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 – Not like a suitcase or a door

Today I wake in the lime green light of absolutely not dawn. It thinks me that the Morning is pregnant, nauseous and letting me know. I groan. I want the buttery light that tells me is it at least 4.45am. Then I can close my eyes quick quick like a camera shutter and count the minutes all the way up to 5 which is the time chickens, babies, outside four-leggers and garden birds leap into life. Then I will perform what laughingly passes as my own leap, although I need to be cautious and one can hardly leap cautiously. T’is an oxymoron. But this lime-green morning light groans me. I had awoken oft in the dark because that flipping Barn Owl was having a party all alone on the telegraph pole, screeching insults or whatevers mere feet from my open window. I got up and gave it my best glare but all it did was that 360 thing with its head whilst its feet remained affixed to the pole. I won’t yell, I whispered, nor throw my Ponds cold cream jar at you but only because of your astonishing beauty and this irritating sense of privilege I am feeling that you chose my pole on which to screech like an old fishwife.

So passed the night and now I am flagging. Actually, if I’m honest, I flagged all day so that at this hour of the very long assemblance of hours I consider myself a high achiever in the world of flagging. I didn’t do nothing, though. Not at all. Doing nothing is so not my thing. In fact, I sometimes wonder if my not doing nothing makes me too busy to allow internal troubles to make some sense. It’s like I am ‘busy’ shutting out anything painful when I know only too well that ‘we’ must allow the pain a voice in order to heal. I tell myself that and myself usually snorts. She knows that understanding something we have read, and that makes perfect sense, has to travel a different route to actually click. I sweep the floor, very sloppily. I answer an email and work some more on one of my ridiculous fantasy landscape tapestries. This one is particularly ridiculous but I have thought that before now as I work without pattern or design only to find a rather lovely scene enfolding before me. My eyes are squint from sewing today and the rain is non-stop. I eat breakfast at 5.30 and lunch at 11.15. I am like a tortoise preparing for hibernation, going slower, s l o w e r s. l. o. w. e. r. From time to time I whack myself into startlement and we do something like go for a walk all coated in rain repellent plastic. Well, I was, but the doglet, newly shaved, was not and she decided after all of 14 feet that this was enough thanks and I’m off home now. It took me 15 minutes to get all this clobber on. Well, that’s okay. Another fifteen minutes to take it off and that makes 30 minutes which is half an hour which means the day will soon(ish) be over. Thank goodness.

I go back to thinking about the thinks I avoid thinking. Let them come in and overwhelm, says myself. No, I say. I cannot allow that. I don’t want to let that tsunami in, that one that has multiple shipwrecks inside it, smashed and broken, ruined and unrecognisable. I want to do this closure nonsense, putting everything, my life, my experiences, my marriage into a suitcase and to shut the lid. I want to slam and lock the door firmly on the past and turn away into a new life. I don’t want memories dribbling through the cracks, hissing like venomous snakes. Who the heck does? And yet, and yet, my long fingers keep reaching back through old times, to how it was, to who I was and they are the fretful fingers of an old woman looking for something she will never find. Answers.

I suspect it is natural to quest for such, for answers. I often ask myself why. Why I did this, why he said that, why she made that awful decision, why secrets secrets secrets were kept so hidden. There is a big unrest in the desert lands of Unanswered Questions. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a day with himself to get those answers and yet (and yet) I know he would never reveal a thing. He didn’t when he was alive for almost 50 years. He was obviously quite the thing about not answering difficult questions. So how do I get to a place of acceptance? I suspect there is no fast track answer to that one. Are we all mysteries to each other, I wonder? Perhaps we are and perhaps this is a normal human state, one of intense frustration right up to the end. Is death a marvellous escape? Do those who know they are dying feel a wonderful sense of relief that finally, finally, they are excused from the Accountability Class? It sounds rather kind when I think of it that way.

But life right now is like being stuck on a telegraph pole but without the 360 head turning ability. I have that screech voice and I silence it. I say I am great, fine, well, busy. We all do, I guess, in the hope that something will click at a deeper level, that my brain will believe it and invite my heart to take it in, to warm it, to beat it into new life. I know, I know, it is early days, but it is also a year, no it is over ten years of watching his secret self slowly leave the room whilst remaining in it, noisily. That is a long long time.

An irreverent chuckle comes to me in my turmoil. I have an image memory of people who won’t go. You make it obvious that after ten hours that your come-for-coffee invite is wearing very thin. They rise, eventually, but keep talking. You head for the door and open it. They stay where they are and keep talking. Now a freezing wind with accompanying rain is drenching both you and the floor. Still they talk, flapping hands and saying giggly things like ‘Oh we should go, you’ve been so kind, we stayed too long…’ You shut the door, well defeated. You didn’t offer lunch, having clocked that these good people are having so much fun that their going home just might feel like back to jail and you are not unkind even if you didn’t offer lunch. You finally get them out the door and close it quick quick. The short distance from the door to the gate suddenly looks like the road to Zanzibar. Inching, inching, inching, hearing, and enthusing about this cousin, this new baby, this new purchase, you get them through the gate.

Waving them off feels like heaven.

Maybe I will do that with my long staying unanswered questions.

Island Blog – Eighth Wonder

I am 68. My eldest boy is 48. His daughter is 8. I like 8 and it thinked me this day as I counted everything to get to 8. My footsteps to the washing line, the stairs on the stairs, the times I changed frocks although that is the fault of a haar that barrelled in just as we all thought the sun was in charge. It has come and gone this day, 8 times. We are currently enjoying a non-haar moment or eight. I hung 8 things on the washline. One duvet cover, one fitted sheet, two pillow cases, 3 pinnies and a dishcloth. I did so not plan that 8. Promise. I am not anal.

When something comes into a mind, something that has resonance with whatever past or present complexicus or delusion, it can fix like a road block. You just can’t go forward, backwards or sideways without encountering this fix thingy. Usually, it lasts a day, dissolving into the dark of the night and foofing into the forgotten but occasionally it lasts. I have had a few of them in my time. However, I am confident that this 8 thing came from yesterday and will be gone the morra, as we say up here. As that rather lovely digit, art, to be honest, an endless line in a double scoop and with a great deal to say about itself, my mind wandered towards the 7 wonders of the world.

I know them , of course I do. The first is my Granny’s house in Edinburgh. The 2nd is the Eiffel Tower. Third is the day I knew I was expecting my firstborn. Fourth are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and fifth is the view from my little island home. The 6th is/are, without doubt, my five children and 10 grandchildren, 7th is The lighthouse at Alexandria and the 8th is clear to me. It should be up there for all to see for it is indeed a world wonder.

I believe that had the world been emotionally intelligent at the time an importance of revered men got together to decide for the rest of us, this 7 wonders thing, or had there been allowed a woman in the selection committee (eye-roll) then this 8th wonder would have have listed high, before the Hanging Gardens, even before the Giza Pyramid, because although those wonders bring in sightseers, money, wows and gasps and tons of photos, the 8th wonder can change the world for the better, unlike any of them. The 7 can be blown out of the ground, destroyed, looted and reduced to rubble. The 8th cannot, not if it is handed down the generations.

Ok, I’m about to tell you. It came from a yesterday moment, one that stopped me in my tracks like a roadblock. I wanted to stop. I wanted to take it in, the think I thinked, to fully absorb how incredibly powerful this 8th wonder really is. It may sound simple. It may seem impossible. It may be an eye-roller, but I think the 8th wonder of the world is a man who can happily listen to a woman, hear what she has to say and then empathise without fixing.

I know 2 outside of my family.

We have a long way to go girls.

Island Blog – Windstitch,Cloud Shadow, Birdlight and Fox Gloves

This wilderlight dawns a beauty. Sunshine goldens the little garden and birds catch it in their wing feathers as they lift and flutter overhead. Rainbow snow. Birdlight. I wonder if they know how much they delight, these little wild things. How on the grass they look like jewels and how, above me, they trill a healing melody. The poppies have survived another night of sea-wind and I welcome them with a smile and a word or two of encouragement. This morning, however, someone has sewn a stitch or two into that cloak of chilly salt-laden breath, arresting it, offering a challenge to change, to turn about face. The resulting warmth eases my bones, kisses my face, softens the tension in my skin, like a promise of something wonderful.

This morning a carer came back after 18 weeks of me managing on my own. She was almost as beautiful to see as a bird caught in sunlight, which is what she was. Together we showered himself and tidied up and the bubble of chatter, the catch up of news and opinions on various subjects lifted me yet further. Although I would not have welcomed any incoming before now, I am glad of human encounter that isn’t all about one person’s needs, moment by moment. Suddenly I found myself present in the unfolding dialogue. She complimented me on my hair cut. I told her she looked really bonnie, even though she was gloved up, face half hidden by a mask and crackling like a bonfire in her plastic apron. We discussed the village, a place I haven’t seen for weeks, the number of visitors cars, the walkers, the camper vans, the motor bikes. I had not realised how empty my mouth has been of anything that isn’t care related and the words flew out like birds, the laughter too.

Although we will remain isolated for some time to come (my choice), it is good to hear that life is waking up once more. Some folk have been trapped in small flats in cities, or alone in bed sits, and these folk must be twisting in the wind by now, desperate to catch on to its tail coat and to fly once more. To share a view, a joke, a meal, a conversation is what we all need and what we all miss, like fresh water when access to it is denied.

Sunlight tunnels through window slits as we move around the sun, illuminating the ordinary. A line of carpet, a vase of garden flowers, the shiver of iced tea in a sparkling glass. The doors are wide, the soft breeze fluttering the bird-curtain. Before the bird curtain, there were oft more birds inside than out, bashing against windows, terrified hearts pounding in tiny ribcages. When we are suddenly trapped, we panic. All of us, humans, animals, birds, insects, all of us. And we were trapped for a long time.

I watch cloud shadow on the far hillsides. Foxgloves disappear into it, then leap back crimson purple. We are like that. Lost in shadow at times, or caught up in a twist of wind, swept off our feet or shivering in sudden dark. It passes. Everything passes, be it what we want or what we don’t. Over this, over wind, time, sickness, cloud shadow; over times of exhilaration, loved ones, intense joy. Over all this we have no control. The very best we can do is to stand tall, rooted, blooming, ready for whatever comes.

And equally as ready to let it go.

Island Blog – Daynight

The clouds are pink. So are the hills, the trunks of the hazels, the rocks and the sea-loch. It is 4.45 am and everything is pink. I am also pink, according to the mirror reflection and my face needs ironing. This is due to the crumpulation of pillow, duvet and face, conjoined in a less than harmonious trio. We obviously fell out at some point during the night, fought each other until we ran out of oomph, and then collapsed, like all menage a trois do in the end.

The house creaks. The floorboards creak. My knees creak. We are all coming to life, beginning to breathe in a new morning, taking in the pink, leaving the night behind, letting it go. Sometimes I am delighted to let go, sometimes I wonder if being awake most of the night makes it day and not night. Perhaps there is an in-between, like a no mans land, a wild place that has no name, as yet unlabelled. I can give it plenty names, however and not all of them polite, but in deference to social rectitude I shall name it Daynight.

Although it may sound terribly awful spending a deal of the dark hours awake, I am well used to it and find myself able to recover quick quick during the hours of light. Just a 30 minute catchup snooze can lift me right back into a Tigger bounce. It thinks me. Have I devised a splendid plan of action, a modus operandi, one that will always lead me into what may sound like a child’s story, or am I a natural bouncer? Did I learn myself this attitude or was I born with it? Ho, I say and Hum. I don’t have an answer but, for the record, I am very happy with my bounce, even if my knees do creak nowadays. And, even if I did come up with an answer, what would it matter and who would care?

I watch the pink clouds. There is Robin Hood with a huge snake in his grip. Here is the Rockbiter and over there, oh look, it’s Noddy’s car, complete with horn. If I called you over, it would be too late to see what I see. Clouds are like that. Shape shifters, game players, always moving on like night, like day, like everything. Even if I grabbed my camera, it would be over, the cloud show and they would just look like pink clouds. It seemed important, back then, back when I didn’t understand that the whole point of anything is that it changes every minute; people, time, clouds, weather, happenings, all change. The key is to just look, to watch, to stand quite still and let the eyes have it. And with every look, watch, stand still thingy we change because we have experienced something new, something that will never come again, not in this way. A kindness given, a word of support, a smile, a wave; the way rain falls on a window, the swing of a feather falling, a catch of rainbow light, the scoot of a rabbit, distant laughter. A pink sunrise may come every morning, but it will never be the same twice, like zebra stripes and snow flakes, every one unique.

Like you and like me.

Island Blog 150 Space and Time

 

 

 

Space station 1Space station

 

 

Last night I watched the International Space Station move across the starry sky. A golden orb it was, arcing overhead, just a tiny dot. Six atronauts are aboard. I waved. I know, sad really, but you never know what a welcome wave can impart across space and time. I’m thinking ‘butterfly wings. The illusion of ‘just a dot’ in the wide sky of a sparsely inhabited island would be no less to anyone who glimpsed it last night between high rise buildings in a big city. And, yet, six whole living people are aboard. To them, we, the whole WE, that is, the Earth, is also illusive. They know we are millions, we are legion, and yet, all they see is a rolling ball of mountains, plains and seas. They don’t see us and we don’t see them, but because of our vast technology, we know we are all where we are.

Let’s look closer.

Up there, last night, NASA emailed a racheting socket wrench. Well, not quite the actual wrench, but a 3D image via a 3D printer that guided the Commander to fashion one himself. It would have taken months for supply vessel to deliver one. Months.

When we look up, we imagine stars to be small sparkly lights dinging about when the clouds are away bothering someone else, even though we know that some of them are much bigger than our own world.  Still, as we point them out to a little one, to gaze up in wonder, we don’t think of great lumbering planets, already dying, but of diamonds in the night.

The International Space Station travels at 27,000 km per hour at an orbit height of 431 km, and here I am wondering how long it will take to drive to Doune for Christmas with all that festive traffic.  But, my place is down here, not up there, and here is where I need to remember the illusions of time and of space.  We know both are always with us, always influencing our decisions, our routines, our days and our nights, but because we cannot control either of them, tame either of them, rule over either of them, we just have to let them be.  We must walk with them, through them and around them as fellow miracles.

Now, we may not think of others as fellow miracles.  In fact, some are way off miracle grade, in our opinion.  But again, this is an illusion.  I know that, at this time of year, everyone is ‘goodwilling’ themselves to death, smiling when before there was no smile, giving when we only take for the rest of the year, lifting our care-worn spirits  and tired bodies in frightful jumpers and paper hats and telling ourselves it’s fun, and I never did understand why January is all about diets and New Year’s Resolutions.  Why don’t we eat sensibly and employ self-control all through the year?  Why can’t we give to those who need something we have, and they don’t, every single month? It seems we turn back to ourselves after this crazy happy festive season to face the big black hole inside every one of us all over again.

Black holes.  They’re in space too, and in time.  Those who are lonely are often closer by than we might like, often in the family.  In space, they eat you.  As they do down here.  For all the technology, the space research, the developments in education, social media, lifestyle (for some) and health care, we are still lost.

And yet, we are found too.  If every one of us chose not to turn back in, to scrabble around in the illusion that we are not enough, not clever, not destined for greatness, not important, we might learn, bit by bit, to look out, to see other walking miracles, to learn from them.  It isn’t easy for any of us.  We all have black holes, black illusions.  But those who do make a difference, who do become important, who are clever and definitely more than enough, are those little people who choose not to be consumed by self-pity, guilt and regret. Not one of them was born with anything more than the rest of us.  There’s no magic here.  Every single one of us grows a black hole.  Once we acknowledge that, we can move on beyond it, whether we have ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’.

Another human illusion.

The people who have chosen not to turn back in are the heroes, the warriors, the fighters for life. And they began right here, taking one step at a time, one day at a time.

It’s a new day today.  Christmas is coming.  But Christmas will also go, leaving us behind.

What will you make of yourself when it does?

Island Blog 68 – Songs for the Girls

Island Blog 68 (futureengagedeliver.com)

fig via: futureengagedeliver.com

I wrote a song for Jenny and one day I will sing it out, perhaps after the funeral.  And then I wrote another for my little grand-daughter, the youngest thus far whose naming ceremony is being celebrated the weekend after.

How life organises these things I cannot say, but she always does and it makes a sort of sense.  It’s not about one life replacing another, but more that the sharp-edged void created in a heart, when someone dies can be softened by a new life.  These two girls will never know each other; will never come together except in my heart, and that is something rather wonderful and quite uniquely precious.

When I write my songs, or create my paintings, or lampshades or cushions or whatever, I work for one person.  I think of who they are and what colours they wear and what stories lie in their eyes, and I work to honour and recognise them all.  This is why I won’t create a production line, nor paint the same, but in blue, to match the furnishings.  Every single piece of work is a one-off.

Much like a life.

The song for Jenny celebrates her as a woman of the sea, of the world and now, of the beyond, wherever that is.  The words are taken from a well-known poem and personalised, and I don’t suppose anyone will mind, because they will hear what they want to hear and think what they want to think about Jenny as they take it all in.  The music will lift them and pull on their heart strings and someone may well recognise parts of other melodies and other phrasing from a different song for there is nothing new under the sun.

And yet, everything is always new when someone catches a thing and forges it again in the fires of their heart.

The song for my granddaughter is different in that the words are all mine, and the melody pinched from a couple of other musicians who won’t know and wouldn’t mind anyway.  We are not talking chart topper here.  The words had to be bespoke, just for her, and with respect paid to her mum and her dad and the fabulous crazy wild people they are, and all those attributes now handed on to one little girl.  It’s light-hearted and fun and will bring smiles to all the faces watching me stand and deliver.

We are all unique, but it is a rare bird that can fly alone into a busy sky, with its own song to sing, certain that just by singing it, everything is new.

Island Blog 67 – Arriving too early

Island Blog 67

Soon I will be leaving the island for my long journey south to Jenny’s funeral.  I enjoy journeys, especially by train and especially the first part when we travel through the wild bracken and the bonny purple heather.  Bracken is the name for our land’s plague, although it redeems itself considerably once amber-dead, enough, even, to feature in sentimental songs about leaving and losing love.

The second part of the journey will be in the air, zipping through clouds with barely enough time to knock back an orange juice and certainly not enough time to prise open the hygienic packaging and free the currant scone.

Or, indeed, to re-locate myself.

Half an hour ago I was in Scotland, and now I am in England.  Countries shouldn’t be crossed so quickly, as if they were hardly there at all.  There is no time to absorb the change, the process, to consider a new culture, a new way to hold my fork.

This sudden way of travel may be convenient, but I wonder if it’s all it says it is. In any part of our growing and learning, our minds and bodies need time to sort ourselves out, to slowly absorb a new way, to consider what we do or don’t like about it, and to decide how and who we shall be in context.  To travel too fast through a state of change, finds us leaving our self behind.  We may understand at a logical level what it is we undertake, but unless we have allowed time (and that length of time is not something we can set in stone) for our senses, emotions, body and heart to join us, we will ultimately fall in the poo.  No change works if only based on logic.  Not a single one, and not at any age or level of brilliance or intelligence.  It is, quite simply, un-rushable, a journey into change.

So how do we do this change thing, considering the fact that everything is speeding up in every area of life and we are failures if we can’t keep up?  And there are so many of us who can’t keep up and when we find ourselves at the bottom of the pit, with nowhere to go, worn out and broken, we fall ill.  But I don’t think there is a collective solution to this, I think it will take each one of us, on our own, to decide to look away from the world and its empty promises of success and beauty, and look for something higher.  We know it’s there when things happen we can’t explain, like a coincidence.  We might need to employ our imaginations a bit more, develop eyes that really see the natural extraordinariness of our world and a thankful heart, all day long, for what we do have, instead of wanting what we don’t.

My little grand-daughter has just returned from a family camping holiday.  Each day they visited somewhere new with a picnic and the sunshine overhead.  One day they went to a safari park, another to the river, another through the hills to a lochan for a swim and so on.

I asked her what animals she had seen, and which was her favourite, expecting her eyes to light up and her mouth to fill with names like Elephant!   Lion!  Giraffe!

Tadpoles, she said and the whole room lit up with her smile.

Island Blog 53 – The Colour of Children

image

In the night I listen to the wind rising up like an angry woman.  By 3 am she has bullied the curtains into a right state.  The snapping of upset floral chintz wakes me with a start.

Gunshot, I tell myself as I burst up from another of my apocalyptic dreams.  I had just been wandering across a dead grey wasteland, somewhere beyond Thunderdome, and looking for my children. I can’t go back to sleep to find them once I’ve left the dream.

The curtains lift out into the room exposing the window glass, but no light falls in, for this night is just plain black.  The only light, if I can name it such, sneaks up the stairs from its source- that disco ball of a mouse.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that shutting down my laptop would shut the rodent down too?  But nothing will persuade it into sleep and on it glows, red and blue, all night long, but irritating me a little less tonight, as it lights my way down the stairs and all the way to the kettle.

During the day we had visited a little school over the hill.  The sun was warm and yellow (well, maybe not warm) and the sky ice blue with scuds of snowy clouds as we climbed our way up, over and down the hill.  The little isles were still where we remembered them to be, but faded a little inside a veil of mist. Ewes with their bright white lambs, peppered the roadside and, behind a wonky fence, slow cows peered at us through long russet fringes.

Neither the island husband nor I had remembered to make packed lunch.

We spent an hour in the light bright classroom on little plastic chairs, discussing her plans to decorate a school shed with beach gatherings;  bits of fishing net, bits of rope, colourful plastic, shells and so on.  The children do many beach cleans during the summer and after a big tide, pickings are treasure for those who care to think so.  Ideas flew like swallows around that little classroom and we could just see how wonderful it would be, once we got beyond talking about it, of course.

The children came back from some outside adventure just as we were leaving, all breathless and excited, their cheeks rosy and their mouths full of chatter.  We watched them settle in their places around the wide tables.  The teacher introduced us, and explained the hut project, the abstract design ideas, the use of shape and texture and lots of colour.  I wondered if those little heads could imagine what we had imagined.

I burped ten times.  said one little girl a propos of nothing.

Green burps, she continued, then furrowed her brow.

No, not green………what’s that big colour Mrs Eden?

The big colour?  We were all wondering.

Big as your dad?  asked a little tousle-headed boy.

No, silly, she replied.  Nothing’s big as that.

As we drove back along the little winding road, sucking toffees to quiet our growling stomachs, we considered big colours a bit smaller than a dad, and we felt the awe of it.