Island Blog – Fractal Dance and Twee Storms

I leave my little home and swing right onto the Tapselteerie track. There are no cars parked in the wheen of a passing place so that means no walkers unless they arrived on foot. Good. I love solitary walking. As the sea breeze lifts and luffs around me I get a faceful of wispy down, seeds from the rose bay willow herb, white, soft, fractal. I don’t take a deep breath as the cloud floats around me and away into the sky. Thistles are also setting flight their hopes for the future, and this down is hardier, more able to land with a modicum of precision. The cloud down can blow on for days, weeks, at the mercy of a capricious breeze, ever changing its direction over this land of rocks and tides and capricious breezes. I have found cloud seed everywhere, inside the house, in the bird food bins, stuck to the washing on the line, in my knicker drawer. I’m not hopeful for them. I catch some seed and study one. Aeronautical perfection with tiny limbs, one weighted and with a tiny barb for holding on. The seeds spin like tops through the air, catch on clothing which then travels home with the wearer only to be shaken off in a new garden. Nature is genius.

The Tapselteerie track is dappled mosaic. Sunlight creates a masterpiece beneath my feet, a work of art. As I walk over such beauty my eyes lift up through the canopy of hazels to a mosaic of cerulean blue, bright green and icewhite, then back down to golden hexagons, polygons and all the other gons laid out before me like a star studded carpet. I hear long-tailed tits somewhere in the density of woodland, warblers and the prrrt of a robin’s warning. Two herons flap and screech at each other on the shore, vying for territorial rights. They lumber and flap, crashing into bowed-back hazels as if nobody ever taught them how to fly with elegance and precision, as if they still have dinosaur blood coursing through their veins and the wing thing is, well, awkward. The tides are both very high and very low just now because of the full moon, the Sturgeon Moon. The full moons were named by the ancients, called to reflect the season. How sensible. Not like the naming of hurricanes or storms which always scoffs me. A twee name for a disturbing natural eruption of astonishing energy tells me much about how our current culture really isn’t taking life seriously at all.

The tappsled seaweed is flung across the rocks in a sort of gay abandon. Gold and copper, black and emerald against the black of the basalt and I wish once again I had brought my phone for a photo. No matter, myself says. You can just take it in through your eyes, feel it sink into your body, your mind and your heart and by the way who on earth goes for a walk in the wild with a phone? Good point, I concede. My sensible self, my let go and shut-the-hell-up self is often right. She is all about just enjoying the moment or, if the moment is a shit storm, then not enjoying it at all and just waiting until it moves on to the next moment. It’s a good ethos.

The oyster farmers are working across the narrows now the tide is low enough to walk across from one side to the other at such tidal times. Their puffing tractors work the shore, the men in full body wellie boots as they tend to the cages. I wonder what they need to do and how hard the work might be, probably is. In sunshine weather it must be easy, in sharpening bite-cold, not such fun. The oysters are the best I have ever tasted and we can enjoy them anytime we choose. The shucking shed is big and green and sometimes I can hear voices floating across the search as the men and women work. I can hear laughter, jokes shared and it reminds me of working on our farm way back in Norfolk, way back in the 1970’s when I first learned that being part of a ‘waulking’ team was the warmest and happiest I ever could be.

Deer can swim over the narrows and we did warn the new owners of Tapselteerie once we heard they were deer fencing the estate. Don’t bother, we said, the deer swim and nobody can deer fence an entire rock-solid shoreline. They didn’t heed us. I remember wondering back then if my heeding skills might be due an MOT. Now the fences sag and flop anyway and the deer go wherever they please. Once I watched a stag leap said fence, startled by me. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him head for the impossible. I envisioned broken limbs, damage, wounds and general disaster. What actually happened was that he cleared the fence but his back legs caught, bringing down the whole thing as if it was matchwood and string. Once the clanging and puffing and snorting and leaping and heart-in-mouthing thing was over, he stopped, looked back at his awaiting hinds, all shivering and silent on the ridge above him, above me. I drew respectfully back quietly, my eyes down. Make no eye contact, I remember that lesson in Africa and it makes sense to me. No eye contact, no challenge, no threat. With nervous steps, the 3 hinds descended the ridge, stopped once to look at the not-looking me and the not-looking dog clamped under my arm, and then elegantly flowed over the matchstick fence, up, up and away into the trees.

These sunshine days are a gift. The winter is long enough, loud enough, scary enough with twee named storms causing danger of death which is very real for some. We have lived with storms and disturbing natural eruptions for thousands of years. The problem is dissociation. Instead of connecting with what is way bigger than us, way more powerful, we are hiding. And, thus being fools. I know I am fortunate, living high enough on these old rocks to avoid flooding and all the horrors that brings to bear and I am glad that my husband was overly alert to nature’s power along with her gifts. He taught me to be vigilant, to be aware, to make sudden decisions based on what was plucking at his gut and not what we heard on the news which, sadly, is often too cautious in its decision not to cause panic. If we as alert and intelligent human beings felt confident enough to decide for ourselves, what spirit would come to life! What powerful and intuitive choices would be made, what influence that might have, and how many lives could be saved! These are not questions.

All this on my dappled seed blown walk today. Let us, people, learn things, like CPR, like what happens in a tidal flow, a flood, a storm. From what direction? How much build up is there, considering the friction, drag and density of that tidal flow. Tidal spiders, taken into account. The earthly tides flow widdershins but not always. I am not saying that everyone needs to know what the tides are doing but I am saying learn something. You might live in Glasgow or Stevenage. No matter. You will be affected by the tidal flow and the altercation that is going on between the heavens and the earth. And it is real. We must teach our children. We absolutely must.

Island Blog – This Goodly Day (even if it is Monday)

A bit sleepless for no good reason. I wasn’t bothered, nor troubled. I just experienced awokeness. When dawn tiptoed in around my blackout curtains I decided up was for me, so I upped accordingly. Coffee and a watch for the rise of light, the lift of garden birds, the backdrop of accompanying sounds. I heard the trickle of the burn. Trickle for now but in the Autumn its voice is wild with flood, catapulting over rocks and plummeting into the pool, then under the track and offski to the sea. The eternal flow. Rain falls, burns erupt in noisy excitement and then spend days splashing everyone on their way to join Mother. It is indeed a joyous sound.

I hear the tap tap of my complication of creepers, wisteria, jasmine, clematis as their floating fingers try to gain some sort of purchase. Might need help, I tell them, and they waggle at me. I see an otter fishing in the sea-loch, flipping silver fish against the morning light, the darkling hills. Geese set forth and fifth and sixth, in fact, make that double figures, across the flat water with goslings in tow. One parent leading (guess that’s himself), then babies, then mother. A line, no ten, twelve lines crossing together as the black backed gulls circle. I watch them. The airborne predators lift, and lower, tip and flip and by golly if I see just one of them pick off a babe, I swear I will finally wild swim. They all arrive safely and now, my coffee cold, I can draw breath once more. It is quite a wide loch and I am, on reflection, rather proud of my ability to hold my breath. I remember trying it in a bath as a girl and exploding back into the air after about 60 seconds in a state of snot and sneeze. Not something I put on my CV.

I weeded a bit and discovered a tiny clematis creeper (who planted that?). I madly cleared the grass and such like around it to give it space. The flowers are huge and magenta. So brave. Not just the colour, nor the size of the flowers but all that struggle beneath Aquilegia, and other tall things I cannot name. I affixed the stems to the structure that upholds the original clematis which is 30 years old and not flowering quite as much as she once did. I know that state. Then I remember who planted the wee magenta thing. It was I some 3 years ago and I allow myself the forgetness of such a birthing because I was thwack in the thick of caring during that year. Nonetheless it is such a relief to solve such a question, I find. Reminds me I am not losing any plot.

I walk beneath brilliant green boughs, dappled sunlit tracks and take myself, slightly resistantly, to the old pier. The pier that Popz built and from where he ran the whale-watching trips for many years. Latterly, when the trips no longer left from that pier and he was no longer captain of the ship, he took down a plank of wood to make a sitting bench. Using old stones to form the elevation, he laid the plank and many many times we went there. First, he walked, his little Poppy dog beside him barking at pretty much everything, and latterly, driving on his quad. Sometimes he could get off the bike and sit with me on the bench, sometimes he could not. We would take tea in a flask and biscuits and just sit, often in companionable silence whilst we listened to the geese, the oystercatchers, the curlews, the gulls, seals and herons, marvelling at dragonflies of electric colours, butterflies and various buzzing thingies. We talked over that explosion of Thrift (Sea Pinks) that fanned out from the rocks, the bloom of downy feathers here, the way the seagrass chooses where it wants to grow, the slip and slide of the tide. I sat there in the sunshine for a while and took it all in. I am glad I went today. I could see his smile, the Old Impossible, and we walked back together, even if I cannot remember him walking in my memory.

T’was a goodly day.

Island Blog – Ice and Fire

The past 3 days have been glorious. Cold, freezing, in fact, with clear skies and sunshine. T’is rare on this rainy promontory to enjoy such clarity on joined up days. We mostly slop through puddles, our frocks flying out like sails and our wellies musty with damp. Although the faithful rain returned last night, somewhere in the middle of it, and the wind rose to shouting point, it is enough to have had those 3 joined up days. People’s faces shine with light, cheeks pinking, noses dripping, as they stride out along the track. Even the dogs bounce, no slinking, no wet backs, chasing sticks and each other. The stones hold fast to the ground and the puddles are all but gone. Stands of pooled spring water show me a tapestry of ice lace, greened brightly by the strangled mosses. Long grasses, now the colour of sand, stand proud and stiff, frosted with crystals and the cobwebs white-lace in between. I watch the sky through the branches of the trees, lit as they are by sunlight in shades of red and gold. Songbirds chitter all around, a musical accompaniment, their colours brighter, their flight light-hearted in the absolute stillness of the air. Ducks fly fast just above the surface of a sea-loch, cloudy with ice. Water sprites shimmer like mist, ice maidens dancing. Geese lift into the cold sky and I wonder how high they can go before their wings freeze, Oystercatchers twitter down by the water’s edge and closer to where the sea-loch becomes the sea, I watch curlews and herons and scan the water for sight of the resident otter and her cubs. A bright red fishing boat gentles its way back to harbour and I consider the haul of lobster and crab on board. It must be cold work for those human fingers, bringing in the fleets of creels in such low temperatures. I wish them hot tea and safe home to the fireside for the sun is sinking now and the sky is taking centre stage. The cold sharpens, nudging us all back home, reminding us that darkness is coming and she will bring a billion stars for our delight. Even when the sun has dipped below the hill, the colours remain. Blood red, platinum, gold and silver twists of cloud like angel hair, slowly disappearing into the darkling air.

Walking out in the night I see those billion stars, recognising only a few constellations, which doesn’t bother me one jot. What difference would it make to them, to me, to anyone if I could rattle off each name? Zip, that’s what. I don’t need to know, don’t need to photograph, don’t need to understand or explain any of this majestic beauty to anyone, even to myself. I simply need to watch it, notice it and to move into it, fully engaged. All bothersome things, all worries and concerns are not welcome as I meander along. I am intensely focussed on what I see, what I hear and smell, the sensation of extreme cold and the clarity of the air I breathe. And, after it is gone, blown or washed away, I will be able at any time to take myself back into those 3 days and to feel as I felt inside them.

This day, the day of rain, I will walk again, this time my frocks flying out like sails and my boots bravely rejecting water ingress as best they can. Ice stands will be puddles again and rising, birds will need to look to their flight plans and trees will drip. The fisherman’s fingers will thaw and the wind will cause my wheelie bins to buck and dance. I will notice the beauty of raindrops held in the branches and shivering on the tall grasses. I will feel the bite of cold wet wind on my face and hear the wind singing the pines into melody.

It is as it is. This day, those days, all just days, but there is nothing ‘just’ about any of them. Whether ice clear and light or dusky with rain and grumpy clouds in varying shades of grey, each day is precious. Many won’t have this day at all. For some it might be their last. All that really makes us truly alive regardless of weather or worries, ailments, lacks and losses is the noticing of each and every day. To mindfully walk through the minutes and the hours, paying attention to every small thing, is how to feel well. If each day is noticed and engaged in, mindfully, there is no waste of time, no ungrateful thinking and see that chattering jibber jabber of bothersome worries and concerns?

Fire it.

Island Blog – Diving for Change

This morning I woke to a deeper understanding of an old thing, a truth I already knew at a lighter level. Funny that, how we can hear the same thing at a different time and hear it as if for the first time. The lift of emotion is the giveaway. Going below the surface changes the view, as it does in real time. Above the surface, and even at its level, there are sounds of the world all about our ears. Diving below brings silence, at first. We leave the world behind as it were and sink into the unknown. From where we were we could probably see something down there, maybe a few somethings, but in allowing ourselves to move among the somethings we let go of control. Down here in the swirly depths, the fish, the imaginary sea creatures, we are vulnerable and we feel it. The colours that drew us in from up there become vibrant as precious jewels. Closer now and we can see movement and lives being lived. We can reach out and touch a shell, brush a tendril, catch the filtered sunlight on the diamond back of some fish or other, feel the rush of its escape as our body invades space.

It was the same for me this morning. Somehow I had allowed myself to sink below the surface, I had let go and I was vulnerable in that. And, you know what…..it feels wonderful. I realise that I have been holding onto a pattern of living that no longer serves me. Joining the dots of hindsight I see that I have known this for some time, for look…..there is a shape to it now; the hindsight dots have shown me that. How did I not see it from the get go? Because it wasn’t the right time. Time knows herself. She’s a keeper. She will illuminate the right thing at the right time for me, for everyone. She also knows when to suggest a dive. My emotional response to her is the giveaway. Learning a truth, puffing out an Aha is one thing. it is also devoid of emotion. It is understood at the level of sensibility, of logic, of the world. But, when I respond to it again at a deeper and more vulnerable level, my eyes can make rain. This is the real Aha. From this point I can never go back because once my heart gets it, it stays got. And it is such a peaceful thing. No fireworks, no need to call a friend all excited, no need to teach it, not my thing, not my new understanding.

I probably longed for this to come to me yonks ago. I wish, I wish, I wish, but it didn’t come no matter how much yoga I imagined I did, or how often I walked mindfully through the fairy woods; no matter how many books I read on the subject. This process of learning and letting go of something is out of my hands once I start wishing for it, start doing the work, and, believe me, that work is demanded of me. Wishing is for children. Wishing adults just die of an overdose of unfulfilled wishes. So my trudging along for all those yonks has finally paid off. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. And all I did was dive in and let go.

Island Blog – Things, A Morning and Ripples

This morning my phone charger fell apart. No matter how I shoved it in or bound it with tape, these two refused to fuse. Battery is low and my phone is important to me – all those WhatsApp images of home schooling, babies rolling over for the first time or sitting up back-straight and giggling. Okay, I thought, my heart a little heavy, I am going to have to burrow into the thousands of obsolete chargers, wires and other dangly things, kept, as all things must be, just in case, in the cobwebby dive beneath the stairs. Personally, I have never encountered ‘case’ and happily throw everything away once something new has arrived at my door. I have tied up fence posts with phone charger leads in my time and they’re also really useful at keeping down a wheelie lid, bent on escape. Eventually, I found one that fitted, muttering to myself that, in a perfect world, manufacturers of electronic thingamajigs would just agree on a universal charger for the whole universe instead of holding onto their toys like toddlers.

Across the sea-loch, in the outside world, the one that really matters, the trees bow to their reflections in the mirrorwater. A finger of gold touches one emerald beauty, lighting her into surreality and the water beams her across to me. Geese fly by, heading seaward, many of them, encouraging each other on. Gulls cant in a soft breeze and beneath their light white bodies, the sea-loch stirs into life. Two heavily pregnant hinds push through the water, belly deep and I watch their peaceful flow as they rise into the seaweed to bend their necks. And the echo ripples keep going. None of these things require a charger. As if by magic, everything out there just keeps going. All they need is food, water, light, each other and a safe place to sleep. Just like us, in truth.

However, we could get ourselves into a right flapdoodle at the very thought. It thinks me of all I could quite easily do without. I remember days when bread was toasted under a grill and it still tastes better that way, even if the clothes on the pulley oft retained the perfume of charr. This is not about what was, because what is, well, is, and many of the things with which we surround ourselves have elevated our quality of life considerably. But I think we have grown (rather scarily) dependent on things, so much so, that we might actually think life is quite impossible without them.

The most welcoming, hospitable and generous hearted people I have ever met have been the ‘poorest’. They don’t think so. What we might consider deprivation, turning back to our shiny car for escape, and feeling uncomfortably guilty, is Life for them. What they do have, they honour. I wonder how much we honour what we have? Do we even remember what we do have or is your cupboard full of nonsense like mine, nonsense like rejected mobile phones, boxes of techno kit I couldn’t even name, or a wardrobe so full of clothes I would be lost for a week were I to step within? And all those boots…..six pairs…..do I have enough legs for such abundance? Perhaps not, but I doubt I am alone in my excess. The world will do her best to convince us that we really need this new shiny thing, this pretty colour, this remote controlled baby stroller with timer, voice control and a light sensor panoply that rolls out in silence if the sun gets too beamy, and all achieved whilst mum stays at home to get on with something. We are caught, hook, line and sinker, time and time again. I read that online purchases have quadrupled since March and that retail stores are quaking in their boots. It is so so easy to click, so easy to believe in the hoodwink of it all and it takes some self control to turn back to the shoreline and the hinds and the finger of sunlight and to let what is real make a home inside me.

I might not remember what frock hides at the back of my wardrobe but I will remember how I felt as I watched the simple morning awaken. I’ll remember it as the day ripples out, even if I buy absolutely nothing.

.

Island Blog – Bloomers, Sunlight, Lacklight, and Tatties

Walks for me are meditative and questioning. I cannot sit still for more than five minutes nor pay serious attention to the in and out of my breath without getting the giggles. My breath works just fine without me paying attention to it, as does my heart beat steadfastly on without me bothering it. In the wee small hours I felt about for my heartbeat once and all was silent. Well, I thought, that’s pretty cool. My heart isn’t beating and I’m still alive. I always knew I was different.

Back to meditative/questioning walks. As I wander I notice, stop, chat with or admire something I missed yesterday, or something that wasn’t even there yesterday such as a new bloomer peeking up through the grasses. I see the burst of emerald leaves on an alder or the delicate fingers of Lady Larch, HRH of the Woods, dancing in the warm breeze like the wings of bird flight. I watch blue sky through the branches, squares, diamonds, circles, striations, fingers and whole swathes above a treeless bit, an artistic dash of cloud splitting the sky and in a hurry, it seems, to get to somewhere else. I contemplate it all and then me and me have a conversation. Look, I say, this side of the tree is in full bloom and that one (I indicate the inside of the wood) is only just coming. Why is that? Well, this side has the full sunlight. That side is darkling buried, its allowance of sunlight controlled by A N Other, or maybe a few A N Others if the wood is densely wooden.

It thinks me. If a tree can be affected by the amount of light shed upon it, how much more a human? If I am to bloom, I need light. If I don’t get light, I don’t bloom. If I don’t get light for decades I am in danger of turning the colour of mole, even if I am naturally infused with positive attitude and born with a natural propensity for fun, beauty, joy, laughter and dancing. Eventually my need for light in the form of real love, kindness, to be cherished, complimented, accepted, understood, admired and listened to, will require fuel from A N Other. If the light I am receiving is in A N Other’s control, and if it flashed on and off at will, then I may begin to mole-up, or is it mole-down?

I think of those who have told me of such lacklight. In the workplace, in the home, in school, in neighbourhoods or in family relationships and I have done what we all do when we don’t stop and think. We encourage this person who is turning the colour of mole before our eyes to look on the bright side; to look at what they do have; to count their blessings, to go for long walks, cook, listen to music, sew something……. none of which helps one jot, because what this sad person needs is not advice, but light. And we can shine it upon them just by listening, understanding, caring and walking beside them. We cannot change their circumstances, but they can, and well they might once they start to feel like blooming again. We can be the fuel they need, the sunlight they crave, by doing absolutely nothing.

In the garden, in the woods there is fierce competition. It is no different amongst we humans. Everyone wants to grab as much light as possible, but there is room for us all even if some of us are late bloomers due to lack of light; late, that is, until someone saw us turning the colour of mole and moved their branches just enough that we could feel the warmth on our skin.

I decide it is time to put the tatties on to boil. It’s 4pm after all and Himself needs food early. Why do you need to put them on to boil? asks my other self. In order to feed a human. I reply, eyes rolling. Why do you need to feed a human? Because I am one. Ah……ok….better get the tatties on, then.

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.

Island Blog – The Overstory

I walked yesterday among the trees in the Fairy wood. I barely glanced up into her leafless arms nor stopped to touch the bark of the tallest Fir, nor paused to consider the tangle of roots thrust into visibility by endless erosive rains; roots as thick as my arm, conifer fingers, gnarled and scarred over hundreds of years by hundreds of human boots, marching boots, tramping across the overstory with little enough thought. I didn’t look, nor see, nor stop to garner soft peace from the whispers of these gentle and protecting giants. I just took my place in the march. I didn’t pause to consider over what I did this marching thing. I just wanted to get back out of the nipping wind and into the warm.

All evening, staring out at the dark, I considered. The understory thinks me. What brilliant planning, synergy and sharing goes on down there, in a deeper darkness that Night could ever bring? In a clutter wood, where new springlings struggle towards that wee patch of sky, of sun to hear the stories carried on the backs of the winds that dash across this rocky island from all points on the compass, how can life go on? Is there a finite of trees within the human boundaries of this wood? And how do they know not to crowd themselves out of sunlight, water, food – to leap across the track to where that fallen beech has created, in its final death cry, a whole rack of gentle space just asking for a friend. And not only space, for in its dying, in its soft slow submissive return to the earth, this giant is preparing magical layers of nourishment for that seedling to grow strong and straight-backed.

Roots will be under my feet even on this track wide enough for a whacking great lorry. Roots don’t bother with our boundaries and it isn’t just that. I think they conjoin, I know they do, merging and melding together for the greater good, the good of the wood, of the family. Unlike us, separation is not their main thing, not a thing at all. Unlike us, they do not judge by species, sex, type, shape or achievement. They care not what colour your leaves might be, nor if those leaves are bigger than their own. Like us, they need each other. Like us they sing better in a choir, a unison of voices rising into the sky sending harmony, melody and rhythm out to warm a listening heart. They know it. We are only learning.

Life is lived in the overstory. Although the underneath matters a great deal, it is easily hidden from the world. I can do this as well as anyone. I can slap on my smile and pretend just like you do. And there is no wrong in that, unless, unless, either of us forget our tap root and that of others with whom we share our life. The good news about tap roots is that, like the trees, they grow in silence, whether we pay them attention or not. As they grow in the silent darkness of our hearts and souls they find other roots. This meeting is not confrontational, nor constrained by fear but a vulnerable reaching, meeting, greeting; a gentle slow winding together of fingers, a melding perhaps, or a share of time before moving on. We can learn from that time of open curiosity, the lack of fear, the acceptance of another life doing its very best to grow and to grow right.

Today, when I walk beneath those same trees I will be witted-up and open. I never tire of the woods and have walked through and around them for almost five decades but sometimes, like yesterday, my overstory is so shouty that I forget where I am and thus I miss the nourishment on offer beneath those ancient wise giants. I miss the startling gasp of star moss on a rotting trunk, the shelf fungi holding on even as its host crumbles away, the rain-betrayed spider webs cast between a spindle of branches, long since empty of life. I miss the patchwork of sky, the squelch of peat under my boots, that sudden realisation of the understory, always working, always growing, in gentle silence. Today I will see it all, hear the voices of the wood and they will bring me calm and a real smile, no pretend.

Island Blog – Spring into Winter

Tomorrow I leave African Hothot, traversing space and time over 24 hours, to land in what sounds like an icebox. En route I will meet, without meeting, thousands of other travellers going back the way I came or on to lands I may never see for myself. Many, like me, will be confused about what to wear during our journeys, knowing that what lies ahead of us is drastic change. I find change is often like that, but that’s another blog altogether.

I will miss the sound of inexhaustible cicadas and frogs. I will not miss the mosquitos. I will find myself listening for the lite bytes of sound across the bush from maids and gardeners I cannot see, who josh and laugh with each other all day long as they go about their work. I see them delivered and collected, standing together on the bed of a truck, butterfly coloured, their teeth white dazzlers in the sunlight. They look but never wave unless we do first, at which point they leap into action and we feel like famous people. Always friendly, always smiling, always generous, proud of their work, with a strong faith and a strong community, these Africans could teach us all a thing or two about how to be an effective human.

In the local town when buying food or cogs for machines or plastic grommets for piping, some folk recognised me, as I did them. Two months of exposure does that. I will miss the crazy drivers and the dirt tracks in game reserves; a sudden 6 metre giraffe by the roadside or a baboon family under a shade tree, invariably scratching. The jacaranda, coral, frangipane and other wildly coloured up trees will be just brilliant memories as I wing my way into winter. And Spring, back home, will come again. The dead time is Nature’s rest and she needs it as we all do. Unlike many, I love the winter as I love the sunshine warmth. Winter is a time for reflection and reading by the fireside, for bracing walks, long johns and hot buttered toast.

And Christmas is coming……

Island Blog 152 Small Things

Island Blog 152 Small Things

I had to take action.  I’d been listening to their scurryings above my head every night and wondering what they were up to in the loft.  It’s a dark, cobwebby space, long and spooky, silent, waiting, holding boxes of heaven knows what, familial bric-a-brac, books – stuff the children will wander through when we are gone, wondering why on earth we ever kept any of it.

Okay I said to myself, time for mouse traps.  Yeuch I hate them.  I hate mouse poison even more, not that I’ve ever tasted it, of course.  I hate the slow dying of it.  At least traps are quick, unless they’re not.  It’s the ‘not’ bit that keeps me turning over in bed and pretending it’s the wind pushing things over up there.  Well, it could be.  There are loads of holes for it to shoot through. ‘Up there’ is one of our mysteries.  Unlike modern day lofts, ours is 19th century and has hardly changed at all over the years, beyond its contents.  Gaps between slates show me sunlight, and as for lagging, there is a bit here and there, but nothing that quite spans the space between roof trusses or ceiling beams.  There is flooring, but that just hides a possible Mouse City so I’m not fooled by it.  The cobwebs are black and strong.  I’ve been right to one end on my hands and knees in search of something, anything I might recognise, batting away cobwebs quite impervious to batting.  After a fretful and panicky few minutes during which every episode of Nightmare on Elm Street shot through my brain like fire, I re-appeared down the wonky steps in dire need of both a jolly good hoovering and a double brandy.  I could hardly breathe for hours and my dreams were littered with gigantic spiders for nights after.  I actually like spiders very much.  Just not the nightmare ones.

Anyway, back to the mice.

In trepidation and braced for Cobweb Attack, I donned my head torch and pulled out the wonky steps, took a deep breath (my last for a while) and, with my head, pushed up the trap door.  Let’s re-name it.  Loft door.  Yes, that’s less scary.  I pushed up the loft door and let my torch scan the darkness.  What did I expect?  A line of jaunty mice, all waving and saying ‘Gosh, we haven’t seen you since last winter!  How have you been?’  Hmmmm.  Nothing, of course greeted me beyond the long dark spooky silence and all those flaming boxes of nothing I recognise.  I actually did wonder if the stuff wasn’t ours at all, but left behind by one of the Whoevers who lived here before.  I saw a cricket shin pad thingy, well, half of it to be precise, the upper part now a fluffy mish-mash of ‘munched white’.  Spurred on by this sight (himself will be horrified…..no more Wicket Man) I set the traps with peanut butter and nearly lost a few fingers before getting it right.  Sorry…..I whispered into the gloom and let myself down.  All day I hated myself with a strong hate.  How can I be so cruel?  I know it is utterly foolish because mice should stay outside shouldn’t they, and if they don’t, well, it’s their funeral?

It thinked me of small things, generally, in life, because it is the small things that have the power of big failure or of big success.  For example, our daily habits are small things.  We dont really consider them much, are not mindful of them until one of them begins to jar, to feel wrong, to nudge for change.  If we don’t make regular checks on our daily habits, we may find ourselves caught in the cobwebs of our lives, trapped in the dark.  We humans can think that we are who we are and that’s that. We can’t change now.  Well, I will challenge that.  However old we are, we can change and all change begins with the small things, one small thing.

I may feel ludgy and lethargic.  What can I do about that?  Well, I can stay ludgy and lethargic, or I can decide to take a walk for ten minutes and then tomorrow, I can make the same decision until, after a few days, I have created a new synapse in my brain, a new habit, one I don’t even question.  I just do it.  Then, one morning I wake up and I don’t feel ludgy and lethargic any more.  Gosh!  How did that happen?  Well, it didn’t ‘happen’. I happened it.

I caught 12 mice.  I didn’t feel great about any of the process, but I knew I had to deal with the small things before they became a big thing and chewed up all those mysterious boxes in the long, dark, spooky loft.  I went up this morning and found both traps un-pinged.  I’m not saying the job is done, for the small things will, no doubt, be back, but because I have taken action, I have created a new synapse in the loft of my life.  Who knows……perhaps this Spring I will crawl up there in a hard hat, with a sharp knife to open up the past.

Somebody’s past, anyway.