Sharing Territory

When I was on Raasay in October I had a couple of close-ish encounters with a sea eagle.  We  passed each other crossing the island a few times and I was able to stop right on the road, get out and watch her flight with an entire island lying at my feet and no traffic jam to beep me on or throw exasperated arms in the air wondering what the hell I was doing.  As I left Arnish in Raasay’s North for the last time, I turned a corner and there she was, this time perched just metres off the road, watching me then watching Skye and the sea, letting me stop, get out to lean on the car and admire the scale of her so much better with less air between us.  I had breathed in deeply through my nose so my chest filled and puffed.  I chucked my camera back in the car.  All the better to see her with.  Then I realised her chest was the way of mine too but she was staying and I was leaving.

I’ve been thinking a lot about territory recently, from various vantage points of my own.  Maybe my experiences with the eagle were the real start of it – the consideration of what it is to move into a space and share it, without asking permission of the other inhabitants.  The knowing what it is to be at the top of the food chain and the beginnings of an appreciation for the fact that I can choose to respect or exploit that.   The overlap in all of that with human experience; what it is to live with someone you don’t normally live with, what it is to live alone, what the formulas are for positivity and co-operation as a group while still ensuring enough space for everyone to test their wings regularly too.

dchtbc 2016 1

My husband and son became vegan last year and their decisions have brought awareness of animal welfare closer to my streams of thought.  Husband made the change to reduce his cholesterol – he’s naturally on the high side of those readings so self-help is prudent.  My son, on the other hand, choose veganism because the more he reads about philosophy and psychology the less he can reconcile eating animals.  And of course when one person in a habitat makes a change, everyone else in the same space kinda does too; a human choice eco-system at work; one which, in this case, has had me considering what I eat and, in even greater quantities of airtime, before we changed an animal’s name to meat or poultry, what was its story on the way to my hands?  The words territory, autonomy, captivity, economy and empathy keep bobbing around in my thought soup.  Part of me wants to push a stick-blender in with them and make it all something that’s easier to swallow while the other part doesn’t trust that that act wouldn’t be a murder of it’s own kind.  So I’m letting it be for now, knowing my brain is working on it while I dream of bizarre things in the nights.

The starting thoughts on territory were backed up by dealings with stags on the same Raasay trip  – and quieter hinds – the latter seen only briefly here and there, darting eyes a jangle of nerves at every footfall, their opportunities to eat in peace apparently never without a readiness to bolt, fast.  Such was the season.

When I arrived at Arnish back in October there were just one and a half hours of usable daylight left in front for a wander into the unknown.  Joining the blissful audio feeds of bird song and seashore were the inelegant, part-beligerent and part-desperate calls of rutting stags.

‘How nearby?’, I’d asked the owners of the Airbnb cottage I was renting.

‘Difficult to say’, they’d said, looking at the trees and rock on the other side of their deer fence.  ‘One’s definitely just up there and the other’s probably within half a K’.

Near, then.

My deaf dog sniffed at the air then checked my bearings and in the moment we agreed an adventure.  We’d leave the unpacking to a job with the head torch later on.  We’d walk outside the fence before dark and take our chances on what we might find and what might find us while we could do it without me stumbling.  The drive had been long and beautiful and I had just five nights to wring everything out of the experience that I could.  So we set off and didn’t come eye to eye with anything other than our own reflections in the glass of old croft house windows.  But the trepidation of every grunt and testosterone laden throat gargle belonging to the antlered ushers around us quickened my heart and dropped lines from my face like no wrinkle cream has ever managed.

There is nothing better for kickstarting the soul than surviving a shared adventure and having the iPhone photos to prove it.

Yesterday I went to the zoo.  The thought to go and see animals arrived in the night and beckoned for exploration, memories of the stags and the eagle calling me back to a limitless place inside myself, probably triggered by spring sunlight pushing its way around everyday spaces, making me smile without thinking.  But of course you don’t find limitlessness at zoos.  At zoos you find talk of research and preservation and squirrels who’ve worked out how to break in to enclosures to pinch food from animals whose instincts for handling vast territories have been forced to recalibrate to restriction, concrete under earth and discreet electric fencing as ever present, non-communicative company.

fullsizeoutput_1e77

I thought about my territory yesterday too.  It’s mainly Edinburgh with frequent stretches across to Glasgow and down to East Lothian.  Less frequently I venture up to Aberdeen and Deeside and, at least once a year, if I was fitted with a tracking device, you’d see me on a screen heading north-west and stopping on an island to meander there for a week or so before winging back across Perthshire and the Forth.   Maybe once every 18 months I go to another country altogether, taking wing in a steel tube and marvelling at real time maps through tiny windows.  My territory, over my lifetime, is pretty enormous, especially compared to some of the chimps who’ve been at Edinburgh Zoo longer than the 42 years I’ve been alive.

IMG_1952

I thought about how if I shrunk my territory in the same way as a Zoo meerkat’s is shrunk,  I’d be allowed a range that just about allowed me to peek at Linlithgow, I reckon, or Eddieston to the south.  Not enough.  Not enough for me by far.

fullsizeoutput_1e7a

So the sea eagle and I have something else in common, apart from our sometimes puffed chests.  We have relative freedom – but me much more so than her.  Sea Eagles were reintroduced to Scotland in 1975 after being hunted to death in 1916.  I’m not sure it’s fair to say they’re thriving yet – perhaps tentative optimism is brave enough for now.  Secrecy is, after all, unbelievably still required about the bird’s nesting sites in order to protect them from humans who wish them harm through their own pursuits for trophies.

The bird I met on Raasay has family with datelines that intersect with my own life.  One of her relatives was around the skies over west Scotland that same hot summer of 1976 I arrived in a nearby part of the world.  We’re connected, albeit tenuously.  I find that comforting.  And while I’m absolutely still pondering territory, I’m definitely done with zoos.

fullsizeoutput_1e79

Advertisements

52and40/36 ‘Tis The Season

My mental health’s gone off kilter recently.  As a health-conscious veteran of PMDD,  postnatal and antenatal depressions, I know when my neurochemistry’s recalibrated in an unhelpful direction.  I’m lucky SSRIs work well for me and I feel positive, mainly, about medical interventions.  I like my life in full, balanced colour.  So, while the palette reloads, I’m taking things easier.

Meanwhile, I’m heartened by the stigma around mental health honesty eroding.  I see people responding with less shock when someone owns a decline.  This rise in empathy and emotional courage really helps.

52and40-1

52and40/11 Dissolving Disasters

img_9856

My friend had been wondering what to inscribe on a  piece of pottery.  She found her answer through Google:

‘Better to light a candle than curse the darkness’

Beautiful, isn’t it?  The kids and I have talked lots recently about ideas around either being part of a problem or part of a solution.  It almost sounds too binary to be valuable but it seems anyone can spot then talk about a problem.  The inspiring folk who provide light and change seem to be rare in their efforts to search out solutions, too.  52and40-1

img_9848

More info on #52and40 here.

Of Mice and Men

Internalised misogyny’s kinda like the rat who lived in our back garden. Every now and then it poked its head out of a small hole in the dry stane dyke and scared the living shit out of me (but thrilled the dog).

For soooooooo long I believed the rat was simply a large mouse.  Then, faced with faecal evidence to the contrary, I spent some time simply telling myself the rat was a large mouse and willing away  memories of the enormo-shits by the bird feed in the shed.  Denial can be a really handy part of adjusting to an unpleasant reality, can’t it?

img_9928

I did not want the rat to be as big a problem as it was – so I simplified it away and mentally minimised it to make it easier to think about.  La la la la la la.

Meantime, the rat had babies and I grew unable to continue deluding myself that the big pink semi-ropes intermittently hanging out the wee wall in the garden were anything other than rat tails.  Then, the sight of a rat climbing the 7ft clematis trellis turned out to be a moment even Instagram filters & wine couldn’t soften.

We are now minus a shed and a rat colony.  We found out the rats were living under the decrepit, old, rotting shed (very low air miles to the bird food) so it was time for the lot to go.

I’ve talked a lot about the rat now and not so much about internalised misogyny, haven’t I?  If you’d like to read me talking about internalised misogyny for reals, I’m chuffed as a rat in a slop bucket to say you can do just that on Bella Caledonia this festive season.

Slainte!

bella_figure_type.png

Good Company

I’m proud to be a Dangerous Woman.

dw logo.JPG

The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh are asking what being a dangerous woman means and providing a myriad of answers, one per day, over the 365 days between International Women’s Day 2016 and International Women’s Day 2017.

My piece, entitled The Business of Incantations is here.

 

52and40/5 Foreground Focus

img_8544

I don’t rage against the dying of the light in a Scottish Autumn.  I like putting on lamps in the afternoon and seeing into people’s windows from the bus; stealing details for stories.  I relish the warmth of the house in contrast to the new chill outdoors.

img_8594

I’m letting the idea that, ‘what’s in the way is the way‘ guide my creativity since hearing it on a podcast.  It’s illuminated a lot for me about further tuning victim narratives into survivor stories; I’m enthralled with the empowerment born from simple cognitive adjustments.

img_847352and40-1img_8596

Read more about #52and40 here.

52and39/36 Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

IMG_9505IMG_9488    IMG_9506

Ubuntu means two things, as far as I know.

I first knew it as the name of a free operating system on a PC  my husband built to prove to himself that no matter how hard Apple and Microsoft tried, they couldn’t catch his maverick ass.52and39

Ubuntu’s also something pre-dating computers and globalisation.  It’s something more important. It’s an ancient African word describing a humanist belief: a philosophy that humans are connected by the bond of a shared story and the power in openness to one another, like in a marketplace.

IMG_9511IMG_9508

You can find out more about Stockbridge Market and its traders here.