Island Blog – Here and That is How it Is

So here is how it is. Ten days of a visiting son with his kids, this morning, gone, the air sucked out of my lungs as his car disappears around the corner. Nothing has changed. The sea-loch still rises and falls to the whimsy of a Sturgeon moon, the birds still flit and flut between feeders, the house still stands strong, broad shouldered stone, protecting me from a load of outsidery things. The shop still opens at nine, the builders head off to work chugging iron bru at 6.30, my neighbour heads off to his fishing boat for another day of net tangles and swear words. And yet everything has changed.

I meander through the morning telling myself not to focus on the gone thing. I tell myself to get busy as if all is as ordinary as it was 11 days ago but as the hours slouch by I know this gone thing will catch up with me, with the hours, with my thoughts. I feel old, stiff, annoyed with both. I never thought I would get here to this old feeling. I used to laugh at such nonsense from my ma, my scary mother in law when they looked as I might look now if I allowed anyone to see me looking thus, which I don’t. Feeling old, I told them, is one thing. A thing you cannot avoid. Presenting it is a choice. Don’t make that choice. I hear again my wise words, spoken through a young set of lips still plump, words begat by the father of ignorance. Who can know the feel of old until it arrives one morning with enough luggage-intention to stay long term? Nobody. What we do, when this guest arrives is to choose our pretence. It’s a bit like a journey on a false passport. This is me, not me, me from choice. I may not be this person but I am determined you will acknowledge this ‘me’ because if you don’t then I am grounded with the old feelings, the fear feelings, the lack of swing and chortle feelings and I refuse, point blank (whatever that means) to accept that.

I walk as I always walk, noticing the grasses husk and ochre. I touch their still yet softness as I pass. I see bracken spot and curl, the carpet of fallen leaves, already brown and crisped into tiny coracles on the track. I see hazel nuts overhead, rowan berries blood red against a blue sky, beech leaves goldening high above me. The ground is soft and mud blown, cut and spun into soup by yesterday’s sudden thunderstorm, here and then gone in a matter of one short hour but nonetheless a herald of Autumn’s closing fist. We may have more sunshine days, who knows, but the word is out among the seasons and the Your Turn thing is shifting. I pass by the shore and look down but cannot go. For ten days it was crazy down there, endless loud girls crab fishing, the growl of a quad, the squeals of delight, the absolute takeover of a small thrust of rocks, the learning, the delight, the falls, the fire lit to cook noodles or sausages, the glorious family fun of it all. I continue around the track, remembering. In my mind I see them all, bright eyed, ready for nonsense, scaring me with their bravery, no, not that. It is their confident youth. The way they skitter like lizards over all terrain, the way they sparkle at cake or chocolate or fruit pastilles. The welcome they give me. The whites of their eyes, their teeth, the shine of their wilding hair, the flash of their feet as they dash past.

They are gone and it is a heavy thing. I know, I know (please don’t fix feelings through logic) they will come again. Others will come again to inhabit this glorious place, to redefine it, to render it their own for a short time. They will sing into the clouds, the blood red sunsets, yell at the moon, cry at the falling in, laugh at the cake, fish for the abundance, argue, storm off, come back for a warming hug. I know this. But this day I feel their loss deeply. And that is how it is.

Island Blog – Swanlift, Labels, Honey and a Captain son

This day I drive the switchback to the harbour town. I only go there these days on a specific mission, never to wander nor to dawdle, as once I did. As I heft right down the steep brae and see the tongue of the Main Street sticking out like thirst, it is coloured up with tourists, the many who are here for a longing, an escape from lockdown. I am so not joining them. They wander, holding ice creams, takeaway coffees, bags of shopping, children, all loving the tidal sweep of the bay, the seagulls fly, the fisher boats, the chip van. I swing right into the harbour car park and meet a tailback. There are just so many places for the parking and I get it. You arrive and you want to park. That’s all, but it is not enough because all the spaces are taken so we tailback, hover, pause, exercise patience and not patience. I am here to meet up with my captain son as his boat is in the harbour for a couple of hours before turning seaward once more with his passengers. We bench sit for I cannot go aboard. He brings tea, a chef made biscuit wrapped in a paper napkin and delicious. We talk of our lives, his young family, my aloneness. We watch the in and out of boats, of visitors in yachts, of locals checking their own launches and sailors. We say hallo and I watch faces. Of the ones I know as friends, I see the toll Covid and isolation has taken on them. Some visitors come too near and my mask hand twitches. They laugh, cough, move on and here I sit scared as a mouse, even on a bench in the sea air.

What happens to us in such times? It thinks me, much, of those (including me in the past) who felt scared just being around people, never mind an invisible virus. We were labelled as those with mental health issues. Now, I am one who would fight to the death to blow all labels into the stratosphere, no matter the smug relax of those who choose it at some committee meeting and then tootle home delighted with the fact that they don’t fit the confines of any label. So, right now I am afraid. And then I am not. This fear is tidal. It rises, full moons itself and then subsides into seaweed and sand. It is real. Very real. But I would stand at the gates of Challenge and shout ‘ Don’t label us!’. I would. And I will tell you why. Any label fixes a person. It might be on medical notes. It might be a long term tenant in someone’s mind. Oh, he, or she, has mental health issues. How ridiculous and how wrong is that! Does this mean we who have gone down like a swan in a swamp, cannot find a way out? Of course not. We can fly again, lift from fear again, become wonderfully white and light and flighty once again.

It is a thixotropic place. In the language of honey spinning, that honey gift from the bees, this word means honey that refuses to spin. It is mostly heather honey which is why it is common to buy heather honey in comb squares, wax included. In life it symbolises the same thing. A refusal to spin, to melt and demur. What I find in these times is that I oftentimes need to remind myself to relax my shoulders, raise my neck, breathe and go forward, especially en route to what I consider the Big City, bubbling with way too much busy life, a life I felt so easy peasy in before. Suddenly it presents menace. My honey refuses to spin. It is still there but affixed in a wax hexagon that will not let it free. I am not saying I like it. I love to flow. I love people, connectivity, chance encounters, but now I am confounded, afraid and my body is telling me she is not happy.

I know that I am bereaved broken. I know that learning how to live alone after almost 50 years is not going to turn me into a confidently independent woman overnight. I know, because of this, that I have mental health issues. Fear, accentuated; sleepless nights; hypervigilance; squewed thinking. of course I flipping do. It thinks me of anyone who is so labelled and who feels less-than, diminished, isolated because of that awful label. (all labels are awful). When any one of us is in a dark place the last thing we need is labelling. We are not what ‘they’ tell us we are. We are just in a dark place, a dark well, looking up at the light and just a bit terrified of moving towards it because we have no idea of what that light might throw on who we really are now, in the aftermath.

Island Blog – A Diamond Day

This day we gather for our son’s wedding to his lady love. Well, some of us gather in person, whilst others zoom in, virtually, to bear witness to promises made and happiness shared. This day will be remembered for many years to come. Impressions will stick, spoken words and tributes will be held inside the human heart; moments will be re-lived over and over again. Even as I write, cars full of excited guests and family members traversing the land are googling directions, tweaking outfits and wondering how they look. There will be laughter inside these cars, anticipation and the odd snap of tension as a tail back tails back. The time they all aim for is 1pm on board MV Emma Jane at Dunstaffnage Marina. The sun has appeared, the sea loch is calm, the air soft and kindly. I did my famous Be-Off-Rain dance yesterday and, despite a few clouds, it looks like I haven’t lost my touch.

We cannot be there in person so we are two who will zoom. I want to hear the words, those vows, readings and speeches in real time. I want to see the well-tweaked outfits, the smiles, hear voices and laughter, see children in their wedding kit, the groom and the bride in immaculate finery, their joy complete for they have fought hard to bring this day into their life. Postponed in its original shape since March (thank you Covid) this new wedding design is smaller but none the less valuable, like a small diamond instead of a big fat garnet. The diamond twinkles more, however small; distinctive and distilled into perfection. You must look at closely at it in order to appreciate the way each tiny face catches sunlight and reflects it back like a gift.

This young pair have found each other when neither were looking. They have weathered storms within and without and held on tight. I am proud of their courage and resilience and in awe of their beauty and strength. This day brings to both of them a dream, a completion, a new beginning. Despite the changes they have had to make in order to bring us all together as witnesses, they are making it happen. They never wanted a big fat wedding anyway. What they value most is family, a few friends and their children.

To James and Emma – on this, their diamond day.

Island Blog 8 – Kites over London

I’m watching father and son (now new father himself, as of Boxing Day) take down the outside Christmas lights and bonding whilst 3 red kites soar overhead.  I can hardly believe I am in London beneath such majestic birds.  The neighbours put the remains of their sunday roast on the lawn and wait for the kites to collect.  They don’t land, just swoop and collect. Haven’t seen it for myself, but I hope to this weekend! Must be an incredible sight.


Blog article 8 - 'Fathers'