It’s been a stormy start to 2018. Wind speeds of 50-70 mph have been regularly recorded, and we seem to have been living with yellow ‘be aware’ warnings for days. Heavy rainfall has soaked the already wet ground and it feels like the island is gradually sinking. In times past the island was sometimes referred to as the ‘land below the waves’ – it certainly feels like an appropriate name for these first few days of the new year. The ferry has had some battles with the elements – captured here by Alan Millar.
Very occasionally we get ground frosts on the island. When they arrive they have an enchanting effect on the seaweed and detritus found along the strandline on the beach below the cottage. These findings sparkle and glisten in the light and bring an unexpected embellishment to a beach walk on a frosty morning.
We’ve had some of the best views to the south – towards Jura, Islay and Colonsay – when we’ve had the occasional clear, bright morning. The experience of viewing distant islands – from an island – reminds me of being joined by the shared experience of island living and awakens an eternity of possibilities as you scan the horizon.
As someone once said to me when I was younger “we’ve had a lot of weather this week!” The edge of Storm Caroline brushed past earlier in the week causing huge waves and beautiful rainbows in the spume, and on Friday we woke to find a dusting of snow. These significant weather events always bring amazing qualities to the landscape and give us fresh insights into the beauty of this island.
We’ve loved having guests in the cottage during this last year. Although the weather has been mixed at times it’s been wonderful watching people visibly unfurl as they relax into the quiet, unrushed way of life here. The peaceful, beach-side location, has provided a place of reflection and re-creation. We’re looking forward to welcoming more guests next year – hoping for sunny and warm days and long, balmy evenings.
Another day of very mixed weather. By lunchtime we’d had rain, snow, sunshine, clear blue skies and hailstones … all four seasons. It’s always a pleasure to walk the beach below the cottage – it seems to have as many changes of mood as there are grains of sand spread along the shore.
As we move closer towards the winter solstice – the shortening days have lower light levels and the few hours of daylight we get at this time of year can often be overcast and grey. Mornings and evening often provide some relief from the gathering greyness by giving a light show of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This morning the sky was alive with warm, fiery colours which were heightened by the reflection in a calm sea.
In the autumn and winter – after storms have blown through – the beaches are covered in tangles of storm wrecked kelp. Tangles are mentioned in the ‘Road to the Isles’, a traditional Scottish song, which first appeared in print in 1917…
Sure, by Tummel and Loch Rannoch
And Lochaber I will go,
By heather tracks wi’ heaven in their wiles;
If it’s thinkin’ in your inner heart braggart’s in my step,
You’ve never smelt the tangle o’ the Isles.
Oh, the far Coolins are puttin’ love on me,
As step I wi’ my cromach to the Isles.
We’re waiting for the predicted storm. The sky is turning dark, the strengthening wind is whistling and moaning and the showers of rain, when they come, are more fierce. The sea appears to rise – as if suspended vertically – obscuring the horizon and filling the air with fine droplets of water. The beach has a desperate rawness as the sea pounds and drums on the sand and rocks.
Autumn on the island always reminds me of the ‘transformation’ scene in a theatre production. It’s that time of metamorphosis when the coastal scenery undergoes a visible, and often dramatic, change of colour, light and atmosphere. Days can be muted and grey or bright, vivid and sparkling. In the next few days high winds and strong currents are forecast – the beach below the cottage will be washed and stripped and we’ll see something of the rocky skeleton below the sandy surface.