Island Blog – Roots

I watch the sky. Been watching it all day as it recovers from the Big Wind, the cold one full of hail and snow and threats that came to nothing. I know that those threats did manifest in other places and while I watch the sky I think of them, those who had, and still have, to deal with power outage, destruction and the cold coming in as if it felt welcome, which, in my experience, it rarely is. Pushy bugger. I walk through the trees, the today trees, for yesterday they were bent like old women, fighting to retain a gravitational pull. They are calm today, calm with a Phew in their breaths as I congratulate them all for remaining upright in such freezing blasts, holding hold against those gusting spirits with grabbing hands, hands that can uproot an ancient pine, tall as a building and old as time without a single regret. These old folks have roots that stretch beneath tracks, beneath whole expanses of hill and heather, gnarling into fixation but always ready to move on when the threat above is told them in a story. A warning. I noticed the garden birds yesterday, no, the day before, behaving in a way more alert, more dynamic than usual. They always have to watch for the fast dive of a sparrow hawk, but this was different. They were telling me something ouchy was coming. And they were right. I noticed but already knew thanks to Google weather. Disastrous winds, destruction, high risk of death, all the usual overly ridiculous hype, thanks media, thanks news, thanks but no thanks. I have the birds. Back in the Tapselteerie days, I had the cows, the horses. Their behaviour changed as they sensed me into ‘alert’. What’s going on my friends? They might buck or run, slow or hunker but whatever they showed me told me a new story was about to show itself, demanding to be read and absorbed.

It all thinks me. The trees knew it was coming and some of them, like that big pine there, the one holding up a mate who fell, but didn’t quite, some time ago. As it fell, but didn’t quite, it compromised the rooting of the one who held it up. The holder’s roots lifted, became exposed, created an unsafety, a new unknowing, a lesser ground hold. Nonetheless, they stick together. I look and I pause to consider the new root growth that will, for sure, have been implemented as a result of this new challenge. From where I stand, and with my limited human ground level thinking, I see two trees going down, exhausted. But today I reconsider. What do I know of the intelligence of trees? Absolutely nothing. Everything they do goes on underground, a dark forbidden realm to me. But it does think me of roots. I can be afeared of storms. I loved them when I had a husband here, one who was unruffled by pretty much everything including storms. The story in the storm was all he heard, dealing with lifting caravans, rawling boats on spindly moorings, children blown into the trees, dustbins heading for another island, with a calm acceptance and a strong hand to right whatever was rightable. I am a tad unsure about my talents in the realms of unrightable. For now. But I get stronger, less fearful, more ear-aware, hearing the story in the wind, watching the birds, the animals, the trees and leaning into their wisdom and the words they say are always the same.

We have been here before, many times. So have you, you just don’t trust your spirit, your story memory, your inner strength. The world and all its fear mongering has polluted you. Breathe. Let it be. All is well and if it isn’t right now, it will be soon.

Island Blog – Watching, Waiting, Wondering

The morning begins well in that I wake up and it’s morning, well almost, still dark but the clock tells me of others who rise at this hour, dark or no dark. I slip into my dressing gown, thank my bed, pat the dog and glide down the stairs. I remember actually doing that once, for a dare of course, on a tin tray and an oak stair case that dog-legged into the room. Not a good plan. I started off well, gathered warp speed and just knew I was about to be sliced like an egg when I hit the sharp corner, all balustrades and newel posts and rigid as if it had rooted into the earth’s core. The wails arose in me, alerting all inmates who were quietly sipping Earl Grey from china cups and pretending they didn’t want another scone. My mama was livid even if she feigned compassion. I could see it in the slit of her mouth, the narrowing of her eyes as she scooped me up and marched me away, my knees bleeding, my face scratched and my mouth yelling out a storm. This morning’s glide was more gentle, my hands holding both bannisters and my cautious eyes wide open for the fall that always threatens old folk, the one that leaps out for a rugby tackle from somewhere in my blind spot.

I descend in regal safety and round the corner for coffee and a peer into the darkness. No moon, but she is coming, the Beaver Moon, tomorrow I believe, although why the moon has to keep to a schedule un-moons me somewhat. I had thought her above such calendar control. I perceive her as reckless, upskittling, wild, and that’s because her full bellied lightshow creates that reaction in most women I know and some men too. I tap tap wait for the light to rise. I iron something, sweep another thing, flip through Facebook, write some notes about what I will do with my day, this day, today, most of which will be scratched out by breakfast once I realise that the ladder to any of them has faulty rungs, most of them missing.

I WhatsApp chat with my best friend and she laughs me and we share all our familial concerns and delights. We have done this for years now and her face takes me right back to her, the way she waggles her head when telling me of something that pains or puzzles her, the way she looks straight at me when she asks how I am. I know why. When I say ‘Fine’ she smirks and challenges, but I will always say ‘Fine’ because mostly, I am just that. However, as the day rolls on, not like chocolate, more like a stubble field and with me barefoot, I am ratty with the dog. It shocks me for I am only occasionally ratty and I don’t like it in me at all. I watch the wind, hear the roar of the whips and twisting punches of it, see it scrape rain across my window and bend the trees like torture, laughing at its bully power. Reluctantly I decide to walk, no matter the rain, the bully punching wind, the darkling grey, the wet underfoot.

To begin with, I stomp. I know I am stomping and the track looks up at me, eyebrows raised. I pause and smile and slow my boots. Then, as I rise into the woods, the rise of the track lifting me from my earthly grump, I begin to see, to notice, to watch. The bare limbs stick out like old fingers, old friends, the ancients who still stay to protect and to remind. Leaves still holding on, copper, gold and blood, tremble in the wind, showing me this face, then that. I hear the tic-a-tic-a-tic of their dance and I stop to watch. Beneath my skinny soled boots, a bronze carpet tongues out before me, inviting. The wind lifts again and the pines sing as the wind combs the needles, the ones that don’t ever give up, the ones I will see all winter long. A stand of ditchwater has been claimed by water moss and I chuckle at the emerald courage of this survivor. Well done you, I say, as I pause to wonder and I swear it shimmies. Tree ferns waggle like random hair tufts all the way up an alder tree, flapping at me as I meander beneath the high stretch of ancient trunk. Geese navigate the sky wind adjusting their positions and I wonder again at their understanding of all this power and of my complete lack.

I will never understand the power of watching, waiting and wondering, will even thwack it away with an irritable flap, but once I step out into it, bring myself to walk, to stand as a part of it, engaged with it, no distractions from it, I return with hope. Where the hell I found that hope, I can not answer, but it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that in my reclusive sadness there is a beckoning, one irritating enough to get me inside my boots and out there.

Island Blog – Friend, Ships and Wide Open

If I was to ask you – how many true friends do you have – might you have pause for thought? Let me help you out with a definition or two…..

A true friend is always wide open. They may not be able, at the very moment of your ‘massive drama’, to speak with you on the phone, or rush over to your place. Perhaps her granny has just fallen into the wheelie bin whilst searching for her missing dentures; perhaps the kids have buried the dog in the sandpit and all she can see is a wiggling mound; or, maybe, she has just burnt the strangled eggs, is late for work, can’t find the kids, the granny or the dog and her partner has gone off with both sets of house keys. But, rest assured, this true friend will be thinking of you all the way through her own massive drama and will make contact the very first moment he or she can. Then when he/she hears of your pain, she will not compare it to hers. She might not even mention it. She will listen, respond without fixing, suggest nothing unless you ask for such, just leaning into your flow of pain, putting her hand in yours and saying – Let’s sail together on this.

This probably narrows the list down somewhat. On reflection, you might think, I wouldn’t go to this person, or that with my massive drama because it will pass and if I tell him/her I will need to follow up once the missing members of my family are re-located, returned to the upright and able, once again, to breathe. Or, perhaps this person might think you weak, or fix you with some cutthroat bright solution which will confirm she knows you’re weak. How long has she thought that about you? It gets worse, this line of thinking. It heads one way only, into the pit of all that you feared, have always feared. And now it’s the truth. You are a lame duck, a pathetic wimp of a woman and nobody likes you anyway. You can see the neon flashing sign above your head. It reads, Loser. So don’t add this one to your dwindling list. Nobody is that desperate.

This true friend might not be the first person who comes to mind. After all, not one of us is immune to self-protection. Most of us keep our true selves very private, considering what we will reveal and how we will reveal it on a moment to moment basis. There are things I have told no-one, not never, and I am sure you are not so different. But when you look at your list, pondering each name and reflecting on past history, shared moments both good and uncomfortable, you will eventually get that list down to about 2, if you are very lucky. And this, my friends, is absolutely normal. We may have hundreds of acquaintances, but the true friend, the one who just sails along with you, keeping a respectful distance when required, one who watches you fly the crests of monster waves as a purple storm approaches, or who keeps her eyes on you as you head towards jag-toothed rocks in some crazy game of Chicken, and who prays for your safe return, well, she’s the truth.

In a perfect world, this would describe a mother or a father, or both. Parents who do not load their own expectations of supreme success onto the soft-boned backs of their young, who do not reward according to achievements; who welcome you home late, under-age drunk, in suggestive clothing or with a biker boyfriend twice your age and with no space left for another tattoo; A loving mum and dad who, when you fail your exams for the third time, or when you tell them you cannot spend another day in this college, university or relationship, no matter how much of a messy split, will welcome you into loving arms and who will stand beside your decisions for all time.

I hope I have been that mum. I suspect we all do, we mums. To be a true friend and a parent is not simple, however. We want for our kids what we didn’t have for ourselves. We know, as they don’t, how tough the world is on colour, creed, race, sexuality, relational splits, career women, traditions, freedom of speech, independency. The labels live on. In fact, they are thriving. Nobody escapes the criticism, the labels, the judgement. But a true friend, one who sails beside you, who sees who you really are will make all the difference in the world. Even if this friend lives miles away she knows you without needing to own you; you don’t have to start from the beginning with her, not ever. She knows that you will fill in gaps if you want to and not if you don’t. She may well challenge you, you can be sure of that. But inside that challenge there is only heart, only love. You can tell her to truck off, as she can tell you to do the same, but she is authentic. You are authentic. Your true friendship is authentic.

Ok, so now we might be down to one. Still lucky.

Island Blog – Flapping at Clouds

Yesterday was a day of long hours, the end game of a week during which I wasted much energy flapping at the clouds with a tea towel and expecting them to move on, metaphorically speaking. I don’t know why such times come, nor when they will, but I know everyone has days like these. I used to scrabble about for reasons why, most of which required me to beat myself into scars with a bendy switch. I don’t bother now. Now I am well aware that there are forces at large who are invisible, all knowing and with the big picture in mind, unlike me down here inside my little life. I let them play with my mood and my mind and just wait for them to go, which they always do in the end. But oh my, it’s uncomfortable. My body feels like I swallowed a hippo and my brain is a peat bog after heavy rains. I have to make myself do the ordinary tasks and cannot settle to anything creative. I stare out at nothing and wish the hours away. There is no reason for this; nothing has drastically changed; it is, as if, punishment is due for some heinous crime, one I have no recollection committing, or, worse, that I am sick. Long experience of this scoffs that nonsense away. It is just as it is.

I know these discomforts have come to learn me something; that I will, after the air settles back around me like a soft blanket, understand something that wasn’t on my radar before. It’s a shake up, a wake up, a take a look up thingy. Oft times it is easy to keep on going on without noticing the whole. Sometimes ‘noticing’ the whole, through the eyes of my own limited vision, is merely me circling through the same precepts, the same thoughts, opinions and ‘absolute truths’ until the goodly wise decide on action to stop me eating my own tail. I’m glad of it, once the discomfort has passed, because even if it takes me a while to learn the new learning, the new way to do an old thing, or, even, to relegate said old thing to the compost heap and to reach for a new thing, I am curious by nature and well aware that stuckness is death in life. Lack of motion and the refusal to allow new ways to infiltrate my old ways would kill me off inside a month. Maybe that’s just me. I know that some of my ancients were very happy to be stuck in old ways. We is all different and some more different than most. I know this too, but being stuck is not my nature, even if I can become so without any trouble at all. I always have my eyes on a better me. However, I cannot do this alone. How could I? I am the one who folds into little life without a second thought, scrabbling on through the tall grasses with the odd tea-towel flap at clouds, should they irritate me. I need those goodly spirits with vision, the high flyers, the ones who already know me better than I will ever know myself; who understand and who are kindly-meant. I need to lean into the storm in order to feel the vital force of it.

This morning I don’t need my tea-towel. This morning I know they have moved on. I can tell because my belly is not kicking up a storm and my heart is more Beethoven’s Pastorale, less Def Lepard. I also know that something will dawn on me soon enough and I will add that to my very long list of Aha’s, taking whatever I learn into myself so that I can inch a little further forward in this journey of life. I am certain all of us know these times. We are human, after all, grounded and unaware of so very much. Oh, we read the news, know the science, understand the proven truths, but we have no explanation for the Mystery. We can try. We can argue points, choose different names, fix on gods or God or no gods at all, but we cannot fully explain any of it. And there is something wonderful about that.

All I know is this. As I quest through this amazing life, grounded among the tall grasses of this beautiful and broken world, my mind is free to roam and, in being vulnerable, I know I am fully alive.