The last days of solitude with final rations of bread, milk, eggs carefully measured to see out the weekend. The sky is eye smart bright, bathing the bay in a myriad of Norse tones. There is much to do. Preparations for returning full to the brim with shetland-ness, yoke jumpers, museum views, pony petting, toe in sea dangling and a meditation on all I've learnt. I cut my hair and wore new socks, slowly letting the other world back in.
On the look out for lightness, with heavy damp boots sinking further into the mud of mundane. Legs leading to an impending departure, with a mindfulness to stay put. Real is too real. A sloth-slug body could survive clinging to the rocky bay, braving the wind-waves. waiting for spring sun, befriending the gulls. Home is where the balaclava lays.
My Shetland palette has been spoilt for choice by the new hues of the Western & Southern mainland. The antique mist of Walls, the velvet seaweed of Sandness, the scarlet church of Ting wall, the chestnut manes of Bixter, the turquoise bath of Banna Min, the acid (s)lime of Hamnavoe, the blinding light of Fugla Ness, the slate-sky-pink-paintwork of Meal Beach. Each colour committed to memory. My eyes finally opened in the thick rain. Driving fast through the hills without destination, losing my breath in the sea salt air, clambering over windswept rocks to reach the lighthouse for a picnic, these things remind me of you.
It crept along the coastline in felt slippers, silently engulfing the houses, seamlessly sewn to the sea. I watched with awe from my vantage perch, as the sky dissolved into land, like an asprin into water. I painted it badly, but mostly I watched it's ominous maneuvers. It must worry mariners, and those of a suspicious nature. The bay was invisible by dusk and I suffered from unpleasant dreams. The next day, a rain of relief descended and I danced about the booth with mirth.
A one kilometer swim, because the sea remains inhospitable, sheds a winter skin, revealing scales. Pores open, muscles supple, hair unruly. The blue basking light of dusk anchors itself as my favourite time of all 24 tidal hours. It commands a meditation, a worship, a glad-to-be-alive out breath. I wonder how I'll take this home, I waste the now, worrying. A new read beckons me to book-at-bedtime under the sound of rain falling. I've caught a wet-head chill, a self diagnosed hot milk is the cure.
Thanks to all of the beautiful sentiments posted to me here in the booth, (scones, jam & clotted cream, gin & tonic, earl grey, dark chocolate, great novels, photos, sweets, paper lanterns, postcards, Valentines! and long, newsy letters) I've spent my days wallowing and walking, feeling thoroughly looked after. My heartfelt thanks to you in catering for all my wants and needs so knowingly. Today has been a good day. I bought a book called 'The Trail of the Sandhill Stag', published in 1899, upon opening the brittle cream pages, the first lines state, 'To the Reader: These are the best days of my life. These are my golden days.' The naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton was having a good day too.
There is something about a typewriter that forces you to simply write. No delete button. no spellcheck, just an unforgiving ribbon, an endless roll of paper and well worn finger-sunk-keys. That is the only way for me. The words do not come easy via this cream coloured keyboard. I long for the thoughts to flow, I've given it 12 days. I struggle. My head's on the other side of the room, sat by my blue Imperial 200, tempting me to engage in a finger workout, (my hands look old from the cold and need blood circulatory activity). So forgive the confession, I intend to go where my heart pulls me, back to analogue. I will return when my ribbon runs dry.
'We must reserve a little back-shop all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true
liberty and principal retreat and solitude.' Michel de Montaigne.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I had long pined
A discontented sojourner: now free William Wordsworth
Consoled by Arther Schopenhauer's daily routine, I begin to find a rhythm. His three hours of morning writing before an hour of playing the flute, then lunch, inspires a more productive use of the early light. The scroll document takes shape and I celebrate with a perfectly soft boiled egg & soldiers. I don't share his penchant for poodles, but can see the benefits of a close companion.
The temptation to bind sheets of feathery ice white tissue paper took precedence this morning, perhaps it's the vision of all the untouched virgin snow drifts . A paynes grey sky inspires the painting to continue. I stay inside as word of aging icebergs, glacial waterfalls and a lifelong friendship reach me from the south. My Warrior pose needs some work.
I'm blessed with the time to watch the changing reflections. The smell of snow, there really is one, infuse my nostrils, filling me with a desire to bottle it, for the months ahead when I need its crisp aroma most. My mornings are bright, spent dancing and breathing in long lung full snow breath. Attempts at drawing and listening occupy the afternoon hours, but it's at dusk that all possibility reveals itself.
Up with the lark, slipping and skipping to catch the post. I'm living atop a frosted marzipan cake. VIrgin snow as far as the eye can see, and it keeps falling. Icelandic jumpers do a fair job of keeping me snug, but I could do with a hug today. Unfortunately I'm 634 miles from the warmest one I know.
No need for words. It's all too beautiful in the hills. Day 4 without language.
A Wednesday as snug as a bug spent drawing maps, making soups, and being on weather watch, the perfect preparation for todays wild hill walking. Waking with an intent to climb, to explore the bay in the the blizzards, I enshrouded myself in silk thermals, a hand knitted balaclava, dried mangos in my pocket, senses heightened. I saw shetland pony siblings, oystercatcher foot prints, hidden islands, unexpected lochs. A crucial day, the kindling of a new love for an exceptional place. I could have walked forever. It gets dark behind me while I warm my bones through, thawing out with hot tea. These are the days I'll savour.
'As I walked out one midsummer morning', Laurie Lee. Completed on the train from Manchester to Aberdeen, (provided a conversation point and memory lane trip).
'The Old man and the sea', Ernest Hemingway. Devoured on the crossing from Aberdeen to Lerwick (provided vivid dreams of talking marlins and lone sailors, a sleepless sleep).
'A book of Silence', Sara Maitland. Immersed in the detailed search for sublime silence, (a nigh time companion, high in rafters, listening to the weather).
No book binding, just book submersion. 6 friends left while the sky is too cold for snow or exploration.
Acres of petrol blue sky lay before me, dot to dot bays scatter the coastline. I stumble. laden with sizable paper rolls, to the nesting booth in Scalloway. A sea legged desire for silence, solitude, simplicity. Sleeping to the sounds of the waves lapping at the wall while waking to the suns glistening reflection. The day cuts through order, routine, habit. I bathe in moonlight and watch the boats slip away and back to the harbor, soundlessly through liquid mercury.
To Aberdeen the granite city. Over seven hours watching the sun rise over the eastern coastline, my city wanderings in the bitter winds were far from picturesque. The icey air bit my fingers, carried me to the harbour and catapulted me a board the good ship Hjaltland. Grey days, slipping in and out of sleep, the kindness of strangers and a hotel room upgrade soothed me for an expectedly choppy Sunday sea crossing.