Island Blog – Fear+Courage=Brave

I remember ordering a dress online and when it arrived and was miles away from wonderful on me and in itself, poor material, wrong swing or no swing at all, duller than the image I ‘bought’ promised, I realised with a sink and a rise that what I was really buying was the young, fit, beautiful woman who modelled it. Hey and Ho. Life lessons that really teach us are rarely pleasant like ice cream. They are more like constipation medicine, good for you but utterly vile in the taking in. And Life doesn’t change her style. No, indeed. You begin to realise that which you have fought against for longtime is never going to be a perfect sunshine sail across an expanse of gentle water with just the right breeze to luff and exhilarate, beneath a cloudless sky and with a nice landing ahead, accessible, safe, easy and without challenge from other yachties. It does happen but never expect it. Such is Life. She is always feisty, dammit.

Anyways, this covid/bereavement thingy has certainly sucked out my self-confidence which was never strong to be honest. The expanse of time between what I took for ordinary to now when nothing will ever be ordinary again, is huge. I can’t even see the other side of it as I come into land, into a new land, one with hand sanitisers at every docking point and the whole world hidden behind masks. Even the thought of driving the switchback into the harbour town scares me. I must not, I must, I have to, I am in chains. The skipping across the little harbour road into the arms of a friend is no longer okay. The touch of a friend, no. And, as the island opens up again to visitors, albeit monitored and controlled the volte face of it is very alarming. I know we need their cash but all of us have loved the year of just us. The wildlife has benefited, the flowers too, the roads are in better condition, but the businesses have really struggled to stay afloat and, sadly, some will drown. I don’t like the thought of that, these brave islanders who came in better times, worked to establish something vital and beckoning and then who had to shut down, and for a long long time, maybe too long time.

Today I walked with a good friend. I told her, when she told me her possible plan for our walk (way further than I have gone for decades) that it scared me, that I might not want to go that far. Was it memories? After all, I had walked, driven on a tractor, a quad, that far out into the Atlantic so many times without a single dither. Maybe. I don’t have a handle on an answer to that. But it queried me and I thought about it. Maybe, as older folk, or as a folk with a trauma on their shoulders, we stick to the small world we have created for protection. Over time, this small world begins to challenge our breath, our breathing, as if we had pulled a polythene bag over our own head. Maybe. It makes sense. I haven’t been anywhere for well over a year and even before that, whilst caring, I pulled in my world like a comfort blanket, for safety and also in order to feel the edges of it, to be in some sort of control, when the daily demands threatened to take me over. But now things want to change, so they tell me. I am fearful but, somehow, equipped with the courage to brave up. It sounds ridiculous that I feared walking over land I know as well as I know my own body, land that is soaked with over 43 years of memories, land with which I bonded at a physical, emotional and spiritual level for a pivotal catch of my life, above which my children grew into feral crazy beauties, where decisions were made, changed, adapted and developed hour after hour, day after day, season after season.

But, the truth is, I have allowed my comfort world to smallen and now it is time to brave up. Although this, this walk, this day with this good friend was just a baby step, I loved it. I felt no anxiety, no fear. I knew as I always know with her that I am safe. She is feisty as hell but so kind and so emotionally wise. I already knew this but I can still doubt myself listening instead to the rubbish inside my head, the judge talk, the fear. I am learning to notice and to control my thoughts. It will probably be a slow process so I will be required to live a lot longer.

That’s ok with me. I am braving up, no weapons, no defence, just trust, good boots and caution on buying online frocks.

Island Blog – A Chance to Bloom

As I walked yesterday along an empty track, empty of people, I mean, life is springing into beauty. Nesting tits dart in and out of the gaps in the drystone walls, primroses leap like sunlight from beneath the old pines, bumble bees scurry into their mossy burrows and the sparkles on the sealoch popple diamonds, as if a thousand fireflies fly low across the surface. The air is crisp and blue and, above the sky, we are healing. Who would have thought it, thought this? That, just by not driving everywhere, flying, catching a train or a bus, we could, in one week of lockdown see a noticeable repair job going on the in ozone layer. How utterly remarkable and what a surprise. We can mend our world, if we take serious note and if we all decide we will not go back to how we were.

Going back to normal is something I have never got my head around. It is actually impossible to go back to anything at all, never mind ‘normal’. Although things may well resume in a way similar to that which we once knew as normal, we ourselves have changed. The process we have encountered, gone through and learned from has made new neural pathways inside our brains. These pathways are opportunities for change and new growth, for a new bloom to flash revealing light in our eyes. Understandably, those who need us to ‘go back to normal’ will be pushing for our business once this is over and done, but we are not sheep. We are big brained humans with a collective and deep need to protect our world.

The wildlife abounds, the waters are cleaner, effluent free and offering safe habitat for all species. Including us. Although I am one of the most fortunate women on earth, to have this wild place to wander through daily, I still know we all really want things not to go back to normal. Not to go back at all. How we turn this desire into action is way beyond my thinking. I found it hard enough to do that with five kids pulling on my apron strings, never mind a whole flipping world of apron string pullers. But I do know that it takes one, then two, then a street, then a village, then a town, a city, a country to make an impact on the whole. There is always a point in making personal change and it never fails to affect someone else. They say that if you want to receive love you first need to give it. And, much as it has irritated me in the past, I believe it to be the truth.

We have been gifted a reprieve, new steps to dance, a chance to bloom.

Shall we?

Island Blog 129 Out of Africa

African woman

 

 

In Africa I was more likely to find wildlife than wifi.   Of course, there were odd times, in a bar perhaps in town or in a friend’s spanking new office block, but mostly, the only form of contact with anyone at all, was with a handshake, a wide smile and an exchange of words, a state of being I rather like, even if I did, out of habit, reach for my phone if ever we stopped for coffee.

This new office block, with its wide light rooms and wrap around views across Capetown, is already a business hub.  Inventive and creative thinking, interior design and spatial understanding brings together anyone with a business to run and no desk to run it from.  Hot Desks are affordable and genius, because, not only do you get your own space, wifi connection, etc, but you also get to work in a bustling energetic atmosphere among other creators, all of whom are more than happy to network over coffee or a beer.

At every robot (traffic lights) there may be 3 lanes of vehicles.  I look across at those parked beside us in our little silver car (Maggie) and can hardly see the tops of the buckies (four-wheel drives) without craning. Inside these sit the well-upholstered Africaaners, their windows tight shut for the aircon to work.   On the other side, a people carrier taxi, all windows open, pumps out music, the black passengers grinning and bopping on their way to or from work.  The second we stop, the street sellers move in, weaving their way among the cars, holding their merchandise, such as beaded animals, children’s wooden puzzles, mobiles, jewelery, long-legged birds fashioned from plastic bags, woven sunhats and the Big Issue. The sellers are clean and proud, in the main, the turbanned women flashing sparkly smiles, the men making eye contact.  Not begging but business.  We don’t buy because we can find exactly what they are selling on the high street or at the market, even though they did assure us it was all their own work. It could also cause a cafuffle if the lights changed in the middle of negotiations, for there are always negotiations.  The asking price is set high, the rest is barter.

I found the beggars, when we did meet them in town, and you always meet them in town, most distressing to observe.  I always wanted to give something, but, had I done so, I would still be there in Market Square with not a penny left to my name.  Once you give to one, others move in, many of them children, and all of them thin as rakes.  Those who live in Capetown are not cold hearted, but they have grown a thicker skin.  They will consider employing anyone who turns up, who cleans up, who decides to move up in life, but they will not easily support those who choose doorways to sleep in and some lethal coctail as nourishment.

I thought much about that.  If someone has lost whatever they had, which may not have been much, it might not take long for that loss to turn into an acceptable way to live.  I imagine self-confidence and respect dissolve pretty quickquick when your only chance of food is by raiding bins on collection day.  I watched a man walk down the street doing just that and talking away to himself. He was oblivious to me, beyond stepping off the pavement to avoid a collision, and his eyes were bloodshot and empty.  I pulled my bag closer and felt vulnerable and overdressed and frightfully well spoken and, well, guilty.  We were heading out of town for a few nights on the coast, with food and wine and a rented beach hut to wrap around us and all he had to look forward to was another long street of wheelie bins and the possibility of Thai curry leftovers in polystyrene. And a doorway to sleep in.

Then (for life always sends a balance to help out) I met young black people with a zeal in their bellies. Not priveleged and living in one of the townships –  mile upon mile of tin roofs and dust floors, but still determined to find new quality for their lives, waiting at tables, working on the dustcart, cleaning, odd-jobbing, and so much more.  ‘If anyone wants it, the work is here’, I was told more than once.  This is a country where labour is abundant and cheap.  Wages are low, work is hard, but these people have a joy about them, a laughter that may well not come from a place of comfort.  It’s more an attitude than a result of how life treats them.  In other words, it comes first, that smile, that easy laugh.

We saw the maids arriving at the big smart Africaaner homes every morning around 7am.  Dressed in black with brilliant white aprons, they trudged up the hills from the noisy taxi that brought them out of the townships, talking and laughing together.  They always looked up for a greeting and always responded with friendship.  Their hours, from 7.30 to whenever they were done cleaning, looking after children and cooking, might earn them £8 at the far end of a day that expects a woman to do every domestic job required.  Then they walked back to the taxi rank, back to the townships to their own families to begin all over again, every single day.  When I talked with one maid, she told me she was happy to work.  Work, she said, is important.  No work, no importance. She look at me, astonished when I told her I had worked as a maid for a time.  Why?  she asked me.  ‘You don’t have maids in Scotland?’  As if cleaning was not for my shiny white hands. I fumbled about for an answer that didn’t sound like ‘well, I needed the money.’  She would have fainted clean away, had she known the wage I was paid for doing far less than is expected of her. And then she smiled the widest smile and then she laughed a laugh that made her bangles jingle and shook her head in amazement and amusement at the very thought of the ‘Ma’ cleaning a house, even her own.  Then she gathered up a huge pile of washing and left me wondering at my priveleged life and how often I forget to remember that it is just that.