Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Connected – Brought together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established. Provide or have a link or relationship with. Feel an affinity to. Oxford English Dictionary.

Today I swam back to Bryher from its nearest inhabited neighbour Tresco. It takes me about 25 minutes to navigate the channel from New Grimsby to Quay, mostly doing front crawl with the occasional stop for a breather and a look around. The view towards the Atlantic, past Cromwell’s Castle and Hangman’s island are wonderful from a seal’s eye view.

I love the feeling of being able to leave one shore and to arrive on another. As I picked my way down to the tideline, across the rocky beach at New Grimsby, and waded through the swampy mass of thick brown bladder wrack, the rest of the family jumped on board the jet boat that would take them home. I knew I if I wanted to get home I would have to swim, no getting half way across and giving up.

The journey through the water is an interesting one, both physically and metaphorically. There are currents and boats to be aware of, a changing seabed and the wildlife to view. It crossed my mind as an interesting thought that what divides these islands and the folk that inhabit them, also connects them. The sea, an ever changing constant that create these tiny islands.

Although the five islands are geographically close, each can be quite separate and independent both in terms of landscape and community. However, there is a connection between these islands, that exists because of this big blue water, we are all people that have chosen, for one reason or another, to be here. To live on these tiny islands. We are all “shima”. In Japanese this word means island dweller. Laurie Brinklow has written in her studies of island dwellers;

“It’s one thing to vacation on an island, which millions do every year, looking for a balm to soothe the weary soul. It’s quite another to live on an island, where life is distilled, essentialised; there’s are realness that comes with isolation.”

I have a growing fascination with the psychology of island dwellers. Why do we love the life an island provides? In many ways island life is full of contradictions.

Independence and isolationism – interdependence and community

Aloneness and separation – connection and togetherness

Containment and restriction – freedom and acceptance

Whatever the reasons people dwell on Scilly, I think there is one reason we all have in common for loving this special archipelago; it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We are all, be it that we are on holiday or living here, connected by a sense of awe and wonder at the tranquillity, the soul nourishing scenery, the wildlife, the fresh sea air and the sea itself.

That water that can be deep blue, jade green, steely grey or sparkling silver. Thundering and deadly or calm and still. The sea that surrounds each individual island connects us all through travel, livelihood or pleasure.

My swim from island to island was a great way to stretch the stamina of body and mind, and it was a wonderful way to journey home.

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