I have been on holiday to Scotland and have just spent one week on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Berneray is tucked away on the very edge of Britain and is about as far away as you can get and still be in the UK. It is a small island that is attached to a very slightly bigger island, North Uist, by a causeway and it is the ideal place to satisfy my need for remoteness and stillness. It is a place to walk and to experience the natural environment in a slow and contemplative manner. Berneray and North Uist are small islands, surrounded by sea and white shell beaches and about half of North Uist covered with water.
I took some art materials with me and a few little bags to put collected objects into. I had hoped to draw outside everyday as a record of what I had seen, heard and experienced, but it was windy ….. very windy. Paper, paint, pens and pencils became unwieldy in the high winds which were the tail end of a hurricane and so I had to give up that idea. Instead I collected objects from the walk each day and then when I got back to our cottage I spent a bit of time reflecting on the walk. What stuck in my mind? Was it a happening, or an experience, a process, or even just a colour?
Each day I recorded my memory visually on a small piece of folded watercolour paper and then wrote, as simply as I could, some words to describe the experience. I put the collected objects in the bag alongside the folded book and filled seven little bag altogether. One bag was from my experiences on Lindisfarne (visited on the way up to Scotland) and the other six bags were for one day spent on Berneray. Each bag holds one remarkable memory taken from a whole days worth of memories – one fragment of a day’s experiences.
I will post one ‘bag’ a day for the next week and today’s two fragments come from Lindisfarne.
And now the causeway,
emerging from fast receding waters.
Flashed with light.
I stop and scan with awe
this place that minutes before was inaccessible.
Still caressed by an ebbing tide.
A curlew rises. Calling.
Upwards and away from this mutable place.
Along the beach,
eyes down on slippery, tide-bared stones.
I pick up a lace of seaweed
and a piece of sea worn slate.
An eerie windcall rises from across the flats.
Looking up to qualify
I see dark movement in the distance.
Seals hauled out on dry sand.
A plaintive, drawn-out chorus
that describes this liminal space.