The air held warmth but the breeze blew cold, autumn had somehow arrived. With it came heather clad rocks, as if over night the feet of a large giant had squashed and bruised the grass below and brambles, thick with dark seeping fruits hung ready for eating. One afternoon as myself and Bea pottered around the outside of our house, we sat, rather still and counted passing cars. The mint had taken over – as mint does – and the damp ground was littered with a collection of once admired shells. I’ve always taken things home. Even as a little girl. On some forgotten holiday I once picked up a starfish from a beach. You see I could never just appreciate beauty and leave. I had to, in some way, hold onto it and make it mine. Stuffing it into my coat pocket that starfish came to live on the side of our bath – deceased by this point – I have vivid memories of it being quite magical and magically it became the anecdote to mine and chris’ first date when he took me to an aquarium. Recently I read that if you want to take something from nature you first need to ask permission, and so one afternoon whilst still happily under the impression that natural treasures where mine to take. I recalled Shug from the drawing shore line and spotted a beautiful shell. Pearly and flat, I had not seen it on my way down and yet it was placed rather deliberately central on the last rock. Immediately I wanted it. Its shell overlapped itself one layer at a time and together this made a sort of wave effect. I called Shug for the last time and as my words drowned out into the sea air I stopped and asked if I could take it. Strangely, I felt I shouldn’t. Although hesitant, I did, for on walking back to the house I told myself, that after all, it was just a shell.I left that large flat shell outside our house for something told me not to bring it in. Had I done so, chris would of taken one look at me and told me to go and put it back. For the next morning as the warm sun opened its eyes, I made my way out of the door for Shug’s morning walk to see that it had opened. I realised I had taken a live oyster. The smell, like that starfish, was enough to make sure I finally learnt my lesson.
One evening as I collapsed into our sofa, the door flung open and a blast of cold air swept into the house. It was chris, it was nine o’clock and I had in fact been tidying the house for hours.
‘Lucy? Are you listening?’
No. I wasn’t. For I realised that the last few weeks had been consumed with tidying. Tidying up coats, toys, dishes. Everything. I sat there and realised that I was in fact swimming in possessions. Had we arrived in Harris with this much stuff? Or had our things begun to breed? It didn’t matter. All I knew was that I was overwhelmed, I was tired and the reason was our stuff. We were accumulating stuff, rather than experiences. As objects increased in volume so did my level of anxiety – this isn’t uncommon -its called consumerism and its heavily linked to depression. Where the things you have rule the next few months of your life as you pay them off – its called debt – and at the end of the day – its called stuff.
‘Lucy? What are you doing?’
‘I’m getting rid of everything we own’
‘Because….. Its what I need to do’
‘Okay, shall I help?’
There’s many a reason why I married chris, but his ability to understand and perceive me as an individual by far outweighs them all. It is of no hidden fact that our lives lived out on mainland were particularly stressful. In a world where we’re told there’s copious ends to meet its easy to get caught up in the idea that we should and need to. Ends however are hard to hold onto and balls of strings more or less are designed to tangle. People find perspective in all sorts of way. I find clarity in moving 500 miles north to an unknown town, most people aren’t that drastic, but then most people don’t get rid of all their stuff. I get asked quite frequently ‘What advice’ or ‘How did you move to the Hebrides?’ Generally that’s followed by, ‘because we really want’ and then the big ‘BUT!’ My advice – let go. Let go of everything you own and just come. Did you know you can buy books in Harris? Really? Yes! Why on earth did you lug four great heavy boxes of them across the highlands then lucy!? I have no idea. Just like that shell I have clung to objects all my life as if in some way they will find me peace and happiness. They don’t and they certainly wont. Let them go. Our whole move would of been much simpler, straight forward and downright less stress evoking had we each come with only a bag of essentials. For what else do you really need? As the weeks rolled by and the hills turned purple I emptied every cupboard, every room, every bag of stuff I could find. At the end, we were left with only the essentials and I was left with empty evenings.
As the cold wind of autumn has blown across the Hebrides with it came a shift in the traffic and the population. No longer was there a constant abundance of people outside the distillery and Chris began to once again take a full day off. One Sunday as we brushed our feet through the sands of Horgabost I noticed a tiny vibrantly hued shell. I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand.
It was beautiful. Small but orange like the sun. I rubbed it between my finger and thumb. It was roughly corrugated on one side and silky to touch on the other. I ached to keep it and yet without even feeling the need to ask I didn’t. I held onto it for some time though, walking up and down that beach. Staring at the mountains ahead of me and wondering if Bea, like myself, felt small in their comparison. Until, truly understanding and at peace within myself I let it go. Dropping lightly into the sand I didn’t even look. For it was beautiful but it didn’t belong to me. It wasn’t mine to take home and admire on my kitchen sill to collect dust, it belonged to the earth. To the eyes of all those who might stop to pick it up and hold it up to the sun in comparison. Our accumulation of things and possession of beauty is not sustainable on this earth, in our home or in our hearts. Everything you need is within the eyes of those around you if you look into them enough. For they don’t house objects but laughter, tears, stories to tell and if you’re very lucky a golden shell to hold up to the sunlight.
To all the beauty in this world. May we see it, may we appreciate it, but above all, may we have the courage to let it go.
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