On the process of slowing down

On the process of slowing down

It's strange how so much happens here yet at the same time nothing much at all goes on. We've had Christmas. There's been more snow. A mouse decided to come and live with us. It's stay was a very temporary one. The roads are treacherous. Like most households here on Skye, we have to tape the letterbox shut or the wind makes it sound like we have a very angry visitor at the door.

We continue to sleep well: deeply and often until past 8am. Joe's the same. Of course, that'll all change once Jay's at work and Joe's back at school but until then we're making the most of it.

The changes in our moods, sleep and stress levels seem to have happened almost overnight, since we first arrived. No sudden lightbulb moments or conscious efforts to slow down. I'm not sure whether it's the time of year; people are off work, every day seems like a Sunday. It could be the weather. We feel as though we're in our own little snow globe. Everything is soft and everywhere silent. 

The nights are dark and starlit. The road, off in the distance and winding around the shore, quiet.

Our days pass slowly and are marked by the comforting regularity of routine and ritual. The skies gradually lightening in the mornings, the same little fishing boat appearing in the bay. The sheep always sleep close to the house and, as we eat breakfast at the table, they slowly pull themselves up and wander off, stiff-legged, to where they know the farmer will bring food.

We have hot baths and the stove is lit. It requires tending throughout the day but the dining room is where most activities take place: my writing at the table looking out towards the loch, Joe's drawing at the desk we bought him for Christmas.

We watch the days pass. From the robin who sits on the fence post early each morning to the low sun slowly moving across the horizon, the clouds drifting past the mountain peaks. You become more conscious of the wildlife nearby; the same two hooded crows in the field, the watchful herons standing statue still in the water. You become part of it and it becomes part of you.

All this within a few weeks. 

We've given up on the open fire in the living room. It requires a lot of effort for little warmth. And the bath water trickles out maddeningly slowly but it's piping hot. So we start it running early and do other things in the meantime.

This is an old house with draughts and creaky floors, patched-up bits here and there and very few electrical sockets or mod cons. You get used to it remarkably quickly. Blankets by the sofa, candles in gloomy corners, extra quilts on the beds.

The snow has been both beautiful and challenging. We were unable to go and buy our food using the direct 'hill' road as it was too dangerous and is closed after a snowfall. So we took the long way around, a round trip of almost 50 miles. The scenery was stunning. Narnia, The Snow Queen: it was like all those childhood storybooks brought to life. Otherworldly. Mountains thickly covered in sifted icing sugar, pine forests where the fir boughs groaned under the weight of the snow, pink skies, a rising moon.

In true pioneer style we ate lunch at the hardware shop, stocked up on provisions and then dealt with our affairs at the bank and post office. You have to plan ahead when you live here. There's no spontaneous 'nipping out' to the supermarket, retail park or DIY store. You can't kill a rainy afternoon in a shopping centre or soft play place.

It's simple: you either stay indoors or go outside.

I'm not going to pretend; I'm looking forward to the local cafe reopening in February. The castle will be open again to visitors in April and we're planning on buying a yearly pass. The gardens are one of my favourite places (I wrote about them here) and I can't wait to see them in early spring.

I'm also looking forward to Joe starting his new school. He'll have had almost double the usual Christmas holiday with us having moved house, and it'll be nice for him to spend time with other children again. I need to get work done (impossible when he's around), to meet people, to walk alone and get inspired.

Jay has been approached by a few employers so we're hopeful he'll be in work shortly. But before then we have New Year (or Hogmanay as we should perhaps now be calling it). The neighbours have asked if Joe would like to go and play with their grandsons who are coming over from Ireland. There are any number of dances and ceilidhs which I'd love to go to, but late night parties are out of the question when there's nobody to babysit. Maybe next year...

On Boxing Day we went to the beach. White sands, turquoise water, biting winds. We watched the rainclouds gathering. The skies darkened to a livid ink-blue and the islets turned a sulphurous colour. Joe splashed in the sea and explored the hills for an hour before we retreated and the rain moved towards us.

So yes, life here can be cold. The scenery is harsh and bleak. The weather changes sometimes by the minute. There's little by way of convenience. You have to plan, to brave the winds and rain, to keep watch over the fire.

But the people are welcoming. It's peaceful. There's much here to learn and discover - the breathtaking scenery, the magical places. You fall into a pattern of observing the skies and checking forecasts, of using any free time to read or drink tea or make things. It's what we wanted for us and for Joe. And the quality of our sleep, that time when we're the least conscious of our surroundings, is perhaps the most telling thing of all. We've slowed down and it suits us.

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful New Year - see you in 2018!