Jonathan: New Year’s Day, 2015. Hope re-born. Fragile and tenous as gossamer, but hope nonetheless. Promises made ; old commitments burnished. The first day of the rest of our lives – each of us, all of us. Stepping up or stepping out : from now and here to there and thereafter ; never a day sufficient unto itself but rather of a piece with its yesterday and tomorrow. And if now is the First of January and here is the Outer Hebrides, then there’s certainly one hope that’ll be fulfilled over six months or so – the weather! Today? Cloud so low, so dense, so heavy that dawn just rolled over and went back to sleep.
On the croft in Eriskay, Sunny Boy is in hibernation. A tap on the screen and all he can manage is a few blinks, a mumbled complaint (sorry not a complaint – he just states the facts) about 3MWh since the end of March, before nodding off again. But let’s not take that for a no, just a not now – or at least not right now. So, hens feed exchanged for eggs, sheep counted … and back home there’s mid-morning coffee and toast in the kitchen.
It’s noon, and all the lights are on. Online, upstairs in the office, checking the weather forecast, counting down the hours to a night wavering between sleep and coming storm – a raging westerly tearing at the roof just feet above our heads. But now, right now, here amidst endless variations on on the dark side of grey – there appears a hint – a mere tinge – of blue. Blue as in slate – but blue nonetheless.
Back in the gloom of the croft store, we see – we’d see were we there – a small green light start to blink … then take hold. A display lights up, and we listen – were we there at all, we might – listen quietly … closely … our breaths held a moment .. or two. A hum? Oh yes – it’s Sunny Boy singing the blues!
Denise: As afternoon has turned to evening, two days of wind and rain have finally given way to clear skies – and a chance to get outdoors. The air is heavy with the scents of autumn, and the sodden grass is no longer growing vigorously enough to feed our little flock of five Scots Dumpy chickens: moving their ark twice a day would make little difference. In Greenhouse No 1 the harvest is all but done: the courgettes finished nearly a fortnight ago and the plants cleared ; the last of the tomatoes (from this greenhouse at least) was picked earlier today ; and after carrying a trug of big green peppers into the kitchen, there’s sufficient space for the Scots Dumpies. J helped carry a spare, smaller hen-house indoors, and then the Scots Dumpies themselves. They’ll get through the winter just fine in there: Centre Parcs for hens!
Jonathan: This evening, Tilly and I took our usual walk on the beach and then along the road: not by the glow of the late-setting sun – as we have become used to over the sumer months, but by the light of the moon. And a full moon tonight, closer to Earth and appearing larger than usual (the moon’s orbit being influenced by the Sun and other heavenly bodies) and in turn giving rise – and fall – to exceptional spring tides. This coming Saturday the ferry from Oban will be nearly two hours later due to lack of water over rocks at the head of Loch Boisdale. At the beach here by An Garradh Mor, tonight’s tide rolled so far back as to leave sandy reefs of rare sea-grass glistening in the moonlight. Standing amidst the gentle ripples at the edge of the sea, a young adult swan was looking forlornly out to sea. He’s old enough now to be a burden on the limited resources of the nearby fresh-water loch where he was raised, and has been driven away by his parents. He’s been pacing the shore for a few days now, perhaps struggling with all the same conflicting feelings as we did when setting out into the world. But whilst I’m quietly in awe of the moment, Tilly is playing noisily with another dog – a black Labrador of her own size and as careless of the quiet night as she is herself. They race along the beach together, their paws drumming the sand apace, veering and leaping in unison, yelping with untramelled delight. The young swan spreads his wings and hurls himself forward, feet and wings beating out an impromptu runway in the direciton of Barra; but once airborne he veers away to the left, around the rocky headland of Cnoc a Deas. Tilly and I start the second part of our evening walk, along the road towards Ludaig. At the last passing-place before Paul and Amanda’s house, we stop to take in the view across the sea towards Eriskay – and there is the swan again, standing in the shallows. Before long, the drive to make a life of his own elsewhere, to find a mate, will finally overcome the hold of the familiar – the only place he’s ever known. Tilly, too, is at a turning point, one where the thought of a biscuit for being a ‘good girl!’, and her comfy bed has at last get the better of the urge to run and sniff! As we turn for home, a heavy veil of cloud is drawn across the face of the moon, and Tilly’s friend – her own shadow – melts away into the dark of night.