“Portrait of a Woman,” Zinaida Serebriakova, 1923, WikiArt.

Where does old age come from? Years island-
Spent, amongst things unchanging, ebb and
Flow of tides, surf crashing on rocky shores,
Life’s grist, wearing flesh and bone. I’ve seen
In Papa’s face. Strain of daily chores, mother
Tiring easily, resting on winding heights,
Along stone-banked streams, we contemplated
Life, time sun-moon passing, grassy clumps
Wind-waving, shawl yarn, she unraveled,
Released, until ensnared by thorny thistles.

For quiet moments, we did not speak, except
Her extended hand, “Come, Willow, walk these
Stone fences with me.” How with turn of stone,
Each hand-fitted, meandering hillsides, sheep
Tending, shearing, yarn spinning, and yes that
Unruly ram. “What is island given is time leant,”
She began. “O! Sunny days when flesh and soul
Were proud.” I felt her meaning in gentle hand
Squeeze, work-toughened hands, life devoted
To family on outer Hebridean Isles.

How I yearned for childhood passing, days on
My own, hillsides and shores, knowing home
Paths, Beven my peat pony, head shaking,
Harness bells ringing, if I wrong-turned as
Night fog rolled in. Yes, we watched for Papa’s
Lantern light, flickering flame visible just
Beyond arm’s reach. “You’re late, follow me,”
He said, anxious. “We are both too old for
This.” With single snort, Beven agreed. No,
I daren’t not ask where old age came from.
Maybe it was from raising me.

For now Hebridean Willow has returned. She appears older now.
How long will she stay? I do not know. Thanks for reading.

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