When silence is a good thing

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted a blog.  Nothing wrong, but sometimes life just gets in the way.  There is a lot going on with the children and they, of course, remain my priority and everything else has to shift in behind them.  So I am rather slotting everything in around the family which is fine in theory but when the craft markets are upon us and the art show a month a way I am left feeling slightly out of control.  I think living a little close to the edge is good for my soul as it keeps me alert.  I could never be accused of sleep walking through life.

The island is having a challenging time with disruptions on the ferries mainly due to strike action.  This is the first summer of the lower fares and the strikes are causes chaos and, without doubt, damaging the economy on the island.  While I am sympathetic with anyone who has a genuine grievance with pay and conditions I struggle when their actions affect others.  The economy on the island is so fragile and I must admit to being a little cross with Cal Mac and they so need to get themselves sorted and quickly.

That said, there appears to be more people on the island so I am hoping businesses are finding a way to navigate themselves through the situation and I wish them all the very best for the season.  I understand the seasonal nature of the island and the need for it to be busy during as many months of the year as possible but I do miss the empty beaches and the quietness that claims the island as autumn sets in.  I tend to hibernate a little during July and August and in September I venture out again to an island that I adore.

I have been chatting to Molly’s boyfriend (who has been with us since last summer) about the uniqueness of island life.  He understands the island and the island loves him for it.  I have rarely seen anyone settle into island living as well as he has and, of course, it has been a joy to have him as part of our family all this time.  As he starts to prepare to leave in August I can feel the strain on him.  He recognises that the quietness has become part of who he is and where he feels most settled.  He is returning to Lincoln to do a masters degree so the contrast will be profound.  He has an open invitation to return but I am not sure that is helping.  I feel his unease.  I could not live on the mainland despite it being a rather large island!  Island life does have its compromises but its blessings are what makes me breath in and out every day.  Last night I listening to the drama of an Arran monsoon and smiled at the familiarity of it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.


As the summer markets get underway in the village Thursdays become a lovely day of the week when we meet locals and visitors alike and catch up with fellow stallholders.  With a completely brand new stall this year it has taken some work to get to this point but I am ready and looking forward to a fabulous summer.  Only now can I concentrate on the art exhibition in August and my submissions for the SWRI show.  Sewing has taken over most of my time outside supporting the children and I don’t think I saw that coming.  I am taking some time out of writing in theory but less in practice.  I am working as a member of a planning team for a brand new modern apprenticeship in craft and I am very excited about that.  It is going to be a super qualification and open up a whole new avenue for learning for people that love to be creative.

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We have reduced our commitments on the smallholding drastically and are feeling the benefit of it.  It had become very pressurized and I just can’t manage much of the manual work now and Pete does not have the time.  He is growing purely for us this year and has re-found the fun in it.  I have created a small garden very close to the house which I can continue to develop over the coming years at a pace that is possible.  We remain committed to our willow crop although have no plans to expand it at this time.  It services the island community very well and I think we will stick at that for now.

The children are all in good places.  Molly is also preparing the leave the island, although not until September when she will be off to Nottingham to do her masters degree in Species Recovery.  Harry is about to do a trial period living in Glasgow to see if he likes it.  George has just secured a part time job in a bakery on the island which is perfect.  He is also training very hard in his running and still volunteering at the island farm park.  He and Max are now both Youth Ambassadors for Oxfam and I could not be more proud.  Max has just run his first ever online campaign and they are both busy preparing for a summer of fundraising with their own stall at the market.  Rock and roll boys.  Check out their blog HERE.

So my relative silence in blogland has an excellent back story and I do hope all is well with you.

scottish island mum

Seeing in pictures

The Dyemill walk, a favourite ramble.

The Dyemill walk, a favourite ramble.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to live on a small Scottish island that overflows with inspiration.  My creativity is one of the things in life that I hold most dear and I am always on the hunt for new inspiration.  Our 10 acre smallholding offers much with two woodlands, a meadow and views that open my head on a daily basis.  Beyond our space the island unravels its natural glory in new ways each and every day.  So, being creative is not difficult when you live on the Isle of Arran.

I am different from my daughter Molly as she is is a scientist and I can see how our minds work differently.  I think in pictures all the time and, in that sense, have quite a simple brain.  Within pictures I tend to focus on colour and texture the most.  My mind goes through a translation process as my eyes fall on something in the natural world.  I appear to translate that into a picture that is capable of remembering precise colour and texture.  Of late I have been focusing much more on form as I continue my work towards my very first art open studio event in August.  But we are still very much dealing with pictures.

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In my work with vintage fabrics I see colour and pattern everywhere and my job is play homage to these elements of once loved fabrics.  Creating new designs from bits and pieces of rescued vintage linen is an absolute obsession.  I am always charmed by the outcome which has breathed new life into a damaged piece of very precious fabric.  Memories are bound into every stitch in an embroidery and so by finding a new way to present this work the memories live on.

I also see pictures when I think of my children.  My role as a mother is sacred and I would be completely lost and empty without it.  From when they were very tiny I have seen their development in pictures.  All four children are very different and very unique and I never lose sight of that as their individual pictures are always so revealing.  Molly always has some creature on her shoulder when I look at her.  She is grounded in the planet she inhabits and I have always seen her as a protector.  She is also very much the big sister to the boys.  Harry is inside his head a lot and I have always seen a picture that includes problem solving.  Give Harry a project and he will solve it.  He is the definition of commitment and responsibility and takes his role in society very seriously.  George is the observer of life; nothing gets passed George.  He is all seeing and all knowing and his picture always includes reference to the stars as he truly believes everything is possible.  Finally Max is the easiest to read of all.  His picture is dominated by a massive heart that beats at the centre of all he does in life.  His compassion knows no boundaries and his affection for fellow man captivating and transforming in equal measure.

cropped-castle-april-2013-008.jpgSeeing pictures absolutely has its uses in life but the deepest of all is my faith.  A committed Buddhist I look for the elements of my faith everywhere.  I see compassion, forgiveness, enlightenment and truth in places within the world but, if I am honest, I wish I saw more of them.  At times they become very fractured and I have to seek them out to ease my soul.  This doesn’t stop me trying to see these pictures though.  Forgiveness is a huge tool to the Buddhist and I have had times when it has been essential.  We all stumble across people in life who have anger, hatred or jealously dominating their spirit and these negative emotions can wipe out the strongest and purest picture.  It is in these instances when my faith is most important to me as I remain determined not to let those strong emotions affect me.  It is for us all to ground ourselves in compassion and that is the silent picture that I hold deep in my soul.

I am blessed with all my pictures.

scottish island mum

A Positive Place

wild challenge 1 017Somehow I seem to have stumbled upon one of those places in life where positivity is flowing in abundance.  I am a very positive person but the world can be a very challenging place so positive places are  hard to come by.  A positive place is not just defined by positive energy it is also encapsulated in time and space.  You absolutely know when you have stumbled across one because if you pivot on your anchor foot you will see positivity in all directions.  I see it in our island community, in the youths I meet on a daily basis, through happenings in the lives of my family and friends and in the wider world at large.

This wee positive place was shattered into a million pieces this morning when UNICEF and Oxfam contacted me with news of a second major earthquake in Nepal.  People that are out there rescuing have been hurt themselves…

If you are truly in a positive place it will find a way to win through and today it was my 15 year old son who shone the brightest of all and restored my faith in human nature.  As soon as he was aware of the second disaster to hit an already devastated country he was up and on his laptop.  He is a member of a brand new youth group for Oxfam and he understands his responsibilities very well.  He had been working on background research of the charity so armed with that he immediately set up a facebook page so that he can start to build a network that is capable of helping Oxfam to help others.  He has already put the emergency appeal on the page and we are all busy sharing the page and the appeal like mad.  Meantime he is plugged into several news reporters waiting for updates.

So, through the gloom of the disaster emerged a 15 year old young man taking his first steps as a humanitarian activist and I was fit to burst.  I was busy chasing national dance awards and rehearsing every spare minute when I was wrapped up in my self obsessed 15 year old world.  The contrast is too acute.

The new Arran Oxfam Youth Group have plans to campaign and fundraise throughout the summer with a tentative appointment with our new MP in the autumn for some serious lobbying.  I strongly suspect they will a force to be reckoned with as the youth voice always has the loudest impact in humanitarian contexts.  All my four children have worked with me with international charities for years but this is different.  Both Max and George are part of the new Arran Oxfam Youth Group and I am watching them fledge from a distance.  Within our family we have all long since agreed that Max has the biggest heart and now he has the chance to use that to help others who live hundreds of miles away.  Although I am incredibly proud that is not really the point.  The reality is that we raise our children to be the best they can be and something tells me that Max is beginning a journey that will define a lifetime.

PLEASE support these young people by liking their facebook page HERE.  They will soon have their own blog as well but all their plans will be announced on their facebook page first.  Many thanks from a very humbled…..

scottish island mum