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.

Island Blog – In Love

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

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

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

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

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

I’m in love with that too.

Island Blog – The Still People

I walk today, the same route, the ever-changing route, the route that is a right fidget. It never settles, even over a mere 24 hours. The story of this landscape can never, could never be captured in a photograph, a still, for it is never thus. Every leaf changes, every blade of grass. Blue beetles march the track one day and are gone the next. Moss rises emerald and fades dry the next. Water courses overflow, lifting the water plants high enough to drown and then, the next day lower them gently back into the mud. Even natural springs (my absolute passion) falter if rain is cut off for days. I call them sassy. Yesterday we were a torrent. Today we trickle. it just shows how adaptable we are, don’t you think, you moving person? And the otter doesn’t mind, being as flexible as we. Yes, I acknowledge. I agree. It thinks me.

At this point, and at many other points, I am the moving person. I walk through the trees, wander deep into the woods to follow the tracks of night deer, as they stand still. Watching me. I know they are, just as I knew when I passed by a group of humans who drop silent. You just know they are watching your ass and it isn’t always comfortable knowing suchlike. I don’t feel the same way about the trees. They are older, kinder, wiser after all. Even as they are the still people and cannot walk with me, they do inside my mind. This huge beech tree, this spindly sycamore with no room to spread her arms, this alder, this willow. I notice and pause to connect with a fallen larch. You were so rooted and for so long my friend and then you fell. Did you decide that for yourself? I see others who are coming to their end of days with their bark peeling, or that suffocation of ivy determined on strangulation grasping at their bodies, and I wonder when they will simply and perfectly and politely decide to lay down their burden of care. All that growing, that big fight for light, those nesting birds and the endless production of buds and nuts and cones as food for those who, in turn, perpetuate the very you-ness of a tree. This fallen pine is still breathing. Something of the roots remain buried deep inside the nourishing soil, still offering food to flight life, insect life and to creature sanctuary. Wild honeysuckle snakes across the limbs, the flowers not yet beckoning me to a sudden catch of fragrance. Brambles entwine the trunk, snaking like a hug, the promise of blackberries for the autumn birds. I move on.

There are dead trees, stand-ups, arrested in flight. They stopped. Just like that, or so I think. But I know enough to know that this old tree that now looks like a home for a Hobbit, knew fine it was dying. I just didn’t notice. The woodpeckered holes tell me that this old, dead, tree is still offering life, even in death. The mosses that have grown from ground to about breast height, agree with me. Fingering the moss I can see macro-life. Tiny creatures that need this moss on this dead tree in order to survive their own little species. A bumble bee comes in. I hear it and know it is coming to check on me. After all, I am in the natural world now and a visitor. It rounds me once, twice, thrice, nearing at every swoop. I pause, stop my feet. Hallo, I say, Friend. And it is gone. It smalls me. I see how much of nothing I am in this world and how, if I was a bumble bee, I would so need to check out this stomper yomper who has just invaded my space.

On the return flank of this wander I stop beneath an almost fairy circle of beeches. They are hundreds of years old and, so the story goes, planted as a hedge. To be honest, this makes little sense to me, but wait. I am in my this century thinking that every poor planted soul will be trained and clipped and felled and carved into shapes. Back then this would never have been in anybody’s mind. It is, I believe, a sickness. We have forgotten how important natural nature is to our own future. These trees are millions high now, fat bellied and with outlimbs that defy gravity. Crisp cool barked and solid with deeply strong roots, these big boys are, quite simply, magnificent. I see them daily. I say hallo but they, I notice, are a bit distant, not like the chatty hazels, the moody silver birch dancers, the scholarly alders. The willows too, are friendly. But these beeches hold something, a wisdom. They have seen generations pass this way. They have watched fire and flood, death and life, beginnings and endings. They are silent.

I respect that.

Island Blog – Without and Within a Human Heart

There are swirls of good advice-ness spinning around me like birds. You should #getoutmore. You should #interractwithotherhumans. And so on etcetera etcetera. Hmmm. Should is not a word I enjoy listening to. It sounds like two things. One, that I am not ‘shoulding’ as I should. Two that this is a judgement on my Now. Just to be clear, I am now speaking directly to anyone who is ‘supposedly’ hiding from ‘life’. Please excuse the overuse of hyphens,commas and speech thingies. I am feeling strong about this, wobbling on my wee rock in a big ocean of shoulds.

I walked today. Well, who could resist? The sunshine shined and. the ground warmed and the invitation was as hard to resist as the ones I recall as a turbulent teenager faced with a Saturday night watching Dixon of Dock Green with my parents. So, me and wee terrier set off into nature. We had spent the morning, she and I dithering about bird song and bird recognition. What is this bird? I ask her. She blanks and turns a circle or two before going back to sleep. I watch a huge white bird I don’t recognize pulling across the sea-loch, calling something not in my musical dictionary. I hear little birdsong I don’t recognise. Have I moved continents? I know my birdsong. I know the changes, the Spring songs, the calling songs for young, the mating songs. I know them. But, I am confounded. I decide it is all to do with the state of the world and, in small part, it reassures me. ish.

It thinks me. We change. All of us. The bird kingdom according to what works at specific times. Animals too, I guess. But we humans respond differently to a plate shift. Not only do we have to find a new way, or lose ourselves, but also this plate shift invites us to inventiveness. We can use this thing, this crash, this loss. Again I am talking to anyone who just wants to hide right now because the world is way too full of shoulds and oughts. Hallo.

The buds are budding. I look up and marvel at the pearl glitter of their outer cases. I see the emerald in the larch pines, just soft babies now and soon to be needle sharp. It thinks me of women. We start soft and turn needle sharp. Or, is that just me? I see an egret, a pair of yellow wagtails, robins that bounce with me the whole way, from branch to branch, saying not one word. I see mallards, herons, buzzards, geese. In my garden, siskin feeding their young, goldfinch, greenfinch, sparrow, blackbird, chaffinch, collard dove, starling.

Life goes on, indeed. But we are not animals or birds. A human heart needs to know itself and to challenge, without and within.