myself. I feel a teensy bit of relief, heavily clouded, heavy as a whole sky coming down on me. I used to believe clouds were light as air. Planes fly right through them, after all. But now I know they can weight as much as 800 elephants. That’s a lot of elephants and a very heavy cloud. How does it stay up for goodness sake? I have no answer for that, not being an expert on the matters of cloud.

Walking through the day with my inner judge on repeat. You are pathetic, weak, giving up, what makes you think it is okay to say I’m done? I always knew you would never see anything through. You have always run when the going got tough. You disgust me. And so on and on, ya-di-ya, the whole day long, and it is long, the day, second by slow second, minute by slow minute, hours and hours of it. I fill in gaps, sweep a floor, try to avoid eye contact with anyone, tell myself I have served well, thou good and faithful servant, but the judge’s voice is way louder and she barely pauses to draw breath. I change my frock combo to see if that helps. The outer me might just have some influence over the inner one. I change the position of the kitchen bin, wipe a table, turn up Radio 2, watch the sparrow hawk dive and miss.

I know that at such a crossroads, Lady Providence stands with her hand held towards me. I know I have done all I could. I know the decision is the right one. Dementia is cruel in all ways. It separates and divides. It eats the brain until any chance of a communication flow is cut. It takes a big strong, loving, able, powerful human being and second by slow second, shuts him or her down. The family can only stand and watch, help where possible, encourage all attempts at retaining independence, autonomy, humour. Then the time comes when it’s clear there is no way this beloved will return to his former glory. Ever.

The light is light now, the tea drunk, the morning shoving night over the horizon, blazing white and cloudy, like paper smoke. Roses pink the view, one sweet pea flower, the first, waggles in the breeze; daisies and those blue things I can’t name turn to face the sky, searching for sunlight. I don’t think they will see it this day but, loyal as they are, they will persist in their looking until they fold up for rest once more. Goldfinch spangle the fence, taking turns on the nijer feeder, bickering, flitting. Across the sea-loch a heron stands immobile, staring into the deep dark waters, patient, waiting, watching, beneath a cloud-heavy elephant sky, the colour of paper smoke.

Island Blog – Waiting, Silence and Engagement

This day I walk into absolute silence. Nothing moves, not a whisper, not a leaf, not a nothing. Under the tree canopy, beech, birch, sycamore, hip-hop, ash and alder, all branches, all leaves are completely still. T’is a rarity on this wind blown island and one to be noticed; one to become engaged in, to stand still beneath the huge silence and to become a part of it.

It is tempting to march on, my thoughts pushing at me like a man might ‘encourage’ me to get a move on. The Hurry Up of life is a part of our being. In order to get this done, I must move quickquick because the next thing is out there tapping its fingers on the table and rolling its eyes, impatiently. Do I always need to buy into this? Well, no, I don’t. Not now, anyway.

Standing under this still canopy, I reflect on those days, when the list was so tightly packed as to be almost impossible to achieve. Is there time between the napkin ironing and the school run, the first school run, for me to walk? Maybe, but only if you go like a dingbat, whatever that is, and avoid any such nonsense as looking out, up or around; no following a woodpecker’s looping flight, no sniffing of a wild rose in the cupped hand of that wee burn because that might take a few minutes being as you will have to lift your skirts, flip a fence and clamber.

These slow days, these days of so-called retirement, lend me time. Time that begs a payback and that payback is engagement. So, I engage. I turn to watch the sea-loch. It is flat as a mirror, burst open only by an otter, hunting. The waters close over almost immediately, as the air does once I push through it, ready, cleansed, new, for the next thing that might interrupt the still. The track is empty, as it mostly is. The stones lay flat or sometimes upskittled by a passing estate vehicle. I notice change. A branch fallen, a new growth spurt on a blackthorn, a higher rise of glorious grasses, a touch of sunlight illuminating a dead branch on an ancient tree.

In these extraordinary times, there is stillness. In fact, there is complete stopness. Where there was a flow of communication, a moving towards each other, we now step back. This day, as giving people delivered food, fish, vegetables and mail to our lockdowndoor they all pulled back as I came forward to receive. That space in between us has become, could become a long term space of fear. It must not be allowed to do that. In many ways it is so simple to go with the rules right now, but when they are lifted, will we lift, also? It thinks me, a lot. Living with Captain Vulnerable, I have many thinks about it, to be honest, and find it quite hard to see my feet on any of the future ground.

No matter. I will wait, as I did beneath the still trees, until something new illuminates my thinking. After all, I have lived through many battles, climbed many mountains, felt the fear and still marched on. And, in the meantime, I will celebrate the care and the giving and the inventiveness of those who have made these extraordinary times their chance to engage in ways they might never have known, had life stayed ordinary.

Island Blog – Words and Showing Up

When I was a student, I learned how to write good English, to enunciate clearly and to employ slang or swearwords only in the playground or in whispery corridors. Now, still a student, still learning, I play with my words. Words are like music, they sound soft or harsh, harmonious or discordant, resonant of the very thing they describe. Onomatopoeiac. My dad would have a fit at some of my words. I think he considered loose language to be a sign of laziness, an unwillingness to search for and then to produce a word most fitting. He had a zillion words in his mouth and was never short of just the right one, bringing in a goodly measure of humour and exaggeration, just like a pro. Once, with his head inside the drinks fridge, he announced that ‘we are perilously low on lemonade’. He could spoof it anytime he chose. I think I get my passion for word invention from him, from Roald Dahl and from other great storytellers who lifted words up for scrutiny, oft times laying them down again, all tapsalteerie, just for effect.

To play with word assemblage is to dance with fairy feet over the rules of engagement. Words have double flipped over the generations. Some have been lost, new ones found and elevated to dictionary standing. Playing scrabble with me is never going to please a dictionary pedant. In fact, no dictionary pedant would even consider it. There is only one person I can play scrabble with and that’s my youngest son who has more crumjumbling words in his head than anyone else I know. The game invariably dissolves into hysterical laughter as one or other of us attempts to explain the meaning of whatever word we have just laid down on the board.

We are taught not to exaggerate, not to overstate with words and yet where’s the fun in rules like that? Sounds very beige to me and I love colour and lift, nonsense and musicality. Life is tough enough already. We do well to remember that having fun is good for our health. And, in that, I take courage and inspiration. Could be the lyrics of a song, a line snatched from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; could be a flow of words from a passerby #therearelessofthosefornow; could be a crash landing in my own head whilst buttering a salmon steak. Could come from anywhere but if there is music in it, then it grabs my attention and I take a good look see.

This morning, around 5, the sun cast red across the sea-loch. A fingermist hovered over the still waters, tree reflections shimmying like dancers. The goddess of the breeze obviously thought it was her turn. Tickling the surface with her fingers, she lifted the runnels and rivulets into bubble swirls and sent them all on a trajectory for the wide open maw of the Atlantic Ocean. Gulls dipped, oystercatchers twillopped overhead in a cacophony of oystercatcher-ness, and one lone young whitetail soared like a big showoff almost level with Cirrus, although, of course, he was nowhere near those ice clouds. It just looked like it from down here, from stuck down me, gravitously cemented to Mother Earth with my neck a paperclip as I watch and watch till, with barely a wing beat, he slides 10 miles to the other side of my looking. A lift of light and the starlings arrive like a football crowd to the bird table. There have to be 15 of them, babies open-beaked and squeaking, parents madly gathering seed, feeding, gathering seed, feeding and on and on till Lady Night finally says Enough! Sleep!

I remember it well. And I am glad I do. I have known the times of overwhelming, my times of flight, high as Cirrus but not quite, my lifts, my joys, my swollen ankles, my sleepless nights, my troubled days, my moments of supreme peace, my ages of gloom. All of these colours, all of these states of being, these words are me, are you too. It is how and who we are. It bothers me (for about 3 seconds) that the greatest requirement in this life is to keep showing up, first, to keep learning, second, and to keep applying said showing up and said learning, ad infinitum for all eternity, forever and then some.

Easy Peasy.

Island Blog – Fly Right

The sealoch is flat, mirror flat, holding the sky in its belly. A lone gull skims across the surface, its wings never touching the water. How does it manage that? If I was that gull, there would undoubtedly be an error of judgement and I would tumble, wonky chops, into the brine. High overhead a young buzzard cuts the blue, chased and mocked by two gulls. I watch the slide and rise of them, the sunglow through their wing feathers, the way they tumble and flip. So free up there, it seems, but I know that’s not the truth, even if it does look glorious from where I am, stuck to the gravitous ground, pulled to the earth and destined never to fly unless inside the guts of a plane. Which won’t be happening for a long time to come. But, to watch these dalliances, these moments of sublime grace and wonder is to inhabit, just for a while, the world that is theirs, the world above my head, the world all around me, the world of nature, survival and imagined freedom.

As the day unfolds, so do I. In a good way, naturally. The thoughts I had yesterday, the things that happened, the word exchanges, the moments of understanding, release and acceptance unfurl like petals to let in the sun. I am wholly delighted to be one with faith in my higher self. Despite sinking at times into the cold watery darkness of a sea-loch, I always hold fast to the belief that all will be well in the end, and, if it isn’t well, then it isn’t the end. Not because I am so damn smart at living, but because the invisible beneficent powers of goodness are always working for me, for all of us. It isn’t down to just me, the one who could misjudge my wing flaps and tumble into the brine, and thank goodness for that. I have no illusions concerning my ability to straighten up and fly right all of the time.

When I got the call yesterday to say that we are now to ‘shield’ for another 12 weeks because of the high risk factors in this house, I sank a bit. Another 12 weeks? That’s end August. Not only that, but my weekly escape to the shop is now cancelled. Further, we are asked to separate within the home. Now that bit is impossible. Not only is this a mouse house, but I am primary carer and contact with my husband is required regularly. So, the requirement is that I go nowhere apart from my solitary walk for fresh air and exercise. Enter fear. I already knew that self-isolation is going to continue for a while yet, because my husband is very vulnerable and needs superhuman protection. But hearing it spoken out gave it gravitas and heavy boots. It was a wonky chops moment, the chance opening of a doorway allowing fear to slide in.

And then comes a new morning. The pines stand as tall as they did yesterday, backlit sunrise pink, the colour of a smile. The air show lifts my spirits and I know that fear will not survive on my watch. No matter how long this confinement, we can get through it with sparkle and laughter. The sign is outside the gate. ‘Please don’t come in’. It felt weird writing those words. I am more known for a Welcome sign, but in this time when the best I can possibly do is required on an hourly basis, I know I am not alone. I know there will be hundreds, if not thousands of people facing an extension of lockdown in order to protect someone vulnerable.

And if they can do it. Then so can I. All I need to do is fly right, most of the time.

Island Blog – Translation

Geese woke me this morning. It seems they are quite unable to go anywhere at all without engaging in a loud conversation, as if, their vocal chords are wired to their wings. It’s 4 am, I said, but they ignored me, honking on as they skimmed past my open window to land with effortless grace on the water. It’s all but flat, the water, and the far shore reflection of striated rocks, adorned like bridesmaids in butter yellow lichen, shivers – a slight surface rebellion, probably the translation of a tidal undertow. It makes the rocks look like they’re shimmy shimmy shaking. Perhaps they are. What goes on beneath the surface is only a guess, for me, but the body of water understands itself and knows from long experience how to communicate.

I eat breakfast, change bed sheets, clean up, ready for a new day, and all the while, my thoughts flow along, mostly unchecked by me. Sometimes a hand goes up. We need more blue milk. Or, I must water those little seedlings. Those thoughts alert me, ask for immediate action, or they might float off into the, now clean, ether to become part of a cloud and thus lost to me. Weetabix without milk is a crunchy thought, dry, not the same at all. Seedlings will flop and die of thirst. So, I must make a note of both and right now. Other thoughts circle a bit before they flee and I bring my brain to bear, make it listen, make it follow through. Sometimes that’s a mistake. By employing my logic I can see a seedling thought die of boredom. This thought doesn’t want to be fixed, arrested and imprisoned by me. It just wants to stay as a thought and the only reason it circled at all was to say Hallo and to hear Hallo back. Hallo, I say, and off it goes.

In these times of slowdown-lockdown #not meltdown, thoughts are busy. I suspect thoughts are busy in everyone’s head. All of a sudden there is time for them, space to circle and float without being batted away like bluebottles. It serves us well to allow this space to widen, to deepen, until we can learn, not to organise our thoughts, but to conjoin with them, for they are ours, they are us. The translation of these thoughts might, in the busy past, have been misleading. Reacting immediately, without due process, to a thought can lead us to making poor decisions. We don’t need to do that now. Now, we can spend time with them, get to understand the craziness inside our minds, see that every thought is there because of who we are, because of what we do, or what we did. This way we teach ourselves to reconnect with the whole body and it feels good.

Although you will never know all my thoughts, as I will never know all of yours, we will both be able to see a person who has reconnected with their undertow. It probably takes a lifetime. All the great thinkers who understood the power of this reconnection, of creating a synergistic relationship with their own thoughts, are ancient by the time they ‘get it’. Right now we have this gift, this opportunity, to consider understanding our own selves a bit better. If we can allow our thoughts just to be thoughts, to say Hallo when they circle awhile, they will flow at ease, no matter what.

The geese are diddling about on the field now, chattering incessantly, picking at the grass, preparing for young. Later, when the chicks are ready to swim, they will lead their young across the sea-loch, on a day when the water is a mirror, when it looks like they are paddling through the sky, when the undertow is at peace. I will watch them and I will smile as thoughts float through my head like will o the wisps.