Little worlds

Little worlds

Last week, once Joe was safely dropped off at school, we took the Two Churches walk near Dunvegan. It was a bitterly cold day but we’re making the most of this extended holiday as Jay has just been offered a job and he’ll be starting soon.

You can see Macleod’s Tables across the loch – a walk we’ll probably attempt once the weather’s a bit more temperate. We climbed the steep hill to the standing stone, then back down to the path which takes you through the gorse and heather into the woods.

It was bright and crisp, with little shadowy blue pockets where the sun doesn’t reach. The frost was thick and, as usual, I ambled along looking at details and photographing them.

I had a bit of a realisation then (walking outdoors always gets me in a philosophical mood): that Jay always goes for landscape shots of the mountains and the water. He uses a long zoom lens with his camera, whilst I prefer things in miniature. It sort of translates into our different outlooks on life. I’m a worrier and a perfectionist, agonising over the small stuff and getting bogged down in the minutiae of day to day things.

He’s a lot more pragmatic, less sensitive and self-critical. Enviably so. He sees the bigger picture, both literally and metaphorically, and prefers it.

Congratulating myself on this profound realisation, I continued on through the dripping trees, pausing to examine mosses and fungi, tiny kingdoms and little worlds. Frosted ferns and the first signs that spring will come: rosettes of foxglove leaves, buds on the bare branches.

The walk runs alongside the castle grounds and there are a few escapees which have naturalised alongside the native plants and shrubs. They’re more evident later in the year once they’re in flower; for now it’s just the dark waxy leaves of rhodedendrons.

We finished by heading downwards to the village through the pine woods. It’s so quiet in there, with the muffling layers of needles underfoot and thick velvety moss covering the trunks. Dark and gloomy too; the trees tower overhead allowing only the smallest pools of sunlight to illuminate the odd stump or fallen fir.

At the very end I spotted a little collection of shells left by another detail-lover and gatherer, grouped on a plank bench. 

And so life here in the crofter’s house goes on. We’ve had the stormiest of weekends, gale force winds and, yesterday, driving rain. It feels as though the weather is the fourth member of the household. It rattles at the door to be let in, howls down the chimneys, insinuates its way in through gaps and cracks. You learn to live with it. Extra blankets on the beds (thankfully, the house has plenty of those). A blazing fire in the stove. The other fire has an old pillow stuffed into the chimney (a tip someone kindly gave me on Instagram) so we can now hear one another speak above the roaring and raging as the wind blasts down…

I’m actually embracing all this. Why fight it?

The Land of Green Ginger has been temporarily laid aside in favour of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - a good book for imagining the howls aren’t coming from the weather alone. My desk faces out across the bay and I’ve just watched a hail shower approach, hovering at first like an apparition across the water, moving up the valley then hammering at the window before quickly disappearing again.

At around midday this room is often filled with piercing sunlight. I close the curtains to soften it then open them again later, in readiness to watch the dusk creep in.

I like all this noticing of things. Am I becoming more mindful? Me, of the busy mind and racing thoughts? For all its storms and bluster, this island is definitely working some kind of magic…