Island Blog – Captured in Words

Today I awoke to a gale, a Sou’Westerly blast and birthing rain. Good Morning, chirruped I, wheeching back the blackout curtains to see goldfinch flying backwards and the mouths of my wheelies opening and closing in excitement. Here we are again. We did this, I said to my first frock as I pulled it over my head. It’s climate change. My frock said nothing as it fell in silent acquiescence over my body. Once dressed I downed the stairs and made for the coffee pot, noticing the time. 04.30. Great! Another long day just bursting with opportunities to notice and to learn something I didn’t know yesterday. The wind ruffed up the rain-stabbed water on an incoming tide making the fretful waves popple irritably. I didn’t share the mood. I don’t get irritable, not any more because there is too much to wonder at, to watch in peaceful silence and too many opportunities to learn something new.

I work through Book 2, drafted some months back and in serious need of distance (from me) and revision (by me) throughout the morning, discarding much and slashing my red pen across swathes of utterly indulgent nonsense. I was too close to it. My agent was right. Later, after reading for an hour and listening to a podcast on grieving, I decide to wander. Wander! I admonish myself as I note my fast pace, feet going like the clappers as if Himself was still back home and without a grasp on the concept of time. For him, 45 minutes, the length of my walk, was more like 3 hours and counting. I slow my pace, watch the thrust of my right foot, then my left, noticing everything as I go. The bark of an Alder. Must pull some off to make a yellow dye, I say out loud, very probably startling said Alder. I swear she pulled her tummy in, holding tight. I laugh and she softens. Just a little bit, I soothe, and not all the way around, I promise. Sunlight dapples the track into negative space. I stop to admire the ever shifting mosaic for the wind, now westerly warm and more like a caress, still lifts the leaf-heavy limbs of beech, oak, alder, birch, hazel, chestnut and the conifers I cannot name, although I know a pine. Everyone knows a pine.

A snapshot of the now calmer sea-loch shows me sparkles as if the sun is melting golden drops. Dandelions answer with butter yellow, speedwell with indigo, oxeye daisies with snow, stems swaying as if in time to the music, all faces turned sunwards. Turning down to the shore, a path I haven’t walked since my baby sister was here with her husband some weeks ago, I gasp at a crowd of foxgloves. They stand as tall as me and in that disco pink Himself loved best. Bumble bees fly in and out of the bells sounding like tiny dirigibles but without the threat. I stand awhile and tell them all how beautiful they are, out here where only a few will ever see them. We don’t mind that, they say. We like our isolation and besides, the bumbles will always find us and that’s what matters. Out on the shore the wind whips at me, warm and westerly and full of stories. I smell seaweed and salt, stories and history. Men rowed out from here once to fish for their families when to catch fish was to stay alive, at least for one more long winter. Seaweed in rainbow colours cover the rocks, the 200 million year old rocks that line the shore, the seaweed lifted and abandoned by the recent full moon tides. Rust, lime green, yellow ochre, kettle black, it looks like art to me. It is also draped over the old Alpha Beta pier, now just a skeleton made beautiful with mermaid hair and shells, random, natural, passing. Soon it will dry and break up and be gone. Such is the life death cycle.

Wandering (yes I am still mindfully wandering) back home, I see a broken egg shell and stop to study the crushed coloration. It’s a big egg so not a blackbird, robin or thrush but it is blue, striated grey, silver, rose gold. A heron’s egg, it must be. I lift my eyes to where the herons nest, just over there among the bow-backed hazels that flank the shoreline, frontliners, protectors of the woods and they can take it, have done for centuries. How sad, I whisper. This little one didn’t make it to life. I pass the pigless pen, move through the gate and step onto the home path. So much I learned today but what did I learn? Ah, I know. I learned that disco pink foxgloves grow at the shore for the first year since the bracken was cleared. I learned that they can stay dormant in the earth for 50 years just waiting for sunlight. Such confident patience. And see how they they gasped me and changed my whole day and poignantly because in a few days me and Himself would have been married for 50 years. When I drive the switchback I look down on his gravestone. Golden script. Sun-melt, captured in words.

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 – The Wild

I walk this day through copper gold and spandangles of sunshine. The track, wet, muddy from all the rain, dapples into light, peckled with mosaic, the light glinting off the water spots, the puddles, and lighting up the prints of yesterday walkers. I watch the down, erstwhile forgetting the up until it calls me to me in blue and gold. Me and the Poppy dog keep the beat, or I do, for she scoots and slows, sniffs at pretty much everything, oftentimes right before my feet and it thinks me of tripping. Old folk do think of tripping. I never considered making such a foolish error before, but now I do. How odd that tripping, a simple fall that comes with an answering bounce back into the upright, now holds menace. I could be here for hours, days, should I allow this tripping thing. Then I wheesht myself, saying, out loud, Nonsense, and loudly enough to startle a quiet other walker with his terrier who rounds the bend in a way that wonders me. Is he a ghost, so quiet is he? No, I have seen him before with the same little terrier, politely held on an unstrained leash. Hallo, I say, unable to quell the launch and startle of the Poppy dog, the gap between me and her ears being too great to prevent a situation. I say Hallo in my quietest tone, in A major, I think, and muted, so as to calm things.

He is unfazed. We talk. He suggests unleashing his dog and I nod in agreement. Dogs are always better off without the strangle-throat of a leash. Always. At best, they will sort themselves out in moments. At worst, the one who knows they are about to be dishevelled, right here on this peaceful track, can get away. Humans always cock things up, these sorts of things, their fear, their ignorance of the animal kingdom. It rolls my eyes and often. Just let them spar, just let go, just let. But not everyone gets that ‘let’ thing. I suspect my life as a farmer’s wife has loosened my desire to control something way more powerful than I. The animal instinct is definitely a ‘let go’ thing for me. And, I have a lot of opinions around the rules of controlling wild animals, even dogs or cats, but I keep it all to myself. Anthropomorphism is a big deal in the human world, and practised to our detriment, but try explaining that to someone who thinks their pet is their pet.

We humans forget our wild too. It is a big mistake and one we can rethink. During lockdown a lot of folk bought puppies and kittens for their own pleasure, to entertain and to fill a lockdown hole. I am really hoping that most realised they had taken on a wild creature, no matter how domesticated they may have been over many decades. The wild is strong, it never goes. It can be battered into compliance by fear but the worm will turn (whatever that means).

I can see a happy and respected dog or cat immediately. Any cowering, any slink back when a hand is raised, speaks me volumes. A canine or feline who is loved and understood will walk straight-backed, will wag a tail, will merry a look, be curious and open, like the terrier and his man I met today in the dapples and around a quiet corner. A good man, a happy dog, a merry, and a bit shouty, encounter. I thank him. He knows the wild.

Island Blog – Little Adventures

I know, I know, that’s another oxymoron. Love that word, and it catches at my skirts oftentimes. It’s like a sudden Monroe wind, lifting things above gratings. Ach shoot. And, yet I love to trouble grammar and ‘the way it was’. Back to the aforesaid. There is no Little Adventure. All adventures are, by definition, Big. Just saying.

This morning I changed frocks 3 times. I showered and painted me up before a mirror that makes me look like I am Balloon Woman, which is necessary to ensure that my eyeliner and rouge (is it still called that?) are both in the right places. A woman could regret getting that wrong. I am heading to the streets. Well, to be honest, I am going for a hair trim in a harbour town/village on an island but as this place is what I know and have known for 40 odd years, this is my IT and still scary. England has come in. Squillions of England. The whole ‘staycation’ thingy means that this island which is only just abroad, allows in tons of camper vans and others who are longing for a break in a happy place. I get it. And I also get it, like full in the face, on our little skinny roads with swipes and flips and ups and scary downs, as big SUV’s pummel towards me with a punch and big faces and with no intention of reversing. Breathe.

Frocked up, I am heading in for a hair trim. No parking, like no parking. I anticipate this and park early. Walking is no problem for me. I also have a mission. I am to collect something nourishing for a bench lunch with a dear friend. I have to mask up and go in. Cover me. I stand outside in the sunshine, quivering. A young dad shunts in behind me. I ask him, Are you on holiday? He is open and responds with an unfearful smile, mask on. He tells me he is here for the week. I tell him he picked a good one. Sun is forecast. A faithful collie waits at the door for the ‘only four’ people in there, and we have a chat. No lead, just leadership for the that collie. I love to see that trust.

I see so many people without masks, hear their voices, know they are not from here. I walk down the centre of the skinny road, waving at the locals who drive past, meet other locals who also choose the mid road walk. I am guessing there are many places like ours full of locals who are wondering.

Later, once home, I walk my wee dog. She welcomes me as if I have been gone for years, as she always does. Then my faithful not-son comes to strim my overblown garden, topping the clover and the wild flowers that still have time to come again. He smiles at me, knows what I like in my garden, and can answer every single question. I am so lucky.

I think this virus is still alive and kicking. It will affect my choices from now on. I also see that, was I younger, I might think differently, my fingers holding onto life well into denial. I know it. But not now. This is a different world. We have this and we need to accept and deal with it, not in thirsty denial as I met today on the island streets. Even with two jags, we can carry it. I don’t want to do that. And I was always a Get Real woman. Life is as it is. Those who hide or run away never solve things. I like the whole ‘solving things’ thing. I want to be there, as a frontliner, solving, or, at least, helping.

So many adventures today. Actual and thinkingful.

Island Blog – After the Rain, Relation Ships and a Blackbird.

This weekend my daughter came with her girls. I know they all love it here, the freedom, the wild swimming, the spontaneous Let’s Do it thingy. Even I did that. Boots at the ready. My daughter knew little else other than ‘here’, the wild places, the free flow of life, even as she had to go through the awful teenage years, the indecision, the lost and found of herself. But, still, she, like her brothers, think of this place as home. It was a wonderful two days, jam packed with pretty much everything and nothing really planned. We went with our moment, as you have to with all the sudden island rain and the shapeshift of seasons within a single day. If you are busy not paying attention, a whole gamut of weather can swamp you, or, worse, you can miss a sunlift, an elevation, an invitation to connect. Get involved with Spotify or something on TV or your FB page and an opportunity moves on by, missing you as you, with hindsight, will miss it. As a result of this missing thing it is easy to see rain as a continuity. Which, btw, it is not.

The day my girls left, it rained stair rods. I doubt all of you know what the heck stair rods are. They are those rigid steel rods that hold (or held) carpets down on stairs where the horizontal meets the riser. They were ferocious in my rememberings. Meeting one of those in bare feet with the enthusiasm of youth in an exuberant push t’wards elevation and the ensuing pain did stay with that foot for some time to come, gaining no sympathy, despite the bruise. Those were the days when I knew that butting up against a rigid was altogether my fault, as was pretty much everything else involving collisions. Too fast, not thinking, not planning ya-di-ya. But as it still happens to me, although not with stair rods for they no longer exist, I can still bruise and bash myself through sheer exuberance, acting spontaneously and without considered thought. It is either that with me or it’s frozen immobility. I have never managed to be grey.

My daughter is the opposite of me. She always was. She is very obviously a lady. She is calm, quiet, considered, gracious and thoughtful. She would never dive into a swimming pool before first checking it has enough water in its belly. Our differences have been both a perfect match, like yin and yang, or a pulling away. This visit brought a new light to our connection. We are learning to grow an adult friendship. Now it may seem that this beginning has come a little late to those who managed to forge adult relationships with daughters when the daughters first became young women, but in my family it could never be that way because himself required full spotlight, leaving only a little glow for the rest of us to forge anything at all. He was unable to allow us time together without him and so his departure has gifted just that to us. I observe all our relation ships now have new rigging. Slowly, slowly, we are setting sail on a different sea and in a new direction. It is not something I ever expected but I am loving it. How strange life is. How heavy is the influence on children when parents still hold on to their own childhood baggage, that learned behaviour that, on reflection, can be destructive and can keep a unit confined to barracks over many long years. I know I colluded in that confining thingy but, as is obvious, there is nothing I can do to change what was, what I was, who he was and what we did to our children. They are, each one of them, strong, dynamic and good loving people. And, like us, damaged. But I can do something about the Now. I can change, say sorry, listen and learn. I can be humble and encouraging, I can leap into the new with open eyes and an open heart. I can sail alongside each one as we adventure on, working with the wind shifts, the tidal turns, the clouds, the sun and the rain.

‘After the rain’ doesn’t always apply to the outside stair rods making way for the sun. Rain will fall on the inside and the outside of us, and rain is life-giving water. We need it and when it does slow and stop and the world opens up like a smiling face, we can be thankful for both the rain and for the stopping of it. Taking every moment as a gift, not missing a single one, watching, learning, observing and listening, we can change or begin anew at any age. I find saying sorry for being crap at times very freeing. I am learning how to honour whom I was as a mother. Both awful and wonderful, rain and sun. It is the best anyone can be. To have the courage to be vulnerable, especially around children can mean so much to those children. I recommend it. I don’t recall ever hearing my parents say they were sorry for the things they got horribly wrong. Their generation held it all inside, too afraid to be humble for fear of losing control and status. I can see that. But we, my generation, have learned from this and have discovered that, contrary to old beliefs, it is a strong and brave man or woman who steps up, palms open and says I am sorry and who really means it. And, after the rain, the blackbird’s song is pure and bright and completely new.

Island Blog – My Home, Music, Changes and Fun

Today the sun shone like it was in a competition. Brazen, warm, loud in the sky. The pufflet clouds moved around it, I think deliberately, because it showed them in their best light. Edges like fire and brimstone, smokey dark below. Quite the picture.

I did a bit of this and that. I lifted some paintings to the walls of the rooms that used to be his and are now not his anymore. His bedroom, a tangle of hospital bed, aids, plastic receptacles etc, all gone now. There is a king sized double for visitors, a new carpet, a blackout blind and curtains. In the office, now not the office but instead a wee kiddies room, a new carpet flats the boards, soft and cool and slightly sea coloured. I joined an online church group and it was very lovely indeed. Then I marched out, plus wee dog, to corral some beech leaves, soft limbs, gentle emerald leaves, for preservation. I watched my old and ferocious mother-in-law do this thing. Glycerine and water mix, pop in the limbs and wait. The stalks draw up the mix into the leaves that take on a shine and are preserved for ever. ish. I can hardly believe I am truly becoming Granny at the Gate, and if you haven’t already read my book then do it now. The replication of a life in every single sense (only I am never ferocious) is bizarre. God bless you old girl for your powerful spirit. It lives on. As you can see from your vantage point.

As I re-designed the rooms that were his, I felt a falter. Although he is gone and this lovely home is now mine, there is yet a sense of notmine. It never was when he lived. It was his or it was his mother’s and I find it quite hard to brush that legacy away. As I arrange for my friend, an antique dealer, to come when he can to remove the old maple dresser, the mahogany thingy full of ancient leather bound books, I get the whiff of traitor around my person. This would never have been countenanced when he lived. Now he lives not. Now this is my lovely home and I crave white space, minimalism and the moving on of old, maybe valuable stuff, that will bring money in for my kids. For our kids.

I chose music that kept me in the bubble of me and him. Sibelius, his favourite. The Swan of Tuanela, Valse Triste, and Grieg, Peer Gynt. I played them loud as I worked. Then I brought in my favourite, thinking, this is my house now and my music is also important. Beethovens’ 6th, the Pastorale. These have been on a loop all day as the sun beats in and the birds sing like they were the choir for the Second Coming.

A good day. A day of change, of down and then up. And I look around my lovely light, bright, open home and say to myself, How fortunate am I. How lucky, how glorious is this island place. And my neighbours have just come back, all children and garden talk and fun.

Island Blog – Avoiding Collisions

The big window is speckled with raindrops, held in stasis and they glisten. I look through the children’s doodles, the glistening raindrops, my eyes moving into the garden and the brave early flowers. Grassland flows down towards the sea-loch and up the other side, up and up until I find the clouds, a tangle of them, I think at first, and many shades of grey. Watching most closely I can see the layers. Up front, the cobwebby dark fast moving clouds, see-through and spitting rain. Behind them the fat blowsy white ones, lazy, taking their time too respond to a rising wind. They are weighty with knowing and in no rush, not see-through at all, like old professors who know they have a job for life. Further back, the clouds that don’t seem to move at all, flat like naan breads, backlit by a little flash of sun, and beyond them just whispy white sky, acres of it. Acres. How many layers are there? How far back, up, across do they stretch? For ever? I see these levels as closely bunched, micro managing their individual trajectories, but I am wrong. There is only accord. Room for all of us, they seem to say, effortlessly avoiding collisions.

The birds are more than ready for me this morning, one of cloud and cold rain. Many goldfinch, greenfinch, redpoll, siskin, sparrow, blackbird, robin, hawfinch, thrush, starling and rock dove. They line the fence, balance on shrubs, flit and flutter like music notes blown off the stave. Time to reel them in before the wind speed confounds and the rain turns weighty. I fill each feeder as the braver musical notes play around my feet, my head. Two goldfinch watch me from the inside of an ornamental maple, red now, red as good claret. The second I leave, they are down like a swarm of bees. As walkers pass by they rise back into the air, flitting between the feeders, between the shrubs, between each other, to land down again the moment the coast is clear, and all the time they chatter. Some feed young on the fence, some feed themselves, and in all this flitting and lifting, fighting and feeding, rising and landing, there is perfect precision. We know what we are doing, they seem to say, naturally avoiding collisions.

This land is walked on, now, by many more feet. The ferries are booked, the accommodation scrubbed and ready. In the air around us, anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear layer up, cloudlike . We are grounded and can only go on, steady, determined not to hide away any longer. Peeping through fearful curtains, opening doors that squeak from lack of use, scrubbing doorsteps, we emerge tentatively into a world that barely recognises itself. Who am I now? Who are you, now? Do we still know our way around each other, feel the same way about this, about that, about all the important things that ran strong within us but whose names I have forgotten? My sense of import has changed, my value rating. Has yours, and, if so, will we know each other, have anything to say in this changed world? We know we must brave up and out for we are not moles or worms to need the dark because we have no seeing eyes. We need the light, crave the light, the sky the birds the clouds the sun the tidal moon shift and the story-carrying winds that blow from one side of this planet to the other and back again. We need each other, even if the otherness has become a hesitation when we meet once again. Like all other members of our natural world, we can adapt. We are not going back to normal, an eye-rolling ghastly grammar-makes-no-sense contradiction of a sentence if ever I heard one, because that ‘normal’ is light years behind us now. There is only forward and we are all unsure of our footing. Let those of us who refuse to bring the past along with us hold fast to not having the faintest clue about what happens next, what the ground is like, what clouds will come, what shape the future. Burn the old book that speaks of separation, segregation, prejudice and domination. That book needs to go. It has been outdated for many many years. We might write a new book together. Meantime let us step out, step in, step through and around, consciously avoiding collisions.

Island Blog – Liftlight, Cobwebs and IT

Dawn awakens me with birdsong and light. I know it is dawn because I know what it is like to wake to the moon pushing her way through the peripheries of my blackout curtains. She, the moon, presents a greenish light, a weird eerie one that has me turning over with a sigh. I love the moon but there is a time and a place for moon loving. Dawn thrusts like an opportunity, an hurrah, and it is loaded with birdsong. They are waiting for me, oh so patiently, them birds, perching on the fence, flitting through the shrubs and little trees, so very patient. They don’t mind if I am late. They just keep flitting and perching and watching me. When I go away, no, when I once went away, when going away was just something anyone could do without fear, sanitiser or a mask, I harboured manifold guilt about the birds. They would never get fed if I was not present as the feeder. What would happen? Would they all leave for ever, die, show such grief at my absence that the whole familial line would fail? Well….no. The birds are fine, resourceful and forever on line with their instinct, resourcefulness and strength. T’is only I who think I am IT. IT for my husband, my kids, my in-laws, my mum, my dad, the birds. My IT-ness has always been who I am and I really don’t know how to lay that woman down. Being IT for myself feels deeply weird. I suspect I am not alone in this deep weirdness.

I watch a sea eagle slide through the blue. It looks like play to me, and maybe it is, although I doubt it. When all you have to think about is your next meal, your eyes will always be sharp and focussed. It is huge, even from way down here, down on this little track with the sun on my face and the stones beneath my feet. I, unlike that big bird, am held in place by gravity although I do remember flying once inside a dream. I just knew I could fly when I needed to and I did need to because my IT-ness feathered me up. The dream is still clear in my memory. I was walking in a wasteland, the afterland of apocalypse, the landscape grey and dead. No flowers, birds, animals, no life at all. Just me. The dot of colour in a monochrome world. I came to a ruined tower, its face missing, just one tall wall of stone remaining. A man, a monochrome man stood inside what was once the belly of the tower. He wore formal dress like a butler. His face was grey, he was grey, his nose long as a beak, his eyes ebony marbles. You won’t save them, he said. I followed his eyesl. I could see the sky, sunless, offering nothing, and then I found my children, all five of them hung from coat hangers at various points against the stones. They weren’t hurt, just hanging there. Defiance rose in me. Oh, I will, I whispered, my voice croaky, full of dust, and, I lifted off the ground, flying easily up to unhook each one of them, as if I had always known that I could. I felt no surprise, just determination and the certainty that I was the IT who could bring them to safety. Then I awoke.

Taking a little detour, I wander deeper into the wood. Cobwebs catch at my face like tiny tickles. I laugh out loud as I try, and fail, to pull them off my face. It thinks me. These cobwebs are completely invisible, skinny lines of spider silk that stretch across an impossible distance, between two ancient pines. Do you jump across, I ask, or do you start on one trunk, run back down it, cross the space in between and then scoot up the other? Did I just destroy a morning’s hard work? The cobwebs back home come to mind, those black clusters of dust motes and other floaty things that froth my corners and hang about my paintings, moving in response to me as I walk through the house. Mostly I don’t notice them, until I do, at which point I grab my soft cobweb catcher because now I see them everywhere. I don’t want to upset the spiders though. We need spiders. Listen, I tell one female huntsman as she hangs all legs and attitude, with her cocoon of babies held firmly in her jaws, you are welcome here but your housekeeping skills are not good enough. We need to have a word about it. She says nothing, although I suspect her eyes are rolling. I am not so good at housekeeping skills myself, although I was, once, when I was IT for others, for those with whom I shared my home. Since all have now left me, I am less interested in such mundane matters. Since lockdown nobody will see anyway. I could walk about stark naked for all anyone would know. I could do anything at all because I am not IT anymore. Then I remonstrate with myself. Yes you are. You are IT, now, for yourself. I wait for the thrill of this to lift me. Hmmm. This is my first summer alone. Ever. And it is going to be a daring bold adventure once I relocate my wings, my lift light, my IT.

Island Blog – In Love

Today is sunshine. That may not be a grammatically correct sentence. Frost this morning, early doors, then the sky turned raspberry, sharing itself with the massive flanks of the Ben, still puckered with snow pimples. I watched the raspberry move as the sun gained momentum and gravitas, highlighting hills, hillocks, swathes of green which argued a bit, turning the pink a bit vomity. And then suddenly, it was light. Let there be. And there was. When you are up against that amount of determined power, even the strongest raspberry in you will submit and defer.

I did the usual morning thingies. Wash, dress (frocks today) eat, sweep, hang out washing, la la tiddleypom. Then I sat to sew another playmat for a baby due in September. We don’t know, yet, if boy or girl so I decide a mixture of pink, blue, green and elephants. Cannot go wrong with elephants. I listen to another audio book. Audible tell me, with an excitement I just don’t get that I am a Silver winner for all my listenings. There is a click icon that says (seriously?) Do you want to brag? Well, no. Who cares how many audio books I listen to anyway? And I am so not into the separateness game, like I am better than you, more silver than you. Sometimes I wonder what we are teaching ourselves, never mind our kids.

Later, I walk. Now we come to it. Now we come to where I feel most at home, most in touch with the otherness of life, with the here of it, the now of it, the endlessness of it. For all I am this small human walker on narrow tracks in wild places that have a mystic I can barely understand, let alone explain, I have come home. I am in love with the wild places, the wilder the better, although I do draw a line and this is my line – walking at dusk in a game reserve when the night creatures are waking. But that’s it. No other line. Because of my many trips to wild Africa I confess that I still startle at a sound in the homewoods, especially as they leaf up and close ranks on me. I feel eyes on me, even if those eyes are probably Robin, Thrush or Jay. I remember with my body, that sharp of fear, that stopping of my heart, that sudden rush of adrenaline and even though I have not been able to go to my beloved second home for some time, I have not forgot.

Silver buds sharp the blue, tiny leaves twisting into green. Larch male buds swagger. Oh hallo, I roll my eyes. Men, showoff, colour……I know you, whilst the female buds politely open almost without a whisper and certainly no show. But they know each other and it works. My favourite tree, the Hornbeam (dancer) is green-tastic. It happened overnight, as it oftentimes does, this greening up thing. Oh! I am stopped in my tracks for she is beautiful. Compromised in her search for light, she has proven dynamic and feisty. Where one outstretched limb encountered opposition from someone bigger and bolder, she shifted, like a dancer who meets someone in her way, but is determined to win her bit of floor. As a result, she looks like she could work herself around any border control and with such confidence. I stand for a while to admire her and I know she likes it because she looks right back. We know each other. We have been friends a while and it is so very wonderful to see her come back to life again, whereas I had to keep living the damn thing right through a very cold winter. I don’t hold this against her. She knows that.

I see the banksy flowers, the little ones, wood sorrel, wild primrose, violets and nod a smile, if, indeed you can nod a smile. Plucky little warriors, they grow through drystone walls, on hummocks and moss banks, even on the trackgrass, just a fist of it and so vulnerable to feetstomp but they grabbed the chance and are holding on to make it beautiful. It thinks me of women, for that is what we do. We find ourselves where we find ourselves and we cannot not (is that 3 negatives? My dad will be twirling) make a place beautiful, make ourselves beautiful. I have seen it in a thousand women and, thankfully, I have seen this ‘cannot not’ being celebrated by many many men. The sun is shifting. A stand tree comes into full face. Dead, longtime, white, all sung out but not nobody there. The woodpecker holes tell me plenty, the white body is smooth to the touch and warm. Hallo you, I say and turn my eyes up to the top. It’s miles away. I bring them down, my eyes, that is. How do you keep standing? I ask. Actually, this question has been in my mouth for a while on the sighting of a ‘dead’ tree. It is quiet for a while, and I know this game. Some trees answer quick. It wants me to work it out for myself. I step back. The Poppy dog is quizzed, looking at me, at the tree, at me, forward, backward. And then it comes. The Otherness. On the outside, the obvious and what-you-see-side is, yes, dead. But the root of me, my spirit, is still here, will always be.

I’m in love with that too.

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.