Island Blog – A body and a spirit

A body that has lived is a beautiful thing, not necessarily to behold, but it is beautiful nonetheless. Once, when it might have been beautiful to behold, I hid my own, never believing I could bare much of it to the world, or, to my small world of people. Even among my much younger (and fitter) sisters, I was cautious, making sure I had a dressing gown coveration when departing the shared bathroom or the shared bedroom. I was never shy, not that, but I had to be fully clothed to allow the ‘not shy’ in me to fly out into a room. I could do legs and loved mini skirts of the Mary Quant/ Carnaby Street era, but watched others bare cleavages and bellies and just knew I was way out of their league.

It didn’t matter, long term, much as nothing of vanity matters, long term. Eventually we get to realise that it is who we are to others that does last, that matters and sticks. Beautiful bare skin is nothing, after all, if the owner is a pain in the aspidistra, flaky, selfish, insincere. Now, to the body perfect. This body survives endless knocks and bumps, asks and denials, flak and cruelty and yet it works with a spirit to rise into another day, and another. And, the spirit is thankful it does and is ready at every point to help. Two parts of a whole, like an apple.

This body has adapted to endless demands, birthed children, kept itself awake throughout extreme exhaustion and still kept going. How did you do that? I ask, my spirit asks, because I could not have done this alone.

Well, says the body, you wanted me to and that is enough for me. I obey your command.

But what about the many times I didn’t care for you as you deserve?

I managed. I knew you loved me really. You were just distracted.

Yeah…..for decades. How is that ok?

It is as it is. Still is btw.

Even now, even now that I see the papery skin on my gnarled twiggy fingers? Even as I see you sink downwards? Even as you sometimes find it tricky to get out of bed without a grunt, or to lift from a chair, or when you are extremely cautious on hillsides? Even then?

Even then. We work together.

But when I am afraid of falling, of sickness, of living too long, of dying, are you?

No, I am always alert. I may obey your commands but I am way ahead of you when it comes to getting older, or more papery, more gnarled, more afraid of hillsides.

I think that reassures me. I think.

Listen, we have worked together for 68 years. Do you really think I am leaving now? Just look at what you have achieved, just look. You moved like a dancer through the demands and rejections, through the depressions and joys of an extraordinarily adventurous life. You held and nurtured five wonderful children. You lifted them into the world and set them free. You cried a lot. You doubted even more than a lot. And yet you, ditzy brain, crazy reckless dreamer, free spirit, risk taker, mistake maker, you stuck with me too. You didn’t, as I sometimes thought you might, head off the rails and into the wasteland. You are still here with me.

So I am. How wonderful, old body. Thank you.

You, my best friend, are so very welcome.

Shall we continue?

Island Blog – Ice, Clarity and Skeletons

An ice-white day, from start to finish. When I awoke at 3.30 a.m. I walked out, barefoot, in search of the Aurora. She wasn’t playing, not yet. But if we are graced with such weather again, maybe next month, she will dance in the skies behind my home and I will watch her as my bare toes meld with the earth. I recall, well, coming outside from a robust and loudly musical ceilidh, to see her dance her lights across the stars, and for quite some time, until my mouth threatened to freeze wide open and my toes grew chilblains I wouldn’t meet till the morning. I will never forget that night. March 3rd 1993. Funny how dates can stick when others flounder grey and insubstantial within the soup of memory, like slime.

I walked the whole round today. I have avoided it for days, maintaining to myself that I am always tired and, thus, justified in my short walk which isn’t a walk at all, not really. Some of my friends, my sisters, my brother, speak most jauntily of a mere 7 miles and twice a day, and, whilst they cover this ground in my mind, I am left slouched and idle in my 20 minute trudge through a ‘not-walk’. So, this day, this ice day, this day of clarity when Ben Mhor, so clear and so near, looks like the whole mountain might suddenly appear in my kitchen, I decide not to agree with my trudge self, but, instead, to walk on. And, I am glad of it. I could feel the eyeball searing cold of the Atlantic hit me as I curved myself around the apex, even though there was not a stitch of wind, nothing even enough to shimmy a leaf. I paused, often, to really look. Striations of ice lay on the stand water, water that will, possibly, give birth to tadpoles in the Spring, whereas now it just reflects the sky in rainbow connections. The trees, skeletal and defying identification for I am great with leaves and considerably less great with bark and shape, lean over me like big sisters, strong and well rooted. The ground is caramel with fallen beech leaves, glowing eerily in the light of the sinking sun, sienna with a touch of ochre. The track is puckered with ridges of frozen mud, elevated by boot trudge, by the hooves of horses, the snatch-track of bikes and I feel a peaceful calm run through me. My pace is timpani inside the silence. A jay screeches, a woodpecker cuts the silence and I watch it lift and flip away. Ravens, their voices so confident, commenting on the day, black and slow in flight, flap lazily through the blue. Lady Larch, the queen of the woods, catches all the orange of the last sun. In a human world, she would be a model. She is certainly tall enough.

A constellation of star moss lines the track on my homeward walk. I stop to marvel at the frost-bright crowns each stem wears upon its head. On the track, the grey stones have grown an old man’s stubble, white with light, but, unlike an old man’s stubble, it melts beneath my fingers rendering the stones an immediate ordinary. I come back through my little wonky chops gate. The latch no longer meets its docking. T’is a winter thing. Come Spring, it will happily click shut again, but, for now, I must needs elevate one side of the gate in order to connect with the other. Inside the fire yet burns and as merrily as it always does, the smile of welcome; welcome home. I make tea and press play on my talking book, resuming my place as observer to another’s taut and well paced story. My story is not well paced. It is only in the re-telling of a story that any well-pacing can be brought to bear, as if distance from the drama matters. And, I concede, it does matter. In the thick of the drama, however undramatic this drama may be, everything is sharp, frozen even, and with no recourse to sensibility. On the other side of any story, the eyes of the observer are essential, even if the observer is she who lived through that story, or he for that matter.

Veg roasted, candles lit, fire encouraged into a new and warmer flame, I am content. I have walked further this day. I have watched ice halo star moss; I have laughed at my ignorance of trees without leaves and stood beneath those massive skeletons in awe. I saw the Atlantic buffet, albeit kindly, the basalt and granite shoreline; I studied the ice diamonds on the track, one I walked today. Walking on diamonds.

Every girls dream.

Island Blog 40 – Show Yourself

Blog 40 - Goodly wives

 

I had three phone interviews yesterday about Island Wife, due to be published on March 28th by Two Roads.  I think there will be more to come over the next short while when I am new news as opposed to old news, which I will be by the second week of April.  By then the sound of running feet will be receding, not coming closer – such is our quick-quick world.  I will be standing here, open-mouthed and half way through the answer to a very personal question, laying down my words, one by considered one, only to find the room has cleared in a heartbeat.

So, it seems of the greatest importance that I use this platform with the respect it requires, for the legacy I leave behind will be the things I have said, that may be remembered, for life and death are in the power of the tongue.   Words will leave me and attach themselves to the hems of departing coats only to be re-assembled through the filters of a very different person, using a different emphasis, perhaps, a different tone of voice.  What I say may not be what is printed or spoken out.  What I mean may not travel the distance.

And so it is in relationships, those ships that fascinate me most of all.  Every one of us in one, like it or not.  Some of us are crossing oceans, through angry storms, turning our faces into biting ice winds that threaten to tear off our very skin; some bob gently across a mirrored calm, the sun warming our bones, and some just putter up and down the same claggy-banked strip of canal on an ancient barge with rusty screws, a draggletail posy of wild flowers in an old jam jar on the cabin roof.  But this is to stereotype and is not therefore the truth.  The truth is that we all travel storm wards at some point in our lives, and at others we bob across the mirror and in between, we deadhead the draggletailed posy whilst the endless ordinary banks pass us by.  And whilst we do all this, we bring that of ourselves to the table, to our relationships.  We bring likes and dislikes, opinions and phobias, passions and failings, gifts and skills.

In an ideal relationship, such as the one my neighbour has, or my sister, or that woman I read about

in last weeks Sunday magazine who lives beside the sea with a loving man and who has enough money to spend on whatever she wants to spend it on, neither person fights to control.  Neither person pulls rank, manipulates either by loud domination or weak dependency and neither wants anything less than to lift the Apple of their eye up to whatever light warms them.  My opinion of what you should or should not do, has no place in our relationship.  My only role is to love you, and to love you right I must remove myself.  My……Self.

This doesn’t mean I am silent and fuming in the corners.  It doesn’t mean I don’t tell you loud and clear when I am angry or upset with something you have done or said.  What it does mean is that I can be honest, create my own boundaries, speak with my own voice, make my own choices and leave you to do the same for yourself.  I expect nothing from you and you expect nothing from me, and both of us give and receive freely.  It sounds like perfection, you say, too perfect to attain, but it’s not perfection.  It is Love. Love for myself and Love for you.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and I am single-stepping right now as the Island Wife considers her response to another personal question.  There are often two answers to that question, two directions.   One choice.  Mine.

Island Blog 19 – On Character and Wheedling.

They say that we are born with our own personality and that we grow our character.  I am watching ‘character’ appear daily in a little baby. Each little ‘quirk’ lands on me like a feather, the tickling kind, and I laugh out loud.  Even at this early stage of life, it seems, a human creature has something personal to say in response to the world, to us who care for her, and her statements lift into the air and become a new piece in the puzzle.  Not that we are puzzled, but more, captivated and enchanted at the way this child is sinking her flag into the land, claiming her stake in it, singing her own song.

I know that the world will affect her growth, that stuff will block her chosen flight, or hem her in and limit her choices, but that is an old chestnut in my opinion, for we can all fly if we just open our wings, whatever life we land in.

 

As my five kids appeared and began to show their colours, I wondered, not a little, how much colour any mother could take on.  It sometimes seemed as though the whole house was like a wild abstract multi media canvas and I needed shades to look at it.  How, I asked myself, as nobody else was listening, can there be five completely different characters born from me and their father, when we are just us with limits and baggage and issues and no time to talk about any of them?

 

I never got an answer, but I can tell you, that life was both hilarious and scary at one and the same time.

The way to work with such an abundance of personalities was in the collective, or so I thought.  We called them ‘the children’ and stuffed them into the Landrover along with the dogs and sometimes, a pet lamb or two.  When the older ones (by a short leg) made their claim on later bedtimes, or specific opportunities, denied the ‘little boys’ it seemed like a very big deal, not least in the required explanation and subsequent justification of this new treat.  Stretching the day a little, a later bedtime, a larger portion of supper, an excuse from washing dishes because of Important Homework (as opposed to reading 3 more pages of Enid Blyton out loud with particular attention to commas and full stops) required a brain shift, well-toned arms and one of those calm strong voices that always sounded like a sqwalk from my mouth.  I remember having to stand on a chair as they lurched uncomfortably into the teenage years, just to look like I was taller and therefore, in charge.  But I never felt ‘in charge’, not really, and often, when I looked back, after an encouraging wheedle or two, the only living things following me were the faithful collies, the pet lambs and Isabel the hen, not one of which had the slightest clue what I was wheedling about.

 

Now I look at my five rebels and see fine young adults, with buckets of humour, common sense and character.  So maybe they were following after all.

 

Blog 19 (V2)