On this page I want to share my contemplative photography and creative writings as the island weaves its way through my soul.
Walking the land - Post script
There is a story to be told from the isle of Eigg. It greets you on arrival and travels with you as you discover the island and the people that call it home. From the very first footprint you know you are somewhere special. A land that has seen many footprints come and go and a few who stay and become islanders. A single track directs you round the island and as you walk the land watches. There is much it will notice as your footprints move from road to bog and onto shore. There is much it will hear as questions are asked but answers not given.
In my journey on Eigg I was blessed to have the very best company. She joined me on my second day and travelled with me until my last footprint on the land. In her heart she sang the songs of the land that captured a rhythm to life that was surviving in a new place and time. She told me stories of a life connected to the moving shorelines and the deep sea storms. A life where young became old while the land still watched. The watching is important because it ensures the island controls and demands and it is for all of us to follow.
A heart that can be found in an ageing croft hidden behind a leafy tree. A croft that speaks its own tale but shares no secret and a place she calls home. I sat in her chair and wished for some warmth from the fire that had long been extinguished but not forgotten. As I sat she spoke with the quietest voice that was impossible to ignore as its presence was so very alive. Slowly, but with clear intention, the tales began to unfold. At times there were so many they began to trip over one enough in order to be heard. All the while I sat quietly and listened as the room refused to warm and the light refused to shine.
A mother quite forgotten by time but not by the islanders who left her life in transient form for us all to visit. The chair grew hard and my bones tired but I was knew that these were her bones so I sat quite still. The tales told of her daily chores and her red sore hands but of washing drying on the land. The day stretched out before me and seemed so long until the family returned from their working day and a summer evening was set. As day turned to night the sunset over Rum signalled the need for sleep for the morning would bring another day. She was last to rise from her chair and I rose with her. As the door locked behind me I held her hand for the path was slippery and she knew the way.
It was a way that I followed as I met with islanders from this time that live in Cleadale and croft the land. I felt her approval as chats turned to the land and all that it might still offer. Her hands remained red and sore as we walked to the shore to watch the cattle cool their hooves. We walked tothe shore and we walked the land and we never once looked behind us because she knew what lay back there. As the gentle summer waves lapped the shore her tales turned to the winter storms and the angry sea and I began to understand. Rum disappeared in clouds and still she talked and still I listened. I would listen until the end.
The final sunset became the next day and she met me to say farewell. In the tea room by the pier she sat to one side and smiled. Islanders were chatting and the chatting had great purpose. They were the guardians now and she knew it. When it was time to leave I turned to hold her hand but she had gone. She was no longer here and I felt the loss as my final footprints left the land. She would be back in her chair with her bones growing cold. As I turned to have one last sight of the Isle of Eigg I knew I had walked with the land.
Walking with the land
They will all be home soon. Wet from a day in the fields and complaining of hunger. This is a typical day and a typical complainant but I have the stew on and the bread is almost ready. I am not sure that it will feed all their hungers but it will help. The long summer evenings are my favourite as we get to spend time together playing cards and chatting. I think this will be our last summer together as Evie will be married come autumn and Charlie is talking of leaving the croft to find his fortune. There is no fortune in crofting and there never will be so maybe he is right to leave. He talks of farms in the highlands with machines to cut and stack but I think these are in his dreams. He will, no doubt, find it different on the larger farms and perhaps not so friendly. Crofting on Eigg is friendly for the most part and we help each other out when needed. I can't imagine that happening on the big highland farms.
I am sitting by the range watching the stew bubble and waiting. It is a warm evening and I can smell the honeysuckle and the feverfew by the back door. These are my summer smells and I would be lost without them. Monday is washing day and I am pleased it is all on the line as it is back breaking work and I am tired. My hands have that crinkle look and I have no balm to soothe the redness.
Evie has been in the next croft looking after wee ones all day so will be glad to be home. I saw her earlier tramping across the wet fields to the shore with one child on either hand. Her skirts will be wet and I do wonder why she bothers. Except that Evie loves the shore and when she is married she will live even nearer and that will make her happy. She will be a crofter herself then with many duties to attend to and I will not see her very often. This family is changing and soon it will only be me and the man left.
I can hear the sheep so they must be moving them to higher pasture because I can hear Rex barking at them. The man will be cross as he can't stop Rex barking and I tell him no one can. It is what he does. A female blackbird chirps at the door and I get up to take the old breadcrumbs out and scatter them on the step. Standing, looking out, I can see most of the dusty track that will bring my family home and I can hear the summer waves. My soul is wrapped up in this island and I had hoped that would be enough to keep my children close by. I thought they would walk with the land and never leave but Charlie has always wondered why. Why do we live here? Why do we not want more from life? These are the questions that will see him on his way one day soon and there is nothing more to be said on the matter. Of course, the man will miss him and I don't know how he will manage the croft. The McDonald lad in the old croft on the shore is old enough to come and help and has no working croft of his own to tend. Crofts are dying out as people leave the island in search of something better. Likely that the man will give the boy some work in exchange for two meals a day and some fresh vegetables for his mother.
The blackbird sings her evening tune as she finishes the last crumb and flits off to find her mate. Me and the man have been married 26 years this winter solstice and I think it has been a good marriage. We each knew our place from the start and neither of us are prone to complaining unless he is hungry. Stepping back into the kitchen I gently stir the stew and check the bread. I move to the cupboards to pull out the jug of beer that will soothe their day away just as I hear voices. They must be on the lower path now and will visit the washroom first so I have just enough time to set out the plates. We were given these plates 26 years ago as a wedding present from my aunt who lives in Fort William. She didn't come to the wedding but she sent plates that are now a bit chipped and cracked but should still see us through.
First up the path is Charlie with his faithful Rex in tow.
'Evening ma, got any scraps for Rex?' I hand him a dish with the scruff of the bone and he settles Rex his kennel for the night. The dog will be tired today as it is a fair job moving sheep from pasture to pasture. Evie arrives in the doorway with wet skirts and looks to me as if it is my fault. I have had a towel and skirt warming by the range for her and pass them to her without a word. She disappears to change before returning to hand me her wet skirts and boots that will dry by morning. The man is the last to appear having washed the day from this face and hands. Nothing is said because nothing needs to be said. They all sit at the table and I lift the stew pot to the table and serve before passing round the bread. Charlie's takes too much bread as usual and the man glares at him as he eats his stew. There isn't much meat in this stew because we haven't sold a beast for a while but they don't seem to notice and within minutes it is all gone.
'No seconds today?' bleats Charlie as I start to clear. 'Not today son' I respond.
'I bet I'll get seconds at my new farm in the highlands' he says.
'I bet you will' I say as the card deck is laid on the table.
Rum speaks to the sky
Rum speaks to the sky and all we can do is watch. A constantly changing drama that evokes forgotten emotions and untold stories. Cascading and fading light shroud the heights of the rocks that emerge from the sea. Rocks that speak to the clouds and clouds that speak to me. It is in this space that I untangle the narrative that has been lost for so long. I see the story without all the drama and in that space and time I finally understand. This is just as it should be as Rum disappears into the night sky with a gentle final whisper. It is the last living breath of a day that told a story that I hope we all heard.
|vivid blueness seeps to grey|
Sensing a distant blue light I watch as it touches the water. For the briefest of seconds it is suspended until the water collects it and it begins to travel. The sharpness fades and the blue light shines as deep as it can go. The sea changes and becomes more alert and settles to watch the unfolding drama.
Surrounding the blue light is a halo of distant white spreading outwards into new ripples and pools. I have lost sight of the blue light as the distant white turns back to grey. A bright white beacon bobs in a space that no one else inhabits. In the greyness there is enormous peace dotted with fleeting thoughts of the blue light that made all this possible.
Important to be grateful.
A haunting call
Each early step invades
A land that we should forget
A view we should not see
And a stillness we can not know
As the oystercatcher flies higher
Encircling the bay, in a moment
I understand the total truth
Before a light breeze turns me away
People cluster around a watering hole
The noise cutting through the air
Sending confused messages outwards
As the gentle tide ebbs away
Steps anew and forward moving
The stillness begins to haunt its call
My soul fades inwards within the silence
Each early step invades.