Pearls and Oysters

“TOUGH MUDDER CHALLENGE”

Sometimes you think you’ve handled things well and suddenly without warning 10 years after a tragic event the tears come flowing as if it were the latest news.

This happened to me yesterday as I read in our local paper the “Arran Banner” about a group of 20 somethings from the island who took part in the military style obstacle course called the UK Tough Mudder 2013 to raise money in memory of their friend Lucy Ford who died in 2003 of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 16. Lucy was my son’s best friend, but she was also a part of our family life as she lived next door for a while and grew up running rings around her real and surrogate big brothers. She was smart as a whip and caused many rueful laughs among the adults with her common sense approach to things and her “no nonsense” attitude to being surrounded by the village boys in our football field. She later played rugby at Arran High and had no respect for gender restrictions along with her best friends.

The group raised £3000 in the challenge which will be divided equally between the Clarke Lister Brain Haemorrhage Foundation and the Arran Mountain Rescue Team.

It’s hard to know where those 10 years have gone and surprising to find out how spontaneous the pain still is at such a loss in our lives. I cherish the time when these young people were deciding what to do “when they grew up” which they had to do quickly in 2003 as Lucy was not the only teenager to be lost to us that summer. That they should get together 10 years later and honour her memory shows that though they still remember they are taking some action and achieving something quite spectacular.

I remember sitting one day looking out my living room window when a little white car pulled up outside and began to unload one long pair of black clad legs after another, followed by the red T-shirts of Arran High prefects. It was like some kind of strange beetle unfolding as I watched, metamorphing into five long tall sixth year boys who are now  scattered across the world, following their destinies.

Now it’s my grandgirls time to go through those years of exploring who they are and what they want to be. It will indeed be interesting to see what they decide to do. I hope as they grow that life will spare them the grief that Simon and his friends had to face.

The good thing is that they have a “team’ of parents, grandparents uncles and aunts to support them as they go through the long-legged beetle stage (after all, it’s not gender specific). That “team” will hopefully be able to help and advise when necessary and “let go” when appropriate. They are lucky girls!

Blythe813 Fernie813

“FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL AUGUST 2013”

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

(Details on Scottish Island Mum website about Meditation through Writing)

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

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Pearls and Oysters – 29/8/2013

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402

“The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” – Albert Einstein

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the famous “I had a dream” speech. 50 YEARS! HALF A CENTURY!  I watched the documentary about the speech on BBC. Things have changed in that we no longer have “colored only” toilets and Rosa Parks would be able to ride wherever she wanted to on the bus. She was quoted as having said that she didn’t want to start a revolution, she was just plain tired after a day’s work and wanted to go home.

It was shocking to see the film footage of events in Birmingham, Alabama where the police set firehoses on groups of children and used ferocious dogs supposedly to keep crowds under control. But my heart lifted when the busses began to pile into Washington and 200,000 people marched and listened to that famous speech. I can remember even now what it was like to be a 17 year old and really wishing I could be on one of those busses.

I couldn’t watch  without tears, listening to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary and the wonderful voice of Marian Anderson, and remembering how many powerful Hollywood stars backed the cause.

And things have changed. There are still many situations which are less than ideal for black people to rise above the prejudice and obstacles and be who they want to be. But there is a black president and the police are accountable for the type of violent behavior they caused back then.

The idea of non-violent resistance is as pertinent today as it was 50 years ago. You don’t have to look far to see the effects of violence, most poignantly at the moment on the children of Syria. I for one keep hoping  that the perpetrators of violence will sit round the table and come to an agreement instead of arguing and blaming each other for the situation.

So ” I have a dream” — that my granddaughters will grow up in a world where people have the courage to talk through their differences and to realise that getting angry hurts the angry person the most. Our political leaders are at a turning point as to how they handle the current impasse in the Middle East. Let’s pray that they have the courage to take the most peaceful path and set a precedent for dealing with conflict which will grow and last.

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

(Details on Scottish Island Mum website about Meditation through Writing)

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

Headspace

Pearls and Oysters – 28/8/2013

Denmark - Sheila Noren

“NOSTALGIA”

This photo from Sheila Noren  called ‘Lunch with a View’ – Denmark, brought back instant memories and a sense of nostalgia for Scandinavia which never seems to go away. Around the time I moved back to Scotland in 1975, my cousin Joan married a Swede and moved to Sweden where she lived for 5 years and walked the same streets I had walked in my time there. Apparently I wrote a letter to my Aunt and Uncle saying that it seemed that the Rosses had unfinished business with the Vikings and that certainly seems to be the case for both my cousin and I who share that nostalgia. It also gives us a means of teasing our other cousin Elizabeth as she gets very grumpy when we start to speak Swedish together – can’t think why!

I think the nostalgia originates in the formative years I spent in Sweden between 25 and 30, carving out my own identity, having the freedom to adopt new aspects of my environment and making them my own. I studied at University totally engrossed in the brain development of bilingual toddlers, became VERY political embracing the freedom which feminism allowed and was able to articulate anti-war sentiments and still to this day believe that war accomplishes nothing and anger only hurts the angry person.

I liked the spring, summer and autumn seasons there, but absolutely hated the empty darkness of winter in my everyday life. I loved commuting by fishing boat when we lived out in the Stockholm islands and while I never was much good at rowing, except when we were becalmed out sailing and there was no other choice, I loved being on the water and still love boats, and I loved little cafes on the waterfront that served open sandwiches drowning in prawns with a sprig of dill.

So I carry the gift that Scandinavia gave me of becoming part of my personality at a crucial time in my life, and I carry the gift of nostalgia which comes with being rooted in one place but holding fond memories of another.

My daughter gave me this print from Lisa Congdon. It’s a quote from Louisa May Alcott: “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

My daughter knows me so well and knows what my priorities are and I wake up every morning with this hanging opposite my bed as a reminder of what I am about.

Louisa May Alcottby lisa congdon

To be living in a place I love with the sea all around, with nostalgia for a place on the sea which gave me many challenging experiences is the best of all possible worlds. Sheila belongs to both worlds in that we first met in Sweden in the early 70’s when we were both teaching English. She still lives in Sweden but has a cottage on Arran.  I met her again in a gallery on the island and as we were chatting I knew she was familiar. That the connection went so far back was amazing and I love the fact now that she posts photos of Sweden on Facebook which take me back there instantly, though at the same time leaving me grounded here.

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

(Details on Scottish Island Mum website about Meditation through Writing)

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

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Pearl and Oysters – 21/8/13

Oyster Shells from Loire Atlantique with Arran Beach Stones

Oyster Shells from Loire Atlantique with Arran Beach Stones

“BENCH MARKS, TRANSPLANT BENCH MARKS AND TIDAL MARKS”

Window Bench

My new window bench

Bench Mark

Pete and the boys put the finishing touches on the bench.

I love days like yesterday and today. A morning of support and fellowship from neighbours and Anne our amazing co-ordinator at Glen Estate. An afternoon of meditation then time for a pedicure with Hot Chili toenails and a visit from Pete and Fiona to put the bench in place. Now I can see my pots at window height and so far this morning I’ve seen not one but TWO red admiral butterflies at flower level.

Tomorrow is the day for my regular trek to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as part of the ongoing transplant assessment. It occurred to me that they in fact use “bench marks” to determine suitability and timing  so the word has taken on a complete new meaning for me, especially if you can see red admirals.

Going to Edinburgh is always a reminder of my underlying health problems which are controlled on a day-to-day basis and then I have to face my feelings about it all again.

Basically, I am grateful for my illness because it made me stop and change track to a much more authentic me and it also let other people know that I was not always the great  coping, floating swan but was in fact paddling furiously underneath to stay afloat.

To quote a recent post on my Facebook page:

Unicorn

Whatever brings me to my authentic self will always be a blessing. It’s a painful process sometimes because it means pruning back unnecessary growth or sideshoots, which in turn means letting go what seems a part of myself until I realise that I CAN heal and the healing person is becoming more what I want to be.

I’ve been immersing myself in Philippa Gregory’s wonderful historical novels about the strong women Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Each of them influenced the changes which brought new kings to the throne of England. Their stories have been dramatised in ten parts on BBC as “The White Queen” and there are two brilliant documentaries about the women, narrated by Philippa herself. If you’ve missed the series, it is out in DVD and should be on public television in the US quite soon. My granddaughter Blythe aged 12 has read them all and is now recommending that I read “The Other Boleyn Girl” which takes the story a step farther into the time of Henry VIII.

While I was wondering what I wanted to read as a follow up, I happened to read a review in a magazine in the doctor’s surgery of the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It is the story of a women’s solo journey walking the Pacific Coast Trail through Northern California and Oregon and is so timely as I ponder the meaning of being a “third culture kid”, and remember that the Sierra’s played a large part in my upbringing as a teenager because camping trips and climbing were a big part of life at weekends and holidays. I’m looking forward to reading about it all again.

Another book that I noticed in a magazine was one of a series by a Norwegian author, Tove Finnanger. She has written Tilda’s Seaside Ideas, available on Amazon, a lovely book of crafts to make on a seaside theme and a lovely book just to look at. I especially like the sea urchin.

Meanwhile through reading and writing, I will set my own benchmark as I begin a dialogue with my illness which brought me to such a point of change, and realise that I don’t miss or need those sideshoots any more.

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

(Details on Scottish Island Mum website about Meditation through Writing)

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

Headspace

New Directions – 32

Blue Moo

“BLUE MOON, GREEN & YELLOW BUSSES”

This is the traditional answer to the old joke, “Why are Glasgow busses like bananas?” Because they are green, yellow and come in bunches.

To me they are like insights, you search for them, wait for them to come regularly and they turn up in bunches.  This week I had an opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with our local doctor as part of a patient survey on how the National Health Service is working. This meant confronting the trauma of my original illness and thinking about all the months since. Apart from the odd niggle caused by lack of communication between hospitals and transport services, I have nothing but praise for the way I’ve been cared for and the fact that I can ask questions and be taken seriously any time.

The second opportunity to look at my situation came from an interview with the co-ordinator here at Glen Estate to make sure that my needs are being considered specific to my circumstances practically, physically, mentally and emotionally. As part of a housing package this is great security  and I would wish for everyone my age to have this back-up as we face getting older and  “letting go” of the need to be in control.

All of this came through in the feedback from two pieces of writing I’d submitted as part of my Meditation with Writing course, giving me the courage to continue the journey that is my writing and my memoirs, heading for another published book. Most of all I realise that this is what I want to do and that I’m in the perfect situation of time and place to do it, even taking the obvious limitations into consideration. Watch this space!!

Speaking of the Meditation through Writing course, you may find it interesting and most useful to read Fiona’s “Stress Busting Manifesto”

You can find this on her website where there is also information about the next Meditation through Writing course with a testimonial from yours truly which explains how I feel about this course and the opportunity it has given me.

Tonight there will be a Blue Moon, which is exactly the opposite of those Glasgow Busses. A blue moon is usually used to describe a second full moon in a single solar calendar month, which happens every two to three years. Last night’s moon was spectacular so here’s hoping the cloudy sky will disappear before 10 pm, so that the moon can give a repeat performance.

I should have realised with all this clarification and insights into my situation something unusual was in the air. As soon as I saw the moon, I remembered.

Thank goodness for moonlight, lightbulbs, and other moments of enlightment. Random as they sometimes are they are also spotlights on the situation pointing the way for us, even when our own batteries need recharged.

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

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New Directions – 31

Walden Pond1

“BETWEEN SUMMER AND FALL”

There are so many feelings associated with this time of year. Melancholy for the loss of the warm summer days, which were especially good this year and a poignancy that the air is cooler and the longest day is well behind us. However there is joy as well as the rowan trees glow with their bright red berries and the hydrangea are  in full bloom.

On my table i have a small bouquet from the garden with strawberry and cream hydrangeas, a bright orange marigold and sprigs of ginger mint,  rosemary and bay leaves which I will use in cooking.

I could wish that my garden had produced more this year, but I choose to concentrate on setting the scene for next year, laying slabs, sorting my gorgeous blue pots and looking forward to installing a shelf so that I can see some of the garden from inside the flat.

At the same time that we put summer behind us and enjoy the harvest, no matter how small.

Fall always feels like a time of new beginnings. Maybe because it was always the start of the school year, but there is an excitement in exploring new ideas and finally catching up with that pile of books. It is also a very productive time for writing as there are fewer distractions than in summer.

In our family it’s a time of birthdays, which bring their own memories and connections to each other. None of us will ever forget October 2001 when Jill and Chris were living in Boston during those terrible events and the rest of us had booked airplane flights to be there just after Jill’s new baby, Blythe, was born. No thoughts of danger or cancellations, we were all going to be there.

On one beautiful Fall afternoon I walked round Walden Pond in the footsteps of Thoreau with most of my immediate family and felt so privileged to be there in such a peaceful surrounding celebrating the birth of my first grandchild (who was home sleeping).

When we left to come home, I suddenly realised that we were driving through the same tunnels to the airport as those men had done the month before with such evil in mind. My most striking thoughts were about birth and renewal and how even in the midst of such intent, we can always hope and  believe in the future. What a luxury..

Meanwhile it remains to be seen what this Fall will bring as the leaves change and the air cools and the Earth prepares to go into hibernation for the Winter.

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

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Photo: On Walden Pond October 2001

New Directions – 30

Hydrangea1

Strawberry and Cream Hydrangea

“CELEBRATING TRUST”

TRUST HOUSING ASSOCIATION celebrated 40 years of providing affordable housing this week. We had a lunch party on Wednesday at Glen Estate with festive decorations in the communal lounge and a group of local musicians entertaining us with ceilidh music, Burns songs and a lovely rendition of a song from Toy Story 2 from one of the younger generation. There were enough leftovers to have another lunch on Thursday, though we missed the musicians.

I was asked to write a short piece for the monthly TRUST magazine based on my experience with the organisation and while it doesn’t stretch back 40 years we do go back a ways. I’m printing the article here because it says a lot about the changes in our family and the thread that is my involvement in TRUST.

“TRUST came into my life in 1996 when I was in the middle of a planning nightmare which meant that we couldn’t in the end build what we thought was our dream family home. We were allocated a 3 bedroom home in Glen Place which was the perfect size for our family at the time.

I became a Tenants’ Representative a  few years later and suddenly in 2010 I found myself elected as National Chairman of Trust for Scotland. This suited me enormously because I was about to retire and it gave me something to focus on during all the changes in my life.  My family grew up and moved off the island, which I was expecting but then at New Year in 2010 I became seriously ill and it was clear as I started to recover that I couldn’t manage the house I was in. It was now too big and had a steep set of stairs.

I was fortunate to become a tenant in a much smaller flat at Glen Estate, round the corner from where we lived previously. I’ve been here just over a year and really appreciate the combination of being independent and having support when I need it.

I miss my work with Trust but I am very grateful for my new situation and a chance to meet people I didn’t know before, despite the close-knit Arran community. I’ve experienced the organisation both from the management side and being a tenant and in both roles I’ve experienced how positive and caring Trust can be.”

Sometimes we don’t get what we think we want, only to find that what we have is ever so much better. That’s certainly been the case for me – all part of learning not to dwell on what you haven’t got and appreciate what you’ve got.”

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

Headspace

New Directions – 29

Sassenach visit August 20136

Arran – The Sleeping Warrior

“MEANWHILE BACK AT THE BLOG..”

The past two weeks have had their own momentum and it feels good to be settled again after the upheaval. I was in hospital for five days for routine treatments and have taken the last few days to recuperate and find my centre again.

Meanwhile my family turned gender issues on their head as my sister who is a minister married my brother and his partner Paul in Seattle where gay marriage is now legal. They have been together for 29 years, longer than any of the rest of us were married.

The younger generation was represented by my son Chris and Louisa, my younger son Simon and my niece Caitlin and the resident Schnauzers, B.J. and Casper.  The rest of us were there in spirit and could view the ceremony on YouTube, dog barks and all.

I’m so proud to belong to such a family where despite all the ups and downs things can be spoken about openly and geographical distance is no barrier, though I do so wish I could have been there in person.

At the end of the day love and human ties are the most important. Our local minister Angus quoted Desmond Tutu in the church magazine with regards to the rows that are going on in the church in Scotland at the moment. He said “There are much more important problems in the world to address than who is sleeping with who.”

It was great getting out and about this past weekend thanks to my friend Jeff from Leeds who came for a visit with his pal Brian and brought the car over on the ferry. They had never been to a Highland Games before – so we can excuse them for not having a go at tossing the caber and throwing the hammer. The atmosphere was Arran at its best with pipe bands from off the island joining our local crew to provide the background music.

We drove round most of the island, sampled local food including venison and Arran Ice Cream and had the best ever fish and chips at the Douglas Hotel. There were some funny moments of miscommunication, for example when the waiter explained that the fish was pollock. It sounded to the English ear as though it had a “b” at the beginning. Luckily I could do a quick translation!!

I’m just about to start the third month of my friend’s course Meditation through Writing, thoroughly enjoying the Illustrated Journal that is coming together as I work through the material. I’m also working with Headspace which I think is well worth a look. They offer TAKE TEN – ten minutes daily of guided meditation free to introduce the concept. I’m carrying on with the programme  and working with TAKE FIFTEEN. With all that’s going on around, it’s  a great experience to just let things go for 15 minutes a day and simply breathe.

And finally, I heard from Bloomsbury Publishers today that the first draft of my book PRACTICAL WEAVING looks great. I’m like a kid with Christmas presents labelled “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL DECEMBER 25TH”, I just can’t WAIT to see it!

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To read about my textile and artistic work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

(Details on Scottish Island Mum website about Meditation through Writing)

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

Illustrated Journaling

Useful Website:

Headspace

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