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 – A Letter

Ten days since you died my husband. One week till your hillside funeral. All of your family think of you every minute, probably more often than even that. Memories come back, moments resurrect and stand tall, blocking our path. And yet we move on, doing normal things with an abnormal head on and a heart all flapdoodle but still beating. Mine feels like wings, as if there’s a bird trapped behind my ribcage unable to escape.

This morning I cleaned your room, now that all the hospital kit has gone. I took my palette knife and some white filler for all the many holes left in the walls, holes that remind me of hand rails and other attractive supports, no longer needed. Neither are the holes. There is a big enough one in me and in our little island home, even if I can move about more freely. The furniture is not pinned to the edges any more for easier wheelchair access. Actually, I did think you were a bit over the top in that particular demand. A wheelchair isn’t that wide, after all. Then I realised you had lost your innate spacial awareness and the evidence of that loss is scraped along doors and lintels and walls. You were pretty nippy in that chair, nonetheless, turning on a sixpence, making U turns and scoots forward when space allowed, and even lurching at great speed down the ghastly yellow ramp which is now looking for a new home.

The leaves are beginning to turn now. Conkers (we always looked for them didn’t we?) are landing on the track but I haven’t found a big one yet. You told me you always won conker battles and you also told me that you soaked them in vinegar overnight, making them like concrete. Scabious peppers the grassy banks finding the best sunshine spots. I saw 6 kittiwakes the other day, your favourite bird, flying seaward up the loch. I don’t think I have ever seen them here before. They came just for you.

The garden is looking a tad tatterlicious and the sweet peas gave up fighting the last big wind, but even broke-backed they bloom and their scent keeps wafting indoors, reminding me how much you loved them. I pick them for the house but soon they will be over for the year. Season rolls into season. You knew the sound of each one, its taste, its demands and its gifts. As one thing dies, another begins to live and that is how you saw life and death – the same circle, a never-ending story.

I am so happy that your dying was peaceful. No fight at all, no panic, no fear, just a soft leaving. And you wanted to go, you said so, to anybody who was listening. And so it is and was and ever will be when someone who cherished every second of a long adventurous life finds the living just too much. We didn’t want you to go but knew you did. We also knew that your living state was very compromised. But even at the last, your humour shone through those cloudy old eyes. Even knowing that the Great Beyond was calling you, hands held out in welcome, you whispered to me ‘ I don’t want to leave you.’

And then, you did.