Island Blog – Season Shift – Resist or Lift

I always do this, although I only noticed the ‘this’ that I do quite recently. As Summer gives way to Autumn I continue to wear bare legs and feet for as long as I can outrun chilblains. Once into Autumn, I find ways to layer up without ballooning and look forward to each morning, even planning my layers whilst still beneath the covers. As Winter sinks in her teeth I find it progressively harder not to balloon, but I am on a roll here and the cold comes incrementally, in the main. But when Winter begins to concede to Spring I am oft confounded. I have become used to my layers, ones that used to fit me the whole day long. Now they only suit me up to midday and from then on become a massive irritation. I feel as if I might combust, but it is still not yet warm enough to leap out of a vest. I open doors and wonder where on earth my shades are. I sit in the glare of Father Sun and feel cross. Go Away, I want to say, even as I don’t. The fire still burns and I will need it in about an hour when the Old Man is taken down by the forever hills, but it makes the room stuffy. I open windows and in whoopees a freezing draught full of chilblains and icicles. Jersey on, jersey off. It’s a ridiculous day and not the first, nor will it be the last. Perhaps, I tell myself, it is so much more natural to layer up than it ever is to brave off the layers of comfort, layers that have become my friends and protectors for months now. Is Winter the longest season? I always said so in my talk with tourists who decided on a happy holiday whim to buy a plot and build a home. Don’t. I said. Do Not. Not until you have spent a winter or two here. Why is that? they quizzed. Because winters here begin in October and hold fast till Mid May, that’s why. Not with frost and clean clear icy, shiny, sunny days but with wet, wet and more wet and when the wet thinks we need a change, it turns to ice and sleet in an annual battle against the rise of a Spring sun. Just in time for lambing.

I walk in the slipslide of ice meets sun and marvel at the blue of the sky. Hallo Mr Blue Sky, I sing to myself without the backing group and I search for buds and studs of green on trees. It is pointless. These studs and buds know jolly fine about winters up here. I hear them snigger from the safety of their twiggy nests. You think this sudden sun will fool us? It only happens once, after all. It is, this time, a holding time, a waiting. And yet it is we or is it just me who is longing for warmth and the chance to open doors to let out the stuffy, even if I might have to de-balloon. Is Winter the longest season, and what does that mean for the inside life?

First off I can see the dust. Blimey, it is legion. Although I say I don’t believe in dusting, I am glad there is no chance of visitors. My dust is remarkable. Not quite an inch thick, because I move about within these walls at speed, but almost. I don’t notice it on grey days, normal days, but when this lunatic sun decides to shine like a beacon into the future, lighting the way for all but the blind, I find him invasive. Shine out there, I tell him, and not in here. Don’t bother flagging up my smeary windows or my table tops that once were oak and shiny. You make me feel like I will never win a good housekeeping award. The dust is on every single surface. I sit and watch it, the way it sparkles in the sunlight; diamonds and pearls, rubies too and emeralds. Are there stories to tell in that dust? Is there history? There must be. My cleaners have not been here since just after Himself breathed his last. Almost six months. I have hoovered and wiped, a bit, but dust and I will not meet. Clearing dust, in my opinion, is not for me anymore. I have shared my life with too much dust for decades and the clearing of it, if indeed that is ever possible, is no longer for me. But I can smell it. I can see it, lit up like it was a celebrity, glinting, sure of itself, holding ground.

It is this time of the year that I find hardest. Not only is the dust shouting out her stories and memories, but the sun is taunting me, offering light and bright but not enough warmth for me to shed a layer. Getting dressed in the morning is just confusion. 5 layers till midday and then what? Upstairs to take it all off and start again? This, this, is the winter and it is the one season that fights like hell to hold on. And it is the only one that makes me cross, even as I love it. What dichotomy. At Tapselteerie, I remember hoping winter would never end, that the new season would just forget to arrive along with all the tourists and the work, even if I did have chilblains on my chilblains. But once that season began I felt a lift and a joy. Life was living again and so was I. Momentum creates momentum, at least it does for me. Having to bare my wintry arms and legs and to see my body after months of concealment under layers might give me an awkward moment but perhaps this is the gift winter leaves behind her. You have rested, she says. You have covered and concealed but now is the time for joy and lift. Take my gift and rise with the buds and studs.

You are stuck with me. Deal with it.

Island Blog – Perception and a Blackbird

I sit in the darkling. Clouds are gathering like a people to church, some big and full of themselves, others following shred-like but I have no doubt they will puff themselves up in followance this night for there is rain forecast.

I watch the wintering geese fly in, fly in chatter and in synergy with the leader and with the nightfall. For me they fly right to left. I see the home-lights across the sea-loch, all warm and welcoming, a pipe of smoke from their chimneys. They are warm. They are cooking, chatting, cajoling and considering each other over there, a big swim away. And, they see the geese fly from left to right.

It thinks me beyond geese and tidal flow. It thinks me of how we see things, any things, all things. If geese can fly from right to left for some and left to right for others then what complexity lies in other of our seeings? Ah, it must be manifold. I can see this and you can see this, but you see that, not this. My perception of any one thing may well not be yours. I would like to be able to allow yours and mine and to consider neither one as an absolute, even as I am certain of my right to left of things.

As we converse, you and I, on matters from how to fix this or clean that, on the rights and wrongs of raising children, on the clarity of our shared memories, we move along different paths. What astonished you about something that happened meant nothing much to me and vice versa. We find it at best bothersome and our minds work like dingbats to convince the other of import and impact. But I still see nothing to upset me. Now why is that? Well, if we agree that my experience, my baggage, my history all come to bear on any given subject, as do yours, then we must also agree on a division of paths. We can both see the situation, yes. We can both recall to a degree what happened back then, yes, but where I see right to left, you see left to right and that is simply that.

How long a life do we need in order to come to such an acceptance? I am fed up of learning things like this. I wonder why it is we don’t finally arrive in that lovely place of complete understanding. I thought I completely understood years ago and yet here I am with my feathers ruffled and my heart beating too fast and my good manners thoroughly challenged as I watch your mouth insist on left to right. Although I write this with no actual cause, it is something I have observed recently between others and it intrigues me. To move freely and happily along an individual path of life, it is necessary to merely observe each other without dishing out labels, however silently. We can all learn from each other at every meeting if we decide not to judge. Every living soul has history, baggage and opinions, either learned or personally constructed, based on their experience of what worked and still works for them.

On returning earlier from slathering honey on young fruit trees, ring-barked by hungry rabbits, of which we have the lion’s share and adding a wrap of hessian to simulate new bark that will allow water to be drawn up the damaged trunks once again, I find a male blackbird flipping and floundering on the track. I gather him to me and feel the delicate softness of his feathers as I calm his wings. Is one broken, I wondered? His leg? Was he hit by a car or attacked by a predator and dropped? No, not that. The predators here are accurate as mathematics and there is no evidence of talon damage. I put him in a box in the garage to calm down. An hour later I return to give him water or seed or to find him dead. He wants none of it and is bouncing up in attempt to fly beyond the mesh that holds him down. I push in my hand and gently bring him out. Shall we see if you can fly? I ask him. He turns his head and looks at me through ebony eyes, then turns back to the great wide open. I lower him to the ground and to my delight he lifts and flies, a bit wonky-chops at first and then up up and away over the fence and into the sky. I watch him until he is a black dot in the blue.

Fly! Fly! I call out but he doesn’t look back. His path is his path as mine is my own. We come together and then we part and as we do, we are changed, just as we are changed after a human encounter. As I held that bird, I noticed his soft feathers, the majesty of nature in that trembling body, the perfection of design.

We can see each other that way too, if we so choose.

Island Blog – Poppies, Tides and Hugs

There is something deep about a hug. Like an ocean flowing over, through and around you. It won’t drown you because you can breathe underwater. Enveloped inside big strong arms, feeling the pressure of warm fingers, the familiar smell of home. I am home. You are here. You and I are, for the length of this hug, as one body. My love flows to you as your love flows to me, right down to my very core, fizzing along my capillaries and through my muscles and over my skin like the first sip of champagne. When we part, the tide has turned. From slack water to ebb or flow. Birds lift in anticipation, fish swirl in the depths, sensing a change; seaweed flutters in confusion. Which way now?

After months of slack water, these son-hugs turned the tide. Tall, strapping men, fit and healthy, warm and soft, gifting love and support, hugging. They have to bend down a bit for a hug with me and even further down to hug their wheel-chariot dad, but they can flex and stretch, rise up again effortlessly, as once we did. Buried in their chests I breathe them in, remembering. Not so long ago they dandled on my knee, fed from me, squealed their delight, screamed their anger and now look at them, fathers themselves with knees for dandling their own little ones. How fast life travels, how fragile it is and yet how strong. How long is a life? There is no answer to that. What matters, it seems to me, is what we learn during that life through observation, sail correction, through the anger and the joy, the near drowning.

Moving through a morning of poppies, I feel the inner shift. Tomorrow, if the wind rises, these crimson wide-open petals may be ripped and stripped. I saw them as buds at 6 am. By 7.30 they showed me a cadmium red mandala. By 8 they were face-up to the sky, black mouthed, anticipating insects, their petals combing the breeze like silk. To seize the day, the moment of lift, as they do, teaches me. To show me life is beautiful, fragile as poppy petals, strong as sons, and, most of all, to be truly lived, no matter how long or short. No matter at all.

Island Blog – Bloomers, Sunlight, Lacklight, and Tatties

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Blog – Jiggetty Jig

Home again, home again, etcetera, and I am just getting into the swingle of it here. Agreed, the slap of cold did hit me head on (and foot on for I had omitted to pack stout boots for the chilly ground), but welcomes always warm and they certainly warmed me. Now on the island and with a fire lit for the day I am thankful for having a home at all, let alone such a cosy one.

The furniture within has re-arranged itself, as I suspected it might. When the Old Dragon (me) is gone long enough, himself will make things the way he wants them. In the case of chairs and other well-placed items of comfort, they are all pressed against the walls of the house and looking rather startled. I decided I would not be willing to spend my evenings against a far wall, two miles from the fire, but it took some negotiating and a lot of justifying with just a tiny mention of the fact that I live here too and that I am important, to pull my (somewhat relieved) arm chair back into the mix.

The reason for the changes is to more easily facilitate the wheelchair, the chariot, upon which himself will glide (endlessly) through the rooms. Naturally, a turn or two will be required on this restless pacing, hence the rejection of the startled, and rather upset, sitting room furniture. I lifted two more chairs upstairs to join all the other ‘unnecessary’ furnishings, such as lamps, tables, ornaments, free-standing artwork and so on, apologising as I went and wondering how much more the beleaguered office can hold without crashing down a floor. Everything, you see, has to be ‘safe’ for himself and, besides, I am done with picking up, dusting off and repairing things precious to me as he fells them and continues his glide through the days.

I find it doesn’t bother me so much now, if at all. This house is now a certified safety zone with easy access to pretty much all he needs. So many things that worked before can never work now without an accident and we don’t want one of those. The heart monitor beeps. The fall alarm glows red on the desk reassuring me that those kind voices somewhere in Scotland are one press of the button away. Sometimes himself presses by accident when no accident has occurred and I suddenly hear Lorraine or David asking if everything is ok. I tell them it is, and so sorry, but they are always kind. God’s angels for sure.

From 40 degrees and no plans or to do lists or prayers to keep myself together, compassionate, my eyes off the things that irritate, to the island and Christmas marching ever nearer. I turn up the tunes and wonder where my fairy lights are. As I burrow into the dark cupboard that holds everything else, I smile. Fairy lights found, but they are not going to be the brightest this Christmas because I shall be twinkling too and my batteries never go flat.

Island Blog 154 Reality Check

Rumi wisdom

As I sit here tapping on the keys of a laptop, waiting for my friends to wake up to another glorious morning in Argyll, I consider our conversation last night over dinner, on Perception and Reality. We had spent the afternoon developing depth and texture on one of my songs. Again, they said, sing that again, only, this time, shorten the vowel sound and give it more breath. Slowly but surely, a single line of melody took on colour and light. There were six of me in the end, in as perfect a repeat as made no difference. It’s interesting how difficult it is to sing exactly the same over an original melody line, not so much the rise and fall of the notes in sequence, but more the length of beats in a single word, such as ‘gold’ or ‘right’. If the consonants don’t land at precisely the same point (and a nanosecond matters) then it can sound like a shower of bullets. T-t-t……etc. I considered bringing the importance of such perfect repetition into ordinary life, hence the conversation. I may walk through exactly the same situation as you, but our perception of it can be chalk versus cheese.
Why is that, and is it okay, good, even, to have different slants, sometimes as many as there are people involved? Of course, it can make for war, and often has, and will continue to do so as long as people walk the earth; one that seems to be managing to extinguish rather a lot of its inhabitants. On a goodly sunshine day, and in a warm, easy, light-hearted situation, such as a merry meet in the bakery or on the street, our differences in perception and ‘reality’ matter little. We can walk away, wave, think what we like once the meet is done, but life isn’t about merry meets all the time.
Sometimes we butt up against an opinion we do not share, but however skilled we are at marketing our own, however loud we talk, however clever our words, we can never change the perception of another soul. We do not live their life, share their dreams and longings, feel their pain, know their joy, understand their song. And we have never looked through their eyes. We may try to do just that and call it empathy. We learn to listen, some of us, and then to mindfully consider that our own perception of reality, the one we are absolutely convinced is the blue print, just might be a blur to another.
At the moment we are all facing a Perception/Reality check, as the country moves towards election day. Some of us will shrug it off, not bother to vote, asking What’s the Point when Nothing Changes? We are bombarded with arguments, one party shouting its promises, another berating those promises as so much rubbish. Accusations of past failure, one-upmanship, clever quips and outright slander is all around us. Who is right to lead us and do we believe in the depth and texture, the perfect unity of their song, or do we feel bullet-battered and uncertain of the melody line?
One thing is for certain. If we bother to vote, at least we make it clear that our own reality matters to us, however we perceive it.

Island Blog 26 – Safe and Sound

They said there would be no ferries as the wind was forecast to rise beyond acceptable bouncing-over-water limits. At such times, ordinary old waves suddenly turn into the Salt-water Alps, and we struggle to hold down our children, our cars and our skirts. Words are snatched from open mouths and everyone wishes they had gone to a health spa in Basingstoke, including me. I may be married to the ocean through my family, but she and I have had plenty of disagreements over the years.  Trouble is, she is way more confident than I am and with the wind up her tail, she can batter ordinary law-abiding folk to their limits.

We decided we would set off anyway, although the ‘we’ part of that is never the result of a discussion. When I married my husband, he became ‘we’ and I remained ‘I’. So we set off because we always set off. To not set off is to be a big girl’s blouse, and we don’t do them in our house.  Even the girls don’t.  To show fear is to appear weak. To hesitate is to be run over.

We spent a happy ten minutes behind a huge mucky lorry, and, having left home a rather cute sky blue, we gradually turned brown in the spray from its many wheels.

What a lovely gentle speed, I yelled over the hysterical blapping of the windscreen wipers. One of them hesitated mid blap. This is it, I thought, and waited for it to ping into orbit.

The moment passed.

Then so did we. Well, he did. I just closed my eyes as we plunged into the brown darkness on the wrong side of a very narrow road.

We passed gritters and snow ploughs, and tourists at viewpoints, holding on to each other to avoid flying over the edge. Anoraks billowed out like kites and nobody looked like themselves, as nobody ever does in woolly hats, scarves and multi-coloured mountain jackets, their hoods pulled right up tight.  I have walked past family in the winter with no flicker of recognition. All I can see are a fistful of features peeping out from the dark.

Eventually we arrived at the ferry point and could see its beak was closed.

We were not to get home this day.

Now, settled in a warm little hotel sipping tea and watching the storm dancing through the wide windows, I find it all rather exciting.  Home will still be there tomorrow and we are safe.

I think of the homeless on the cold streets of a cold city before I sit down to write.

 

Ferry Cancelled