Island Blog – Thing with a Point, Small Whispers

Have you ever said, or asked yourself – What’s the point in me doing this thing? I certainly have and still do, only now I understand that even the smallest step is always worth taking even when I can see no end result, no point that brings me the whole Something; that Something that would show me the point of my pointless steps and would surely confirm that I was actually prophetically brilliant without realising it.

Every single day proffers opportunities and we evaluate each one. What is the point in me sweeping the kitchen floor when nobody but me will see it today? What is the point in my adding a few more stitches to my latest fantasy landscape tapestry when I make no effort to market them? What is the point in applying loud makeup? For the sheep to ‘baa’ at or for the birds to tweet to their own Twitter mates? Why am I considering hoicking out that lithograph of an ancient stuffy old ancestor I never ever met, just to add ink and make a print? For whom? Whom cares?

Chances are, nobody. Not a who nor a whom; not at step one, nor two or even ten, but when a body remains committed to the small steptasks, something wonderful joins that bodymind on the long and winding road. As I make myself perform these, frankly ridiculously ridiculous, tasks that have popped into my intelligent head only to be sideswiped by my intelligent head, I feel a sense of achievement in my soul. Now, the soul is powerful and it has a voice. I turn to address the cynic in me and hold up my hand. Stop right there. I am doing this ‘pointless’ thing because something way bigger than you or me sent me a whisper. Through a word, a song, a looking, a noticing and I am tired of being so grounded in earthly limitations. I have wings and you, Mrs Cynic, do not. You are not spiritually wealthy. I can tell by the tight purse of your mouth.

So I do all the pointless things because every one of them has a point, in itself, its own point and who doesn’t want one of those? If I honour the whisper as the one who can make this thing a better thing then, what is not to like? In my long life, I have found that the end game is often imagined. The success story we read, the achiever, the award winner, the one who won Strictly. We are fools to aspire to such ‘success’ unless we are prepared to swallow the bitter pill of the millions of small steps that would make that success possible. I don’t want awards, nor to win Strictly, but I do want that sense of warm pleasure that comes from any job well done, no matter how pointless it felt at first. It doesn’t matter if nobody sees because I do and I am my finest seer. We all are. I wonder sometimes that we teach our children shortcuts, to run fast and not to stop for anything, resulting in hollow hearts. Taking the fast route can work at times but not all the time. There are small whispers being missed at a cost.

So, I would say this. When a small task whispers in, take action and value that connection. You never know what will come in to help and to guide. Don’t give up and don’t give in to old Purse Lips. What does she know, she who never partied till she lost a shoe? Live wild, people, no matter how old or young you are. Adventurize your life right now. Otherwise that life, our only one, is nothing at all.

And nothing is pointless, at best.

Island Blog – The Overstory

I walked yesterday among the trees in the Fairy wood. I barely glanced up into her leafless arms nor stopped to touch the bark of the tallest Fir, nor paused to consider the tangle of roots thrust into visibility by endless erosive rains; roots as thick as my arm, conifer fingers, gnarled and scarred over hundreds of years by hundreds of human boots, marching boots, tramping across the overstory with little enough thought. I didn’t look, nor see, nor stop to garner soft peace from the whispers of these gentle and protecting giants. I just took my place in the march. I didn’t pause to consider over what I did this marching thing. I just wanted to get back out of the nipping wind and into the warm.

All evening, staring out at the dark, I considered. The understory thinks me. What brilliant planning, synergy and sharing goes on down there, in a deeper darkness that Night could ever bring? In a clutter wood, where new springlings struggle towards that wee patch of sky, of sun to hear the stories carried on the backs of the winds that dash across this rocky island from all points on the compass, how can life go on? Is there a finite of trees within the human boundaries of this wood? And how do they know not to crowd themselves out of sunlight, water, food – to leap across the track to where that fallen beech has created, in its final death cry, a whole rack of gentle space just asking for a friend. And not only space, for in its dying, in its soft slow submissive return to the earth, this giant is preparing magical layers of nourishment for that seedling to grow strong and straight-backed.

Roots will be under my feet even on this track wide enough for a whacking great lorry. Roots don’t bother with our boundaries and it isn’t just that. I think they conjoin, I know they do, merging and melding together for the greater good, the good of the wood, of the family. Unlike us, separation is not their main thing, not a thing at all. Unlike us, they do not judge by species, sex, type, shape or achievement. They care not what colour your leaves might be, nor if those leaves are bigger than their own. Like us, they need each other. Like us they sing better in a choir, a unison of voices rising into the sky sending harmony, melody and rhythm out to warm a listening heart. They know it. We are only learning.

Life is lived in the overstory. Although the underneath matters a great deal, it is easily hidden from the world. I can do this as well as anyone. I can slap on my smile and pretend just like you do. And there is no wrong in that, unless, unless, either of us forget our tap root and that of others with whom we share our life. The good news about tap roots is that, like the trees, they grow in silence, whether we pay them attention or not. As they grow in the silent darkness of our hearts and souls they find other roots. This meeting is not confrontational, nor constrained by fear but a vulnerable reaching, meeting, greeting; a gentle slow winding together of fingers, a melding perhaps, or a share of time before moving on. We can learn from that time of open curiosity, the lack of fear, the acceptance of another life doing its very best to grow and to grow right.

Today, when I walk beneath those same trees I will be witted-up and open. I never tire of the woods and have walked through and around them for almost five decades but sometimes, like yesterday, my overstory is so shouty that I forget where I am and thus I miss the nourishment on offer beneath those ancient wise giants. I miss the startling gasp of star moss on a rotting trunk, the shelf fungi holding on even as its host crumbles away, the rain-betrayed spider webs cast between a spindle of branches, long since empty of life. I miss the patchwork of sky, the squelch of peat under my boots, that sudden realisation of the understory, always working, always growing, in gentle silence. Today I will see it all, hear the voices of the wood and they will bring me calm and a real smile, no pretend.