Islander

It’s taken me a while to put pen to paper after our trip to the mainland. Life has been busy, but I admit also to a small crisis in confidence, I’m sure everyone has felt it; when returning to work after a break, picking up a hobby that you’ve neglected for a while, taking that first step on a run after having some time off, you know the feeling.

I’ve had thoughts mulling around in my head, I’ve been swimming nearly everyday, but something has stopped me writing, I can always seem to find a more important job, and then I remembered a little phrase that was written on a bookmark I spotted, “the most effective way to do something is to do it”. Instead of procrastinating about writing, I must just start writing!

Next week I am attending my first ever writing retreat in the beautiful coastal hamlet of Lamorna in Cornwall. Some of my trepidation with writing, I think stems from my growing anticipation of being in a house surrounded by other writers, who, without knowing any of them I have convinced myself are all much more eloquent, interesting and creative than me. I don’t even know what I really want to write, I just know I like doing it.

Imagining myself sitting in the group, introducing myself and what I like about writing, has led me to think and try to say succinctly what it is that I write about. Parallel to these thoughts we also have a work away family staying with us for two months, they are keen to seek out new adventures, leave the rat race and find a way of life more suited to their dreams. I’ve been trying to explain why I love living on Bryher, why it causes such passionate feelings of contentment.

In essence it’s because it brings me closer to a very elemental life, one from which humans are evolved. Of our harsh but rewarding natural world, of simple pleasures such as crafting, music making or watching the fire light flickering on a dark night.

I love winter on Bryher, almost with an aching love. The solitary island, ravaged by almost constant wind, wild stormy seas and cold icy skies, has now a warmth and strength to its soul. I love the feeling that we could be cut off by storms but still have a community that would survive.

Cold winter skies and deserted beaches

My attempts at winter crafting have begun in earnest with French knitting, Christmas decorations, painting and felting. I have time to play the piano and bake a little more and get together with friends, and I still make time for swimming of course.

My winter swims are more solitary, no boats in the water, no people mooching along the shoreline, even the seals have disappeared out onto the western rocks to have pups.

I still have company in the form of oyster catchers, eagrit, herron and the odd crab but mostly it’s just me and the cold sea.

Today the warmth and brightness of the sun as it shines through the kitchen window is a deception, for once outside the strength and coolness of the wind soon brings goosebumps to the skin and a nip to the nose.

Along Green Bay great heaps of deep, rotting seaweed, that will soon be destined for the asparagus crop, lay stranded at the tide line of days gone by. My feet sink into the cold, squishy kelp and cause me to slip and slide my way over the hidden granite pebbles.

A slight shower of rain is driven hard against my semi naked body by a gust of icy wind and mottled blue skin is drawn tought and pinched over flesh and bone.

The chill of the sea at first causes my forehead and bridge of my nose to ache with the cold and I work to keep my breath and movement steady and controlled. Before long though I am settled into the swim and the freedom and pleasure override the numbing cold.

So this is what I shall attempt to describe to the workaway family and my fellow “retreaters”, this indescribable feeling of being an islander; learning such great lessons in life from living on an isolated but wonderful rock in the middle of this beautiful ( but now quite chilly) ocean.

Looks warmer than it was!


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