Island Blog – Autumn, Our Gift.

I almost didn’t go to the pier today, to sit on the flat rock and to watch the tidal activity. Almost. Waking twirly and feeling it as the day slowed on, I conversed with myself as though to allow such a falter, to give it credence and approval. I will walk the short walk today, I said. It’s fine. I am allowed. But, as I moved closer to the exit opportunity, the rebel in me drew blood and stood in my path. I could see her in my mind’s eye and she laughed me. Ok, ok, I said, I will walk on. She withdrew to allow safe passage. I would so not want to challenge her.

Leaves are turning. Above my head, beech, alder, hornbeam and birch show me tip. That tip into Autumn, that acceptance with a rebel of colour shouting at them. No dying without colour, she says, no dying without that glorious dress of swish and ruby, of gold and speckles, that differentness that comes only now, only as Summer with all her flounce and confidence yawns like a princess and takes a first class flight across the world. There, she can astonish as only she can, lifting tired human minds, human bodies into swimsuits and flowing wraps and barbecues and beach encounters, but Autumn is pragmatic. She speaks to the dying light, to those on the cusp of change, she is change. And she does it well. Even though the storms may come and the light give way to a big dark, she is clever with time, for those who are watching. She is not one to sleep in.

The light lifts as I walk. Although it seems that the sky is closed, all grey and without comment, there is a shift. I can feel blue coming even if I cannot see it and it comes, with dissonant clouding and cerulean blue. For now it is just sweaty and cloying and my frocks clamp my skin. Then home again as Father Sun finds his spot and beams hot and sweaty after a jumper and boot day. I roll my eyes and peel off morning layers, damp down the fire. The temperature flips from nothing much to 27 degrees in a matter of moments. My neighbours suddenly barbecue. It is what we do if we are working with what is on offer, much like Autumn. I like her. She is feisty and determined. She is beauty in the face of death only it isn’t death. Death is forever, whereas she, Autumn is just one of four and playing her part. She is that jazz singer with a whisky/cigarette voice you hear whilst walking home, one that draws you in to hear more. She is nuts and berries, vibrant and wild, offering a harvest that comes only to her. She is preparation for the winter months when we all lose the plot, light endless candles, and pretend we don’t mind the dark and the cold. She is a herald, nonetheless. She is saying, get ready, pay attention, get real about this time, in particular, This Time, for we are all afraid, all wondering, all peering out at a world we are no longer sure about nor confident to walk in.

I won’t do the cheesy and say that this is nothing. It is not nothing. But we humans have survived, lived, loved danced and made a difference over and over for thousands of years. None of us know what will happen next but next is out there and we are right here, right now and this is Autumn. Our gift.

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 – Tribute

I always feel better after writing a blog. Is it, I ask myself, to offload, to teach, to preach, to, in other words, misuse my public forum? It’s a goodly question to ask myself. Once I have ferreted around in the cellars of myself, once I have come up feeling strong in my purpose, sure that it is not about me but about anyone else who may click with something I write, I write. This is one of those well-ferreted writes.

Today was troubled. The way it works for a full-time carer is this:- Day begins hopeful, trusting and light. Then one becomes two as the one in care descends the stairs, floating on metal poles and thanks to Major Tom, aka the chairlift. This is when the mode and mood of the day is proffered as IT. Now I have a choice and a decision to make. If the gloom descends with him, then I must attend to said gloom. I can resist it, but we all know resistance is futile. I can poke at it, ask questions, play bright, but I can hear my voice, in a slightly higher key, sounding sharp as badly cut tin. This won’t work. I lift my ass from my seat, round to the kitchen, make coffee, hot strong and black. Not enough. This gloom is following me, I can see it, smell it, feel its touch on my back. I swing about. Go Away! I hiss, but hissing works no better than resistance. I can feel it pulling at my skin, seeping in, changing me.

The day rolls slow. At 10 am I bake a cake, thinking, this will do it. It’s my usual flat pancake but with cherries which makes flat okay. Taste is everything, after all. We wander through the morning, him restless, moving moving moving all the time, the click and whir of the wheelchair setting my teeth on fire. Ears, I say, stop listening! I have always believed, and proved, that ears are obedient souls, if you organise them right. Pulling birdsong forward and pushing clicks whirs and other unpleasant noises back works well, for a while, but I must be vigilant. One relax and the click whirs are wild in my head whilst my teeth could burn down Rome, even from here. I read the affirmations on my kitchen wall. You can do this. I’m doing great. I believe in my dreams. This too shall pass. Those sorts of affirmations. Ya di ya I tell them today, but I don’t rip them down as I have in the past because that is resigning myself to the gloom. I cook, walk, feed birds, watch the clouds, berate Lady Moon for not showing me herself at 4 am and keep going, keep going, keep going.

It’s like holding up a bridge every single day. Just me (or just you). Mostly I can do this (so can you). Mostly. But it is exhausting, endless and with no end in sight. I have to be cheerful for two every single minute of every single day (so do you). I have to think ahead, plan, make sure the way is clear, be kind, laugh, smile, show up no matter how I feel or what I want. I could go a bit further for a walk. Easy. Not. I still could, but I don’t. On Gloom days I am fearful. What if he falls, gets more muddled about this or that, what if he just feels scared and needs me to hold that heavy bridge up?

This is caring. You who do it, already know. Outside of our lives are many who support us and show great compassion. We need it, oh boy we do, but they haven’t a scooby about what it’s like for us, minute by minute, day by endless day and I hope they never do. Holding up a bridge, alone, scared, ageing, tired, exhausted, doubting, weak and sleepless is something we have fallen in to. We won’t abandon our post but the ask is great.

I salute all of you who care enough to be caring. This is my tribute to you.

Island Blog – Valentine

There is a valentine in all of us, even the most cynical cynic, even there. Not one living soul on this planet would say that a show of love doesn’t touch a heart. It always matters. It can come with flowers, a card, or a romantic getaway date. It can come inside a hospital ward with a hand held tight. It is there in the eyes of the forgiver and the forgiven. It lifts like sunshine into an ice wind, melting, softening, kinding. It says I see you, and you matter to me. A glance can send love, a smile, a pause to talk. We remember such times and they warm us with a memoric hug as we step back into old shoes and new rain. Love is love and we all need to see it and feel it.

As life batters us, drawing the skin across our bones and flabbing our bellies, the roses, the card and the romantic getaway may lie in our past. But love doesn’t. Thankfully we can show love anytime we so choose. Although in our emotionally strangled country we make a BIG POINT about the difference between love and like, there is no difference at all. A kindly word to a harassed ticket collector on the commuter train is showing love; a knock on our frail old neighbour’s door to ask if she needs anything from the shop is showing love. A jump to arms if someone is in trouble – that’s showing love too. Giving time to someone when we think our 24 hours are already solidly booked – that’s love. There are as many ways to love as there are people on the planet and the source is an everlasting spring, one that no drought can turn to dust.

St Valentine served the needy and the sick. I doubt that was always fun. In the end he was martyred for it and that thinks me. Showing unconditional love bothers folk. He must be up to something. Nobody can give love all of the time. Oh, really? Giving love is not being perfect. We can still snap and crackle, shout and lose the plot; we can still regret, deny and blame; in other words, we can still be who we are, but feel differently about ourselves. Giving love to everyone we know and randomly meet does not mean great displays of affection that might lead to arrest. It doesn’t mean that someone who never hugged has to learn how to. There are many other ways. Kindness, compassion, time given, a helping hand, a smile, a compliment, an acknowledgement that this other person matters, even if I never see him or her again. And the way I feel after giving such a gift……what is that sunshine warmth inside me? Well, it’s love. When I break out of my selfish little life to show another that I see them, that they are important, no matter who and no matter where, I am changed inside.

And I can break out right now.