‘Do you know why those yellow poles are there? They show you where the edge of the road is when there’s snow. Remember your not in the hills. These are mountains’. Its quite easy to forget that you live upon mountain. ‘What’s it like there?’ ‘Well its like living in the lakes only amplified’ Is generally the best visual response I can come up with when family enquire as to what I look at all day. Whenever we drive to Stornoway I’m always taken back by the sheer volume of the mountainous landscape. There’s something about the Harris mountains that makes me ache. Its not a yearning to be on them as generally we’re headed towards the charity shops. Instead its a pang. A single finger upon a piano making its way up a scale heading towards something higher, lighter. As if every time I see them I breath a little slower and think a little easier and love a whole lot deeper. Like the hands of my mother upon her violin you could say they tune me up. They make me feel something. They make me feel both insignificant and abundant simultaneously. ‘I live in the Outer Hebrides’ You’d think that would be obvious but its not always. Sometimes I need to see the mountains to remember.As the summer rolls on the island has weaved itself in various hues of green as long grasses and feathery moss have crept over its harsh rock. I was shocked and truthfully a little overwhelmed in the change of landscape having just gotten used to the absolute solitude of the wintery sky. As if by mistake the seasons had played a well calculated trick upon me. The moss around me became burnished in the baking heat and the wind no longer brushed my hair and drummed around my ears. I saw waves of unfamiliar faces and as if by child’ s play unknown cars rolled past my window like clockwork. The mountains around me boomed with wildlife and one particular morning as I walked Shug along empty paths, I stopped. Quite taken back by the sheer volume of sound. Someone was hoovering, or was it drilling, mowing? It was only six am and Tarbert was still sleeping. I’ll never forget that moment in my mind as logic turned such noise into the voice of mother nature. The absolute sound of humming wings vibrating off one another. I stood, I have to say, in shock. As we don’t hear those sounds anymore do we? Not in a well rehearsed orchestra. The summer shifted for me in that moment. Mother nature in her abundant glory had moved into the mountains. I listened. I was alone. I was at peace – humming.
One afternoon – say early evening for precision – I sat upon the rickety bench that sleeps outside our door. Activity buzzed beneath the summer rays and I sat quite detached from all that hummed around me. My book balanced under my eyes and I flicked somewhat nonchalantly between its pages. The house sat open as the children dozed upstairs in the coolness of darkened rooms and my legs swung over the lip of our house every so often brushing the heat of the tarmac beneath.
My head lifted to see a tall men stride towards me. His head was covered by a cap, he wore braces and his jeans where a soft pale denim. I liked him. His eyes held a sort of kindness and his voice had that certain twang that’s filled with knowledge. I didn’t know him I’d never met him yet my mind raced to place him.
‘Terry’. I jumped as my eyes filled with admiration for I had spoken to Terry a handful of weeks previous when he had discovered an odd looking thing high upon the rocks of the beach. ‘What is it’ he’d asked and I had known what it was right away. For what he’d found was my hearts desire. Taking years to wash up on the Hebridean beaches they are a beach combers dream. Similar in shape to a rounded heart and glossy when uncased, they journey from the rich waters of the Amazon and end up quite humbly upon the Scottish coast by particular currents. It is my desire to find one and like a child yearning for Christmas in March it has been on my mind for some time. ‘Chris when we move to Harris, maybe I’ll find a sea bean’ ‘Lucy I have no doubt that you will’.I was asked recently ‘What’s the biggest change about moving to the Hebrides’. Now I should state that the person in question meant economically, socially, all the things in which we seem to hold in some strange defining importance these days. So although I answered it correctly for her, my answers bothered me. ‘Well the traffic is different’ There isn’t a roundabout on Harris, nor will you find any traffic lights. ‘You have to be a little more organised with shopping’ Those however aren’t changes there differences. So what was the change? I thought about this for weeks. As I’ve made cups of tea ‘Lucy! Are you listening’ ‘Oh yes yes what about the car?’ As I’ve stood in the queue at the post office with Bea stating her impatience and as we’ve travelled through Lewis. I’ve pondered it. One afternoon as I walked up the mountain side with Shug thundering ahead of me. The rain beat against my face until it hurt and soaked my jeans akin to a second skin. I felt in that moment intrinsically human. The heather waved at my feet and small wild flowers littered the ground like long lost gems. I’d never thought about feeling human. Do we ever? Sometimes we get so tired we state ‘I don’t even feel human’. Or when tragedy hits and numbness takes over dulling any sense of human emotion. But it isn’t something I’ve ever gaged my life upon. How human do I feel? I don’t think people flock to the Hebrides or Scotland as a whole, because its beautiful, although that’s what they may think. I’ve come to believe that people come here because it makes them feel authentically, beautifully one hundred percent human. If mother nature is under attack on this planet Scotland is where she would hide. Mountains so big they house their own clouds with the smallest orchids growing wild amongst the moss. Nature booms and there’s nothing like living in the Hebrides to understand its power. You can pave paradise but it will still push its way through the cracks and make itself known. I have no doubt that the mountains have changed me, both barren and lush its the mountains my mind wanders to. The smell of wet earth intoxicated me and as I walked past loch’s and listened to the call of unidentified birds I scanned the mountainous skyline. Like the backs of dragons laid down to rest they where mythical. I felt swallowed by them, consumed, drenched by the rain I was alone. I was human. As the summer weeks have rolled by so has my ability to grip any sort of time. One balmy evening after a prolonged bout of rain myself and Bea opened the door to potter along the lip of the house. Beas wendy house stood nestled at our side and small clusters of reclaimed pots and boxes housing strawberries and wild tomatoes waited to be fed. Cotton tailed stems wafted in the salty breeze whilst corn flowers and cosmos reached high into the evening sun. Bea picked at the growing collection of herbs, with an inspiring level of awe as only the eyes of the childish can do and my arms – stretching powerfully at my sides – echoed childish noises as we raced the length and breatdh of Fasgadh. It was only as I stared at Bea amused by dangling buds on a neighbouring bush that I realised she had her wellingtons on the wrong feet. Bea dresses herself – or not – as most days pan out, but nevertheless her body is hers to dress and we give her absolute control over it. It was of no surprise that her wellingtons inhibited the wrong soles, this does frequently happen but on this occasion it made me think. When would she stop caring? When do we all stop caring about the wrong shoe? The wrong wellingtons, car, house? As my mind wandered, my yellow wellingtons sitting on the right feet sat strikingly against the dark tarmac. It was only on her tottering away that I realised my mouth had uttered a quiet ‘thankyou’ as Bea had softly unfurled my hand and lay four pink buds in my palm. One for each of us I thought. We were alone. I sat quite content in that moment as Beas small face was rounded and softened in the sun and I looked upon the heather clad mountains that surrounded us and thanked them for changing us. She was mud covered, fresh faced, wild and unapologetically feral. I watched as her small body danced in the evening sun. ‘Someone’s enjoying themselves’. ‘Ah she always does’ and as I rose to meet her I vowed in that moment I would climb any mountain set in front of me so that my children could carry on exploring theirs.
To Lucy. Climbing her mountain. Inspiring others.
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