Island Blog – A Plan, A Shanty Rickle and Life

We make a plan. We hone it, condone it, refine it, mine it for pitfalls whilst utilising the elasticity of space, just in case, corridors of empty air in between the lines. We have faith in this plan. And then something too big for corridors and too structured for any amount of bend or twist lands in our path. This path that seemed so clear ahead of us is suddenly heaped up with stumble stones, huge boulders and standing tight together, telling us clearly that the path stops here, right here and right now. For a few moments the darkling sky falls in around us like old ghosts or loft webs long ignored, solidifying into a thixotropic blanket of No Go. Our heart sinks, our eyes fall to our boots for what good are they now in the face of this rickle of stone, this wall, this sharp edged decision across our path, one made behind our back and without consideration of our feelings. A total disrespecting of our marvellous plan.

For a while we are confounded, ungrounded, flying up there one minute and burrowing into the ground, the next. We are in short, lost in time and space, no grace, long face. But soon our human spirit tickles at our edges, whispering encouragement. Come on, get up, shut up flapping, get those boots back on the ground. Just because this block is stopping you does not mean there is no other way. There are millions of ways. Think, listen, learn, look. Your spirit is 86 billion cells. That brain of yours is considerably untaxed, if you don’t mind me saying. There are acres, miles, continents worth of active brilliance in between those ears of yours. Engage. Ask them to help, not based on your experience because, well, look at you now all scuffed and battered and standing there as if your are at the end of everything and all because that plan of yours was never meant to work out in the way you decided it would. Drink from that freshwater stream over there. Watch the fish, the birds, the insects. Tip your head to the sky and follow the clouds as they shapeshift across that big wide expanse of hope. Turn, now, to see the way sunlight catches the sharp edges of the shanty rickle of stone. Those boulders are a million years old and there are so many stories held in their folds and twists, don’t miss them. Lift your face to the wind. Let her soothe and smooth your furrowed brow. She carries stories on her back, tales of others who would give everything just to be where you are now for just one more day of life. Now, rise and decide. Up and over or maybe not. Maybe this path is not yours and never was. See, over there? A ley line, a narrow way, one you just marched past unnoticing, you with your plan and your big stomp boots. Deer come this way when night falls, every single nightfall. They know where they are going and from whence they came. Lift up now, breathe deep and step into the unknown for it is there you will find the way ahead, the one Life always wanted you to take.

Island Blog – Enough for me

I’ve been thinking. Thinking can be quite a full time job I find, have found. Sometimes it can be destructive, sometimes instructive, sometimes pointless, sometimes pointful. Because a gazillion thoughts crowd our minds from the minute we wake up and all the way up to whenever we manage to fall asleep, we must learn how to handle them. It’s like all your children, plus their friends and their friends friends and cousins are all around you shouting demands at the same moment. Their little fingers pluck at your clothes, their voices screech like jays and you, only you can sort out this mess. You rear back, try to find some place of quiet in which to find a solution, or many solutions, often without success. But you can actively get away from all those children by leaving the room and closing the door, running upstairs to lock yourself in the loo whilst you unwind the mental tangle, calming it into a good idea, a distraction, where with thoughts you cannot. You have to manage them internally and there is no upstairs loo available.

In times of long moments which can feel like hours, thoughts cluster, conjoin, form fat shapes like dumplings, weighing heavy and so amalgamated that it is nigh on impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. They dumple in my head, that’s what they do. What was it, that last fleeting thought? I don’t know, don’t recognise it, not as it is in this state of dumple. Who would? So what to do? I am pulling on my mental boots as I acknowledge the complete irreverence and lack of respect from these thoughts. How dare they assault me this way, tell me, or infer, that I am less than I might be, have failed too many times in the past and HaHa you can do nothing about that now you fool! I swipe them away like bluebottles. I’m going out, I tell them. Without you. I slam the door, truss the dog and begin to walk.

Immediately I am aware of stepping into the real world, my spiralling thoughts silenced. Now I am looking with my eyes facing out and not in. Left behind is the familiar, the four stone walls, the paintings, the photographs, the dust on the floor and the to-do list. I am alone but not alone, a body moving into a world not under my control, the random chaos of pure Nature. It isn’t random at all, nor chaotic but to me with my stays tightened in a back-home mode, my memories contorted into a twist of nonsense and untruth, this outside world seems just that. Birds flitter back and forth, butterflies butterfly and windshift troubles early greening limbs. Bumble bees claim the soundbite, hesitate me beneath willow catkins and I stand to watch their fat little bodies claim the sweet. Yellow, white, with round arses and pointy ones, tiny miner bees, even bluebottles tap the nectar. Percussion, timpani, glorious. Two paces beyond the willow and I hear nothing at all. Their sound is just for them and not for me but I hear it and it fills my head with hope. Life will always want to live.

Further, and I stop to welcome wee wind battered primroses, their butter faces reaching for a sun they will not meet this day. Star moss leaps out from stand-water, even from the crook of a tree where limbs have split for their own reasons and who have now offered a place of safety for some other leap for life. The wind today is kinder. The iceslice punch softened. I duck beneath a larch bough, heavy now with spindle green and with the hope that no unthinking walker will cut it back as I have seen before, as if this limb didn’t own its space and as if folk have forgotten how to duck. The latter I decide. Humans are so very arrogant and so very mistaken in their arrogance. Just saying.

I return soaked and thankful to my outer clothing and my boots. But more, I return changed. As I tentatively open the door to my four stone walls, I hear nothing. No thoughts loud my thinking. I am zinging on what I have just walked through and which welcomed me. Life will always want to live.

And that is more than enough for me.

Island Blog – A Wonder and a Mystery

During these past two days of almost warm sunshine, no rain and blue skies, I have loved walking among the trees and along the shore. Gulls wheel above the tidal dance and it seems to me that every tree I pass beneath is bursting to push out leaves. However, the night frosts are sharp and I get their caution. Primrose leaves are now showing along the banks in sheltered spots, sheltered that is from the still cold wind and the daffodils open with big buttery smiles as the sun brings his warmth to their soft petals. I dare to believe that Spring is almost here and I am glad of it, not just because February tried to drown us all but also because of the long covid cloak that has darkened our days, months and years recently. Like others I have spoken to, the covid time is a blur. When I am asked how long ago Himself left the planet, I have to think hard. It’s as if time didn’t count herself. She just laid herself out before and behind us, not interested enough to make any particular mark.

However, during these timeless and dark days, the colours that shone bright and sparkly came from us, from human endeavour and resourcefulness. Instead of everyone playing sheep, individual enterprises and personal challenges rose up like flowers in the winter and were no less surprising. I heard about it on the radio and would find myself leaning in to really hear what this or that person was doing, stretching their minds and bodies in order to bring encouragement and inspiration to others. It has been tough, all of it, the dark, the fear, the lack of information, the doubts and the dithering but we have got through it, and well. Most of us. Of course there are very sad tales to tell, I know that and I am sad for the sad ones who endured bereavement and pain. But what excites me is the rise of human endeavour, not just by a few, but by millions. This is who we are and how we can live if we stop wishing the nanny state away whilst buying into it ourselves.

Any day now the larch buds will appear like tiny purple grapes. The horse chestnut, often the first to bloom, will show that gloriously uplifting snatch of green way up high on myriad branches. Then as if given permission, the other trees will follow. Delicate lurpak coloured primrose flowers will thrill passers by, including me. Then the garden will erupt and careen into real Spring allowing no time for me to catch up with the weeds and I will sit on the old bench, remember Himself who used to sit beside me and smile because whatever comes and whoever goes, Life will live on and there’s a wonder and a mystery in knowing that.

Island Blog – Call on Pooh

Although I always awaken with Tigger bouncing in my head, even that striped loon can change shape as the morning unfolds. I never know how it will be until it decides for itself. It isn’t to do with what I do nor what I don’t. It isn’t about the weather, the season or my best laid plans. I can continue to bounce until even I get tired of the bounce thing, all the way up to evening, or I can feel myself turning grey. On the outside of me, I laugh at this. It’s the same for everyone else isn’t it you daft old eejit? Your grey slump is not new, nor is it original enough to warrant a voice. No, it is just a grey slump. Get on with it. You could, if you subscribed to self-pity, find a load of reasons to explain this. Or you can try to outrun it by attaching yourself to Blue (the marvellous hoover) or a bucket and mop or the iron or a pen. Third option. You could just stop running, stop searching for the reasons for grey, and let go. It is allowed.

I paragraphically distance myself from this conversation, as you can see. I have never been good at allowing myself such an indulgence, as I see it. Oh, I am really good at this allowing thingy with everyone else. It thinks me. Am I perfectionist? Well, maybe, because my standards for myself are as high as the sky and equally unreachable. I look up. Everything up there is doing what it does, naturally and adaptively. Clouds move because the wind moves them. Sun rises and falls, ditto the moon, all naturally. Down here it’s not so easy to adaptively flow. Our wonderful brains make mince of us if we are not in charge of them. We are also impatient and expectant and judgemental, often and mostly of our own selves. I find it reassuring to know that the grey hits each one of us, not that I wish it on a single living soul.

Today began with Tigger and became Eeyore by 0800. He’s a sad old sausage, tail gone plus other losses. Imagined? Possibly. Then I considered the stories lived out in the 100 acre wood. That is quite a wood by the way, and an opportunity to be lost for days. Moving on. Each of the friends find each other, seek each other out so that no distress remains thus for long. They are a team.

I believe that the writer fashioned each creature on the moods of a human. Winnie the Pooh, happy with everything in life, every opportunity a gift; Piglet, scared and lacking in confidence; Eeyore believing that life itself worked against him; Rabbit, tense, anxious and fearful; Kanga the mother, the carer, the soother of troubles; Roo, well, Roo is just Roo; Old Brown trying so hard to control whatever comes his way and failing and Tigger the jester. We all know all of them. We experience them all. What might trouble us, and troubles me is that I want to be always Tigger or Pooh but I cannot control that (Old Brown). Life has a life of its own and all we can do is to be okay about cloud thinking in the face of whatever wind decides to luff into power. Yes we must plan, yes we must take action, yes and yes. But when Tigger turns into Eeyore before the school run, then we might consider leaning into the grey, which, by the way, takes forever to create on the palette, more than 7 colours and in such cautious amounts that it is very easy to turn it into slump mud if distracted.

So when Tigger becomes Eeyore, call on Pooh. Always works for me.

Island Blog – Drips, Droops and Defiance

I got drips. No, sorry dad. I have drips, less than of old but drips nonetheless. I quite like hearing the plash of each one falling into the enamel jug placed in place. I had to poke a hole in the plaster above the window recess last year. Actually, I have to do that poking thing every year until the plaster sags like an old woman with little to define her younger contours. I pull it all down, revealing the hen stone, the beginning of this sturdy place, the stones that protect me and many before me and then I reach out to a plasterer and the whole thing begins again. However, there used to be buckets here some 19 years ago, and everywhere, in doorways, mostly in doorways where an old 3 foot wall argued with the efficacy of whatever modern attachment attached itself. Poorly, it seems. Windows allow ingress, depending on the wind direction and puddles appear on floors. I look up. Seems logical but nothing is logical around drips. Water will in, no matter how clever you are and in homesteads built circa 1830 you are battling with just too much and it is so much better to catch the plash rhythm and to dance with it.

I empty the jug once, twice daily depending on the wind direction. It slightly bugs me that the wind has all the say in the matter, but then there is always someone who has all the say in the matter and I know that place. The rest of us work around the sayer, to a degree. We are canny, nonetheless, finding a dance that works for us, that makes the situation less rigid. I look around the rest of my room, of my home. No leaks. Just this jug-gler one, controlled until the plaster comes down. Accepting what is, even recognising and then acknowledging it, is what works for me. I have, with builder help, found the source of many leaks. This one is challenging me. She, must be a ‘she’, is telling me something. Check the outside. Check the mortar. In the olden days, there was lime in the mortar. This building could have housed King George 1V, had he travelled to the islands. Lime was a marvellous thing back then, as all new things are marvellous until they’re so not.

As we move from the old to a new we really don’t want, there will be leaks. I leaked today, here, in the wind and rain and alone. There is nowhere for these tears to go. I drooped, I confess. We face, and we do ‘face’ an uncertain future. Our fears, our lime mortar is crumbling. Our resolution is to dance but we also need to dig deep into the truth of what life is, this new life. We can decorate the inside, jug up the leaks, play positive and all that is really important, just as long as we get what is happening and grab it by the throttle. This is how it is. This is Defiance. The knowledge of what is and the fight for freedom in spite of it.

Island Blog – Agape

We have wind. Not personal wind but an agape wind, one that loves all, right across the nation and then way down into Englandshire and way beyond. Actually, that thinks me. I know, I know that there is a divide tween Scotland and England, one that was defended and attacked for decades with all sorts of big gallant men, wearing armour or tights, wielding swords way too heavy to hold, lunkering across fields in armour that took hours to affix and moments to penetrate. Horses were a by product, their faithful lives given without permission, and in their thousands.

Moving on. Back to the wind. It rages as I write. The last blooms are like old women I have met, old men too, only men never tell you how it is for them, which, by the way, is infuriating for we women. Just saying. Wind, on the other hand is wild and without care for what anyone thinks about it. It just fires, flows, rants, throws hail and alarming gusts and thinks it’s ok. I am kind of envious of that.

So, this agape wind. Let me elucidate. Agape is wide love without judgement or the need to control. As we watch the new storms coming, and the ferocity, we are allowed fear. Allowed? I cannot believe I wrote that. What I mean is nothing to do with permission. Why do I think Agape? Well I just do. We all know, or are aware of what is happening to our world, the one we had so much confidence in. We still should, for it is not gone, no way, but our eyes need to be on it.

Stories speak the truth. From Grimms (ouch) Tales, to the memories of a grandmother who is happy to speak out, when welcomed. They get lost, stories, buried with the teller. But they are the roots that root us, the ties that bind, the interweaving of agape love. In our island lives, our personal island lives, inside a non stop city noise, our new lonely flat, our new digs, a new school, a retreat, a safe house, a scary landscape. We land like an albatross in Piccadilly.

The storm rages on, but it will fade soon, after a last night of crocodile teeth and the pounding of a prize bull against the triple glazing. It’s just a night or two. So nothing. I think of those out there in the wild raw of life, this cold, the sleet, the judgement, the aggression. And I wish I could send out Agape.

Maybe I can.

Island Blog – Watching, Waiting, Wondering

The morning begins well in that I wake up and it’s morning, well almost, still dark but the clock tells me of others who rise at this hour, dark or no dark. I slip into my dressing gown, thank my bed, pat the dog and glide down the stairs. I remember actually doing that once, for a dare of course, on a tin tray and an oak stair case that dog-legged into the room. Not a good plan. I started off well, gathered warp speed and just knew I was about to be sliced like an egg when I hit the sharp corner, all balustrades and newel posts and rigid as if it had rooted into the earth’s core. The wails arose in me, alerting all inmates who were quietly sipping Earl Grey from china cups and pretending they didn’t want another scone. My mama was livid even if she feigned compassion. I could see it in the slit of her mouth, the narrowing of her eyes as she scooped me up and marched me away, my knees bleeding, my face scratched and my mouth yelling out a storm. This morning’s glide was more gentle, my hands holding both bannisters and my cautious eyes wide open for the fall that always threatens old folk, the one that leaps out for a rugby tackle from somewhere in my blind spot.

I descend in regal safety and round the corner for coffee and a peer into the darkness. No moon, but she is coming, the Beaver Moon, tomorrow I believe, although why the moon has to keep to a schedule un-moons me somewhat. I had thought her above such calendar control. I perceive her as reckless, upskittling, wild, and that’s because her full bellied lightshow creates that reaction in most women I know and some men too. I tap tap wait for the light to rise. I iron something, sweep another thing, flip through Facebook, write some notes about what I will do with my day, this day, today, most of which will be scratched out by breakfast once I realise that the ladder to any of them has faulty rungs, most of them missing.

I WhatsApp chat with my best friend and she laughs me and we share all our familial concerns and delights. We have done this for years now and her face takes me right back to her, the way she waggles her head when telling me of something that pains or puzzles her, the way she looks straight at me when she asks how I am. I know why. When I say ‘Fine’ she smirks and challenges, but I will always say ‘Fine’ because mostly, I am just that. However, as the day rolls on, not like chocolate, more like a stubble field and with me barefoot, I am ratty with the dog. It shocks me for I am only occasionally ratty and I don’t like it in me at all. I watch the wind, hear the roar of the whips and twisting punches of it, see it scrape rain across my window and bend the trees like torture, laughing at its bully power. Reluctantly I decide to walk, no matter the rain, the bully punching wind, the darkling grey, the wet underfoot.

To begin with, I stomp. I know I am stomping and the track looks up at me, eyebrows raised. I pause and smile and slow my boots. Then, as I rise into the woods, the rise of the track lifting me from my earthly grump, I begin to see, to notice, to watch. The bare limbs stick out like old fingers, old friends, the ancients who still stay to protect and to remind. Leaves still holding on, copper, gold and blood, tremble in the wind, showing me this face, then that. I hear the tic-a-tic-a-tic of their dance and I stop to watch. Beneath my skinny soled boots, a bronze carpet tongues out before me, inviting. The wind lifts again and the pines sing as the wind combs the needles, the ones that don’t ever give up, the ones I will see all winter long. A stand of ditchwater has been claimed by water moss and I chuckle at the emerald courage of this survivor. Well done you, I say, as I pause to wonder and I swear it shimmies. Tree ferns waggle like random hair tufts all the way up an alder tree, flapping at me as I meander beneath the high stretch of ancient trunk. Geese navigate the sky wind adjusting their positions and I wonder again at their understanding of all this power and of my complete lack.

I will never understand the power of watching, waiting and wondering, will even thwack it away with an irritable flap, but once I step out into it, bring myself to walk, to stand as a part of it, engaged with it, no distractions from it, I return with hope. Where the hell I found that hope, I can not answer, but it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that in my reclusive sadness there is a beckoning, one irritating enough to get me inside my boots and out there.

Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

Island Blog – Mindful and Busy

Today I was very busy being mindful. The Buddhist in you might be rolling your eyes at that. Busy and mindful don’t tend to go together, after all. Perhaps, if I break the day up into bits and bobs I can divide that sentence up. I was busy. I collect my hoover boyfriend, Henry, for the second day in a row. I can see he’s startled but chuffed too. How come, he asks, as I wheel him into the light of the sitting room? You smell better, I reply. The last time we met, before the day before thing, I had excoriated him. I removed his internal organs and emptied the contents of his stomach into the wheechie bin. ‘Wheechie’ because capricious winds come in the night and tapselteerie my bins all over the place without, it appears to me, a modicum of guilt, no apology and no resurrection. Very poor manners. Anyway, once completed and with a new stomach liner in place, I dropped many drops of spike lavender essential oil into the filter. This is how Henry smells so much better now. We work together, him with his powerful suck and me being busy around corners and underneath things that have an underneath until the downstairs shines like new.

Next I sit to sew more patches for my 16th wonky chops baby playmat. A boy this time. I select my blues and greens, my sea colours, flowers (boys need flowers), dinosaurs and Peter Rabbits, and set to. Listening to Pema Chodron on audio book as she guides me through my own betterment, I work for the rest of the morning. Then I whizz up the left over wild garlic leaves and make a gloriously green garlic butter, one that could knock a bull elephant back at least half a mile. Sausaged up in baking parchment it now sits fragrantly in my fridge, cooling its pants. I don’t mind my fridge smelling of garlic. In fact, I could eat garlic at breakfast and now, thanks to all these lockdowns and those masks, I can, without a single botherment over how my breath might be received. I lug my basket of washing up to the hilly line and fight with the big cotton bedding as it fights me back. I am almost felled by a blue striped double duvet cover as the capricious wheeching wind punches at us just I tippytoe the material over the yellow plastic wire. I win, naturally, although it is hardly a dignified process. I have a word with the wind, of course I do. Make your mind up! I snap. Are you coming from here, or there? One or the other would be respectful. The wind just chuckles, scoots off into the safety of the pines. That’s the busy bit over.

I grab garlic for lunch and a cup of earl grey, fragrant as I imagine a Japanese garden to be, even if the tea doesn’t come from Japan. (or does it?). Then I take myself upstairs to my bed, redressed now in a rather smart off white and settle to read for an hour. I doze and am awoken by the doglet who wants her walk. This is the mindful bit. As I go through my little garden gate, I consciously let go of all my busy thoughts. That lovely sense of space and clarity lasts for about ten paces, as a rule, so I have to keep pausing and clearing (busy?). I suspect I am a babe in the work of mindfulness but I have no plans to quit trying. Birds slide the sky, sparrow hawk, buzzard, sea eagle with their usual followers, hecklers, the go-away-ers, brave birds these finches, tits and other small feathered warriors. They don’t like the big guys. I stop and watch the sky action. Much better than any movie. Walking on I see the horse chestnut has leaved up since yesterday, its open palms lifted, drinking in the sun and buffeted by that flipping wind. Long grasses from last year tipple and shiver, the sun backlighting them corn gold. Lord Larch is in full shout now despite his broken body. He is tall as a giant and the emerald of his needles shock a gasp against the cerulean sky. Lady Larch, who is way more together than he is but being in an old style marriage has never ever bloomed before him, even as she could. Her limbs grace as a dancer, and I want her to turn, to show me the full and glorious swing of her fulsome skirtage. She is magnificent, but am careful to big him up first, the crusty old fellow, because, as I know only too well, if he thinks she is more admired than he, she will get it in the neck once me and the doglet have moved on.

Primroses stud the woodland banks like tiny jewels, violets too and the star moss is really showing off like a daylight constellation. I hear geese erupting somewhere down on the shore, then quietening again. Curlew, oystercatcher, a robin that flits along with me but says not a word. Bumble bees turn a willow tree into a performance. Street musicians. They don’t bother with me as I stand beneath the branches and stare up at their busy bottoms. I close my eyes, let the hum become all I can hear or want to hear. Moving further along the track, now latticed with tree limb shadows, a moving mosaic beneath my feet, I hear the wind rifling through the massive old pines, sounding them like an ocean. In my ears too, this wind creates me an ocean and there I am, on a rocky beach with my spirit animal, my white wolf, my Luna. We sit on a big flat rock and just be. Just be. The waves, like mornings, like seasons, like day and night, keep on coming. A regular percussion, reassuring, calming. To know in all of this impermanence, the impermanence of a human life, there are things that are permanent. For now, anyway.

Heading back home, the track changes. This is a drive-through track and thus topped with grey shards of road stones, unreal, not island. But I am glad of the ground beneath my feet even as I prefer the natural pulse of a ground that knows itself, that knows it is home. I walk beneath two unlikely archways, trees on either side whose branches have reached out to each other. An alder with a larch, a pine with a cedar. I pause beneath both and look up, say hallo and thank you for your beauty and your shade, a gift to me and the panting doglet. The blue is arresting, the sky fixed and looking right back at me. I know it. A plane going somewhere leaves a contrail and I watch the capricious wind pick it apart, dissolve it. The sun is warm on my face and I breathe in its warmth, mindfully. It has been a very long winter.

Island Blog – Triggers and Returning.

Last night the gale began. It roared like a lion and punched at the walls of the house. I heard bits of masonry fall onto the conservatory roof which is plastic, and I winced from beneath the warm duvet. Sleep left the room at that. Too many before nights on Tapselteerie with my husband or sons at sea or even just out there on the land. I had trees falling on them, waves swallowing them, wind blowing them off cliffs, all of it, because they loved it, the craziness of a gale, the unpredictability of one, the thrill of being a part of such wild wildness. From my place at the window or in bed in the absolute darkness with those punch fists holding destruction in their grip, I shivered. I shattered. All possible tragedy shivered the bones of my heart, my thoughts rollicking from one disaster to another with no happy ending for me or for them. I am still that way.

I went out to feed the birds and was almost lifted off my feet by one vicious gust. I admit I was compromised at the time. Twisting to check the pantiles on the roof, and in a frock #balloon, I felt my legs buckle. I held my stead. Fast. Staggered and remained upright but only just. Later, as the minutes moved into hours and way too slowly as if Time was playing with my mind, teasing most cruelly, I went out again to sort the ferocious flapping of the tarps on the wood stacks. I held onto the drystone wall for support as I lashed them down with old dog leads. We seem to have an abundance of them. Where once this abundance drove me crazy, I am now glad of them. In the latter stages of dementia Himself would purchase more and more of what was of importance to him, dog leads being just one on a very long list. There are still 6 mobile phones, 4 Notepads, iPads, those things, stacking sealable plastic store boxes, leads for everything from the aforementioned to motor bike chargers (no motorbike) small things for back ups on everything electronic, new hand held landline phones and on and on. They lie here still along with Henry in the quiet of the cupboard under the stairs, waiting to be useful.

All day long I sewed more baby mats, completed one, one of 6 that are also waiting. For babies. Soon I will need to ask for babies because when I work at something, there needs to be a point to aim for and in this case, in this time, it is babies. Do we become thus obsessed as we age I wonder or is this lockdown s s s mentality? The isolation plus grieving, can it turn a mind into something we observers might have laughed about, rolled our eyes at, until we find ourselves in that land, where it is no longer a laughing matter? I listen to an audio book as I work, someone else’s story, any story but my own today. I flinch as another crash tells me more masonry is falling. On checking, this time in trews for safety, I see no evidence of demise in my walls. Do I imagine this sound? Is this a trigger for me, an old memory rising in the today of my life? It thinks me.

As I, with help, navigate my unsteady way through grief and loss, I am beginning to notice my reactions to what happens, even small things. I notice when I flinch. I don’t remember flinching as a young woman. with children around my skirts, even as I know I will have done. But there is a difference when it is I who need to be the strong one, the one who can hide an inner flinch and turn it around, make it okay for the fear around me. Instant solutions spring to mind, fuelled by a surety of strength and a solution. On Tapselteerie we had windows blown out in gales. The noise was terrifying and it was always in dead of night. Calming, reassuring, finding an old door to wedge against the blast of a threat, a broom to support, was what we did. Bringing children in close, into bed, finding stories, teaching laughter in the face of terror was what we did. And we did. So many times. Roofs lifting. It’s ok, just watch, I said, as we all stood there in pyjamas and fleeces and facing a gale that could destroy a home in minutes and without another soul knowing anything till morning at best. My own heart might be shakingly terrified but my protection of my children kept me calm and my husband knew what to do. As teenagers they witnessed a whole 32ft mobile home buck and lift and crash back down whilst their dad fired up his digger and held it down with the bucket and chains as the rain drenched us and the collies squealed and disappeared into the darkness. In that darkness, in the shout and scream of that gale, her punch and release, her volatile craziness, my kids whooped and cheered their dad through the sheeting rain and I shivered and shook and tried to keep calm.

A call to arms. Pre our resident lifeboat he was on call if a sea-goer was in trouble, and he was called many times. There was always a storm and it was always dark. He would go, fired up, excited, ready to challenge and to work with Mother Ocean. It always confounded me how good he was at working with her when he was so lost around me, around his daughter. We were strong women too but obviously not speaking a language he understood. Any kids old enough to go with him would be dressed and ready in minutes. Again I am left with the walls shrieking at the gale and my imagination my only companion. I won’t say Friend.

These memories may be triggers. They probably are. Gales mean destruction and I feel impotent when they come. He knew how to prepare for them, knew they were coming and from what direction. He knew what had to be tied down, secured and what lay safe this time. I will learn my way around them for we have plenty of them and each is capricious at best, lethal at worst. New ground. New learning. I remember the whoops of my children. They love it wild, the wilder the better and they are no fools around the wild. They grew up with it, leaned into it, learned from their dad whilst I stayed home making soup for their returning.