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 – Dot Dot or Dash

Last night we had a thunderstorm. Huge flashes of greenish light illuminated the darkness in my room turning the furniture into eerie monsters. The thunder didn’t bother with clapping. It roared like a god in a filthy temper. And the show went on, and on, and on. I could have been at a rock concert. Sleep gave in and curled up without me and I turned to my book for solace, two books actually, one on meditation, the other on Forgetting Self. Each time the lightning flashed I startled, counted, held my breath as the storm rolled around the Blue Mountains then deafened me with an explosion of thunder so as to make me ask myself what would happen if the sky really did fall down. I don’t remember when it grew calm again but by then it was already light and the day was rising into life.

Sipping strong coffee the storm thinks me. Not just the thunder and the lightning but my part in the performance. I was there. I heard it, saw it, thought about it, tossed and turned inside it, sighed at it and read to distract myself whilst it made its attention seeking journey across my night. I watched the way ordinary becomes extraordinary, the eerie furniture in greenish light, noticed how the flash-shadows menaced my thinking, felt the anticipation, acknowledged my insignificance beneath such life/death power. This its what Life does. That’s what I thought. Life lives on and Life is everything, everyone and everywhere. And I am not everything, nor everyone, nor everywhere. I am a small dot in a vast and endless tapestry of colour and form, shape and design, texture and flow. My world is piddling in this everywhere-ness, just a blip, just a dot and yet I can believe, in my arrogance, that my world is of tantamount importance. More important than yours, for instance, with a more considered layout and healthier stuff in my fridge; my Christmas tree is bigger and better decorated; my children more polite; my floors cleaner, my day more organised, my diary up to date and my appliances all charged.

What foolish nonsense is this! Even writing it down I smirk at such thinking and yet such thinking thinks me at times because in creating a warm wrap of ‘smug’ I feel safe in this everywhere and everyone world. Unless I decide to unthink the thinks. To change them.

I have used my time here in the African bush for much unthinking. With my piddling world many thousands of miles away it has been possible to look back, forward and at each moment and it has been a splendid journey. In ordinary life I/we tend to run through the trivia, listing it, dealing with it, sorting out the bits that don’t fit, dashing through the to-do list in order to arrive. Why is that? Is it because we feel we must get through everything in order to win a prize? Where is this prize anyway? I’ve never won it and that’s for sure. All I achieved was over-tiredness and a mouth full of scratchy nips. Did I seek pity from those I scratchy nipped? When I was too busy ‘Sorry, Thingy, I’m too busy to chat just now, got to dash’, to give of my time (so much more precious than yours by the way) and way too behind on the day’s to-do list to listen to your story down the phone line (I’ll call you back……yeah, right!) did I consider you for one single moment? I don’t think so. Although we say, particularly at Christmas, that we will give more time/of ourself to our family, friends, neighbours and strangers, we mostly unthink that once the gloom of January sets in. We get all emotional about change but once a year. Sounds ridiculous to me. How can anyone change but once a year? I’m changing every day, don’t know about you. I believe that life is change and the whole flipping point of being a dot on the tapestry of Life is to make a difference to the whole. Without the dot that is I, the dot that is you, this line would merge with that line. We dots are important, critical in fact, as long as we think beyond our piddlingness and pay attention to our dotting process. We could be a big dot. We might even be a scatter of dots, depending on how wide our loving arms can reach, on what kindnesses we proffer and how often we proffer them. Inconvenient? Absolutely. Interruptus? Of Coursicus. Infuriating? Oh yes. But, the inside feeling that comes from knowing we showed kindness, respect and affection to whoever disturbed our extremely valuable time will leave a glow inside that no outward success can ever bring.

And that is the Prize.