I am tired to my bones. Today, the brightest so far, bright, bright sunshine all day, was freezing cold. An icy sea breeze nipped at my fingers and worked its way deep into my core. I long for a hot bath. A snuggle. Netflix and a takeaway and a bottle of wine.
But I’m happy. Peaceful. Calm. I spent today cutting willow from an overgrown tree-tunnel, learning to coax and weave its flexible shoots and branches into curved, beautiful shapes, stopping from time to time to chat with Alison about life, self-determination, background, childhood. She’s at a turning point too.
Here, Skye time – this comfortable, excruciatingly passive philosophy that things will happen when they happen – rules. It’s at direct odds with my own ingrained idea of time: that there’s not much of it, and that as much activity should be crammed in to each hour as possible.
What Skye time is teaching me is to look and to listen. To let the land speak to me and to work alongside it. And that just as much is ‘crammed’ into an hour spent watching winter sunlight light change through birch trees as an hour spent ‘productively’.
It’s making me question my entire concept of productivity. This is a place filled with unfinished projects, half-started ideas, as-yet-unrealised possibilities. And things that are just… happening when they happen.
As someone who loves order, tidiness, design, a place for everything and everything in its place, there are moments when this forest garden makes me feel anxious and stressed. There’s so much to do! So much to mend and tidy and build and organise! Shouldn’t we be moving…faster? Doing more? Come on people!
Yet it works all the same. Campers camp and fall in love with the magic of this unruly place. Couples cosy up in the Foresters’ Bothy or the Seagull Sanctuary. Curious tourists wander the Woodland Walk, spot seals from the headland, play among the trees. Locals come to drink tea by the fire, exchange gossip and the latest news. The robin sings in the kitchen. The old wooden house slowly falls apart.
New shoots come up where last year’s dead bracken lies brown, decaying. Each week there is new greenness, tiny leaves here, daffodil shoots there, deep red buds form on new tree branches. The earth is turning, deep below worms and roots and mycelium are as active as ever. The cycle turns constantly, never still. I am learning patience.
I am in love with the dawn. Watching the light break over those snow-capped mountains each morning brings me a depth of calm I’ve never experienced before. I am in love with the first cup of coffee, watching that sun rise, reading tarot cards, walking on the beach, answering emails. I am in love with the first cup of tea, up in the house, making plans with Sandy and Alison, the unexpectedly deep conversations that arise, the ideas shared, the way we set the world to rights.
This is a permaculture project. This home and this land, these woods, the campsite, the bothies, the faerie glade and the secret places, are managed with a light hand. Nothing is wasted. Nature rules. Compost is queen. I thought I knew how to live frugally, unwastefully, but this place takes living lightly to new levels. At the same time there is the weight of so much stuff. The work yard – and every available space – is filled with wood and metal, old windows and doors stacked in the first docket, bedheads and lanterns in the next. Honeysuckle winds through the backs of old chairs. Shelters and bothies and all kinds of useful structures are created from so many found objects and – until they found this home -abandoned parts. Yesterday we drove to Tarkavaig to collect several unwanted sheep fleeces. What will they be used for? Who knows, but they might come in.
This is a place of love. Watching it, being in it, contributing to it, being part of it, this is a privilege and a pleasure. Am I building a life here? I’m trying so hard not to decide. But it feels like I might be.