Twelve moons ago, under the January new moon in Capricorn, I arrived on Skye.
I had come here alone, in a friend’s tiny car, to volunteer at a gardening project. I had no expectations for my year or for how things would unfold, no specific dreams or intentions, I only knew that I wanted to break away from my computer and get my hands into some dirt.
I lived in a caravan, watched the sun rise over the sea and mountains each morning, chopped wood and carried out DIY jobs each day, and fell in love with the simplicity of my life. Frost, wind, rain, searing winter sunshine, and the darkest of dark nights. I saw many many herbs in their winter states, learned where others would come through in spring. I watched otters playing. I celebrated my birthday. I made friends. I wondered if this might be home.
In March, Em and I sold our boat (our home) in Manchester, and she joined me here. By this time we had been offered land to build a home, and a future here as part of the project. We worked hard, but things eventually soured with the owner, and we left in June. We realised we had been the latest in a repeating cycle of folks promised land and purpose, only to be manipulated, lied to, yelled at. It was a difficult, confusing time, characterised by anxious, wakeful nights and long, long talks about how we could make it better.
We found ourselves on the doorstep of some new friends – people who had been through that same cycle three years earlier. Marylou and Ed and their two kids housed and fed us for four more months, and during this time we became friends for life. I have never met such resourceful, flexible, loving, people, people with no money at all who make it work differently. A three year old who taught me to spot otter poo on the beach. A life more outdoors than in. A connection to the landscape that is so utterly ego-less, so without agenda or proof, so deep and real, so daily, so nightly. The love and understanding with which they surrounded us changed me. We marked each full and new moon together. Summer solstice on Achnacloich beach was the best of my life.
I woke up one morning to Orlando, and remembered that I am part of a global community. I cried through that pain, and helplessly determined to find ways to add more love to this big, messed-up world. Then Brexit happened and race hate crime intensified across the UK and Europe. And more Black lives were taken by systemic racism. The US election was gathering pace. It rained and rained. I felt a deep sense of disconnection hid behind my laptop.
In bright, beautiful, clear-skied October it was all change again – we helped our friends move to their new home in Argyll, a clear-fell site they had been granted, where they planned to build a croft and a life, and moved ourselves. Our home now, for five winter months, is a holiday home. It’s small but luxurious, comfortable, warm, exceptionally clean. Here, we have the closest thing to our own space – the privacy to be me and Em, to cook, get out paint and paper, have film nights, have friends round. After a tumultuous year of feeling out of control (an illusion, I know), it’s an incredible treat, a real luxury. Like every autumn, I felt myself awaken. We travelled as much as we could afford, to all corners of the Highlands, seeking a home, a glimmer of belonging.
We have this place for three more months. On the first of April, Emma’s birthday, April Fool’s, who knows? We’re thinking, scheming, working through ideas. In the past few months we’ve been on excursions to many different parts of the Highlands, searching for a place to land, to actually stay. A little patch to call our own. This land, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, comes at a high price, and the search has been a fruitless one, though our adventures have been wild and wonderful. Whatever comes next, I’ll never forget this year on Skye.
Under last night’s new moon in Capricorn, I thought back.
I thought about how anxious I have felt for a lot of this year, how disconnected I’ve felt from myself and the land. Surrounded by so much beauty, such wilderness, such history, I had no idea how to access it. Scotland’s countryside laws make almost all land free to roam – the resulting lack of way marked footpaths, that very freedom to roam, intimidated me. Still, I foraged, paddled, walked a little, explored in my own ways.
Looking back, I see a year for which I am intensely grateful. It has been an utter privilege to live in this place, and it has shaped me in ways I’m only starting to glimpse just now. I also see a year of disconnection from community, of running away from the city to the wildest place I could find, of deliberately choosing to be remote from the people and things I knew, an experiment perhaps, to see how I might fare there.
Conscious disconnection, yet at the same time a growing connectedness to the bigger cycles that define our lives and activities. I have followed the moon for years, but never as regularly and with as much conscious intent as this one. Likewise the wheel of the year, a rhythmic cycle that has punctuated the past five years of my life, but more so this year than any. Where I lost touch with myself and my ability to access landscape, community, creativity, I connected with the moon and the seasons in new and deeper ways.
I wrote a gratitude list. It was long and varied. I wrote about my yield, all that I had gained from this strange, challenging, amazing year. I have learned so much, I don’t know where to begin writing about it – that’s probably why this post is a list of events, rather than the neat summing up of lessons learned, as I would like it to be.
One thing I know for sure though, is that I yearn for connection. (Who doesn’t, in their heart?) This running away, this conscious disconnection – perhaps it was necessary. Perhaps I had to do this to learn how much I needed connection. How much I need, you, us, all of it. This big, big world.
Well sometimes you gotta send it away, to bring, to bring it back again.
PJ Harvey, ‘Memphis’
Under the new moon in Capricorn, I looked forwards.
I want 2017 to be a year of connection. Of moving beyond the internal turmoil and fearful peering at a wild, painful world that characterised 2016. Of recognising my own place in this world, and the place of others, and our place in each others’ lives.
I’m thinking about connection of all kinds. Reconnecting with the friends I routinely neglect. Connecting with the folks who have inspired and supported me this year. Expressing my gratitude for their support, their words, their work, their simply being there. Connecting to the love I feel for each of these incredible people. Many of you. All of you.
Connecting with the activism I am so grateful for, so awed by. Connecting with my own power to act. Connecting with others, so that we can all act together.
Connecting still more with the land I stand on, wherever it may be. Rooting where I am planted, even if it is only for a short moment. Taking my eyes off the long game, the future, the big dreams, and connecting to the present moment, the right now.
Wherever you go, there you are
Connecting more deeply with my tarot cards. There’s only so much inward-looking a person can do before they tire of themselves – for me, this means tiring also of tarot. In lifting my head, in digging my hands deep in, in reaching out to the communities, places, activism around me, I hope to reconnect with the wider messages of my trusty, beloved cards.
Connections with my body and it’s needs – needs I’ve ignored for too long. Connection with the stories held by the plants, trees, rocks and soil around me, everywhere I go. Internet connections, rail connections. The post office. The systems that enable connection to happen.
The connection of one oppressive system with another – and one libertory action with another. The vital realisation that all of this is connected. That all of us are connected.
I’ve been pondering my new year’s resolutions.
I love resolutions, the sense of a clean slate, of somehow becoming ‘better’, fixing bad habits. The clean-ness of the minute-hand of a clock, suddenly announcing this newness, this new you, this new me. I have lists, in my head. Lists so long they can be sub-divided into themes. I’ve pondered these themes, cyclically, writing blog posts in my head about all sorts of topics.
But I’m going to let them go, in favour of this one idea: connection.
Because really, every resolution I dreamed up, every item on my list, every over-arching theme – it all comes back to that. After an incredible, difficult year in which I have felt myself disconnect – perhaps at the time when connection is more important than ever – that’s all I want to change. I’m grateful for all that 2016 has brought me. Grateful for my yield, despite it’s challenges. Looking forward to something different in 2017. Something more connected.