Autumn has arrived in Harris and with it clusters of thick glossy berries swing from trees like over excited Christmas decorations. The wind, like an old expected friend has come knocking and with it I’ve found great comfort. One evening, as the children fell to sleep, clutching a hot water bottle I thrust my feet into my slippers and pushed my face against the cool glass of the door. My nostrils created a band of steam – it was cold – looking out into the darkness a great comfort descended in the pit of my stomach. It was black, not a soul or headlight past and I realised I was once again alone in the Hebrides. Tucked away, from the bright lights of mainland. The wind beat the heather across the mountain and ferns waved frantically, desperate to hold onto the last of the season. But I had let go already, the summer had swam through my palms like warm sand and I was glad that the wind had returned, bringing with her an old familiar tune.
I was surprised as the heather bloomed and all across the island large patches of grass appeared from afar bruised and burnt. Until at closer inspection I saw the purple bells chiming against one another, ringing hollow in the breeze. I had somehow imagined it to be a spring plant, paving the Hebrides lilac throughout the summer. But this was not the case and as autumn fell and the wind picked up the heather had shown its a lot hardier than it first appeared. From thirsty looking branches bloomed a Hebridean coral that clung to the peat and rock on the hills of the high lands.
It was only as a stirred from the warmth of the bed that I felt a rushed presence in the room. I felt like the outside had rushed in, too quickly, uninvited, not stopping to take shoes or coat off as the midst and cold air made its way up our staircase. Then I heard a cry and my legs followed the sound of fear as it so naturally does when you enter motherhood. Chris ran ahead of me, his coat missing and I felt the cold air detach itself from the fibers of his cardigan and seep into the walls. I couldn’t stop it, I could feel that, something greater than myself and uncontrollable than all of us. My feet so naturally followed him and as I made my way outside I saw the tears dribble down his face. His body unable to keep still, bent over as we do in the face of sudden tragedy. My eyes prizing off of him, moved to the thick padded blue jacket laid on the broken bright pink bench I had so fondly painted in the heat of summer. There lay docket. Unlike the cat which I knew. Curled over like a small fresh water prawn and nestled like a sleeping insect between the folds of a bruising petal.
‘What do we do?’
‘I don’t know Chris’
I had nothing. I had no idea what to do with the body in front of me. I had no idea what time it was or the instructions I needed to give. I had no words of comfort because I had no thoughts to bear them. I was dumbfounded, truly. I felt as if the air was standing still around me. Stagnate, like frozen water, or unpumped blood. A lone car rolled by and I wondered if they knew the sadness they where passing. Would they feel it? Would it seep in through all the gaps and vents? Would their day be changed like ours had. Or, in some cruel world would they drive off into the morning rise, and worry instead, about that bill that would silently dropped through their letter box or ponder what they would have for lunch. You hear stories don’t you where people say ‘I thought it was a bad dream’ and a small part of you thinks how? You knew it was reality. But I felt as if I had woken up drunk, stumbling around in the harsh light of the early morning, where sequences become jumbled and the small hands of time whirl round as if by the force of child’s play. His fur still held warmth but I could feel a heaviness setting in under my finger tips. He wasn’t ours anymore. A neighbouring cat sat still, close, watching, knowing sadness. Until looking at the time as only adults do, we wrapped him up.
‘To keep him warm’ I said, he was gone.
‘Over the rainbow bridge’ Chris said.
Under thick Hebridean moss upon a hill in Harris, where the heather chimes and the sheep keep watch, he’ll forever stay. Wrapped up in the warmth of a very familiar blue coat.
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