Island Dreams – From one island to another

Standing at the top of a cliff on a remote island I can only wonder at how lucky I am to live where I do. Up here at the north end of Skye we have views all around that emphasise the remoteness of our little island. For miles and miles all you can see and hear is dominated by water, sky and wind. From here we have a view of other tiny islands like ourselves, Raasay, Rona, Eilean Fladday, Staffin Island and Flodigarry Island are just off the coast towards the East, Harris, Lewis and the string of smaller inhabited and uninhabited islands that make up the Outer Hebrides lie to the North. I remember as a child I had a long trip home from school by underground then bus. In Winter, as I got off the bus and trudged the twenty minute walk up the hill, I passed my time looking at the brightly lit windows, where lives were being lived. I wondered what happened in their space, were they looking out at me as I was looking in at them?

Looking from Skye at our nearby companion islands, I have the feeling that we are communicating in some way, there is a beautiful, silent and mysterious dialogue going on.

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Island Dreams I

There are days when you can see for miles across the tops of the islands to the mountainous ranges of Assynt and the Torridon Hills on the mainland, and there are days when you can barely see the outline of our sister islands in the mist. At the moment I am intrigued by the small strip of water between us and the islands Raasay, Rona and the tiny, now uninhabited islands, Eilean Fladda (Flat Island) and Eilean Tigh (House Island) and Eilean an Fhraoich (Heather Island). It is hard to imagine, but families once lived here long ago, moved onto this harsh terrain during the clearances; perhaps that is why there is a sense of mystery swirling around these lumps of rock in the mist. The light plays tricks, the islands lie far away in the distance one day and  so close the next, that you feel you could reach out and touch them, feel that rugged rock and touch the heather on the hills. In the mist you can barely make out the shapes as they float between sky and water.

Island Dreams II Small
Island Dreams II

The sunny days and blue skies we had in September and October have gone, the warmth and clarity they brought to the view will remain a memory for some months now as we head into November. But, that is not to say that the change is unwelcome. There is nothing more exhilarating than standing on the clifftops on a blustery day in the Winter months trying to capture your emotions and a sense of drama as the islands appear and disappear in the clouds. If you are lucky enough to see the sun split through early morning mist then you are rewarded by a sight that few are enjoying as they are tucked up in warm beds or complaining about the weather.

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Island Dreams III

The words of the wonderful poet and fellow islander  Mavis Gulliver  strike a particular chord.

From One Island to Another

Sometimes

there is nothing

to show there’s land

across the sea.

When clouds convert to mist

that sits

on the sea’s surface,

the mind relies on memory

to add the lines of islands,

the rise of distant hills.

When mist drifts and lifts

the outlined islands,

shapes of distant hills

emerge like wraiths

like shadows of themselves,

until sun scalpels through,

reveals each detail,

sharp

against a blue so clear

the miles of ocean

seem to disappear

and I could walk

across the water.

With permission from Mavis Gulliver First Published in ‘These Islands, We Sing’
Ed. Kevin MacNeil, Polygon, 2011. You can find more of her wonderful poetry in  Waymarks  her latest volume of poetry newly released by Cinnamon Press.

7 thoughts on “Island Dreams – From one island to another

    1. Thank you so much, that was such a surprise as I only just posted this. I only moved here last year myself so I know exactly how you feel. If you ever get a chance to come up please let me know. We are building a gallery (another dream being made reality) and would love to share our beautiful place with people who love it.

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  1. Thank you for seeking me out after reading my poem ‘From One Island to Another’. Your photographs are wonderful and perfectly illustrate my words even though my island view is very different from yours. I live on the Isle of Islay with a cabin on the shore of our south-facing garden; so the view in my poem is of Rathlin Island and the north coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland to the south-west; and of Kintyre to the south-east. There are skerries and several tiny islands too – as well as the two ends of Port Ellen Bay. I have lived here for twenty years but before moving here I spent seven years as teacher on the Isle of Colonsay. From there my views were of Mull on the one hand and Jura on the other. Each island has its special magic and ever-changing views, some of which are described in my newly published poetry collection, ‘Waymarks’ (Cinnamon Press, 2015). Please keep in touch. I shall follow your work with interest.

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    1. What a lovely way to live Mavis! I had read you were on Colonsay, obviously I was out of touch. I have heard Islay is a wonderful place and have relatives who visit often. You are right, every island has it’s own story, it’s own special history and personality. I managed to order Waymarks from Cinnamon Press yesterday and am now looking forward to it arriving in the coming days. Keep in touch.

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  2. Hello, I have found this blog via Mavis Gulliver whose poems I love. I love islands having lived on two of them (Singapore and Hong Kong) and I’m drawn to the Scottish Islands because my roots are in Scotland. I smiled at what you said about the islands looking far away and then near. I have always said that the hills here seem to move, for the same reasons. Really enjoyed this post and look forward to reading more.

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