Tuesday - no idea what date it is.
There's a message that my friend in London has phoned. Tortoise poem man. He's dealing with his own recuperation, but I'm not so sure his outlook is so rosy. He's an ex-athlete, still fighting fit, but with a disk in his spine that's worn down, from his days in athletics. The twist and force of putting the shot, wearing and tearing his spine. They want to operate, slice a piece off the compressed vertebra, to make space for the nerve to become untrapped. So risky. He has declined. There are other things to try first, but for now, he has spent lonely drugged-up months, on the floor. Sleepless nights watching the clock every hour, on the hour. He has good friends, an ex girlfriend to help, but his job will have to go. He loves his job. It was a hard blow. He's an entertainer. Travels the world doing what he does. Writing his poems and his shows. With his comedy friend, who he's had to ask to stop teasing him, coz it's too near the bone. Literally.
I hear the sadness in his voice. The worry and loneliness, the fear of what the future is bringing. This journey, where we never know the minute.
I tell him what an inspiration he is, his courage and his positive attitude, that I take my hat off to him. I hear the crack in his voice when he says "Yes, but it's been hard, and my heart goes out to him. Long lonely nights, wondering if the pain will ever go. My German friend, who I've hardly heard from, won't go and visit him. Some people just can't deal with illness. I suppose that's okay. It's about their stuff, and truthfully, they are not the people to have around when you're keeping yourself going, like he is doing, valiantly.
I ask him if he's managed to write. Only two poems. He re-read one of them recently, and the sadness of it hit him. "The Outsiders. He wrote it watching the world go by, everyone going to work, as he was lying on the floor. Alone. In pain.
I don't know what to do for him other than say whenever you need to talk, give me a call. He'll maybe send me another poem he says.
I'd like that.
I don't mention the watercolour I'm planning for him, of his tortoise slumber party poem.
Suddenly, he's tired and I let him know I completely understand, I get that too. The body must be obeyed, taking care of yourself starts with that, the listening.
He goes, and I feel his sadness, the strength it takes to buoy yourself up. I say a wee prayer for him and he's in my thoughts the whole day and into the evening.
When I'm well enough, in the New Year, I'll go to London and visit with him.
Coz I can.
I come back from my morning walk and I've lost my sunglasses. I had them on, then put them in my pocket coz I wanted the full benefit of all the light. The days are so short and lilac now, when the blue-sky sun is out I want to be dazzled.
There is a blizzard forecast for Thursday and Friday, and as I have no clue what day it is, I retrace my steps in the afternoon, or they could be lost until May. But I find them quite easily, blades of frosted grass stuck to them already. I wear them as I carry on walking around the loop of the lower field. The sun is behind me so the pheasant right in front of me doesn't see me until he's really close, close enough for me to admire the iridescence of his feathers in the bright sunshine. Then he sees me and he's up and off in the clumsy flapping snapping sound that pheasants make, like coats falling off a bed.
At dinner, the sage corrects me with a glare, "Labyrinth, when I'm talking about the maze. At the time I think it doesn't matter what it's called, the words are interchangeable. Then it starts to bug me that I don't actually know if there is a difference between a labyrinth and a maze, so am compelled to look it up.
A labyrinth needs no decisions on the part of the person following it. The path is marked out by it's builder. This is the most ancient and Pagan design.
A maze, on the other hand, requires decision making and free will. A choice, of which way to go. Some of the first interactive puzzles. That's why they are in the paving of many mediaeval churches. They symbolised the path of life and the decisions we take using our free will. So it's a labyrinth, not a maze, they are not interchangeable.
I like that it's the more Pagan of the two in this garden.
Don't you hate it when seven-year olds know better?
Will have to look up what hiccoughs are, don't know that either.
Wednesday - but I had to ask several times to confirm
Apricot dragon clouds in the sky. I tear myself away and go downstairs. The gas bottle defrosted, I make toast for all of us.
In the interest of new things being inspirational, I try marmite on my toast this morning.
It's the work of the devil.
Give me a banana and dates any day of the week. Every day of the week actually. Or PB&J, crunchy. And heavy on the J.
The sage has his first grading for Sooyang Do this weekend and is obviously nervous about it. He wants to stop going to the class.
"Do I have to break a piece of wood?
So young to have this anxiety, but it's a lesson in more than Sooyang Do.
I tell him to think like a Jedi and go inside his head, pretend he's in his kitchen, not at the grading at all. That appeals obviously, as he shows me he can do the moves not only to the right but the left as well. He'll sail through it. I know it.
Shower and wash my hair. There isn't a mirror in my room so I dry it using my shadow on the wall. I may dry my hair like that forever more. Then I'm out in time to meet the moon over the hill. And carry on with my very busy schedule of admiring all the beauty.
The moon is shy today, behind clouds, but it's mostly blue sky and sunshine. Frost in the cold spots. I do a meditation walk out of the labyrinth, and see so many more birds than I would have walking normally. Two robins chatting between trees. Then two fighter jets roar past suddenly, way too close for my liking, and sounding way too much like the air base noise at Findhorn. Will there ever be no triggers?
I walk up by the polytunnel and notice it has a rear door, with only a catch closing it, no heavy rocks. I open the catch but the door is stuck at the bottom and the wood doesn't look very sound so I close it again, pushing leaning my back on it, using biceps and buttocks, no stomach muscles. Am a talented counter-balancer in the muscle dept now.
I'm in the house on my own today, playing Kate and reading. Then in the afternoon, after my walk, I watch Fargo and Grosse Point Blank. Fabulous double bill.
Hard work all this recovering.
In the evening we sit and chat about the sage, how he's anxious about his grading. His mum is going to make him go though, she knows the fear will only grow if she indulges it. Tough love. To help him learn how to become a happy man, not a fearful one.
Such an important job being a mother. Being strong, when it's breaking your heart that your child is getting life's knocks. Knowing that the stand she helps him learn to take at seven, will prove priceless when he's grown.
Such an important job.
Thursday 20-something November
No snow this morning. I'm standing in the kitchen in my nightdress chanting 'We want snow. The sage tells me "There's an 80% chance.
There is sleety rain, the kind that feels like someone's flicking your face, and then the odd tantalising flurry around 8am. By 9 the sky had cleared and temperature dropped so quickly that ice fans formed on the windows. I could see the moon so showered and went out to dance the chi with her. It takes a wee bit longer for her to meet me on the brow of the hill every day. Suits me, takes me a wee bit longer to get organised. So much dithering to do.
For the first time since I've been here, the courtyard has thawed enough for me to find a path through the most stubborn ice and get into the garden from a different direction. In praise of diversity. Spice of life.
So I walk up the forecourt path and onto the garden via the polytunnel. It's biting cold with the occasional flurry of snow, but the sun is shining too and there's expectation in the air. It's going to be great.
Passing the bonnie ribbon tree from a new angle, it feels like I'm in a different garden.
The rear door to the poly tunnel has flapped wide open. I probably hadn't closed it enough yesterday. I press on it again and close it guiltily, but properly this time. It's ten minutes later before I hope I've not locked someone in. Able bodied folks could push the boulder out of the way anyway.
I get to the labyrinth, not a day for meditation walks, and as I'm wending my way to the centre, the first snow crystals are lying. I start the chi dance, the moon still over to my left, but she's there, I see her as I paint rainbows. As I push the chi spiralling my arms, not my body yet, I close my eyes and hear the blustering wind that swirls the snow, in time to my breath. Being the breeze. Carrying the snow, the crystallised chi, the life energy and there is no separation. On a hill in a snow flurry, breathing. The chi. It's beautiful.
The trick about living in Scotland is to dress appropriately. Many people don't. We're nearer Stavanger than London, but many people just don't get it. I do. So I can breathe the chi on that hillside as long as I like. If I was my usual self. Today I decide, more short walks would be better than two longer ones, and that I should make my way indoors. It's cold. No backwards steps here trying to stay in the moment. So I close the chi and walk out of the spiral, but can't resist a quick dance with the dervish beeches. The nine ladies. What would they think of me if I abandoned them now? As I turn the last one, I can see the snow coming. Serious snow. From the hills to the West, in seconds they are invisible in white-out. There is something life affirming in watching big weather coming atcha, when you know you have a safe and warm place to go. There are many who don't and I wonder about them. How they will survive.
Many of them don't.
I go back into the house, the snow chasing me and catching up, overtaking me, blanking out the hills completely. The distant trees, grey ghosts for a moment, then gone. The snow flakes bigger and by five to ten, when I'm home again, it's a snow day in the making.
The sky has that pale watery lilac colour to it, as the flakes get bigger and softer, the leading swirl that pulls them here moving on, to Aberdeen and the coast. And I have coffee and time to watch. Sit and watch. Nature at her best and most beautiful. And wonder, will I be able to be the first to trudge the labyrinth tomorrow. For chi gung in the snow. And be grateful that's all I've got to worry me.
Which, of course, it isn't. My job gone to South Africa, my work email account apparently removed. Efficient twats. There are other freaks out trips I could go on.
I choose not to. I choose to recover, and trust. In this moment. And in the next. And the next. Sitting here, watching the snow, listening to Kate and the wind that's rising more and more.
And being grateful.
Ten forty-five and the snow is driving, swirling madly, the wind howling gloriously. I wonder where the rooster and the drake are hiding. Retreated to the pub I hope. To chat and peck until it stops.
Sitka jumps up on the table and bangs foreheads with me chirruping loudly until I stroke her.
Then sexy Nut comes and sits on my lap, front paw across my arm watching the cursor and the text appear. She has beautiful lime green eyes, and purrs gently to be stroked. Such different personalities. They are amazing creatures.
Eleven forty-five and the head mistress calls. I call the sage's mum to let her know. School is closing and the sage is on his way home. He's eaten his packed lunch already and doesn't want a hot drink. Shortly after he arrives, glass bead chum comes to pick him up, she'd arranged to take him to her house, with her three boys and do I want to come for lunch? I've just made my toast so decline, and she says it's as well as two of the boys are in fighting mood, but she goes and checks with sage anyway. He'll stay. Lord of the Rings fest is already being switched on.
I go up and let him know I'll play Monopoly with him later if he'd like.
"Yes, maybe later he says, clicking the remote.
One thirty and the snow is hail and then snow again, driving and driving, the whole sky white. I take some hot apple juice and the end of the rice crackers up to sage anyway. Slaying orks is thirsty work. He's quite content watching and shouting along, memorising scenes to be played out before breakfast.
Snow Day, but it's nowhere near as heavy as yesterday and by evening has turned to rain. I manage one walk in the afternoon, but the snow is slippy in the rain. It's as painful to right your foot slipping from you as it is to just let it slide. But it seems to be a reflex action, arms out slightly and pull against the forces moving your feet away from you. Good reflex in general. But not with stitches.
I do chi gung at the floor to ceiling window in the living room, focussing on the sweetheart oak.
The afternoon falls into a book.
As we drive into town for teatime Harry Potter, the snow is less and less as we get into the city. It's weird being in the grey granite buildings and lights, and lots of people. I get out of the car early so they can catch me up in the walk. I feel a bit nervous walking on my own, the bumping into issue, but there's not too many people in that part of town. It'll be a while before I walk downtown though and not in Christmas rush. In daylight when everyone else is at work. Bliss. If then, coz I can't carry stuff. Excellent money saving idea though.
Harry Potter is fine, Mad Eye Moony has me in hysterics for the first twenty minutes. Am the only one in the cinema laughing though. Worth seeing just for that. But apparently heaps of the book is missed out as it would have been a seventeen hour film if it had been verbatim. It's bum-numbingly long. And bitty.
We go visiting for tea, and home to bed. It's a high life in the country.
Overeasy morning. I paint two birthday cards, having my shower and morning walk in between the paint drying and me fussing over them. I love the shapes that dropping salt crystals makes in the watercolours. Organic shapes, like lichens or cloud bursts.
On my morning walk, I see that the burn has burst it's banks, I'm worried the four cows will float away. There is a wee lake down the bottom of the garden, out of bounds today. I do chi gung in the labyrinth in soft rain and watch the heavy weather coming in from the West, just in time for me to finish. No sign of the moon, too late this morning.
Over lunch I read the Guardian magazine and book review. Co-incidence again, have just learned the tree by the burn is an alder and am wishing that I knew more about the names of trees and plants, as they recommend two books to do just that.
Birthday party for placid baby today and I paint a card for her and painting chum. We go to her house at four. The drain is blocked and overflowing and we're on a plunger mercy dash.
It's a living hell.
The early party birds are the ones with kids. Eight boys under eight and two girls about three. One of whom, a wee doll face, was jumping up and down as her trainers flashed red lights if they were pressed hard enough. They should make them in adult sizes. Maybe they do.
The place is full of dads and mums, mostly single parents, with zero conversation, exhausted looks on their faces dropping kids, too young to be let go, on the wooden stairs. Their clothes covered in various drool trails or stickers. And that's just the parents. Like ghosts of the people they once were, now following these tiny people around. It's diluted Kamer Rouge.
Had I know the normals ie those with at least teenagers or their divorced partners in charge that day, would arrive at seven, I'd have stayed behind and gone with them. I thought is was early coz she had a baby. Lessons learned.
By six I'm shattered from standing so long. I go into the kitchen but everyone is talking about babies, and I'm sorry but it is beyond boring. I don't think it's anything to do with the operation I've just had, it is a fact, people with babies are boring, but in a sort of manic am I doing this right way. It's tragic to watch. Worse to listen to, so I got back into the hall where it's cold, but at least the conversation is about bitching - who doesn't recycle and fills the only bin, and what mother buys age 12 or 16 electronic games for kids who are far too young.
The house is gorgeous though and has a feeling of old Scotland or Jane Austin poor folks about it. Whitewashed wooden floors. Scotland needs carpet for heat, I'm sorry but even if you live in the muddy countryside, it's just not practical with no underfloor heating.
It's probably boredom that makes me feel so hungry, fortunately, the chicken pieces are chilly-laced and too strong for the kids, so we eat them. There are complaints that there's no enough food for the children. Spinach pizza isn't going down well, but the dogs are doing well out of it.
I want to go home. Like the rest of the kids, and by seven we leave for pasta in the kitchen. I'm so tired I'm weepy. But leaving was the best idea. Not party material yet. It's only been three weeks, standing about for three hours is not the way forward.
After dinner, I wish the sage good luck, he's so anxious he just snorts at me. I tell him I'm sure he doesn't need it and that I'm looking forward to seeing his yellow belt. He doesn't even lift his head. Taboo subject.
I go upstairs and watch the freebie DVD of Baghdad CafÃ©, which annoys me, but adds to my unreality feeling, though not in a good way. The laptop was such a good purchasing decision though.
I have dreams of dead relatives and that am carrying a baby in my arms. The feeling of the dream is foreboding. But the dead relatives looked fit and happy.
I resist the urge to watch something else, but I find I have to write out how angry and hurt I am about nothing from green eyes, how stupid I feel, how much I want release from this stupid longing. For thin air. I am feeling sad as I close the book on him, and will probably never logon to hotmail again. Not for a while anyway.
I put the light out and feel like I fall into the absolute blackness of the countryside. After a while the clouds part and the stars are so bright and distant, I fall asleep spying their diamond twinkle. The house is very quiet.
I sleep until ten this morning and feel so much better for it. The body must be obeyed.
I read about composting and pestos in the magazine and then go out for a long walk. The lake has subsided but the burn is running fast and high. The cows didn't float away, no milk shake, and I give them a wave as they peer over the fence at me. All their noses are slightly different shapes, mostly pink but some have mottled colours on them. One has a very pretty heart shaped nose. They don't wave back and are the most silent cows. I wonder if they are pregnant and in the field to be close to the farmhouse. Time will tell. I follow the path around the burn, surf's up today and the glass globe falls are a veritable white water flourish. There is a beautiful tree there, I think a beech, which has every shade of pink from blush to ruddy on it's trunk. It's glorious.
I meet gardener making a bonfire from huge cuttings from a garden they've been redesigning and he confirms the tree is an alder and recommends the Reader's Digest Encyclopaedia for learning plants names. He says that learning the system - Latin - makes new learning easier coz it fits into the system, and the sweetheart oak is actually a sweetheart ash.
I leave them to their bonfire building and go to my chi gung. It's misty blue light and there's big weather coming in again but it's long enough away that I can add Pigeon today, coz I can't remember what comes in between. It's Zen to let go of the order of things anyway.
Lunch and there are visitors, the gardener and the musician and there are several heated debates about the closing of a rural maternity cottage hospital and private health care. I say I choose the latter. I do. And I know how lucky I am, even if life isn't fair, what the hell is it proving to wait months with your bladder, gut and bowel being compressed? Politics is all very well, but given the chance to reduce the stress of major surgery, I am a fascist.
By the end of lunch, there are two dictionaries and a road map on the table proving points.
It all got a bit too much for me though so I do the dishes and go out for a walk for some peace and quiet. It's raining, but it's soft and the light is honeyed blue. The sleet is starting, but I'm well wrapped up for it and walk on. I go to the bottom garden, and walk around the raging burn, Ophelia grass still covered and swaying madly. I turn back at the peak of the loop as the path beyond is still water-logged and find an arrow amidst the trees. I pull it up, my head full of stories.
The alder has dropped a sprig of four seed cones which I pick up to dry out too. I walk up to the labyrinth and past the silver bed. The allium skeleton hasn't survived the blizzard and is on the ground, broken. The head of it is still intact though and I break the stem and take it in to dry too. Flotsam finds on my walk.
I feel strong today and go right up to the top of the garden where my car is parked and walk down the drive spying more beautiful trees to photograph next week. There is a bite to the wind today, and more snow forecast, but it's just sleety rain as the daylight turns in.
I lie on the bed, tired, but not sleepy, and put on y headphones to watch DVDs. Tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
Dinner is another fractious event though. I'm not enjoying this.
I make myself scarce after dishes. No point being in the firing line.
Henceforth Baby Jane Monday. I'm ready to go home.