Well, time runs away and the weeks fly by… I rush about from here to there, busy busy busy; too occupied to have sat down to write a blog post for months.
Then all of a sudden an anniversary passes…
One whole year on Skye.
In fact, that was a few months ago now. I’m not sure what happened to this quiet island life; the last few months have been a blur of artwork commissions, Christmas travels, catch-ups and birthday celebrations. Barely a pause.
As some of you have noticed, I haven’t posted much recently. I think it’s because I’ve got so much to write about, loads to tell -it’s a bit daunting to know where to start!
But I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to get back on track. My most recent comments have been so kind and encouraging that I’d be an idiot not to try a bit harder!
So, one whole year on this magical island…
Firstly, “yah boo sucks!” to anyone who thought I couldn’t hack it!
Have I said before about how some folk here say you have to do three winters on Skye before you’re accepted?
Well, I’m not sure about that. I think that an incomer here is probably always an incomer; I’ve met people who have been here for forty years who are still considered ‘new’ (probably a good thing as it means I don’t have to change the name of this blog yet)! But acceptance is another thing. Skye folk are so wonderfully kind that I never felt like an outsider; they’re always welcoming.
15 months here means that I’m halfway through that supposed three winter period and I’ve now seen every season on Skye. Well, almost every season…
Ignoring the tourist hoardes, summer on Skye is supposed to be a little bit like paradise. Don’t scoff, the Scottish summertime is stunning. It exists, I’ve seen it. I’ve even caught a tan.
Only, this year it didn’t come.
Every time my family asked about the rain they would laugh and say, “well, you did move to Scotland!” My defence of the West Coast weather was rudely undermined by the daily drizzle.
Luckily this isn’t the norm; even my poor neighbours and landlady were apologetic that I wasn’t experiencing the best summer Skye had to offer. I didn’t mind, it just gives me an excuse to stay on and try another one!
Although I still haven’t got the chance to explore in a T-shirt there’s still been some beautiful days.
When I lived in London it was wonderful to return to the family home and see the seasons change. At our cottage in Chiddingfold it’s a treat to see nature changing; the colours deepen and the smells emerge.
Seeing the seasons in the English countryside is one thing but up here it’s even more intense. Being immersed in a dramatic landscape means noticing all the changes on a grand scale. Whole swathes of hillside turn from dark monochrome to bright green then to hazy purple then vivid rust before back to snowy black and white again. Sometimes at sunset the light catches these colours in such a way that they look like they’re on fire. There’s nothing like it.
I arrived on Skye in winter on purpose. It was to be a 6 month escape; close the doors, light the fire, curl up with a whisky, read a book. Time out. Hibernation.
This didn’t happen.
Aside from the obvious fact that I well and truly got ‘Skyejacked’ (brilliant term, not my invention!), I actually found it hard to stay inside when there was so much exploring to be done. Wind, rain and cold are fine if you’re dressed up properly to protect you from them so the weather didn’t bother me.
Last January/February was one of my favourite times here. Of course there was the epic January storm with 100mph winds that caused havoc with 4-day blackouts and damage to houses and crofts. Not great. But after that there was a period of calm with fresh snow and bright blue skies that made everything dazzle. It was crisp and soft and quiet in a way that seemed magical.
There was an unexpected surprise that came with moving into my cottage. As the ice thawed and the days became (slightly) more warm I noticed a little spot of white appear at the edge of my snow-scorched lawn. Snowdrops!
Over the next couple of months I would rush to the window each morning to see what had appeared. First came the snowdrops, then the gold of a crocus, then a purple crocus. At one point, like a joyful finale, my whole lawn was covered in daffodils in various shades of cream and bright orange egg yolk.
I’d never been interested in flowers before, suddenly I’m a convert.
Of course, spring blooms go hand in hand with baby animals and on the croft I was surrounded!
I would wake up in the morning and drag my groggy body down to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. As I stood at the sink for the kettle to boil I’d look out the window and right there in front of me would be a couple of tiny calves with their new brown skin gleaming in the morning sun like freshly opened chestnuts. Then I’d take my tea to the porch at the other side of the house and watch the lambs run and jump about in the field like little boisterous wisps of cotton wool. It’s like living in a children’s picture book or Easter card.
Forget therapy or medication, you can’t have a bad day when you wake up to this. If there’s anything more joyful than a miniature calf bouncing around like an overgrown excited puppy I’m yet to see it.
The less said about this the better. How many words does the British language have for rain again?
Skye excels at beautiful landscapes; it shows off -an A* student. But there was something I missed about autumn here…
There are very few trees in the North of Skye and, of the ones we do have, only a small fraction are deciduous; the sea and the wind up here have scoured the landscape making it bare of all but the toughest plants. So no shifting palette of rich oranges and golds, no rustle of papery leaves leaving their branches, no smell of leaf mold to breathe in as you wander. It’s a season for all senses; you can feel the changes with your eyes, ears and nose.
In an uncharacteristic turn, autumn in the North of Skye seemed to me to be more subtle. It can begin with vibrant purple heather blooms in September but most of the flowers seemed to be hiding this year, made shy by the constant summer rain. Instead the hills slowly turned from one colour to another, bit by bit, quietly.
Then one day, when driving along a normal route, the sun will break through the mist and pick up the rust colour of the recently-green hillside. It’s a colour so vibrant and intense that when caught in the light it can look almost crimson; reflected in the glow of an early autumn sunset it sometimes looks aflame.
In October I was invited by an old friend to spend some time on an estate near Torridon. On arrival our lovely host took me out on Loch Damh to pick up some of the other guests who had been up on the hills all day. On our way back the sun was setting on the russet landscape and I exclaimed with joy at how beautiful the light and colours were. My friend turned to me and said, “But you live here, don’t you see this every day?”
Every day here is different. Each morning brings something new; a new colour, a new species, a previously unnoticed view -it’s one of the things I appreciate most about my Scottish home.
Whilst I adore the writer, Samuel Johnson, when it comes to Skye I’d prefer to give his famous quote a James Boswell kind-of spin…
When a girl is tired of the Highlands & Islands she is tired of life.
There’s still so much more to be seen…
You are so lucky to be living your dream!! You are an inspiration and make me believe this is possible to live in such an amazing place!! A bad day in Skye(if that’s possible!!) is far better than the Best day in Chicago!! Enjoy your writing and pictures. Thank you!!
Thank you Patti, that’s such a lovely thing to say!
I’m not sure about a Skye day being better than one in Chicago -I’ve only passed through but I thought it was a great city (give me Chicago or Seattle over NYC any day!)
Thanks. Lovely blog. Made me feel as if was there. Certainly made me feel I should go. What wonderful talent you have. Your writing is outstanding and so is your art. Well done. Look forward to more.
Hi Katie it was so lovely to wake this morning to see a new post from you. I love your blog and follow it avidly. You have done what I’m planning to do late ’17. Your gift of the descriptive, makes me feel like I’m there too. I’m looking forward to reading your future posts as they give me a good idea of what I’m letting myself in for. Keep up the good work xx
Thank you, it means a lot that you take the time to read my posts. You’ll have a wonderful time here, it’s not for everyone but all the people I know here say that the move is the best decision they ever made (myself included!) Kx
Hi Katie. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I am coming up to Staffin at Easter for a few days so I’m going to have a good look round the island. I’m going to register with the estate agents too while I’m there although I’m going to rent for at least the first year, just so that i can concentrate on making a life for myself xx
No problem at all 🙂
I think that renting first sounds like a great idea -each settlement is different here so it’ll give you a chance to work out which area you like best too (though you’ll probably just fall in love with the first place you move like most of us do!)
Rental properties are tricky to come by as they change hands before being made public, putting an ad in the local paper (the West Highland Free Press) worked best for me. Plenty of time to work that out though!
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That’s great to know Katie?, thanks ever so much.
I’m just off to read your new post now…. please keep those posts coming…. when I read them it’s like I’m there x
Thank you, it’s the lovely comments like yours that have made me get off my arse and start again!
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So good to hear you again……is that a new window you have now? Loving the photographs.
So good to read your review of Skye year……….have you a new window now………fab photos as always!
Yep, got a new window in straight away (I made sure it was fixed before mentioning it for security reasons). Hopefully that’ll be the last disaster this winter!
Thanks Katie – a thoroughly enjoyable read and an insight into why you love Skye so much. Good that you are back writing and please, please keep it up – I’m counting the days until my next (2nd) visit to Skye and your blog is an effective temporary ‘fix’
Thanks Paul. Ooh, I’ll have to do my best if this is a temporary fix for you! We’ve got lots of wonderful new cafes and restaurants opening up this year so I reckon it’ll be worth the wait 🙂
Loving your years’ resume….is that a new window in the cottage….photos are fabulous. K
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Good to see you are back to your writing. I find it very refreshing. Hope Storm Gertrude is not causing any problems.
Thanks Liz! Gertrude was all bark and no bite, Henry was a bit more grumbly but not too bad. Fingers crossed that’s the last of them!
And again, your writing causes my eyes to prickle and my throat to hurt. Must be a combination of the effect Skye has on me (even when I’m not there) and your ability to capture its ‘magic’. Yay for you and your 1+ year there. Slightly less yay about how busy you are, but on the other hand, that is also a wonderful thing, to know you are wanted, as a friend and artist, and can make a living there. Looking forward to more posts and of course to our next visit (July) – would love to buy you a hot drink and a scone/pie/whatevertakesyourfancy. To be continued.
I know that feeling very well… I get it when I’m back at my family home and I see Skye or the Highlands on the tv. There’s an emotional connection to this place that’s hard to describe.
I hope that the weather behaves when you come to visit in July. After a wet winter and these last two storms we’re feeling like we’re due a good summer! We’ll see you then!