Island Writers is a group formed in December 2019 to connect writers on the Isles of Scilly and provide support and friendship. Our aim is to produce flash fiction, poetry and non-fiction pieces for islanders and visitors to read whilst enjoying the islands and at the same time give the writers opportunities to build a support network, progress with their writing and gain confidence in making their work public.
How exciting! The Island Writers have had our first face to face meet up since lock down, sitting in the sun talking about our writing projects, achievements and frustrations. I feel the momentum build and the enthusiasm for creating new stories begin to grow again, after what has proven to be a difficult time for creatives.
My first commission, a short blog-type piece about autumn swimming for the Island Partnership. I felt quite daunted by the prospect but enjoyed the challenge and the focus of a deadline. Another piece is due out soon, this time about winter writing.
A swim in the wild waters around Bryher inspires the soul and lifts the heart at any time of the year, but for me autumn holds a most treasured feel. Those fading months of summer, when the slight change in air and light brings a softness and peace, that soothes a summer-worn soul.
The islands exhale a sigh of relief as the expectations of the season soften into the humid, misty mornings of autumn. When blackberries fill the rambling hedges and flaming burnt sunsets creep earlier and earlier. There seems to be a gentleness within the sea too, the pace of boating slows and the temperature of the water is at its most kind. And yet the inevitable shift towards winter is never far from my mind as I swim, and I make the most of the last few warmer months before the harsh, storm-cast sea returns to test my resolve.
I swim almost every day, a window of “me time” carved out of the business of life. A moment immersed in a force greater than our human lives, a force full of enchantment, tranquillity, wildness and strength. Each and every swim is unique and each swim spot wonderful for a different reason, I just pick where I go to suit my mood, the weather and the tide.
Today I head to one of my favourites, Great Par. A large arcing bay of white sand and sea-smoothed granite pebbles that faces towards the Norrad rocks and the deep Atlantic. As so often happens during the early hours of these blissful autumnal mornings, a thick sea mist has settled like a cotton blanket over the island. Beyond my small pocket of vision, a world of unknown landscapes could be imagined. The islands, rocks and boats vanish into the damp, white cloud.
The morning is sultry and warm despite the earie mist and as I walk down the sandy track I am soothed by the slow breath of a breeze on my bare shoulders. Agapanthus stands tall in the hedges, taking on an ultraviolet hue. Barely a two-minute walk from the house (another blessing of wild swimming on Bryher) I reach the little concrete slipway that meets a strandline of soft sand, smooth granite pebbles, heaps of brown wrack and ghost ropes. The glassy-grey water slaps gently over my feet as I wriggle my toes, enjoying the cold sea as it silks its way around my ankles.
I never wear a wetsuit; it stifles that fluid freedom and I find it an intrusive barrier between me and the natural world I am trying to become part of. My one concession to the cold Atlantic is my hat, but today even that is an irritating annoyance as I fumble with it on my head. I toss it behind me and slip into the gin-clear water. Tiny bubbles of silver air flow from my fingertips. Watching this tiny movement of magical light distracts me from the initial chill, which quickly subsides as my breathing slows and I make my way out into the mist. There is silence. Only haunting bird call, the distance roar of an Atlantic swell and my movement in the water breaks the stillness. Not far from the shore I reach a faded pink buoy, bobbing on tiny pewter-coloured wavelets. I tread water and for a moment the plastic pink orb of the buoy and the suspended white orb of the misty sun float in tandem, surrounded by a dancing silver sea.