Island Blog – If this is how it is, then Act

I feel sad for our world today. I know I live in a tiny part of it, beautiful, stunning, peaceful but yet tiny. It doesn’t stop me noticing the rest. Although for many years I have busily inhabited the aforesaid beautiful, stunning and peaceful place, it seems like there is a loudspeaker on the others, on the bigger world. I know of corruption in governments, of hidden information in order to keep the ‘masses’ quiet and I have never been okay with that. It is as if the ‘masses’ are mindless idiots who don’t think and who don’t need to know. I am one. I am protected up here with the Gulf Stream and with lunatic winter gales the biggest threats to my survival. They don’t stop me knowing, even as I am able to turn off the news, ignore the ‘bad stuff’ that might infect my sleep.

In my busy young mother overthetopworkedout life, I ignored with impunity. After all, there were guests to feed, hospitality requirements (endless) and a family to protect and provide for, so I never had a scooby about wars and corruption and governments hiding pretty much everything. Now, there is silence, endless silence in my life and I finger my way into the light of outside information. I don’t understand most of it, which, by my way of thinking, is just the point, but I know when I hear, or don’t hear, something that butts against my gut, when something in me stands up. Hairs, goose bumps, those sorts of things. If you stood me up in a group and demanded explanation I could not find the words. Much as my dream job was to be a thoroughly difficult woman in all situations, I am not her. I loved to hear the confidence and courage from those who wore red shoes and lipstick and who stood to be noticed at great risk and just knew I would only ever be a choir girl to their solo.

Now I find myself needing to be that soloist. Not in a group, not in public, not on a soapbox on the corner of a dank lonely street but for my own self. I see, even from the aforesaid magical place, that I must make difficult choices, brave up and stand for myself. We would love to have had clear direction from our ‘leaders’ but even they had no idea how the virus would morph, develop and consume. Nonetheless I see good leaders and I see dithery ones. I still won’t blame. This is up to me, me is up to me and, you know what, it is how it was when people thought for themselves instead of waiting for direction in a crisis. We seem to have lost the use of that muscle.

I find myself listening to the news more now, just the headlines. There is fear and doubt in all our hearts. There is detail and posturing although how anyone can posture against an invisible enemy astonishes me. It’s a bit Scifi. But, I remind myself as I contrive a grin with my teeth, this is how it is now. My mail box is coloured with bright offers of ‘freedom’ through summer sandals to cheap flights to loans. The world has gone mad. The leaders are flagging (not all of them) and the country is sagging like an old woman tired of the fight. Another winter of fear? Maybe. Another lockdown? Maybe. Another slug of fear in our whisky? Maybe. Another endlessness of isolation and loneliness? Maybe.

I always see a ‘Maybe’ as a butterfly, or a moth. I have done since childhood, perhaps because the word was employed so often by my mother as I asked the endless questions that drove her crazy. And, the thing about Maybe is that she has two sides. Will and Won’t. Show and Hide. Run and Stay. And more. There are times for each side of her and we need to tap our own intelligence in order to know to react. Our own intelligence. Not the government’s, not that or our opinioned friends/mothers/relations, not that of our neighbours, but our own. Some of us have not gone there for years, maybe decades. Hallo Maybe…. But we have it people, strong within us. Ask yourself ‘What do I believe?’ What Do I think?’ And keep asking until the only right answer comes. Then Act.

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 – This Journey

I will agree that these lockdowns have given us time to reflect. It has also given us fear and a stuttering of easy movement. Any journey holds both. Even going to the local shop on a little island. Imaginary demons lurk on every door handle and in every breathy encounter. Even from behind a mask we are cautious of guffaws so we try not to be funny, even if being funny is our absolute thing. For those of us who love to cheer others no matter what, our vocal chords are compromised if not fettered, our lungs on hold. We turn our faces away from other faces we know so well, pushing out a gentle Good Morning with as little puff as we can, for we must not forget the responsibility we carry. Touching anything is risky. Touching each other, forbidden, even if touching is our absolute thing. It is stultifying at times and we must not give in to imaginary fears. We must keep journeying for we cannot hold back the days any more than we can hold back the virus. Both are invisible.

Other invisible things also keep coming, rolling beneath our feet like thunder. These things can confound. Not now, we say, Not Now! But they do come anyway, bringing birds into bellies, all a-flutter and a-twist. Some of us must go to another place, a hospital, perhaps, for a check up or an essential operation. We must ride the road, traverse the water, open doors, breathe in air that may or may not be healthy and fresh. I think of these folk, compromised, fearful. I hope they have good family support. I wish them the very best outcome and enough courage to push away the fear. These journeys, in ordinary times, were bad enough. Now it must feel like a walk into Dante’s Inferno. I know of some who are back home now and healing well, who have journeyed through the Inferno and are cool again and safe. This is how it can be and this is what to focus on, never mind the flutter and twist of belly birds. It is natural to be afraid at such times. We feel thus as we face the unknown.

My way is to look at the other side of things, the flip side, the arrival and not the departure. When a journey is inevitable, no matter how badly we might wish it away, there is a choice. Look at the fear and feed it, or don’t. Instead look at the smile on your face when it is all behind you, when this journey that looms is already a fading memory. Look at what you can learn as the journey flows beneath you. Notice and reflect and store these observations away for a future think. Precious are these observations, the shared chuckles, the muffle of masked conversation. Look out and up at Nature as she flies by the car window. See how the clouds part and conjoin, how the sun takes a quick peek at you, enough to dazzle. See how quiet are the roads, how the rain spits up from the car ahead, how crimson are the tail lights. Listen to the music coming from the speaker. In other words create a distraction, create many of them. What you allow into your mind is what your mind will develop. It is such a powerful lesson to learn. No matter the journey, no matter the timing, we have a chance to learn something we never imagined was there at all.

Island Blog – Independent Christmas

Well, this is a fine kettle of fish indeed! We can meet up for Christmas, no we can’t, yes we possibly might be able to, no we cannot, absolutely not, unless we…………. It’s a wonder any of us know which way is up these days. However, it seems clear enough to me, as the fog of confusion dissipates, that each one of us is required to employ a great measure of common sense. As we all know, this ‘common sense’ is anything but common inside a society that waits for Someone Else to tell us what to do. Independent thinking has slowly been erased from our brains until we become almost robotic. Or that is how it looks to me. Even when a goodly person ferrets about for an answer to that tricky question “How do you feel about this situation?’ and even more alarmingly “What do you plan to do about it?’ these two simple questions can create chaos inside a mind. I know it myself. First, I pull back; then I begin a sort of dervish twirl that can take my frock skirts over my head and leave me mighty nauseous; this swirl thing can go on for days, weeks even, as I repeat the questions to myself and find answers none.

I have now worked it out. Making an independent decision in the face of a national, nay global dilemma, is a big ask of a small woman, of all of us. Listening to the news, the rising numbers of those falling prey to the virus, alarms me greatly. The rise, it seems, is directly connected to ‘gatherings’ such as shopping for gifts and supples, or meeting together in pubs etc. Well, if that isn’t a ‘duh!’ I don’t know what is. Obviously, when folk gather under such a cloud of mean-spirited virus, that virus will spread. It is silent. It is lethal. It is not going anywhere with all these willing subjects just ignoring the danger. Who would? If I was a virus I’d be laughing my head off right now. So now, when I ask those two questions, the answers are simple. I feel alarmed and because I feel alarmed, I am not travelling anywhere, nor inviting all my friends in for a hoolie. Simples.

Yes, it is Christmas time and yes we have been locked down since March, afraid and isolated. Some of us have seen death in that time; some of us have, thankfully, not. The good news is that Christmas is an annual event, not a once in a lifetime thing. It will come next year, as many good things will. When we look back over this last year what will we say? Will we bang on about how tough it was, forgetting all the myriad and unexpected things wonderful that came our way, or will we be deeply thankful that we got through it, and together. I have never known such a unity in the world, seen or heard of so many random acts of kindness or learned of so many heroes and heroines who snuck out of the woodwork of their ordinary lives and became extraordinary. And all this because why? Because of the virus, that’s why. In times of peace we get complacent and idle. In times of war, such as this time in which we live right now, we find an inner strength and resourcefulness we never knew was inside us at all.

Whittling down the stick I find the wooden heart. If I do the same to the swirling dervish of confusion I find my own heart, the mind of my heart, the true voice of independent thinking. We may be advised not to travel. This is not a rule and there are no road blocks out there, after all. However, when I consider my part in the healing process of a whole nation or two, it is obvious to me that travel is a risk, so I won’t be doing that. It won’t be easy, seeing no family on this, my first ever Christmas alone, but I can do this. Anyone can do this. It is just a matter of independent thinking, of having a deep love and respect for life itself, and vision for a collective future. Once an independent decision is made, it is surprisingly freeing. The swirl and confusion slows to a stop. Try it.

And the chance to share Christmas with those we love will come again next year as long as we get our thinking straight for this one.