The last few Hebridean scenes

My final day in Tigh a Bhlar has arrived. An equal measure of sadness for leaving and happiness for having been here makes me a very content bean. What a beautiful timespent with beautiful folk. I’ve learned some lovely new songs – I will get them recorded and up on the blog in time. I am leaving the island teaming with inspiration for new songs of my own and I have awakened a love for writing and blogging. New friendships have been forged, old friendships have been rekindled. I have walked with the wild woman and felt her near. Nature and wilderness have been the best teachers and the richest solace. I go back to the big city feeling rejuvenated and renewed.

A quote.

It is always important to know when something has reached its end.
Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it;
what matters is to leave behind us in the past those moments in life that are over.
Paulo Coelho,’The Zahir’ 

A song.

This is one of my own, written the last time I left the island and returned to London. Inspired by the island but also by the city. As I’ve mentioned before, I am on a journey with my songwriting and my guitar skills. Please excuse any wee mistakes and pretend they didn’t happen! This song is called ‘Row the Boat Ashore’.

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Walking

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Today Nina, myself and the two dugs went for a big long walk, up the cliffs past Laig Farm, through the Forestry then down past the solar panels and back by the road. Another gorgeous day on Eigg: a bit of the island I’d never been to, lots of new viewpoints (which never cease to amaze and thrill me), tramping through moss, fern, reed and river, getting a splinter out of my toe, sitting inside trees, finding dead sheep, looking for pixies and fairies in the trees, drinking water from burns, timespent with a beautiful new friend.

Then again, almost as if by magic, a poem from Being Human presented itself to me this evening. This is a great one!

In Praise of Walking

Early one morning, any morning, we can set out, with the least
possible baggage, and discover the world.

It is quite possible to refuse all the coercion, violence, property,
triviality, to simply walk away.

That something exists outside ourselves and our preoccupations,
so near, so readily available, is our greatest blessing.

Walking is the human form of getting about.

Always, everywhere, people have walked, veining the earth with
paths, visible and invisible, symmetrical and meandering.

There are walks on which we tread in the footsteps of others,
walks on which we strike out entirely for ourselves.

A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed,
while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along
the way.

There are things we will never see, unless we walk to them.

Walking is a mobile form of waiting.

What I take with me, what I leave behind, are of less importance
than what I discover along the way.

To be completely lost is a good thing on a walk.

The most distant places seem most accessible once one is on the road.

Convictions, directions, opinions, are of less importance than sensible shoes.

In the course of a walk, we usually find out something about our
companion, and this is true even when we travel alone.

When I spend a day talking I feel exhausted, when I spend it
walking I am pleasantly tired.

The pace of a walk will determine the number and variety of
things to be encountered, from the broad outlines of a mountain
range to a tit’s nest among the lichen, and the quality of attention
that will be brought to bear upon them.

A rock outcrop, a hedge, a fallen tree, anything that turns us out
of our way, is an excellent thing on a walk.

Wrong turnings, doubling back, pauses and digressions, all contribute
to the dislocation of a persistent self-interest.

Everything we meet is equally important or unimportant.

The most lonely places are the most lovely.

Walking is egalitarian and democratic; we do not become experts
at walking and one side of the road is as good as another.

Walking is not so much romantic as reasonable.

The line of a walk is articulate in itself, a kind of statement.

Pools, walls, solitary trees, are natural halting places.

We lose the flavour of walking if it becomes too rare or too
extraordinary, if it turns into an expedition; rather it should be
quite ordinary, unexceptional, just what we do.

Daily walking, in all weathers, in every season, becomes a sort of
ground or continuum upon which the least emphatic occurrences
are registered clearly.

A stick of ash or blackthorn, through long use, will adjust itself
to the palm.

Of the many ways through a landscape, we can choose, on each
occasion, only one, and the project of the walk will be to remain
responsive, adequate, to the consequences of the choice we have
made, to confirm the chosen way rather than refuse the others.

One continues on a long walk not by effort of will but through
fidelity.

Storm clouds, rain, hail, when we have survived these we seem
to have taken on some of the solidity of rocks and trees.

A day, from dawn to dusk, is the natural span of a walk.

A dull walk is not without value.

To walk for hours on a clear night is the largest experience
we can have.

For the right understanding of a landscape, information must
come to the intelligence from all the senses.

Looking, singing, resting, breathing, are all complementary
to walking.

Climbing uphill, the horizon grows wider; descending, the hills
gather round.

We can take a walk which is a sampling of different airs: the
invigorating air of the heights; the filtered air of a pine forest;
the rich air over ploughed earth.

We can walk between two places and in doing so establish a link
between them, bring them into a warmth of contact, like introducing
two friends.

There are walks on which I lose myself, walks which return me to
myself again.

Is there anything that is better than to be out, walking, in the
clear air?

                                                                    THOMAS A. CLARK

All this eloquent talk of walking puts me in mind of that health advert that used to be on the telly, which says so much with so few words.

Go walking, that’s what to do.
Walking. Stepping out is good for you.
It’s good to walk!

Top-notch stuff! Here is that ad – time for a wee trip down memory lane for all you Norn Iron folk. They don’t make ’em like they used to!

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The Three Crones

A wee story I wrote in the Tearoom yesterday morning after the early boat, as the early morning sun shone down on the crashing waves.

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There lived three old hags. No one knew who they were, where they had come from, or how long they’d been here. They were as old as the hills and as young as the freshly fallen snow. They had always been around and had only just arrived. They lived at the edge of the world at the end of time.

Each face was a graveyard of memories. The wrinkles told a thousand stories; each line a long-forgotten disappointment, each crease an age-old smile. Their eyes were black diamonds, tiny peepholes behind folds of ancient skin, peering out at the world with the far-seeing gaze of a thousand stars on a starry night.

Their lives had not been easy. The road they tred was long and arduous, paved with stones of sorrow, crevices of cruelty, rocks of injustice. But they were alive and they carried the gift of life on their shrivelled, gnarly old bones with pride and with a life-loving joy that shook the world and woke it from its slumber.

No one had ever heard them speak but the story goes that if you listen with all of your senses on a night when the moon is black and the earth is still you will hear their song rise in faithful harmony. The song is wordless with a meaning that translates to the language that is shared by all of the universe.

Live. Be aware, be alert, listen to your instincts, hold tightly to your consciousness, fight against injustice. Rise with dignity. Allow those things that must die to die. Give life to those things that must live. Walk away. Stay.

This is the song of the three crones.

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Bakin’ at Kildonnan

What a gorgeous day I’ve had in the legendary kitchen of Kildonnan Farm learning from the queen of cooking, Marie Carr. She taught me how to make her famous scones and they turned out so well that my beautiful housemate Nina just said “I think that was the tastiest scone I’ve ever had.” Yay!

We also had a go at wheaten bread, my favourite. Renamed Moon Bread because of the crater-like finger pocks that I made while kneading, this turned out to be a perfect name as it was as hard as a rock when it cooled. But hopefully delicious on the inside. I really should check shouldn’t I?

Okay. Bread not so good, but hey! 1 out of 2 ain’t bad for my first try!

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Coincidentally, the other night I happened upon this poem when browsing through ‘Being Human’ (I really love this collection and highly recommend it; it would be a lovely gift for anyone who loves words). I was immediately captivated by the erotic undertones in the poem and how sensual Kennelly makes the humble act of making bread. The kitchen counter will never be the same again!

Bread

Someone else cut off my head
In a golden field.
Now I am re-created

By her fingers. This
Moulding is more delicate
Than a first kiss,

More deliberate than her own
Rising up
And lying down,

I am fine
As anything in
This legendary garden

Yet I am nothing till
She runs her fingers through me
And shapes me with her skill.

The form that I shall bear
Grows round and white.
It seems I comfort her

Even as she slits my face
And stabs my chest.
Her feeling for perfection is

Absolute.
So I am glad to go through fire
And come out

Shaped like her dream.
In my way
I am all that can happen to men.
I came to life at her finger-ends.
I will go back into her again.

                BRENDAN KENNELLY 

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Being Human III

Process

Just when you give up
the whole process
begins again

and you are as pure
as if you confessed
and received absolution.

You have done nothing
to deserve it,
you have merely slept

and got up again,
feeling fine
because the morning is fine;

sufficient reason surely
for faith in a process
that can perform such miracles

without assistance from you.
Imagine what it would do
with a little assistance from you!

                                                   NISSIM EZEKIEL

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A Soft Day

Ah, the wind has been howling a gale and the rain falls doon like an army of uisce ants. Just when there’s a wee break in the clouds and plans are afoot for long walks and adventures to th’other side of the island, the clouds darken, the skies open and the uisce army attacks again!

I’m rereading my favourite book, Iain Bank’s ‘The Crow Road’. Looking back over my Facebook postings I see that I finished this book for the first time on 31 October 2013, before I had really fallen in love with Alba and her mighty ways so to read it again while in the highlands is a much more immersive experience. No longer do I have to see the burns and bracken, lochs and glens in my mind’s eye, but a short walk in any direction brings me right into the place of the story. And to be reacquainted with Prentice McHoan, the truly lovely narrator of the story, is like meeting up with and spending time with a dear old pal. I really do love this book.

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This morning as I woke up to another soft Scottish day I happened to be at this exact paragraph which describes the highland rain in a nutshell;

“The rain fell with that impression of gentle remorselessness west coast rain sometimes appears to possess when it has already been raining for some days and might well go on raining for several more. It dissolved the sky-line, obliterated the view of the distant trees, and continually roughened the flat surface of the loch with a thousand tiny impacts each moment, every spreading circle intersecting, interfering and disappearing in the noise and clutter of their successors. It sounded most loud as it pattered on the hoods of their jackets.”

(Iain Banks, ‘The Crow Road’)

I wrote a song the second time I came over to Eigg. I was stuck on Mallaig, (an all-too-familiar experience!) and there were no beds at the backpackers hostel so I had to check one of the wee B&Bs over the pub which was way over-budget for my wee trip. And as I lay my bag out on one bed and lay myself out on the other one I remember feeling so helpless, so near and yet so far. So this song is about Eigg and Mallaig and waiting for the weather to turn so that the Loch Nevis can sail.

Apologies for the sound quality. I would not be the most savvy with ye olde technology.

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Being Human II

‘To be great, be whole…’

To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.

                              FERNANDO PESSOA
Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith

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