A fiery red orange sun, swimming through the dawn like a large brass penny. Set the glass at the back of the house blazing. Tracing the clouds above in gold leaf. At the front a heavy sea mist still hung over the waters of Port Charlotte, like a thick velvet curtain shut on the final bow. Through it a lone fishing boat – large and long – sliced the water like a pair of scissors measuring fabric. I stood alone. Early hours for most, though not for me. A longing to walk out rushed over me and I felt at once impulsive. Putting legs into rubber boots and forgetting my coat. I shut the door behind me – quietly as to not stir sleeping bodies before setting out into the haar. The land effortlessly still around me, a panoramic view of a panoramic world. Breathing in cold salted air, up and down, tingling clear airways still drowsy with heavy sleep. Only me, alone. Walking and walking – left, right, left, right. The waters edge now at the edge of my wellingtons, lapping as if turning back to greet me. Me, an old friend. Dawning still, the sun gaining renewed strength warmed my face a little but the breeze pushing off the Atlantic was stronger and a minty coolness swam in flooding the earth. I’d been stood for a long time now. Too long. Standing alone at the edge of the world. Staring out onto the horizon of blue meeting blue. Water meeting sky, drawing a line like a run away stitch. I was growing cold and shuddering, double blinked turning my mind back into the small living room. Motionless, I’d been stood for a long time. Transfixed over the water through the double glazed glass. I had not gone. My imagination instead pushing the shuttle at a steady pace. The noise of the machine creating an intoxicating rhythm, I am, I am, I am. An interesting imagination peddling an interesting pattern of thought. Like a weaver making cloth on a loom. Steadily guiding the edge.
For the vast majority of my life I have lived on the coastline and so my inner compass is a very simple one. Either I’m heading towards, away or along the waters edge and from there I find my destination. As long as I know where the water lies I can pretty much find my way around. Which made living in Aberdeenshire between moves a pickle. ‘I think the waters that way’ Chris would point. To which crunching my face into a tilt I would display my hesitance to agree. The coastline would appear unexpectedly dropping off the edge of the land. Giving no warning to a startling degree. I never knew were I was in Aberdeenshire, but I knew I shouldn’t of been there. Patchwork fields of gold and green weaved together by natures shuttle held little majesty for me. Farmhouses embedded deeply into the landscape, heavy handily weaved a deep loneliness into the fabric of my days to which no seamstresses hand could unpick. I just need to get to the waters edge I’d say. Then she will come, but she diddn’t. The dear dear friend I had found through the fresh flow of ink had gone astray. The pattern wasn’t matching up to that in the guide and threads with no creative director lay everywhere. As if scrambling to find a pen when needing to take down an important number. I became frantic left to memorise instead, jumbling up the numbers in the process. It was no use the call could not be made. The dialling tone rang flat and I found myself alone, unable to trace the edge.
I do so enjoy the sights that come with living on an island and I often say to Chris ‘well you wouldn’t see that on the mainland’. If quizzed – which often I am – answers to questions like ‘What’s your favourite thing about living in the Hebrides?’ often take people by surprise with how mundane and ordinary they are. Of course, the views and beaches are surprisingly beautiful and often in the height of summer believing you are still in Scotland needs some persuasion. But it is the very humdrum things I love the most. Sheep dogs, obedient at the crofters heel. Harsh black rocks growing delicate sea pinks on their backs. The sound of a lone bag pipe drifting through the rain. Washing flapping wildly enough to harness its own renewal energy source. Small white boats bobbing on the water like toys in a tub. Two men sitting on a bench on the back of a moving trailer engaged in a chat. I had to laugh when that one drove past, great way to see the island mind you. Highland coos heavy set in the middle of a road as if awaiting toll money. A sheep who having been through a bog and managed to get out, has in a huff brought half of it back out with her like a coat of armour. Bright yellow rubber fishing boots. The wind screaming rattling and shaking every fibre of the island. Fish straight out the water, strung onto string. Its these ordinary occurrences weaved into the fabric of life that make living on the edge – liveable – because it is hard, and it gets lonely, and it gets bloody cold, and sometimes for goodness sake I’d just like to order a takeaway to the door, or pick up fast food from a drive through, or go to a huge store where I can buy clothes along with a packet of grapes. However I’ve learnt somewhat painfully, that that isn’t life but convenience. A convenience which ages rapidly. A convenience which will age you rapidly. A convenience which knitted so tightly into the fabric of life becomes impossible to unpick and distinguish between the two.
Fresh mackerel arrived at the front door, still dripping and gleaming with water. ‘They don’t smell like fish?’ I reported. ‘Well they wont do Lucy they only came out the water a minute ago’. Tied on a string Chris held them up to the light before placing them against the the silver tin of the kitchen sink. They were really beautiful things. ‘Don’t gut them yet! I want to stare at them’. Stitched skilfully with iridescent threads of silver and blue. Their bellies reminded me of mother of pearl against the inky stripes of their backs. Millions of small scales intricately crafted to sparkle as if someone has painstakingly sewn sequin after sequin after sequin until the artwork was complete. Fins as delicate as a butterflies wing, they were extremely beautiful. I loved simply looking at them. Chris’ hands so steady and sure gutted them before preparing them in garlic and butter. I stood, content at watching a skilful hand. A craftsman preparing an artwork.
The world inside my head seemed so very quiet to me as I stared out at the edge. As if binding the edges of a quilt I felt the puzzle of fabric connect. The haar having swallowed up the other side of the island was now receding, leaving in its wake a water of steely blue. Still waiting upon the dawn breaking through to the front, the land looked crafted in dullness. I stared. I stared long and hard at that edge. That infinite and indefinite line. The thud of my heart ‘I am, I am’ loud and hard within my eardrums. ‘A year today’ my mouth said. A year since Harris had been left. The mist had been thick that day as well, until breaking over the hills into Lewis the sun parting the dawn etched the lining of the clouds in gold leaf. Strange, I thought. Cloud is cloud and days are days. Days threaded in a technicolor of joy and sorrow. Colours I would not have chosen myself, but steadily weaved irregardless. Only the underside of life’s embroidery visible. Always a mess. ‘Unskilled’ I used to sob. ‘I am unskilled to do this job’. The sun now breaking through, cast down a shaft of light like an arrow from the heavens. Giving way to a hundred sun pennies glittering gold on the waters surface. As if upon growing tired of hanging in the balance of the skies, the stars had come down to rest. I stared. Tracing my finger along the glass. Wiping away the condensation to reveal a new birth of light with each traced stitch. The water becoming threaded with a thousand strands of gold and silver. The clouds silver linings traced upon the waters calm surface. Like a weaver embellishing his finished cloth, smoothing down the waves of fabric, admiring a pattern well planned.
“My life is but a weaving. Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colours. He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow; And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper. And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent. And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas. And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful. In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver. In the pattern He has planned”
To Sam, who taught me how to steadily weave.
As always, Lucy x