Island Blog – To be a Mother and Saying Farewell

An eclectic role for sure, if such is possible and if say it is then it is. Although I’m about to lose a lot in the translation of such a word, let me play. When a woman becomes a mother she is about as lost as a goldfish in the ocean, barely able to breathe, exhausted and completely lost. She finds no others of her species, everyone else being salt-friendly and busy. However, with this new little one, she knows that it is she who must be eclectically “IT’ for……for….where did he go? Oh, there he is over there, chuffing away to a sea snail who is not all that interested, and if he was it would take him at least three days to turn around for a look. She hasn’t got three days to spare. She is on demand every moment of every day plus seconds of panic, of despair, of constant checking. She is wild now, thinking wide, way beyond her understanding of normal thinks, and nobody, not even dad, gets anywhere near even if he or they might have an awfully good suggestion. She is all Bugger Off and tail swipes. She is deadly. She is Mother.

When she considered this Mother thingy, she might be forgiven for thinking Disney. However, Disney was obviously never a mother. The sweet glory of an instant co-ordination between mother and child is, I am sorry to tell you, a load of tripe. This baby is everywhere but where he should be. This baby shrieks loud enough to call in the Whales and upset the Navy in their sonar missions. What is this? Naval Officer Jenkins might ask, his eyebrows lost in his fringe, quizzical and holding out the ear plug thing for his upline to hear. The whales, happily traversing 35 continents via the swirl and twist of oceans, stop and founder. Let me tell you, a founder among traversing whales can cause a tsunami 10,000 miles away, upsetting fisher boats and slopping Lady Merriweather’s gin all over the Captain of a luxury cruise ship, thus informing him that she is a secret drunk and that his trousers are in an embarrassing state. The butterfly effect, sort of.

This day my firstborn, taller than me by about half a mile, left again for his next shift as ship’s Captain and no matter his age and height, I am that goldfish mama again. When he is here, everything is wild again, everything is fun, anything is possible. His attitude to life is upbeat and can-do. I wonder who taught him that. Does he remember upsetting the Navy, the fishing boats and the whales with his baby screams, or me with his curiosity? I doubt it. But I remember. And now, when he is gone I go back there, back into that ocean, back to where it all began. Tomorrow another son departs and I swirl inside the loss of them even as I know I gain more just because I am their mother; because I am the only one they will ever have; because I have the memories of this shared time and those memories are enough, have to be enough.

It isn’t that I want to be ‘IT’ anymore. I don’t, but don’ting doesn’t stop the feelings, doesn’t weaken the bond. I never knew it would be like this. I doubt any mother does. But here it is and for us all. Confounded still, up and down with the whole gamut of role changing at every level all day and well into the darkling nights, still learning, still thinking eclectically, I am at the heart, a mother and one who will never not be. Not never. And, for all the sadness at saying farewell, it is enough. It has to be.

Island Blog – Sid, Mary and Just One Tree

I am reading my favourite sort of book, a novel about human life with the natural world as a backdrop. I don’t mean the story of Sid and Mary who have a big garden and chickens, although they could indeed be the humans, providing one of them has a spiritual connection with nature in ways yet to be learned, understood and accepted. This story spans great swathes of time, from 1700 to 2000 and they connect through nature. The trees he (maybe Sid) planted as a young man, he now visits as an ancient wood, alive with stories, bursting into memories each time the trees throw out leaves of laughter for the sun to nourish. Many many suns, many springs, autumns and winters; many land battles never won by the land. Trees felled for no good reason, for Sid and Mary, perhaps, for their big garden, for their chicken run. Inside such a story, I am Alice. I move effortlessly from 1700 to 2000 along with those who make the storyline into a long rope, a connector. The writer makes it easy for me and I get it, so clever a scribe is she. To many this story would invoke a scoff. I don’t do fantasy, he or she might say and it is beyond my ken and my level of patience to attempt an explanation, the one that is so clear to me. It is no fantasy, merely an indication of our undoing. We have forgotten how to listen to the trees, lost the ears for stone stories, turned away from the rhythm of the sea, the cries of the winds, the percussive tap of the rains. But, for those who still want to believe that nature is not ‘out there’ but deep inside every soul, let me tell you this connection is only parked in some dark tunnel, and not lost at all. Nobody knows quite how to reconnect but all anyone has to do is to refuse the worldly chortlemongers and to whisper, I believe. Show me, talk to me, let me know you again.

I am no guru, no wind whisperer, nothing ‘weird’ at all, but simply a child of spirit who cannot and will not accept that nature is just there for us to manipulate and manage, to control and defy, to desecrate and deny. Nature is not about big gardens, nor chicken runs. Nature is a magnificent mother and we all know to our cost that to defy a mother is always dangerous in the long run. It thinks me. Although we humanoids are required to live in our worldly world, we can lose ourselves in the plastic. We can be too busy to study the extraordinariness of a beech tree growing out of a rock. I watched one this afternoon and for some time. I saw how the tiny beech shoot must have pushed into the light and been momentarily blinded, puzzled too, as it came out sideways. The sky should be above me, the ground beneath. That’s what I know, and yet I am slid out like a sardine from a tin and nothing makes sense. Hmmm. Ah, well, I know this too; my branches, once I manage to grow some, will need the light and so somehow I need to turn a corner, employing full belly strength in order to lift upwards. Might take some time, like years, but I am here now and there is no stopping me, even if I don’t make it. (Good attitude, beech).

When I study the belly of this twisted but upright fighter for light, I see the girth. It’s fat and strong but stopped short, telling me that beech baby made a decision once the turn upwards showed more struggle ahead. There are big pines on the bluff above her, already snatching light, ditto another massive beech; Mum, perhaps. So she wisely gave up on trunk height in favour of a three way split, for maximum photosynthesis and at the earliest possible moment. I stepped back a pace or two and smiled and bowed in respect. Survivor! I said out loud because you can say pretty much anything out loud around here and only the trees, stones and birds will hear you. I went on….thank you for calling out to me today. I walk past you every single day, in all weathers and for decades and only now have I heard your voice. Respect.

My two big strong sons leave in a couple of days. I will miss them both and for a long time. I will miss their strength, the way I feel small and safe inside their arms, the way they love me, the way they laugh at my daftness, my fears, my doubts and the way they show me I am stronger than I ever believed and someone they look up to. Well, no not that any more. Either I am shrinking which is probably true, or they grow taller as they fight their intelligent way through the shrieking, demanding, worldly world. But you know what I mean with the looking up to thingy.

We are here for such a short time and for the time we are here, we have a duty to not just our families but to our world, all of it. We can rant and do nothing, fret and wring our hands about the state of it, saying it’s too much. What can I do when there is so much corruption and destruction? I cannot save the rain forests, nor the whales, nor the starving, nor the abuse. And this is true. One person cannot. However one person can speak to someone homeless on the street. One person can recycle, stop buying plastic, pick up rubbish. And, as my African son says, one person can plant one tree.

Island Blog – Alpha Beta and The Geese

I walk today, peaceful like. The wee track is even wee-er now after the rains have turned the bracken tips face down and dripping. Branches bow low creating a sort of trunnel for me to dip and duck through, the leftover drips cool down my neck. Sunshine catches diamonds like pearl painted finger nails glinting rainbows at me. I don’t mind getting wet. Although heavy (and, apparently dangerous) rainfall was prophesied, like many prophesies, it never came to bear and I risk setting off sans jacket, just free, a light cardy and walking trainer thingies that look like flippers but work just fine. After all, nobody is looking.

I just know that after this ‘dangerous’ rainfall and the subsequent hot hot of Father Sun, anything green is going to go crazy bonkers. The bracken, already over my head and, I am sure, burgeoning with bloodthirsty ticks, will soon turret the track. Bracken looks harmless enough but don’t read this book by its cover. It may look pretty with its green finger fronds and the way light can show through the forest it creates but underneath the ground it is a pernicious killer and will take over anything with hopeful shoots, stifling it until it breathes no more. Bracken is for Mordor not this lovely island, nor anywhere else for that matter. Just saying.

Me and the Popster walk to the shore, to the old pier where Alpha Beta slept. Perhaps she is in my mind once I heard that she featured on TV last evening with Gordon Buchanan. She, wonderful she, who safely transported so many people out into the ocean to find whales met with a very sad end. She took us to Minke whales, and on a really special occasion, Killer whale. Her body was strong, her engines pure and true. She had props all over the place for turning on a sixpence and for exiting danger quickquick. She carried hopeful souls on her back and never seemed to mind and she was as faithful as a collie. I stand beside the pier where, many years ago, she waited patiently for everyone to step aboard. It is a skeleton now, draped in dried kelp, blackened and hanging like witch hair. The breeze moves it a little and I can hear the crackle. The rocks are coppered with living kelp, a lie if you cared to walk across. You would sink. Or I would. Kelp looks so solid in such a mass. We move through a canopy of gorse and I remember how the old Sea Dog would cut and slash this now 8 ft high mass into submission. Cutting it down is good, he would puff, slashing and snapping the limbs. It will all grow stronger next year. It thinks me. It must be four years since he could walk never mind swing the slash-cut weapon without spinning into the brink. I stay with that remembering, holding the memories when both Alpha Beta and the Seadog were upright and strong, and I say to the skeleton pier, one the SD built, Thank you. You may look wind blown, wonky chops, and whitened by salt but I remember you strong and proud. I still see that in you. Thank you for your grace, your strength, your loyalty.

We sit on a flat rock having navigated the gorse forest. Pods are popping. I can hear them. They sound like a cap gun. It smiles me how life goes on going on with fierce determination. The sun is warm on my arms and back, my face. The Narrows sparkle, diamonds on the water which I think is just beginning to flow in again from who knows where. I ponder on the tidal flow, not just here but the one that circumnavigates the world. There are new stories coming in, I can smell them, those whispers of hope of pain of joy, all flooding in right here and right now. An otter pops up like a cork. He is fishing, I can see that. The fish in his grasp has no chance. He bites off its waggling head but the waggling goes on. He leans back, peaceful like, and floats while he eats the rest. Then he is off again, sleek, dark, fleeting, a gymnast. I watch him cross the Narrows in seconds where a few Greylags have landed for a splash. He threads through the group and they yell and flap at him. Returning to their bathing, once he is gone, I watch them lift water over their wings, bury their heads in the brine, lift their tails and then they begin to play. I know play and this is play. One hurtles at another, and another scoots off. Chase me, chase me…..

I can hear them still laughing as me and the popster wander home.

Island Blog – And….Rest

I remember that being the end game in some ballet practice. It was always a relief. All that agonised teetering en point and those two words meant heels to the floor and the exhale of tense breath.

Much like it was as we lowered the big man into the earth. Wouldn’t want to have fallen in. It looked dark down there and a hard landing, but not for the Admiral, Popz, Dad, Fairbs, Grandad, Topz et lala. I am relieved that I only have 3 names, my own, Mum and Granny/Gaga (that’s Lady Gaga, not gaga to you).

Today we all feel a great sense of relief. After many years of angst, intensified over the past 2 or three and racked up to a state of nuclear fission in the last 3 months, we can all breathe again. Father James said to us that this time heralds the freedom of a new beginning and it sounds right to me. Although nothing and nobody will fill the hole he left, nothing and nobody needs to. We will all grieve at times, for times; in the lyrics of a song, the kindness of a friend, a view and, for us in particular, out at sea among the wild things because that is where they are, and out there was music to the Father of Whales.

Today we all meet at the shore with a flask of tea, a barbecue and sausages, music and the wreath we ordered for the purpose. We pick an ebbing tide for obvious reasons, We don’t want it to end up stuck under the village bridge but, instead, floating way out where the wild things are. Perhaps someone will spot the colours through binoculars, or pass by it in a boat and they will wonder. We like that, for we are all wild things too.

Yesterday was made perfect by so many people and so much thought. Even a pair of sea eagles flew overhead as we walked from the grave, as if they knew. We all know his spirit left him with his last breath. There is no sign of him here and that feels fine. I believe that he is safe now, out of suffering and doubt, fear and pain and in a world which isn’t even a world. It is way bigger than that. Bigger than anyone could ever conceive. Bigger that our imaginations. He has done his work on earth. He has grown five extraordinary wild things and they their own. This house is a-bubble with chaos, laughter, goes on the chairlift and the electric chair. They play the piano, laugh loudly, call out like birds, paint pictures on the windows, run free. There has been none of that for years, perhaps for always. We like it, we wild things.

Farewell Big Man. Rest Easy. We have this now.