Like the Harris hills that quietly stand and let the wind pass over them, there have been books in my life that have stood humbly on my bookshelf and quietly changed who I am. I find great solace and comfort in words written solidly on a page, I always have done. There’s something very definite and unwavering about them. Like the sea. You know it’s there but every so often you wander down just to check that its still ebbing and flowing, and quietly, without you, it gets on with its job until you look again. I’m not just talking about great works here, but the childhood picture books that start us on our journey into navigating this world into which we arrive. Every time we settled into bed for a loud exclaim of ‘Just one more!’ to echo from our once smaller jaw lines. There’s a lot to be said for children’s books and programmes, I whole heartedly believe their simple messages should be cherished and clung to as we grow into adult life. They show us uncomplicated faces and hearts, so we might find some peace within them for the complicated lives we lead as we grow old. I often think would people act differently towards each other if we all flicked through the pages of children’s books, once again marvelling at the warmth the drawings emit and finding comfort in kind words written in ink? I like to believe so.
I’m not ashamed to say I do, I love them, and chris will happily tell you that if he puts something on the tv for me to watch its generally the children’s BBC adaptation of Katie Morag. He doesn’t even ask me anymore. A lot of characters I know and love have simply re joined my journey into motherhood from being a child myself, but Katie Morag was different. Her way of life and adventures were not part of my childhood. I hadn’t grown into a young woman with her on the bookshelf. Instead she marched firmly into my life in my early months of motherhood, marching out from my tv and plonking herself rather proudly on my wooden folding table. Nor has she left since. For she has always shown herself and reminded me that she was there at various life changing events in my story. I was gifted ‘Katie Morag and the wedding’ as we got married and once more as we got through the challenging days of a new born she was put onto the tv. Until we found ourselves being asked to sail across the ‘sea to struay’. So you see I have great faith in books and the characters that our born into our everyday lives – real and fictional.
I ponder a lot over the sentences written. The writing as a whole takes only a handful of stolen evenings, but the pondering takes a few weeks. I spend evening upon evening making sure that what is written is exactly the way I felt, saw and experienced it. Doing that steals rather a lot of time, but it has to be done. Otherwise its not accurate – and accurate it has to be – because yes its magical and idyllic but its still real life. Its hard. One day in particular I stared down at the living room floor littered with yesterdays baby grows, nappies, crayons and books and wondered at what point when my back was turned it started to look like that. Upon looking down at my two children who’s crying had become so relentless, I glanced down at my very grubby jeans and thought, when did I in turn begin to look like my living floor? I made the executive decision there and then that I had in fact had reached my limit and the only thing I could do was sit down and join in. It was a hard day. It was a hard week. It was motherhood. Motherhood brims with joy but its also peppered with a loneliness and sadness that overwhelms at the best of times. I recently read a woman’s magazine where with much passion it stated ‘Behind every great woman is herself!’ and I thought really? I’m not so sure? So for over a week I wandered up and down the paths of Tarbert with Noah and Bea in tow pondering who was behind me. It certainly wasn’t myself, I wasn’t even in front of me.
We’ve been on the island two months now, with so much happening within that time frame that when put into figures it seems we’ve done the impossible. I tried not to think too far in advance regarding our move – doing that would have been too overwhelming – so I made small milestones in my head to gravitate towards. One aspect which I didn’t think about was how many ‘firsts’ we would go through. Moving somewhere completely new is a little like starting your life a new. You have many things in which you simply have to do again, like joining the library, dentist and doctors, meeting next door neighbours and introducing yourself to new faces. Some may think the outer Hebrides is isolated, its not. Here people need people, the communities are closely weaved just like the tweed they are famous for. Without each other people wouldn’t thrive. Its these characters that colour our pages and enrich our lives. Even on the remote lands of the Hebrides no man is an island.
One early morning we jumped into the car and headed down to Luskentrye, it was crisp and cold. Chris said that day there was more money to be counted on the seas of the Hebrides than anywhere else. As we dipped in and out on the one track road, I tried to count all the sun pennies just to see if I could give him some kind of figure. He was right though, there was too much wealth out there too pin down. Its a funny thing becoming a parent, you become a team like never before but when the nights roll into the days and your thoughts become someone else’s you can easily lose sight of why you are. As we tumbled onto the beach – quite literally – we ran and jumped our way to the thundering waves. It was deafening and the wind bracing, but if you looked over your shoulder the sun rose up and a shimmer led you back along the sand. It was nothing I had ever seen before. To be faced with such movement and energy to steal only a glance behind at inky silhouettes over a fiery stillness I could of sworn was in the middle east. As chris carried Bea upon his shoulders and I tucked Noah’s wind swept face into my chest. I realised that behind this great woman was a great man. A husband, father, son, and its the supporting characters in our stories that are really behind us.
To Chris. The great man who walks behind me.
You can now find me over on Instagram @islandwife_hebrides for daily uploads of life in the Hebrides as well as live videos of our family adventures.