Island Blog – Flowing Free

I hear the drips plopping into my little jug below the hole in the plaster. It used to infuriate me. Ach, another leak, even though it was not ‘another’, but instead the only one after years of buckets catching loads of leaks. How odd it is, when I think on it, that my leaking past jumps into my now, irrelevantly. I pause and rejig myself. Always a good idea and certainly for me. It is so easy to wear the gloom clothing, after all when Gloom is busy elsewhere and quite fed up with the fact that yet another human is calling him back. I wonder about Gloom. Is he actually an okay sort of person, one who had no idea when the gods gave him the Gloom job that he would be so busy and for so long? I have one small leak in a place where the rain falls like it just has to barf and the only place that allows is it in is here on the very Westerly West of Scotland; the last place before said rain makes no impact whatsoever in the wild expanse of the great Atlantic Ocean, an expanse of so much water that any amount of rain spill goes unnoticed. And we all want to be noticed.

I see the mosaic of infracted plaster overhead and I see art. Soon, I will need to pull it down, again. But, for now, it is rather beautiful and it thinks me. This morning woke me different. Yes, I had been up within the night, padding down for a cup of herbal and to leave my worries behind. Why they all tangle in the bed sheets is a mystery to me, but they do. If I walk down the stairs, I leave them behind and when I return, they’ve bored themselves out in the waiting and I can lie down without the damn things. I secretly believe they have no substance, hence the frishing away so quickquick. I have learned this technique over many years of believing they were the truth and holding on to them, thus allowing them to define me, to trip me up, to collude and to coagulate so that breakfast is always, was always, a guilt trip. To hell with that nonsense now. Here I am, dancing alone to Mr Beaujangles, in my kitchen, remembering the days when I could actually dance, catching my face in a passing mirror and seeing an old white haired woman who bears no relation to the one I know myself to be, and I rest and I chuckle. A So What, rises in me. And I like So What.

I spend the day completing a tapestry. For me, there is a story in every one. I give them away. I don’t sell. If someone identifies with the mountains, the tidal flow, the moon, the little home tucked away behind rocks, a safe place, then their story connects with mine. It was all I ever wanted and I got my dream. I am lucky. Folk say that we make our own luck and I agree to a degree but they miss the point. It is gratitude I am feeling, communicating, and the rest is just semantics. Words change, meanings change over time, over generations, and all of that is just as it is. Flow is key. Moving on with whatever comes at us, no matter how much value we put on the past of our past, means we don’t die wishing things were as they were. And I am so not doing that. Was is, not is. Can never be.

I walk inside the sheets of rain this afternoon as the light dims with two friends. We laugh in the rain, the diversity of dogs and their boundary shouts. To be honest, the only shouter was Poppy, but, thankfully, my friends were kind about her issues with any dog walking on what she considers to be her patch and her patch alone. No matter how often I tell her we do not own these lands, she is strong in her confidence, but it slows and calms quite quickly and so we walk together through lashing rain and bright fallen beech leaves coppering our path, larch needles like exclamation marks, crushed rowan berries, blood drops beneath our feet. We talk of village matters, of a strong and wonderful man who died yesterday, and, at that, we pause. This man is gone. His wife is in shock. We are not in that place. She and her children are not in free flow, but we are. We cannot change their situation but we can change ours because of their situation. We do it as we come through the kissing gate. We hold the news, together. And, in a few seconds we rejig our own lives, our own petty angst and we flow again, we flow free.

Island Blog – To be seen and heard

The tide is pushing out from the sea-loch in such a rush I wonder if it is late for something. As the tides change to fit the pull of Mother Moon, everything, including we humans, respond, even if we don’t know we are doing that responding thing. The light is lower in the sky, the skyscape more dynamic and suddenly there’s a chill out there, a chill of clarity. Against a Payne’s grey this afternoon, just as the rain stopped and the sun appeared, 12 hooper swans cut through the sky. Such beauty, their white wings on slow-flap, their pattern not for my pleasure but for their ease of passage. Nonetheless I can marvel at their passing as they curve the sea-loch, change leadership and fly on to God knows where. Moments like this come suddenly and, I have realised, only because I want to witness such moments, such passing beauty, and that means refusing to spend too much time inside the limitations of my own head.

A nature walk with two of my little granddaughters yesterday took us along the same track, the Tapselteerie track, the one that offers a glimpse of change every single time I set foot on it. This particular walk was one that required a deal of looking. Naturally, there were two of us who needed to run, to jump in the puddles, to throw laughter up into the Autumn air, but old granny just walked, just looked. We found acorns, beech nuts, brave wee oak saplings, rowan berries, autumn coloured leaves, lichen, old man’s beard on an alder, shells on the beach, bits of sky, reflections, a change in the wind. Some of these could be popped into their collecting bags, some just wanted to be seen, to be noticed, as we all do.

It thinks me. These little ones are already forming their view of the world as they know it. They are learning to win, to be bigger, faster, kinder, brighter than someone else. It isn’t that parents teach this. It is survival and the wee ones are hungry for it. Although they are dependent for now, they long for a degree of independence. They want to be safe and they want to be free. They want friends and to be alone and above all they want to be noticed. As I watch them and the others grow and shape themselves, I know that my role is to observe and to learn, to bear witness and to really see them, for each one is longing to be him or her self, and that self is as delicate as a candle in the wind.

On the final leg of our walk in Nature, one girl ran far ahead, the other calling for her to wait. Being the older sister she reluctantly stopped and waited only to watch her sister run right past her and on. ‘She just wants to beat me, she said. She ruins my fun.’ I thought about this, about what to say. ‘What do you want to do right now?’

‘I want to run all the way to the gate.’

‘Do it’

‘What if she cries?’ (kindness. I’m impressed)

”Let her cry.’

She took off with a big smile, running running past the wailing sister and I just watched whilst I caught up with the ‘left behind’. Holding her wee hand I told her about a snake her uncle had found in his swimming pool. Although it looked scary, it was non venomous. It’s not a snake natural to Spain, I told her and it isn’t good for the snakes that are.

She thought for a moment and looked up at me, not a tear in sight.

Maybe it came in from South America, she said, skipping along beside me.

She is five in November.

Island Blog – Some Time and the God Mother

Recently I have watched change develop, a responsive change to what is happening with the season. Local dog walkers are now clad in jumpers, one or two (jumpers) I recognise from last year, at a similar time. They sauntered by in teeshirts and shorts, it seems like moments ago. Was I asleep for days? Did I miss something and, whilst I did this sleeping thing, did the weather send these goodly folk into their drawers for a wheeching out of warmer kit? No, I didn’t sleep, rarely do, so it wasn’t that. Maybe the gods of weather flipped a switch, laughing at us down-belows and deciding to stir things up a bit, because body language speaks volumes. Instead of ‘sauntering’, these folk are bowed, bent and clad in plastic. Where before they walked with jaunty air companionable with time as if it was a holiday stretching out for days, they now march, get out, get back, wet and longing for a hot cuppa, teeth gritted, defences up against the sideways rain avoiding puddles deep enough to sink a vicar. I feel it myself, the oh-god-do-I-have-to thing pre dog walk. I resent, big time, the reach for the plastic covering, the boots. I feel irritation as the doglet pauses to sniff at every other blade of grass, yanking her on and then carrying the guilt of grumpy yanking for another half mile, at least. Walks are shorter, faster, marchier. Dammit.

Then I remember the discomfort of change. Ah…….yes. Every time a season changes it feels too soon, even when the coming season is Spring and this is why. I like to know where I stand within my environment, my life. I want ‘ordinary’ to remain so, even as I absolutely don’t. Eventually, I get comfortable with the change until it isn’t change at all. It just is as it is. The in-between time, when I am on the cusp of things, I swither, feel out of sorts, resistant. It’s not anticipation of a seasonal change because it slam dunks me. I don’t know what it is, and I get bored of myself looking for reasons. I work not to be crabbit. I poke about in my insides to find some explanation and find none. This finding none thing also irritates me. I like an answer, that lovely well-honed explanation, much like a well-penned musical phrase that jitters, lifts, curves and flows down to an Aha. Nothing. Dammit again.

When dressing these chillsome mornings, I paint my way through my frock layers. This, yes, that, maybe, and this one onatop. No, try again, and again and again. What is wrong with me? For many lovely months I just rose from beneath my duvet, picked up this or that for its colour, or shape, or layering power. Now I am a snivelling child of a morning, with no power at all. I realise, I know, as I write this, that it is a First World problem. I remind myself of that as I stomp down the stairs to yet another dark morning. Is it morning at all?

There are so many who dread mornings. There are so many who have left their last ever morning behind, lost like a full stop in the dark. I have frocks and choice. I have Autumn and change. I have rain-soaked dog walks. I have Christmas ahead, visits from family and friends, my children, their partners and the grandchildren. I have my eyes, my ears, my legs, my face, my arms and a choice for dinner. I have enough money, enough warmth, enough light, enough dark to remember the full stops for others. Again I ask, what is wrong with me?

The Soft Voice comes to me. Nothing, she says, this God Mother, Nothing at all. You are but human (the ‘but’ bit clicking me into pause. And, she continues, there may well be another day, another morning. There may not, but there may be. Keep living, not just breathing. Keep fannying about with your frock talk, keep dithering and swithering and be grumpy if it helps. All is allowed, is normal. But one thing……

Yes? I ask.

You have one time, some time. Use it, dance with it, in it, play with it, have fun with it, make it hilarious and precarious, vicarious, salubrious, nefarious, whatever. But notice which and what. Choose from your own ground, your own roots, where and when you will spread and when you will flower.

She’s wise, the God Mother.

Island Blog – I Dare You and Defiance

There’s a natural space in the woods that always looks me in. It’s as if I lose control of my eyes for they slide to the right even if I am captivated by the left where wind-bowed hazels dense the hill flow down to the shore. The gap shows me promise, hope, a further on, an invitation. I know, because I have gone in before, that a rise of scrub grass and big rocks will lead me, puffing like an old Billy, right up to the top only to show me a short down and another challenging up. But today I don’t accept the invitation, not least because of……what, I ask myself and myself as ever has a quickquick answer. Because you are scared of falling and of lying up there in the silent depths of the wood where nobody will find you for days, maybe weeks. I silence her with a sharp hiss which alarms the walkers coming towards me on the track. I feel that overwhelming need to explain that I am not mad (really?) and not a daft old woman talking to myself, which, of course, I am. I roll my eyes and once far enough away from the looking-back walkers and after checking the wind direction, I ask myself why it is that I always have to explain my actions. I yearn, and always have yearned, to be one of those women who can beatifically smile at sudden encounters that encroach on private moments and to not give a monkeys whatnot as to their reactionary thoughts or whispers. I have a long way to go on that one.

Not going in doesn’t mean I cannot pause and send my eyes scooping through the darkling gap to rise and rise again to where the top of the first hill hits the sky. I notice the grass that has fought its way into a piddling light all summer. Now its fronds are bending over and soon they will die their yearly death, kidding on that they are done for good. I smile. I know their root system. I have met that root system in my own little garden. There is way more of that below the surface, below my seeing, than there ever is above ground. The fallen beech tree just within the. wood still sends out leaves, clever limbs reaching reaching up into whatever light sustains the ancient fingers below ground, the ones that garner every bit of moisture they can find, and year after year. It is a long time fallen, this old beech and yet still it blooms. I step in and put my hand on its belly, its trunk, thick as a planet and as long as time. Well done my friend I say. You inspire me.

Fallen I am not and yet when life changed for ever just over a year ago, I can feel a bit fallen at times. Perhaps Nature is teaching me. No, Nature is definitely teaching me. The flower that blooms between paving stones, the cowslip that grows butter yellow and flowers for many days perched atop a big fence post and this beech. It is never about perfect growing conditions, never. I have known so many who seeded, bloomed and blossomed in impossible places under appalling circumstances, defying loss and pain, and who did it anyway. It was never for show, but to shout to the naysayers or to those all settled and comfortable in those perfect conditions, Defiance. Shout Defiance. Shout it. But do something. Shouting alone gives your throat a horsewhip and achieves as little. Choose, instead, to bloom. Go on. I dare you.

Island Blog – The Usual Route

As I walk today, the usual route that never stays usual, not even day to day, I am thinking. And noticing, and the noticing part shows me changes, little ones mostly, shifts in growth or movement from earth to sky, from tidal flow to a tree canopy painting a season. I have heard people say that they need to change their walk route, and I respect that, but it does wonder me. How much noticing are you doing my friend, because even if you walk through the same terrain every single day, you will always see something different. It can depend on your mood, on how you feel, on whether or not you carry anger or sadness or other pains; worries can flutter around your head like picky terns when you get too near a nest and they can hurt and hinder any other noticings . You can march on a fitness thingy, or be plugged into music with those nifty white ear pods. You can be aware of ouches in the body, sharps in the mind, bothered about wishing excess weight away, aware, too aware of your body.

I leave all that behind, but don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a natural state for me. Hell no. I had to do this marching, musical oblivion, too fat, too floppy, I hate you and the world thing for, well, too long, until some wise person suggested I ‘notice’. Notice, schmotice, I snapped. What do you mean? He explained and I listened, thinking this:- what I am living with, the me I am living with, is not working. I am not working. I am fighting against demons and doubts and hate and distraction and I am marching, marching, marching. To where? he asked. From what? he asked and I had no answers to either.

To free a mind, even if the body is imprisoned, is completely possible. No, it is probable, if the inner work is taken seriously. Now the word ‘seriously’ gives me shudders and always did. I had, have, no plans to be serious. Serious speaks to me of knuckling down to latin syntax or of playing goalie in a lacrosse match in temperatures that would freeze a seal. I want to be light about change, tender with transience, open without fear, fear of my own lack. Who teaches that we have to be everything in order to gain everything? T’is a lie, my friends, but the lie works because we all buy into it. If ‘They’ say this is how it is, then, by definition, most of us are failures. I digress, but with no apology.

Back to the walk. It is like slowing down time, walking and noticing. I don’t need to march. My keeping fit and my belief about keeping fit does not require my body to be something unnatural to me. I have met so many people who have lost stones only to put them right back on and thus to feel an even bigger failure. They worked on self control and denial when the real pain was deep inside their mind, their body memory. As was, is, my own. When a person understands that, the prison bars squeak a bit. They know what is coming if this noticing human begins to take in everything they see, slowly, gently and with respect for our beautiful world and they know their own rigidity and impermanence. They are but metal where we are blood and sinew, mind and soul, heart and transience.

All it takes is acknowledgement. A first walk, slow paced and with looking eyes.

‘To long to live in a state of perpetual contentment is, in truth, to accept a frozen life, one with no eyes on the future.’

Island Blog – Cusp

I like being on the cusp of change, even as I sometimes am a fearty. This day I walked beneath a billow of grey clouds and thought, well, at least the sky isn’t flat. I’m not great at flat, unless it refers to my midriff, in which case I am delighted. The sun is closed and already lowering in our skies which brings a change of light. Another cusp. As Summer concedes to Autumn, I wonder if they discuss when and how and if there is any resistance or if all the seasons are good students and just know their places. You go, no, You go, No you, or something, or is it silent, peaceful and are the four of them friends? I have met Autumn in the mornings, a thrill of chill, a shiver, a rush to light the wood burner, only to end up with burned skin in the afternoon. In the laze of Spring, for she is lazy up here, I can dress in thunder resistant woollens, mighty leggings and at least four frocks plus jumper and be trounced and bounced into stripping off by lunchtime, only to fall back into shivers by wine O’clock. The seasons are capricious.

It can frazzle me. And then it thinks me. Perhaps the seasons are like us, ditzy and unpredictable. Perhaps they too are unsure of their roles, of who they are are in the now-now of now. Old people in my young days and in my middle age could bore my tonsils loose going on about how long the summers were, how on time the snow fell for Christmas, how floods never flooded and how we never knew what a hosepipe ban was. I can hear myself now, telling a young granddaughter about the ‘simple’ days but I notice and pause and erase and laugh for this is memorical nonsense and so very flat sky.

I walk the same track, the Tapselteerie track and it never bores me for it is always changing as the seasons change. Today beneath the yellow, umber, Payne’s grey and white of the bumpy clouds, the scabious lights up. Peacock butterflies show me wild strong colours and sea-dandelions are so yellow I want to spread their buttery gold on my toast. I peer into the woods and see the green slowly change from lemony lime to deep wine bottle. Summer in there is moving out. The grasses are dying and so they should for we will need them next year. Nonetheless it is a gasp, the watching of it, of their turning. Where sunlight lifted and tousled, danced and elevated these emerald fronds, he is abandoning them now for he cannot reach from his louring face in the western sky. And it is right and it is time and it is preparing us if we just care to notice. Bracken stems copper and begin to fall, to fail. Different birds fly over, birds that will leave us soon for the north, for the south. Go safe, I call out. Come back to us.

Mushrooms and toadstools stand like sentries along the track, big-chested, bullish, almost scary, some tempting and beautiful. I touch nothing. A choir of temptresses, all perfect and come-eat-me have erupted overnight on a tree stump. Hallo, I say. Not interested, I say, and not because I don’t eat mushrooms but because I have no knowledge of the safe and of the deadly. I do look back. They are beautiful. I walk to the old pier and sit a while. The wind is snappy, cooler but the tide is gentle, ebbing but softly. Two herons screech at each other like women at a WI cake sale and I smile, rest on a basalt rock and look out while someone across the sea-loch pushes out a dingy and heads for his fishing boat. I stay as they spin by and wave, heading out to catch dinner perhaps. The coolth lifts me from my rock and I wander back home. I check the fire, bring in logs, close a window. I slide down the cusp and go in search of my boots.

Hallo Autumn. Welcome. In you come.

Island Blog – The Best View

Heavy rain, like water bullets, straight down rain, none of this fluffing fallshift of soft water dash against my face. This was a wetting. I watched the opportunity for a while. I considered my cloaking, my ineffective coveration, my footwear, and pulled back. I pulled back long enough for even the Pull Back to raise its eyebrows. Are you going or are you planning to spend the day lurching towards the window like a catapult with old pants elastic?

I don’t like the old pants bit and it stirred me somewhat. I stand taller. Ok, I say, I am offski. Before the old girl in me can catch up I am footed and rainproofed and attaching the wee dog to her lead. Door open. We are out. Good grief! This rain is pelting like reproval. It is so straight down I turn to yell (and regret it) Bend Somewhat! It is either deaf, the rain or determined. I sigh, open the gate and head for the wild place. The track is jiggling water in potholes, the rain-off sloughing like a serpent down into anywhere that’s down. Water always seeking the sea, the river, the outfall, the easy way to go. I am not doing ‘easy way’ but I am not water, I remind myself.

As I wander, because I like the whole wander thing, even in the rain, I observe. The chestnut tree is hanging low, branches so huge and so powerful are bending. I look up and say hi. On and more trees, bowed in fragility and yet still so strong. The wind rises and rises puffing and luffing, lifting, playful. It wonders me as I see massive wood limbs holding life-giving leaves, reach out way too far from the body, from the mother trunk. And yet there is power there, control and the fabulous knowing that that ancient trunk is holding you, holding and holding.

The leaves are already turning, I see the beech leaves twisting at the edges and giving in to copper. I hear the woodland choir, led by the wind. At the shore, where I walk every day to remind myself of not where we began but where so many hundreds, thousands of others began their beginning with us. The chance to see whales. I can smell the excitement even now as I wander in a past land, through gorse, popping seeds and noisily, where the seaweed lays across the out-tide rocks, copper, flaxen, lime, blood and where a heron squawks at me and lifts in lazy flaps; where oystercatchers fly above the tide, turn to me, catch the sudden sunlight and turn into fluttering pearls; where the chance of seeing some wild thing lifts a head above the water in an hour’s watching. We yearn for the wild encounter. We always did and we always will.

Let the seasons be. They are not as we once knew them, predictable and uniform, to a degree. They are wild now, and free. We have a hand in that but it is not the hand that gives up, that turns, that lifts in latent anger. It is done. We are here. We can dance through them, adapt and welcome. We can be a part of what is happening now or we can whine and criticise from the sidelines of life. Eish…….don’t do that. Engage. Join me in the frontline. We’ll get the best view.

Island Blog – Turnaround

I remember dancing as a child. I found most of it easy but the turns were tough. I had to spin my head quicker than my body so as not to fall over. Whip, whip, whip, focus on the point I chose pre spin. It kept my spine straight, my neck erect, no dipping. Dipping meant slipping and slipping meant an ungainly sprawl in the chalk dust. In ordinary life, walking or running, not dancing, a turn can topple unless there is a focal point, one level with my eyes but far ahead, or far behind. A child falling, a call from inside a crowd, a sudden scary alert. Eyes matter in any turn thingy. I wonder about someone who is blind, who cannot eyeball anything but who can still remain steady on fickle pins. It is magic to me.

These days of learning how to live alone require some turning. This lady, unlike others, is for turning. Not back, no, but in that full whipswing of dance. A fleeting look at what lies behind in the past, a millisecond appraisal of what was and what is still there at my back, but with no plan to stay looking at it. Grandmother’s footsteps, her old eyes on any twitch of movement, any sign of life. She will get you, this grandmother, when you from behind her, wobble, and she will be merciless in her judgement. You moved. You are out.

I walk today with a lovely young friend. It is a chance meet, she thinks, but I see her coming and make myself visible, asking to join her, if she wants. She does. We wander through the bowed leaves of the Summer flushtrees, over the scatter rocks of basalt shoreline, both solid and wobbly beneath our feet. She moves like Artemis, I like, well, Grandmother. We talk of this and that, cabbages and kings, of life and…..oh, Covid. We both wonder what the world will talk about without such a highborn deity as a source of idle conversation, for it is just that, an invisible power, a controlling force with the ability to kill at random. Before Covid, it was Weather and, to be honest, at least Covid has something individualistic to offer whereas Weather is the same for all of us, no matter who experiences it.

I am aware, very much so, of something this day. Of being very alone. Funny, that even in a warm and friendly village of warm friendly folk, feeling alone can rise strong as whiplash. It thinks me. Alone, Mrs Sensible tells me, her in her ironed apron (who irons aprons??) and her wisdoms that line up for timed release like clay pigeons, is nothing to fear. Good, I say, because she takes no argument, even though I would love her to ask me a question on my feelings of aloneness. She doesn’t, so I will tell you. It is the prospect of days ahead; the point of those days ahead; the fears, doubts and stultifying freeze of my turnaround. I know I want it, but what does it look like and, btw, is it for me……is it too late……can I still spin….whip whip and focus on the point? What is the point?

I suspect these are understandable questions. I suspect that many in a similar situation to my own will be/are asking them. What would I say to you if we were to meet? I would reassure. I would, even in sublime ignorance of pretty much all of your life, just sit with you and absolutely NOT say that you have a point, when you just told me you don’t. I would absolutely NOT say there is a wonderful future ahead when you just told me you cannot see it. I would NOT say that you need to get out more, connect more, take up a hobby or work on your whipspin. I would NOT.

So what would I say? Maybe nothing much. Maybe I would offer to make tea, pour wine, tell you how pretty you look in that dress, or how I have always thought your eyes sparkle like the sea in sunshine when you laugh, or that I remember that delicious chickpea curry you made last century when we were young and believed that we would take over the world. Yes. That is what I would say. And in meeting you at the place in which you sit/stand/turn or wobble right now, perhaps you will feel less alone, just for now and maybe that ‘just for now’ will follow you back home and you will sense it there as you walk. Perhaps you will pause, eyes on the road ahead and yet intrigued. Perhaps the dancer in you will smile, pause, and whip around for a quick glimpse and maybe that quick glimpse will tell you there is a friend behind you all the way.

And that friend is your own turnaround self.

Island Blog – The Gift of Days

Sometimes we can see days as days, as days, as daze. Like numbers, like names of the week, like a length of hours and minutes and even seconds, although most of us don’t notice the seconds unless we have a Fitbit thingy or are timing a boiled egg. But we know days. I can ask someone How is, or was your day? They can answer many ways but the one that gets me is this one. Bad Day. I find myself confounded. I stand still on my feets but the upper half of me is fizzing like a firework. I have a zillion questions inside my mouth – there is barely room for my teeth. But, I keep quiet, initially. I say to myself, I know the place this person is in. I have been depressed enough to consider leaving this life by my own hand, and not just once. What I want to do is to bring in the sun for them but I know that if their whole day really was a bad one and I go and explode my can of coke-cheer all over them, all I will achieve is a sticky mess. However, if I feel the bridge between us is open to walkers, I might take a few steps. I might smile and ask, All of it? And, every time the body pulls back, a smile rises and they admit, after consideration, Well No, Not All of it, but if today was a gift, then this one was socks. (quote) We laugh and the air brightens around us, and I am always glad I stepped onto that bridge at such times.

We can all take a hit, often a random one and feel sad and unfizzy. That feeling, if allowed to fester, will morph into more of the same. However, telling ourselves to stop thinking that way, to focus on what we are thankful for, may not prove a strong enough combative and, besides, that advice is plain irritating. I think at such times that it is important, and nourishing, to sit with the ‘flat’ and to allow it to pass. It does take courage to do that, to adopt a willingness to accept that this feeling I am feeling is just a feeling, and no more. Sometimes, if the feeling is recurring, I will investigate. Why does this come to me at all, never mind oftentimes? I don’t ask anyone else. Just my own heart because as we all know, our own heart will never lie to us and will always give us the best advice whereas others, however true and loving will give an opinion. Not helpful.

I wake, as you already know, full of beans. I adore the dawning of a new gift-day. I am not sick, not dead. Therefore I am beansed up just because of the aforesaid. Childlike, I yank back the curtains to reveal a blowsy wildflower garden, already chirping with every little bird you can name. They await me, and when I do appear, heavy laden with various foodstuffs, they stay around me. I know to walk slowly and to softly warn them I am coming around the miniature maple fronds so as not to startle. Later I will wander up to see grandchildren and to hear about yesterday’s birthday party, that huge green-iced cake covered in horses and sporting candles as tall as Hobbits. Walking in the afternoon around the coastline, through the woods and across the expanses of wild grass, I will sing my thankfulness in nonsense words to a made-up melody. I have no idea what I am singing but the nonsense words come and in my mind I hold the warmth of my thankfulness, an image of all that I am thankful for. It is often quite a squash once I mindfully count up each tiny second of a thing. 360 seconds for each hour. That’s a load of thankings.

I believe in mind self-control. I do not believe any of us are victims of circumstance, no matter what that circumstance may be. If I am in a poorly lit, slow-moving, dank swamp of a place, only I can get me out. Oh yes, I can ask for help, in fact that’s essential for an uplift from a swamp, for someone else to recognise my struggle, but it is I who must decide I will not stay here any longer. Someone might say ‘I hate my job’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am miserable in my relationship’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am frustrated, bored, unfulfilled and broke’. You know what I say to that. Bit by bit, step by step (and it may take a long time to turn around) I know, as you do, that every day is precious and that I am important and valuable and that the gift of days can be snatched away at any moment. Knowing all these knowings, I have no alternative but to live to my fullest. And right now I can take the first step into my own future. Walking out, noticing, seeing and pausing to see more. Out is the key. Home I know, its walls and confines and the keeping in of it. That door, in hands reach, will lead to the Out of it. Sometimes Out is terrifying. But Out is the answer to too much In. And the In will cripple given half a chance because when we are fixated on the self, all we do is circle old beliefs, thoughts and memories. Just going for a walk can bring in something new, enough to shift the thinking plates, to make space for light to come in. I know it because whenever I find my knickers in a twist, I need to walk out, call someone to find our how they are, drive somewhere, anything that unstales the air.

‘Each day is a gift. Don’t send this one back unopened.’

Island Blog – I would tell you

This is for you my one and only husband. As you know (I am sure the angels will have reminded you) today is our 49th wedding anniversary. I can barely believe either of us stuck it out for so many years. I see you smile at that. Neither of us had a scooby about such an intensely complex relationship, speaking out the vows with all that enthusiasm and emotion and blissfully unaware that things would change. That we would change, not at the same time, which was always deeply inconvenient, but singularly and fully expectant of the other to adapt immediately, without a cross word spoken. How naive we were, how trusting in our own set of plans, dreams and expectations. We said we would do it different, remember that? We would never alienate each other, never endure long periods of stony silence, never break apart, never run away, and yet we did all those things. And we survived it all. Did our children, I wonder? Do any children? They are so aware of parental strife, of tension within mother, within father, it cannot leave them undamaged. I suspect we are all damaged, bringing into all our relationships the breaks and black holes from our pasts. As much as I look for the ‘perfect’, there is none.

I would tell you these things. Today I walked beneath the rain-heavy boughs and caught the raindrops, the water from heaven. I cupped them in my hand from a delicate larch limb and drank in the rain. I watched the grey above me, saw the light over the Isle of Coll, open as a window into the sky beyond. A beckoning of light. Look, I said to you, can you see? I wonder how it looks from wherever you are now. How I look, a pinprick dodging puddles in my favourite boots. Did I tell you how hard I have looked for a repeat pair? I find them nowhere. I found five orchids beside the track, no idea what sort of orchids but that doesn’t matter to me. Pink and sudden, for they weren’t there just yesterday and to see an orchid is to find myself in some foreign land. The walk today was the short one. I find walking in the rain jacket a cumbersome sort of walk. My frocks are curtailed from their desire to swish and they mutter beneath the waxed waterproof coat thing that weighs a ton and is far from a pleasant covering. As you know, my slim puffa jacket is as ready to absorb the rain as a sponge might be, although I have donned it pre a rainy walk purely out of vanity and respect for the swish of my frocks, returning drenched.

Then I showered and changed. In other times, this would have been in anticipation of an evening out to celebrate. Not this year. I walked barefoot through the garden to pick myself some flowers and you would not believe the rose you planted some years back, the one called Wedding Anniversary, the one that has heretofore only ever produced 4 or 5 buds. This year it is heavy with blooms and I hope you can see them. And I have been remembering past anniversaries, even as I do have to dig my way back before dementia to find the happier ones. I remember you saying, we are going out at 7. I held the excitement all day long, thinking about what I would wear, what we would talk about, where we would go. You were always the best at celebrations, thinking of everything. Even during dementia years, when you could barely eat, let alone drive me somewhere, let alone walk, you could still smile up at me and I would smile back, so much said, so much unsaid.

I want to tell you I am ok. Better than that, I am doing well. I am learning how to let go and how to make myself into a whole me. I am supported, safe and warm. I am also, finally independent. I know you hated that word, fought like mad against it, but it means something different to me. Independence does not mean a person needs nobody. Oh no. We all need somebody or we die of loneliness. What I mean by that word now is that I have confidence in myself, in my choices, my actions. I take full responsibility for everything in my life and I lay no blame, not even on myself. Although there are things I would have done differently given the chance, I am proud of who I am. And I am thankful. Thankful to you for being my broken rock, for protecting me and our children in the only way you knew; for loving and living as you did and you did your best. I can see that now, for all the squawking I did along the way.

I touch your face in a photograph and remember the feel of your skin. I remember your hands, strong, warm. I remember your smile and the ice blue of your eyes, a gift to our daughter.

These are what I would tell you this day, my husband.

Maybe I just did.