I’ve been living on the Isle of Skye for one week. I arrived under the invisible, grounding new moon in Capricorn, tired and happy to land after a nine hour drive through some of the UK’s most dramatic scenery – two cats, my shop and the rudiments of a comfortable life packed into a friend’s sturdy little Fiesta.
I hadn’t driven for 18 months, and setting out at 6am in driving rain, navigating the complex, unkind motorways of greater Manchester, longing for the sun to rise, wasn’t the easiest start. When it did rise, I was in the Lake District, love songs on Radio 2, cats and I all singing along. It’s a journey of two halves – all motorway til Glasgow, then winding national park A-roads north and north and north to the Highlands and islands. Honestly, I’ve never seen such beauty in all the world. By the time I reached the mountains around Mallaig I was in tears, belting out Hungry Heart, dazed and excited in that beautiful, lonely way that I crave so much. Then a ferry, over the sea to Skye, and I was home.
I’m here to help out on a permaculture forest garden and campsite on the southern peninsula of Sleat (pronounced ‘slate’), in exchange for a caravan on the shore, overlooking the Sound of Sleat and the snow-covered mountains of the highlands beyond it. From here I can see ‘the remotest place in Britain’, Knoydart, a mountainous peninsula cleaved on either side by Loch Nevis and Loch Houn (‘Lake Heaven’, ‘Lake Hell’).
The work is simple. Four or five hours a day of whatever needs doing – clearing paths, chopping wood, pruning trees and plants, painting signs, sorting, tidying and general dirty outdoorsy maintenance tasks. It’s grounding and real, which was just what I was looking for – my days spent working with earth and tools and gloves and breathing steam in the cold winter air, rising early and watching the dawn over those mountains as I write or read tarot cards. Sandra, who owns the place, is a Yorkshirewoman who fell in love with permaculture in the 80s and has been growing a garden and a community here ever since. It’s called Rubha Phoil – ‘Paul’s Point’.
This island is rugged, far far north, filled with cliffs and beaches. The Cuillin Hills are reputed to be among the most beautiful mountains in the world, and suddenly they’re a half-hour drive from my home. I’m hoping to go exploring soon.
The cats are loving their newfound adventure playground. Emily climbs cliffs while Jammy jumps on rocks by the sea. They’re lively and talkative, curious and energetic. I’m so glad they’re with me.
The radio is tuned to BBC Scotland. Unpacking late last Sunday I was lulled into a musical dreamland by a late-night alternative music show. I was delighted to switch on on my first morning and be plunged into a discussion of Jennifer Lawrence’s comment that her style is ‘slutty power lesbian’. There were I believe three real life lesbians on the show to give their views! Great stuff. And evening folk shows and local weather and it’s just so nice to be hearing about what’s happening in another country.
Late at night, I sit out on the bench in front of the caravan, looking right out to sea. It’s very cold, but the weather has been generously dry. The sky here is so dark that you can see a million stars, the more you gaze up at the infinite blackness, the more appear, it looks like dark velvet, completely covered with glitter. The port-light flashes at the end of the pier, and out of sync, the lighthouse at Mallaig directly opposite flashes back.
But the best part of the day is the dawn. Every time. I wake around 6.30, stretch, step outside, make the fire, make coffee, draw a tarot card, answer emails, still in the velvet blackness of winter dark. Slowly, gradually, the light begins, and it’s only then that I start to see what kind of a day it is. Can I see the snowy peaks? How still or how rough is the sea? Are the clouds that cling to the mountains grey and thick, or white, moving fast? The light grows and grows until at 8.50 (and growing earlier every day) the sun breaks through the trees on the rubh. I package parcels and read tarot for clients in these awakening hours, before setting off up the hill to my daily tasks at the forest garden. The simplicity of my days is delicious.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.