Island Blog – Questioner. Answerer.

I walk today through soft air, breaking into it, splitting the atoms then turn to watch them come back together at my back, as if I was never there at all, leaving no evidence of my passing, not even footprints for the track is mostly dry. This is a relief, the dry track I mean, after months of slopping mud, the backlash of mudfreckles peppering the backs of my legs. Larch fronds dangle, long green fingers, the sycamore blossoms buzzing with bees. They sound like tiny airborne motorbikes. Coniferous giants, evergreen through the coldest of months push out just a little, bright lime against the winter-tired needles the colour of wine bottles. Even the fallen trees push out hope, in parts, still working with the sun, still holding on to life. These huge giants, felled in some vindictive gale, remind me of another giant of a man felled a few days ago, gone. Somehow, when a person I know goes down and stays down, one who lived a few doors away from my own, it feels sharp, needle sharp. He was about my age and always out walking, always full of craic and laughter. Although he will not know this Spring, not from this earthly place anyway, I will think of him whenever I walk along the little track, one he loved as well as I do.

I wander on, noticing with my usual gasp of delight followed by a greeting spoken out loud, new buttery primroses along the bank, more leaves coming here and, oh look, over there and even way up there! Violets too, tiny delicate lilac petals peeking out from behind the protection of a rock or a drystone wall, sudden lifts of pastel beauty, wood anemones too, or their foliage at least. Tree ferns fall from on high, way up the bellies of the great old trees, like tiny green waterfalls. They tremble as a luff breeze tickles them. I can almost hear them giggle. Rounding the apex of my walk, I watch for seals hauled out on the rocks, listen for their song, but they are not here this day. I say hallo to a beech tree who began her answer to the questioner sun by pushing out as far as she dared before turning her face upwards. She is a force indeed to be admired for her belly is wide, her backbone strong and she is a fine match for the others who grew straight up from a straight up beginning.

It ponders me.

The sun poses the question. He sends warmth and nourishment. He calls out the bees, the butterflies, the dragonflies and all the other buzzing things of which we are not quite so fond, the answerers. He rises the earth, eats it up, challenges it, is relentless yet life-giving, pulling up life from the nearly dead, just for one more summer, just one more, don’t let go yet, the Mother needs you, you and her little clueless people. And we, too, are answerers. We rise into the new warmth with smiles that need cranking up a bit as Winter finally feels the threat of meltdown and begins his retreat. We change our attitude, become more open like petals, delicate but trusting. We risk vest off, open more windows, sit awhile on a tree stump or a bench to listen as passing talk tells her tales of other lives, other hopes and dreams. We catch moments, moments that didn’t seem to exist behind our winter walls, sounds drowned out by lashing rain, sleet, and witchy winds.

Soft now. Let it be. Let us and others be. Questioner or Answerer, both are we. We can shine light in places without light. We can be curious about how someone else thinks, how they live. We can show that we care, that someone else matters just as we hope we do ourselves.

Island Blog – Nothing Else Matters

My life is golden, a flower, one that has lain dormant (but plotting) for many soggy months, one that is now above ground, looking up and out towards summer. I have seen oh so many summers but this one is new to me and I can feel the fizz of excitement in anticipation. As I sit on the stoep, feeling the warmth of Father Sun on my bare skin and watching seabirds wheel and cant, hear the chase-off when a buzzard comes in to their air space, or a sea-eagle, I smile and whisper a thank you. As I hear a distant woodpecker nattering at deadwood in a call for a mate or see siskin and goldfinch on the nijer seed, I feel the free space around my body for I am a part of this burgeoning Spring day. I listen to my neighbours enjoying a barbecue with friends, a just over the hedge spiral of shared talk and laughter as their little ones demand another rib or a water pistol and I smile through my happy solitude. I see the sea-loch calm and soft beneath a wide sky and wonder about the life beneath the surface. I think about ‘surface’, the way I can see something that appears to be the truth only to discover that it is anything but, like the way I might think a person is until I get to hear their story. So much depth, so much history, so much about experiences I have never had nor ever will. I hear the words, Be Careful, in my head and I will. Be Care Full. I want everyone to know the peace I feel, the acceptance of a life golden because for those of us who do not face danger every single minute, nor abuse, we who have a home, a place in space, enough food in the fridge and our health and strength, our memories and our family do indeed live a golden life. A daffodil life. We can rise through the sog and bog of winter into a new timeline, a new day every day. We can walk in freedom and, if we have eyes to see, we can watch it all in awe and gratitude. We cannot change the lives of all those millions of others who have not even one of our life gifts but we can spend time appreciating our own, noticing them, naming them, listing them.

My children and theirs are well and happy. My siblings ditto. I have friends, moon rises, sunsets, tasks to complete, people to encourage, letters to write that will be received with a smile, frogspawn to move before it dries out a thousand tadpoles, supper to choose, music to listen to, a beloved dog to walk with and to cuddle. In this world right now, all of those are privileged gifts. To whom much is given, much is expected. I get it. I really do. To be thankful, mindfully thankful despite loss and a mucky past, despite the inner demons that have no power unless I give it to them, is key. Key to what? The door to the next big adventure, that’s what, and we all have one of those just around the corner. Life is golden for any of us who are not running from war, from abuse, from ethnic cleansing, from a painful past, but even they, one day, will find the golden. Let us who have it now rise into the sunshine because the truth is this:-

Nothing else matters.

Island Blog – The Last to Leave the Dance Floor

Around my home the fragrance of Spring is an olfactory delight. Every room sings me daffodils. My garden sways with them and bunches arrive for my birthday. As I arrange them in vases, I consider their spacing with a view to the final picture, correcting myself from time to time. I never was a ‘shove-em-in’ sort of woman. I like presentation and flow, design and a sort of roundness that tells me I am probably OCD around the flower arranging thing. I might be thus around other things but that doesn’t fuss me now, even as it does think me about a book and its cover. Let me explain.

As I walk in the still cold wind, but not so cold as to beg a jacketty coverance, what I think I see is randomness, in the woods, along the banks, beside the shore, where various shrubs, trees and plants are exploding through the ground in a shout for life. Maybe ‘exploding’ is a bit ott. It is, to be honest, a more cautious peek out and no surprise there for the slice and dice artic wind is not gone yet back to wherever he takes his raggedy old destructive self as we welcome Mother Spring. His bite is one of anger and rage, of sudden ice, of ha ha and you thought you were safe to show your colours. Mean. But he can come in this month, oh hell yes, he can come and we must stand vigil, sniffing the weather and just knowing, as we once did before diesel fumes and light pollution turned us into eejits.

But I am wrong to think that anything in nature is random. It is anything but. I get that we randomise merrily away inside the confines of our garden, forcing intelligent plants to grow in all the wrong places, sentencing them to gigantic effortness that will never produce good blooms, but out there in the wild places, new life will explode into beauty and a future in which we have had no hand at all. I like that. So as I wander beneath some ancient larches that are pushing out buds I recognise their intelligence. Here is sheltered, both from strong wind and from ice wind. There, not so. Therefore the buds are still holding, holding, because a blast would ping them off into the nothing.

I notice my thoughts, about 200 thousand a minute. I watch fat trunks pass by, ancient and strong, moss covered, they who have stood for a hundred years. They may be bent and leaning somewhat, but I bet they are not fussed about how they look. They don’t bother with a mirror to tell them how wonkychops they are now. They don’t care for such nonsense. Their sole purpose is to stay alive through whatever ice slice dice weather comes their way. They are grounded but not trapped. And that thinks me. As we grow older, things will go wonkychops. They will. And, in knowing this, we have a choice. We can fuss and fret and btw get mildly histericous about turning 50, a year I uninhabited almost 20 years ago, or we can decide to dance whatever. My thoughts are all about my kids now and their kids. This is my world and what a world. It doesn’t matter how I look. They don’t care. It’s all about me showing up. Like the push for life in Spring.

And on we go, until we stop and, just fyi, I will be the last one to leave the dance floor.

Island Blog – Make fire

Himself used to call this time of year the dying time. What he meant was that we all think it’s spring when spring is still hiding, holding back. Perhaps it is different in Englandshire, although with the extraordinary changes in our collective weather patterns, I am guessing it is not as it once was. Perhaps the early lambing now needs to be within the safety of a barn because the weather changes are not easily predicted. We cannot say it will be fine today anymore. There is intempestivity in our world, a windswept tumble, a helterskelter and we are the receivers of such, grounded as we are in our tacketty boots and our waterproof trews. We walk in sunshine and then suddenly, in a nanosecond, a black sky chucks hail at us, hail that would kill a lamb. It did and often unless a skilled shepherd was always on watch.

Himself could read the skies. I loved his knowledge even as I took it completely for granted. Can I hang out the washing? Hmmm, you have two hours. We need to ready about now (sailor term) right now, and there I was, shifting from one side to the other of the sailing boat, bringing over the boom, pulling ropes, fastening other things to other things so we didn’t capsize. He was always right. And when he was out there in the killing time, when calves were fighting to survive and lambs were the pickings for ravens and crows, not to mention the sleet and freezing winds, he stayed and watched like a mother. I guess he was another mother, one with the choice to save those who were faltering before another bone chilling night out there in the wild open. Although I might have, back then, grumped about yet another ewe and lamb to rub down, to feed and to warm, what with five feral children to find and to scrub for tomorrow’s school, his attention to his animals was impressive.

This time of a weatherly sleight of hand in ‘False Spring’ terms was also the time our beloved heavy horse sank into a bog. If you have read my book you will know she should never have been way out there on the shore, not at this time of tapselteerie, when new grass leaps up to a suddeningly warm sun only to be dashed back down to pulp after a 2 minute hail blast and accompanying wind. I hear her welcoming whinny still, sense the warm cave of her back for a slow ride home to hay and shelter. She rumbles on like an aftershock. She is remembered, respected and honoured. And her memory brings me back to the now. There are events in all of our lives we might rather not remember, but we do. Any cut between ourself and another, a permanent one, is a shock, like an earthquake. We move on, of course we do, if we can, but something we might find hard to understand are the aftershocks. They can hit us like a hailstorm in spring, one that batters and bends and breaks the inner daffodils that looked so strong and safe in this morning’s warm sunshine. We learn like students in a new school how to live with and beyond the aftershocks, faltering, awkwarding, turning away and hiding, but eventually we emerge in a shape we don’t recognise until we do. It only takes a look in a shop window to say oh Hallo You, there you are. And that is enough.

The aftershocks keep coming. They come unbidden, unsought, but they come. A crocus bloom through snow, a line in a song, something someone says, the lift of a bird, the sudden green buds of a larch tree that weren’t there yesterday and the ground rises up beneath us, confounding our feet. The wind is still cold, the hail right up there all encased in a frickin big black cloud moving right towards me, but I can see this green and I am sticking with the green. The hope. The hail, the tempests, the sinking down, the longing, the what-the heck of things will not tamp my flame. Not as long as I know how to make fire. I do. And you do too.

Island Blog – A Wonder and a Mystery

During these past two days of almost warm sunshine, no rain and blue skies, I have loved walking among the trees and along the shore. Gulls wheel above the tidal dance and it seems to me that every tree I pass beneath is bursting to push out leaves. However, the night frosts are sharp and I get their caution. Primrose leaves are now showing along the banks in sheltered spots, sheltered that is from the still cold wind and the daffodils open with big buttery smiles as the sun brings his warmth to their soft petals. I dare to believe that Spring is almost here and I am glad of it, not just because February tried to drown us all but also because of the long covid cloak that has darkened our days, months and years recently. Like others I have spoken to, the covid time is a blur. When I am asked how long ago Himself left the planet, I have to think hard. It’s as if time didn’t count herself. She just laid herself out before and behind us, not interested enough to make any particular mark.

However, during these timeless and dark days, the colours that shone bright and sparkly came from us, from human endeavour and resourcefulness. Instead of everyone playing sheep, individual enterprises and personal challenges rose up like flowers in the winter and were no less surprising. I heard about it on the radio and would find myself leaning in to really hear what this or that person was doing, stretching their minds and bodies in order to bring encouragement and inspiration to others. It has been tough, all of it, the dark, the fear, the lack of information, the doubts and the dithering but we have got through it, and well. Most of us. Of course there are very sad tales to tell, I know that and I am sad for the sad ones who endured bereavement and pain. But what excites me is the rise of human endeavour, not just by a few, but by millions. This is who we are and how we can live if we stop wishing the nanny state away whilst buying into it ourselves.

Any day now the larch buds will appear like tiny purple grapes. The horse chestnut, often the first to bloom, will show that gloriously uplifting snatch of green way up high on myriad branches. Then as if given permission, the other trees will follow. Delicate lurpak coloured primrose flowers will thrill passers by, including me. Then the garden will erupt and careen into real Spring allowing no time for me to catch up with the weeds and I will sit on the old bench, remember Himself who used to sit beside me and smile because whatever comes and whoever goes, Life will live on and there’s a wonder and a mystery in knowing that.

Island Blog – Some Time and the God Mother

Recently I have watched change develop, a responsive change to what is happening with the season. Local dog walkers are now clad in jumpers, one or two (jumpers) I recognise from last year, at a similar time. They sauntered by in teeshirts and shorts, it seems like moments ago. Was I asleep for days? Did I miss something and, whilst I did this sleeping thing, did the weather send these goodly folk into their drawers for a wheeching out of warmer kit? No, I didn’t sleep, rarely do, so it wasn’t that. Maybe the gods of weather flipped a switch, laughing at us down-belows and deciding to stir things up a bit, because body language speaks volumes. Instead of ‘sauntering’, these folk are bowed, bent and clad in plastic. Where before they walked with jaunty air companionable with time as if it was a holiday stretching out for days, they now march, get out, get back, wet and longing for a hot cuppa, teeth gritted, defences up against the sideways rain avoiding puddles deep enough to sink a vicar. I feel it myself, the oh-god-do-I-have-to thing pre dog walk. I resent, big time, the reach for the plastic covering, the boots. I feel irritation as the doglet pauses to sniff at every other blade of grass, yanking her on and then carrying the guilt of grumpy yanking for another half mile, at least. Walks are shorter, faster, marchier. Dammit.

Then I remember the discomfort of change. Ah…….yes. Every time a season changes it feels too soon, even when the coming season is Spring and this is why. I like to know where I stand within my environment, my life. I want ‘ordinary’ to remain so, even as I absolutely don’t. Eventually, I get comfortable with the change until it isn’t change at all. It just is as it is. The in-between time, when I am on the cusp of things, I swither, feel out of sorts, resistant. It’s not anticipation of a seasonal change because it slam dunks me. I don’t know what it is, and I get bored of myself looking for reasons. I work not to be crabbit. I poke about in my insides to find some explanation and find none. This finding none thing also irritates me. I like an answer, that lovely well-honed explanation, much like a well-penned musical phrase that jitters, lifts, curves and flows down to an Aha. Nothing. Dammit again.

When dressing these chillsome mornings, I paint my way through my frock layers. This, yes, that, maybe, and this one onatop. No, try again, and again and again. What is wrong with me? For many lovely months I just rose from beneath my duvet, picked up this or that for its colour, or shape, or layering power. Now I am a snivelling child of a morning, with no power at all. I realise, I know, as I write this, that it is a First World problem. I remind myself of that as I stomp down the stairs to yet another dark morning. Is it morning at all?

There are so many who dread mornings. There are so many who have left their last ever morning behind, lost like a full stop in the dark. I have frocks and choice. I have Autumn and change. I have rain-soaked dog walks. I have Christmas ahead, visits from family and friends, my children, their partners and the grandchildren. I have my eyes, my ears, my legs, my face, my arms and a choice for dinner. I have enough money, enough warmth, enough light, enough dark to remember the full stops for others. Again I ask, what is wrong with me?

The Soft Voice comes to me. Nothing, she says, this God Mother, Nothing at all. You are but human (the ‘but’ bit clicking me into pause. And, she continues, there may well be another day, another morning. There may not, but there may be. Keep living, not just breathing. Keep fannying about with your frock talk, keep dithering and swithering and be grumpy if it helps. All is allowed, is normal. But one thing……

Yes? I ask.

You have one time, some time. Use it, dance with it, in it, play with it, have fun with it, make it hilarious and precarious, vicarious, salubrious, nefarious, whatever. But notice which and what. Choose from your own ground, your own roots, where and when you will spread and when you will flower.

She’s wise, the God Mother.

Island Blog – Butterfly, Change, Motion and Lift

This day my eldest son returns to sea for 10 weeks. In theory. Who knows what rulings will be in place as his supposed return date moves closer? Nobody, that’s who. Or is it ‘whom’? I don’t give a damn to be honest. All I do know is that my heart is a butterfly this morning. His time at home is always wonderful but this time tops the lot. The suspect in this has to be the death of his dad and said dad’s loud absence from life. And he has been so caring, so present, so available. Of course, it isn’t just me who has benefited from his being here. He has a wife, a family, a home and friends. But I am his only mummy. Just saying.

Funny thing, this mummy role. New birth is one thing but growing and developing a child and then letting go is a very different one. It is history in the making, memories captured or consciously lost. It is both good and bad, happy and sad, upsetting and elevating. It is butterfly lift, fragile, beautiful, dangerous and transient. A mother, well, this mother, is always, even now that all five glorious children have their own, vigilant and alert for danger, even when she is laughed at and teased about her state of alertness and vigilance. She cannot change. She cannot let go, even if she has done just that in real time, on the outside of herself, marking her own reactive behaviour, her choice of wordage and comment, denying her own longings for the greater good of which she is only one part.

Mother’s Day, my birthday showed me clearly how precious I am to my children and my grandchildren. I was celebrated to the point of exhaustion, requiring many naps during and after both days. It thinks me. We mothers are not born mothers. Our children birth us. Without them how could we possibly know such depth of feeling, such agony of concern, doubt and worry? And on the other side of those dingly depths, there are the highs, those gloriously wild lifts of joy, of celebration, of wonder and amazement. The threads that link us mean that every yank shoogles us. We respond. Change comes as it always does and just when we think we have found our balance. People leave, some return, all change in the face of change. We do so, or we find ourselves left behind on some draughty platform with not a train in sight. I have been there but only when I resisted the inevitability of change. If I stayed down, then I stayed down, flat, pancaked, immobile. Motion is required. Get up you plonker and catch another train. Find them. They are not lost. You are. I remember such times, the desire strong in me to give up, to hide, but the pull of motherhood always got me to my feet.

So, as he leaves for the long arduous journey, through Covid tests and isolation, and up up and away into another world, I will reflect thus. I have enjoyed a daily dose of him for 10 weeks. We have laughed and hugged, shared meals and stories. He has helped me re-jig my widow’s brain, celebrated me and helped me to find a new way of being bravely independent with kindness, encouragement and a lot of teasing. This is what I have and I am a very lucky mummy. I will remember all the moments and they will strong me back into my beautiful wings and into the sky along with the geese, the softer winds, the spring light and the gentle peace of this island life. And I will picture him safe, happy, important in his work as master of the super yacht, and, most important of all, home again safe in mid June when the flowers will be partying, the trees heavy with leaf cover, the young birds fleein’ aboot, and the sun high enough in the wide open sky to convince even the cynics among us that we are, once again, free to lift, change and move on.

Island Blog – Heart lift

Soft, loving compost is heaped on my garden. I made it myself and it is thunderous with worms, not that any of them will survive this new exposure to light. They are worms of the dark, of the fetid warmth and gentle darkness of a dialek bin, creatures of a season and doomed to face change, one they won’t like much. Robin, blackbird and thrush gather as if they know there is a feast for an early arriver. Within minutes these compostian beings will have dug themselves deep, dug for death.

Heretofore I had always shovelled, laborious shovelfuls into a big bucket, then lugged said laborious shovelfuls down the back steps and into the front garden. Then came muscle man. He just wheeched the whole dialek off the ground and shook him a bit to release the dark, wormy soft heap of live-giving goodness from his interior. I was impressed. Now he can do the lugging and he did, hence my thoroughly over excited flower beds. They are giggling. I can hear them even through the regular hail shower attacks. I see an eggshell, a bit of cauliflower stalk, garden cuttings and they smile me. Go to work my lovelies, I tell them and together, we wait, even though they know more than I about what is happening beneath their butts. It is such a quiet thing, this growing, this birthing of new life and the mystery of survival no matter what frollocks happens above ground.

Primroses are showing sunshine faces along the drystone walls. No larch buds yet but I can hear them whispering as I pass. We are coming, they say. Keep watching. And I will. I do. As I walk, I remember. This time last year I shut down, locked out the world, kept vigil for any invaders. How strange to still be thinking the same way and, yet, not quite in the same way. It isn’t that I mind locking down in principle. It isn’t that I am afraid. It isn’t that I no longer have anyone to protect other than myself. It is simply strange, as if I, like the compostian worms, have become accustomed to a darkness, one that has proffered an unexpected sense of security, and now I am not sure who I will be. All through this past year my lack of desire to go out, to meet anyone, to entertain visitors confirmed me as a student hermit. None of the lockdown, bar the initial fear of an invisible and extremely powerful enemy, phased me.

But I have had enough now. Rising, unlike the worms but very like the new shoots, the daffydowndillies, the tulips, the snowdrops and with new leaves twinkling at me under the weight of thawing hailstones, I want to keep rising and that means forward into life. My fed is suddenly up. I want freedom of choice once again. My choice to go here or there, to this person or that should be my own now. How clearly I see the way a revolutionary spirit rises within us. Living under any regime is everything inhuman and that’s what this feels like now. Enough Covid! with all your tentacles and your new names and strains, your machination against the human race, the one I belong to, by the way, the one I seriously care about! I want to yell. Actually I did yesterday and it felt good.

However, there is little we can do than behave ourselves a bit longer and keep watching for Spring. She will go a long way in saving us, for now. However it doesn’t stop the fury at continuous imprisonment. I think of the ones who have died and those who couldn’t be there at the end of a loved life. I think of the painful separations, the people who will suffer deeply from this enforced isolation, those living lives of deprivation and of constant pain. Who will lift them into Spring, I wonder? Here am I frapping about renewing my passport and then there are they, stuck, trapped, broken, sick, dead. It is humbling.

Best I can do is write. Best I can do is keep living. Best I can do is to watch for Spring. Sometimes others walk with me. Not weirdo dead people, although occasionally they do, but those I think about, the ones I don’t know and will never meet, the ones who have found this past year a deal more than merely inconvenient. Hey, I say, come with me. I can take you to the fairy woods, show you the elvish trees, now a bit stripped of moss for the deer are starving here. I can walk you through where wild garlic will flower, take you to eider nests, show you oystercatcher eggs among salty basalt, lift your eyes to a skylark, watch your face soaked in salt spray and old stories, and watch you catch them, the stories ,and even if you don’t understand the language, your eyes will tell me you have those stories in your heart. A heart lift. A change for the ever-ness of life.

Island Blog – Season Shift – Resist or Lift

I always do this, although I only noticed the ‘this’ that I do quite recently. As Summer gives way to Autumn I continue to wear bare legs and feet for as long as I can outrun chilblains. Once into Autumn, I find ways to layer up without ballooning and look forward to each morning, even planning my layers whilst still beneath the covers. As Winter sinks in her teeth I find it progressively harder not to balloon, but I am on a roll here and the cold comes incrementally, in the main. But when Winter begins to concede to Spring I am oft confounded. I have become used to my layers, ones that used to fit me the whole day long. Now they only suit me up to midday and from then on become a massive irritation. I feel as if I might combust, but it is still not yet warm enough to leap out of a vest. I open doors and wonder where on earth my shades are. I sit in the glare of Father Sun and feel cross. Go Away, I want to say, even as I don’t. The fire still burns and I will need it in about an hour when the Old Man is taken down by the forever hills, but it makes the room stuffy. I open windows and in whoopees a freezing draught full of chilblains and icicles. Jersey on, jersey off. It’s a ridiculous day and not the first, nor will it be the last. Perhaps, I tell myself, it is so much more natural to layer up than it ever is to brave off the layers of comfort, layers that have become my friends and protectors for months now. Is Winter the longest season? I always said so in my talk with tourists who decided on a happy holiday whim to buy a plot and build a home. Don’t. I said. Do Not. Not until you have spent a winter or two here. Why is that? they quizzed. Because winters here begin in October and hold fast till Mid May, that’s why. Not with frost and clean clear icy, shiny, sunny days but with wet, wet and more wet and when the wet thinks we need a change, it turns to ice and sleet in an annual battle against the rise of a Spring sun. Just in time for lambing.

I walk in the slipslide of ice meets sun and marvel at the blue of the sky. Hallo Mr Blue Sky, I sing to myself without the backing group and I search for buds and studs of green on trees. It is pointless. These studs and buds know jolly fine about winters up here. I hear them snigger from the safety of their twiggy nests. You think this sudden sun will fool us? It only happens once, after all. It is, this time, a holding time, a waiting. And yet it is we or is it just me who is longing for warmth and the chance to open doors to let out the stuffy, even if I might have to de-balloon. Is Winter the longest season, and what does that mean for the inside life?

First off I can see the dust. Blimey, it is legion. Although I say I don’t believe in dusting, I am glad there is no chance of visitors. My dust is remarkable. Not quite an inch thick, because I move about within these walls at speed, but almost. I don’t notice it on grey days, normal days, but when this lunatic sun decides to shine like a beacon into the future, lighting the way for all but the blind, I find him invasive. Shine out there, I tell him, and not in here. Don’t bother flagging up my smeary windows or my table tops that once were oak and shiny. You make me feel like I will never win a good housekeeping award. The dust is on every single surface. I sit and watch it, the way it sparkles in the sunlight; diamonds and pearls, rubies too and emeralds. Are there stories to tell in that dust? Is there history? There must be. My cleaners have not been here since just after Himself breathed his last. Almost six months. I have hoovered and wiped, a bit, but dust and I will not meet. Clearing dust, in my opinion, is not for me anymore. I have shared my life with too much dust for decades and the clearing of it, if indeed that is ever possible, is no longer for me. But I can smell it. I can see it, lit up like it was a celebrity, glinting, sure of itself, holding ground.

It is this time of the year that I find hardest. Not only is the dust shouting out her stories and memories, but the sun is taunting me, offering light and bright but not enough warmth for me to shed a layer. Getting dressed in the morning is just confusion. 5 layers till midday and then what? Upstairs to take it all off and start again? This, this, is the winter and it is the one season that fights like hell to hold on. And it is the only one that makes me cross, even as I love it. What dichotomy. At Tapselteerie, I remember hoping winter would never end, that the new season would just forget to arrive along with all the tourists and the work, even if I did have chilblains on my chilblains. But once that season began I felt a lift and a joy. Life was living again and so was I. Momentum creates momentum, at least it does for me. Having to bare my wintry arms and legs and to see my body after months of concealment under layers might give me an awkward moment but perhaps this is the gift winter leaves behind her. You have rested, she says. You have covered and concealed but now is the time for joy and lift. Take my gift and rise with the buds and studs.

You are stuck with me. Deal with it.

Island Blog – Light Remembered

There are two kinds of light, said James Thurber. The glow that illumines and the glare that obscures.

It thinks me. I believe there are as many kinds of light as anyone wants to acknowledge. For instance, through the hail and sleet and snow as it traverses the sky, tipping the hills and turning the mountain tops into sugar buns, there is the white light of ice, the distance dark sheets of hail looking like treacle poured from the heavens. There is the flash of sunlight on a hill road as a steadfast patch of ice refuses to melt, a glimpse of car headlights as some brave driver rises over a summit, temporarily highlighting a fall of snow, to fold over on a slippery descent. The sealoch lifts into light only to drop back into darkness as the clouds conjoin, part and join again at the punch of a volatile wind. Sunlight turns the bare maple into a Christmas tree, each stem bedecked with tiny drops of water, rainbow tears. Spider webs look like intricate works of art, the cold spider a dark huddle of hope. I haven’t seen a single fly yet, and nor, I guess, has she. The garden is late despite the daffodils doing their best to pretend Spring is on her way, their stalks disappearing into the white slush.

Then there is the light in someone’s eyes, You see it and it tells you something. That’s what eyes do, often belying the words let loose from the same page. Recognition, rejection, admiration, hope, belief, affection, remorse, desire, delight. All clear in someone’s eyes and infectious too, catching, almost physical. If someone is sad, I see it first. Their eyes tell me. If they are exuberant and excited about life I see that too and both will change me. We respond to light, if we take the time to notice it, to watch it. Wherever that light comes from it is wired into our very souls to answer back. Sometimes our own dark can blow out the sun, like a match, but it is dangerous to keep blowing and foolish too. Our beautiful earth is awash with light. The light of recognition, the light of hope, the endless variables of light in nature. The eyes of a startled deer hidden in the scrub as we walk quietly by; the yearning look of a child who really wants us to pick them up; reflections of bare branches moving over the surface of an ordinary puddle, a magical sky painting; the light of an epiphany, a new understanding, gifted, often, by someone else who can see light where I saw only darkness, the way that new understanding, that re-jigging of what I thought was fixed in place for always, sends light through my whole being and suddenly, I see.

As the snow and hail moves on out to sea, I watch it. It changes as it meets the salt-laden air, changes colour, changes shape, softens and demurs. Ha! I tell it. The sea will always win. Didn’t you know that? A walker goes by with a little dog. The dog looks at me through the window. For a moment, just a moment, our eyes lock. I don’t know this dog and this dog doesn’t know me but we share a glimpse of light.

That’s what we can do for each other. Shine out light, receive it gratefully, store it deep within so that we can gift it on, pay it forward. Someone is walking in the dark. Light them up and when it is your turn to feel like a huddled cold creature, accept light from someone else. It’s how the world keeps turning. We all have dark times but the light will always shine, from somewhere, through someone. And all we have to do is remember that.