Rehab

finally                       upright
and                            braced
swinging                  dead
legs                            between
parallel                     bars
I                                  struggle
towards                    reflections
of                               myself
one                            step
after                          another
says                           physio
walk                          tall
says                           physio
good                          girl
says                           physio
visiting                     hour
enter                         mother
face                           crumpled
and                            pale
my                             baby
is                               broken
she                            says

 

 

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Chilling Out

We are living through dark and difficult times.  It’s hard to stay upbeat and positive under the constant barrage of bad news:- fires in Siberia, more mass shootings in the  U.S., flooding and the horror of Brexit in the UK, riots in Hong Kong, a possible war in Iran….its an endless list.  There are days when I avoid listening to the news. Instead I immerse myself in quotidian activities such as housework, cooking or gardening to try and regain a balanced perspective on life. I find being outdoors amongst nature and animals the best therapy for a gloomy mood.  Also I love creative art – to paint or draw or take photographs  and truly observe the world in all its wonderful detail. It’s important to take time out doing something you enjoy.  It’s important to focus on the little things that make life worth living, to stop and look at the beauty around us.

Here is my favourite mindfulness exercise.  I hope you find it helpful.

1. Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Maybe it is a bird, maybe it is pencil, maybe it is a spot on the ceiling, however big or small, state 5 things you see.

2.  Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, hands, ground, grass, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel.

3.  Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your tummy rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list.

4.  Acknowledge TWO things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment, if you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.

5. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste.

 

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Anger

If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf.”

– Nikita Khrushchev.

 
Anger

For as long as anyone could remember, the seed
had lain cold and infertile, buried in no-man’s
land like a relic from World War Zero until

the black rains began, bloody and reeking
of injustice. Diamond winds blasted, unstoppable,
eroding the top soil until the seed was exposed;

hard, spiky, toxic, untouchable. Acid rains
pooled on the stony ground forming
new rivers like convoluted arteries and veins

reviving the bodies of undead soldiers. The seed
softened and grew into a giant lightning tree
with fiery tentacles encompassing the world.

And we all waited to be struck:-
Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Tolstoy, JFK,
Solzhenitsyn, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King,

John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, Karl Marx, Frida Kahlo,
Rosa Parks, Benjamin Zephaniah, Peter Tatchell,
Marie Colvin, Che Guevara, Maya Angelou, John Pilger.

 

 

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My First Lobster

My lover brought me a lobster

fresh from The Pentland Firth.

My lover wove the creel, steered the boat,

laid the trap, hauled the rope,

boiled the catch.

 

The lobster was beautiful,

pink naked in newspaper.

My lover said, the best is in the tail.

I tore the claws and knuckles, butter sticky,

sucking, licking, probing, splitting,

searching soft white meat.

 

Afterwards,

shell broken, belly filled with seawater

I dreamed of the ocean floor

and my lover waiting.

 

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Photo of Dunbeath harbour by the author

A Fashion Blunder

The February air is zesty with unexpected sunshine and the northern wind softened to a breeze. Spurning my faithful duffle coat I reach for the cashmere coat with a fake fur collar that I haven’t worn since leaving London.  This coat has been on a long journey and in storage for two years.  Its chic appeal seems incongruous in this land of anoraks and woolly hats but why not be different today?  Should I wear the sheepskin gloves or the fluffy angora ones?  I go with the fluffy.  The dusky pink matches my suede boots.

The street is quiet, not even the builders around and no sign of my elderly neighbor who likes to feed the seagulls every morning.  A battered red pick-up truck rattles down the road towards the harbor trailing an aroma of fish.  I’m heading to the village shop for milk and bananas.  As my clumsy fingers place the house key in my coat pocket they dislodge a crumpled piece of yellow paper from the silk lining.  It flutters onto the waterlogged front lawn. The sulfur color reminds me of old moss, the sort that clings to old stone walls.

It’s not a discarded shopping list or a receipt for some long-forgotten object of desire but a couple of cinema tickets; Twenty One Grams.  It’s a poignant film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu about how people’s lives intersect and fragment due to a random event.  The story reveals the patterns concealed beneath the surface of everyday life.  The twenty one grams refers to the amount of weight which is mysteriously lost at the moment of death.

I went to see this film on my thirtieth birthday, the first of March, many years ago now.  We ate lunch in the roof top restaurant of an art gallery overlooking the Thames before going to the cinema.  After the film we drank cocktails in a trendy bar in Knightsbridge.  It was an enjoyable day in a faraway life. Tom and I were both in a good mood and we didn’t mind the cold wind, dodging the rain showers without an umbrella or searching for an elusive parking space.  I didn’t complain about the dirty pavements, the crowds or the traffic.  At that time I’d never heard of Caithness and living in Scotland was a romantic dream.  I was wearing this same grey coat with a leopard fur collar.  It felt like the wrong coat for a wet day.

Today I queue in the village shop while two incomers, a mother and teenage daughter stock up on junk food.  They are horsey types who have adopted a feral lifestyle.  The mother wears a red bandana and a dirty shredded t-shirt any eighties punk would be proud of.  Her bare feet are encased in flip flops.  Jagged green toenails protrude from a crust of mud.  Both women exude a smell reminiscent of rotting potatoes.  They spend more than twenty pounds on sweets and chocolate.  As they exit the shop Elaine reaches under the counter for the air freshener and sprays it around in a protective circle.

On my way home I wonder if I’m wearing the wrong coat.

 

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Photograph taken by the author