Islands on the edge: Part two

The ferries were cancelled and news was the previous days news had not arrived, nor did any one know when the papers would eventually turn up. I don’t read the paper but I do have an intrigue towards them when they don’t make it to the island. A step back in time to when the world did not move so fast and the whole globe was not accessible by finger tip. The shops here on the Isle of Islay – now it was becoming such a regular occurrence due to road closures on the mainland and of course Scottish weather -had taken to only telling locals when the papers actually did arrive. Which tells you how little they actually did. The world and its information could wait, the days news lost once again to the mainland. A part of island life that those who live here are so used to they come to expect. We wait for things, ‘island time’ they call it, ‘It will happen on island time’. It is one of the hardest cultural differences for me when I talk with those back home. The change in the pace of their speech and their activities. The weekend crammed until there’s no empty space to fill, always something on and something to do. ‘No wonder you are so tired’ I say, ‘You never just be’. Could you argue that islanders have more patience than whose you aren’t? Well, I’m not sure about that one, possibly. All I’ve come to know is if you tend to want the next big thing and you want it in a flash, island life on its ‘island time’ is not for you.

I had been certain leaving Saligo Bay with my cheeks burning and ears ringing with the wind that my cobwebs had been well and truly blown but as I woke up wanting nothing other than to be left well alone I wasn’t so sure. The wind had woken up in a foul mood causing the sea to spit and hiss at the islands edges. An almighty swell was stirring in the waters belly opposite the living room window. This made the water white and frothy around the islands blackened edge, a delicate lace against marred soot. The children danced around my feet in a happy chaos and I yearned for time on my own. Time to sit and ponder, knitting words together in my mind and rolling their images around my head, until they flowed out of my fingers like water, manifesting themselves in the tap tap tapping hum of the keyboard. I wanted time to straighten the house in my own time. Time to read at length and organise my various possessions. Ironically I wanted not to be measured by time whilst having more of it. Instead still pyjama clad by mid day, the floor was littered with half eaten colouring pencils and stray colouring sheets stirred ever so slightly as a strong draft blew from the fireplace. Noah, again asking for a snack hung from my arm like a monkey on a bar, but I’m sure I just fed you I moaned. I had just cleared up the kitchen from the breakfast dishes, I was sure of it, yet lunch now needed to be made and fed to those you lived here. I could see the gannets out across the water, flying high before drilling back down into the waters currents to collect food. Like tired stars falling from the sky to rest, the gannets were a favourite of mine to watch. Holding a magical element of being air borne one minute and submerged within the inky depths of the ocean the next. Like tiny rockets the energy stored up inside of them must be immense to achieve such velocity. I had not to dive into the water to feed my young, only the kitchen fridge and yet somehow the energy was avoiding me, or maybe I was avoiding it.

Dropping Bea and Noah off at the small village school, Chris drove us in new found freedom down the other leg of Islay to Port Ellen. The sun throwing down pennies of light onto the waters surface lit up the earth like diamonds on a movie stars dress. Even though winter was pushing hard to rid the island from the last of the autumnal colours the air was still and warm. The tide gently swished, lapping at the sand as we walked along to the lighthouse. For the end of September the air held enough warmth that I only needed a jumper on, although to many it was would be cold and indeed the last of the tourists walked around with thick padded coats. The sea was not wild but calm. Today, she did not ring in my ears commanding an elemental orchestra to conduct her symphony but instead as the water spoke to the sand it hummed like a praying monk. A small row of cottages lay at the edge, white washed and fenced in to accommodate cottage gardens. Though how they didn’t get blown to bits when she rose in anger only heaven knew. The last one caught my eye in particular, right opposite the lighthouse I assumed this to be the house in which a keeper would live. Though whether they presently did I wasn’t sure. The lighthouse at Port Ellen is a rectangular tower, stubby for a lighthouse and unusual in design. This little house however was anything but modern with its white washed walls of thick Scottish stone. It nestled itself just off the rocks, right on the edge it would see some stunning sights of that I was sure. I liked it immensely and smiling at it, I’m sure it smiled back.

Walking onto the pathway made by the sea herself, rock pools lay on either side of my feet. Cocooned inside the rocks, ribbons of seaweed gently danced to the breeze kissing the water as life forms enthusiastically made temporary homes until the tide came in and took them away again. ‘I have felt like those creatures these last few years Chris, making a home as best I could until the tide came in again’ I observed. ‘It’s nice to be settled for once isn’t it, knowing the tide isn’t on the horizon?’. Leading to a small rickety bridge, which on the mainland would only be deemed a health and safety hazard, I was thankful that I was not a light house keeper having to possibly cross such a thing when the waves were as high as the roof tops. The water rushing under the small strip of bridge was powerful, gushing and spitting at the bridge making the surface slippery under my feet. The water marbling itself into patterns or white, blue and green.

The bridge was narrow, rusted in places and heavy with dried salt. The sides were made of a wire mesh to which the seaweed clung and entwined herself around, resulting in a beautiful and quite unexpected piece of artwork. Like a weaving of threads or something intricately stitched. Crouching down to take a closer look the light shone through the wire hitting the individual strands of seaweed, illuminating them like a catcher held up to the sun. A stained glass window of emerald kelp which ribbons itself in long, flat silky strands like pasta and bright red wispy coral like branches like blooded veins. Standing up to meet the horizon a single speed boat zigged and zagged disrupting the waters surface, whilst a hazy sliter of mainland could just be made out way off into the distance. Stood on that precarious bridge on the islands edge I felt astonishingly happy and quite taken back by being so. For once, instead yearning to plunge into the sea to disappear I could of dived into her as if baptising myself in a feeling of new and blissful understanding.

I have said it many a time that moving to a remote island on the edge of Scotland is fantastically adventurous and to some even an undertaking to envy. However edges do come with challenges, falling off being the most prominent. There’s a loneliness to edges, being on the edge of any place or crowd is isolating. When you do arrive at the lands end, standing on the edge can make you wonder whether in fact you should just turn back or sometimes jump off and heaven knows I’ve done both. However outweighing this is the panoramic view being on the edge encompasses. From the islands wild Saligo ways to its hazy glimmering mornings of Port Ellen it is here I have enthusiastically built my home on the solid rock on which traces its edges. ‘Shall we head home Lucy?’ Chris asked. ‘Home? Yes. Yes I think we shall’. Faithfully from the Hebrides, Lucy x

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4 thoughts on “Islands on the edge: Part two

  1. Lucy, the joy I get from reading your writing, as if I’m stood on the islands edge with you, makes my heart yearn for the shore. I don’t feel lonely in the shore of the sea, but oddly at peace. Even when it is tumultuous, I know God is ultimately in control of all the chaos, and with a word, He can simply say “still”, and peace returns. — Many blessings to you my friend. Thank you for your beautifully written words, I can feel the Lord saying “still” to my heart through them. Xo

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