Island Blog – Lift

First day waking away from caring duties found me tumbler, after broken sleep. For months now I have been up 3 or so times in the night to help the Admiral onto the commode and back into bed again. Sleep has to re-learn the ropes, it seems, like when you have a newborn with disregard for anything but its own needs. It takes a long time to become accustomed to the merger of day and night, for it to become the norm. You look in the mirror at a baggy-eyed face that rather too closely resembles your grandma’s, and she is 83. But with a new born, you know it will eventually pass. Not the same as a carer for a man with dementia, because dementia presents a very different agenda.

I spend the day, mostly, in bed and reading. Reading other’s stories is my lifeline just now, wandering through a forbidding Alaskan landscape or traversing borders closed to the likes of me, a woman, alone, on the run; perhaps the tale is told of a pioneer community, ‘gifted’ lost land on some faraway emptiness, woo-ed by authorities who offer hope when there is only death and starvation. This woman finds her way but not until the chapters are well on into the 20’s or 30’s and during that journey she suffers great loss, overcomes gargantuan fears and grows into the wild spirit she knows she needs to be in order to survive. Such stories captivate me, draw me in, tell me my troubles are easily turned into opportunities should I just find perspective on them.

I rise, at times, make coffee or tea, wander outside to the pub benches and listen to the twitter of goldfinches in the big old trees around me. I doze, lying languid and sated with a storyline, my ears filled with sweet music until it is time for a long warm bath. The first night there was lobster on the menu. It might be on again this night. Anticipation fills my mouth and I smile. Fruit of the sea, my sea, the sea that keeps this island afloat and in the same place, huge mountains of rock, 90% of which are deep below me, fastened to the goodly earth and teeming with life I will never see. People I know wander by in the sunlight, stop and talk. I know most people here so there is news to exchange and smiles to warm us both. But talking tires me at this time. Hearing others terrible tales of relations with dementia, past or present, is not what this rest is about. I make my excuses and go back to my room.

Refreshed and changed I order a glass of wine and pick up my book. Out here folk are beginning to arrive for drinks and a carry out meal; some are driving home from work; some walking dogs. Behind the windows of these little cottages, someone is preparing food, checking that children are clean for school the next day for the first time since March, packing school bags, filling snack boxes, nervous. I turn back to my wine glass to see a tiny fly struggling black across the ruby red surface. Carefully I cup it on the tip of my little finger, lifting it back into the air. I watch it and it marvels me. At first, wings soaked and flat against its yellow striped back, it wobbles and tips. Slowly it eases one wing out, its back legs wiping both surfaces with deft movements. Then it tips its body forward to do the same for its back, its belly and face. I see a tiny golden proboscis curl out and in, so tiny, so perfect. For some minutes it wanders over my hand, faltering as it encounters a hair the size of a tree, stops, moves around it, moves on to the next tree-hair, and all the while cleaning, tipping, proboscis darting in and out. I am entranced all the while to be watching such minute perfection, so privileged to be seeing the whole process of repair.

Then someone comes and says hallo and the little fly lifts into the sky as my own heart sinks. I wanted to see more, to inhabit this secret silent time without loud voices, without questions, without the need to counter or present but just to watch in absolute silence the genius of Nature. The way I felt is never the way I feel around people, much as I love and need them. It seems to me that communication is not always about loud voices and a news exchange, nor of advice given, helpful hints proffered, nor teetered by another’s experience of what they think I might be going through. This fly and me communication I could feel right down to my held breath and beating heart and it was more powerful than any of that. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to follow the fly into the sky and to know it, how it lives, where it might land next, what it might feed on, that perfectly formed creature that can effortlessly lift from the noisy world moving lightly and in silence up up and away into the blue.

Island Blog – Anything I Want and Magic

Out walking this morning, something came to me. It made me laugh out loud, which thoroughly startled the air around me, sent little birds bursting up like fireworks and caused two doe-eyed rabbits to hurtle into the underpinnings of the wood. It was this. I can do anything I want in this lockdown time. There are no checkers with opinions popping their heads around doors at random times of the day. I don’t need to close the loo door when going for a pee. I can wear my frocks inside out, put my pants on my head, cook in just a pinny, drink 3 bottles of wine with lunch and sleep in the same sheets for a month. This freedom is a chuckling thought and my imagination is already running wild.

So, what did it mean before this, before all checkers with opinions were checked out, and for some time to come? Well, I reckon I may well have kept my standards high precisely because of their startlement tactics. If I thought someone might catch me cooking in just a pinny, or appear as the third bottle of wine sank to the dregs, it would think me, and more than once. This structure is/was a good thing, and it will be again, once we are all free to check on each other once more. In fact, I could feel rather unhinged if I considered the possibility that I might never be checked on again. Being checked on created me a discipline, a structure, a blue print by which to navigate my daily life. It kept me upright and moderately sane, grounded and with a strong idea of how things should be on any given day. Does this mean I am now running rampant like a rebellious teenager? No, thankfully. I did that once and it brought me no end of bother, not least because I had no idea of where I was running to, and had I kept on running I would have fallen off the edge of the world. Eventually.

But considering this thought is leading me to all sorts of things. What I am doing these lockdown days is pretty much what I always did. How encouraging that is. For a woman like me who is prone to fantasies of flight on a broomstick it is hugely reassuring to learn that I am grounded in an ungrounded sort of way, but grounded enough to be continuing my standard of living. In truth, it is an elevated one. Now that all the caring is down to me and I am well occupied with an endless list of exciting tasks, I find I have raised the bar. My husband, the sheets, the floors and dishes within this island home are all polished to a shine. Does this mean that I don’t need to feel answerable to anyone but myself? Absolutely. Why didn’t I realise that when checkers with opinions lurked around my peripheries? I cannot answer that, but to understand in the mind of my heart that I am complete, that my conscience is my true guide and that it is I who can give me all the answers, is very refreshing. It means I can talk to myself, always a delightful interaction and most revealing in that I know how me thinks, what irritates me and which way the pair of us want to go.

I am not saying I don’t miss the chance of new light being thrown on an old absolute from the mouth of a friend, but I can still source that via the phone. What I am saying is that this morning I understood something I have preached to both myself and others for years, the fact that I have all that I need for me right here inside this brain, this body, this place, this situation. I just need to go within to look for the answers. They have possibly been waiting for ages, patiently, rolling their eyes every time I expected someone else to bring me the magic I needed. Now I know its inside me and that is a wonderful thought.

We are all enough for ourselves. No, not just enough. More than that. We are completely complete just where we stand right now. And we are the Magic.

Island Blog – Fun

So, yesterday was all about love and cards and flowers and romantic dates. For some. Me……..? Well, I busied myself with the craft of housekeeping and caring right up to the evening, my favourite time of day (or is it night?) when the northern hemisphere teeters on the cusp of transition. It’s time for a shower, to put the tatties on to boil, to gee up the woodburner and to check the garage door is shut against Dennis. He could flip that old thing into matchsticks, taking out several solid things in passing, the way he is growling behind the sky.

On this cusp, after delivering a meal to himself as he sits encased in his pyjamas, his ears clamped shut inside the headphones, some TV series playing out on his screen, silent mouths moving in a dialogue to which I am not privy, I return to the kitchen, light myself a candle or two and pour a glass of wine. Happy Valentine’s I told myself and myself smiled. I love myself enough not to bother about such lovey dovey nonsense. I could clean the faces of the kitchen units; I could have another shower; I could sweep up the crumbs or I could go to the pub. Which is what I did. The kitchen unit cleaning thing almost got me. I had tunes playing and candles flickering shadows up the walls and it all looked rather pretty until I put on my specs and noticed that there was more to cleaning the units than I had thought heretofore. Some reddish blobs had the chutzpa to stick themselves right across one door and there was much dust along the horizontals. Blow that. This is not evening work. It was a quick shift into a jacket and boots and off I toddled, giving Growling Dennis a quick and filthy look en route.

It was fun. Fun is what I love best and the one thing that isn’t always available here unless I fun the flames of it all by myself. I’m pretty good at it, though I say so myself. By the time I left, I had hugged old mates, commiserated, reassured, discussed the excitement of historical geology and understood better the palaver involved in building a new house on an island already drunk on rain. Conversation and communication in a life that has lost so very much of both are as welcome as 12 red roses any day.

When I was a recalcitrant and bloody-minded teenager I sent myself valentine cards. It saved anyone else the bother, after all, and guaranteed that I wasn’t the sad girl without a boyfriend, horribly visible in the school playground, awash with shame and certain that she has terrible breath. Nowadays I believe boyfriends are highly overrated. It all starts out rosy but mostly that’s where it begins to stop. I heard of someone who was incandescent about not getting a card from her husband. I held in a smile because if that is how he feels about her then its better out in the open. Others keep the flame burning, I know that. I met a couple of them last night, still dancing and planning to dance right up to the end of love.

And I smiled at that too.

Island Blog 17 – Moon Talk

What I like to do around this time is step outside with a glass of red wine; any time of the year, makes no odds to me, for what I am wanting to  join in with is the evolving of day into night, when bustling daylight gives way to the gloaming (Scottish word) and everything around me begins to settle.  The only bird not already in bed is the blackbird, and sometimes, a late robin.  Even if I can’t see them I know their song, and their song changes at dusk (explanation of Scottish word).

Actually, their song changes at other times, like in early Spring when they are rivaling for a mate.  But that’s another blog, another time.

If it is raining hard, I may only manage stepping into the garage, with its open maw, but, in the main, I can stand for a little, watch the sky and let myself both absorb, and be absorbed, by the coming night.  Tonight the moon is wonky, not that she feels in the least wonky, but she looks that way to me, for her fullness is coming, but not just yet, making her an oval in the black heavens.  Full moons mean something when you live by the sea, and I don’t mean beside it, but ‘by’ it.  When your next move must shift to accommodate the powerful pull of the moon and she, the moon, is always guaranteed to make a big statement.  The tides are very high and very low at ebb and flood, and if you work with a boat, you have to know this, or you land in trouble.  Big winds, grumpy weather leading to grumpy seas, high winds and sudden squalls all work together at full moon, to unsettle mankind and remind him he is not in control at all, however much he may think he is.  And women change at full moon.  Have you ever worked that out?  I know that, when I did, it made me laugh and that knowledge settled inside me like a loving hug (for me) and a warning to my man.  Now he knows, and so do I.  I am a creature of the moon mother and now that we accept this inevitability, we can both be sensible, most of the time. In real life, that is, the life where we accept, even if we don’t understand, the balance between our physical and metaphysical selves, we can move easily within that life, without trying to fix or alter it, but, instead, to love it and claim our part in it, for it is wonderful indeed and, by the way, our only chance to shine like the moon in someone’s sky.


One man and his dog