My mother lived over 20 years on the island of Graemsay in Orkney, in a home called "Clett". My father died there in 1995 and within years, in her 50s, my mother - Avril - was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer's. Cared for for many years by a gracious community in the island she loved, here is a poem, written by a friend on the island. Copyright A.R.
'Avril' by A.R. February 2007
If you came by Windbreck over the hill
or by Scarataing under the broken cliffs
to the silent house above the shore
it would be the same: your wall stands firm
and the tall ships of your willows blow
and all is well.
The raggle-taggle fuchsia by the garden door
in hard midwinter waits
and in the rank grass sleeping now,
Veronica, wild iris, rose, montbretia, meadowsweet
in innocence and silence wait
and all is well.
A stone hut by the shore
stone on stone to the eaves,
a flagged roof, a plank door.
Remains of tackle, tar, caulk, creel,
scraps of net like lace.
The season passes.
From the South West a breeze
bringing hope and resurrection.
This one is in tribute to the many stone walls that Mammy built on her land to protect her sapling trees.
'Waller' by A.R.
Stone waller, my dear, dry-stoned and love laboured.
With stone all day labours, lovingly,
each stone caresses. No line;
eye alone is her level.
Stone waller, my dear, day long
in her garden. Dogged. Stubborn.
Stone from the shore, sea quarried,
wheelbarrowed and muscled,
stone-bedded and blessed. Stone,
shelters rose, willow, wren.
A.R was a good friend to my mother and father. My mother remained on Graemsay for another 11 years after my father died aged 49.
This photograph is of the hills of Hoy, looking over the Kirk where Dad's ashes were buried. We are going down to bury Mum's ashes alongside his, as was her wish.
In memory of Dick Haynes
When the moon comes flying over the sea
and the call of the curlew reaches me,
when sunrise turns the stony shore to jewels,
and golden dewdrops gleam on mushroom stools,
I think of island days, oh days of old,
and some were days of grey and some were gold.
We talked of trailers, tackle, a boats prow,
oh many things. And I remember how
we talked the sun down to the ocean's rim,
and messed about until the yard grew dim.
Oh man, what days were they that passed us by,
under the wind's wail and the gulls' cry.
Never another day, oh never another day
and some were days of gold, and some were days of grey.
“SOLILOQUY January 2007 – on hearing that Avril will not be returning to Graemsay.
When I think of you I see flowers
pushing through the ragged grass
and you in your garden.
I keep the picture in my head.
In the tall grass of a garden
where wall meets wall at an angle
and little trees thrive, spore of silver lichen sweat
for times gone by.
I hear the roaring shingle at the shore
and see the moonlight
on the ocean's rim.
The stars in the sky are singing tonight;
a myriad stars are singing and dancing.
One star alone is silent, drifts
down the night, silent.
I rage but she does not hear me.”