Some adventures cannot be anticipated or planned. These are the best kind. I wait for my coffee before heading home to lose a few hours. I should now be boarding the ten forty five ferry to Papa Westray but gale force winds have cancelled the boat. Yesterday was a mixture of sunshine and calm but also carried gale force hail showers, many internal ferries as well as NorthLink have been cancelled, the currents and winds are treacherous.
Festival organisers have suggested I catch the four twenty to Westray and they will arrange a smaller boat to get me across to Papay, this sounds both an adventure but equally treacherous. I love it. I’m guessing the Westray ferry will be the school run, taking boarding teenagers back home for the weekend. Busy boat then.
Coffee arrives and as it does so the slow internet ferry site finally loads, it seems the Westray boat is running an hour early at three twenty, good job I checked. What do I do with my time now, If i go home I’ll just have two and a half hours or i can hide away here for the day and just write. It’s not a bad option. I could go to the library, find a quiet spot, it’s been too long since I’ve written.
But now I find I have nothing to say, I dip haphazardly into Facebook and email and think I don’t know what I’m doing, don’t know what I want to do, do I stay or do I go. My mood veers wildly from enjoying my time in Orkney and wanting to go home.
Yesterday I was missing Molly, strange that it is she I am missing. I feel my relationship with Poppy aged five is secure and can be sustained by intense contact three or four times a year, ditto Edward at three although not quite as secure but Molly is as yet an unknown, both me to her and her to me. She will not know me when we next meet. She was just beginning to crawl when I left and by the time I see here again will be beginning to walk.
There are times I am ready to go home and others when I am ready to stay. If I were a free agent I think I would stay until my time, my business, my whatever it is I am here for, is done but I cannot re-live the formative years of my grandchildren.
Eleven meter seas, my mind wanders. I’m wondering what height seas I’ve been in before, eleven feels considerably bigger, feels rather alarming in fact. I think I’ll just settle in here for the day to wait and see what happens. My stomach is churning in anticipation, probably watching YouTube clips of rough seas was probably not a good plan. I trust that those at work would not risk their lives unnecessarily but part of me wishes the ferry not to run, for it to be cancelled.
It is afternoon and I find I have lost several hours yet have not been dedicated to writing, instead have wasted time, eaten a very disappointing lunch in a promising cafe, (Brie and apple frittata turned out to be a tiny, floury, puffy muffin).I walk in pouring rain to the pier head only to find a lighthouse and a body of water rather than a ferry. I must walk back the way I came then go further along and back out. Signs can be very misleading.
I sit, windswept and wet in a tolerably comfortable waiting room with non communicative strangers who do not seem to want to converse despite my bedraggled state or perhaps because I am smiling despite being wet.
My coffee, my oh so carefully found latte has grown cold as I walked through the hail. It was just so when I bought chips once when I was in Kirkwall before. The shop seemed bemused by my request to have them served ‘open’ not wrapped, asked me to clarify my request and once outside, as I clung on to them in strong winds I understood for they were instantly cold. As is my coffee.
I have taken sea sickness pills and here in harbour it is deceptively calm, I know once out the waters will become rough, that the String is not the only body of water that will be fierce. How then is my own body. My body that came away feeling trim and light after a month of no alcohol, a month of feeding myself beautifully healthily and easily. I find it hard on the move to choose food that is not laden with calories and indeed find I have developed something of a sweet tooth. Not generally one for cakes I have bought myself a piece of Bakewell tart to take with me for my journey.
It is five to three and I feel anxious, need to know which ferry is for Westray, whether there will be an announcement but I wait amongst strangers and we speak not. I feel a sickness inside, a sick sense I felt whilst eating my lunch, that I just want to go home, that I do not want to be here, do not want to go to the festival, do not even want to pay December rent, just go home. And yet just yesterday I was thinking how I will miss Lynn when I do finally leave and how I will return to visit in the summer. But in this moment, I do not want to be here. I do not fight my anxiety, just allow it to be, I can feel my heart beating deep in my belly yet also in my chest, an echo sound reverberation of itself.
Sometimes, oft time I have an immediacy where I know must write or will lose my words yet am afraid that I will miss out on the next thing and cannot do both. I have just frightened myself yet again in the midst of a tiny, very safe island yet the wind and the weather are so much stronger than my frail body and I test myself to my limits over and over.
Mud and rocks, marsh and mire, the red dotted footpath that is not a path. Out on the rocks, in the mud with the wind tearing at me screaming to do its bidding. How it fools and beguiles me. I lean into it, push against its resistance, grow accustomed so I may walk until it drops with a suddenness that sends me tumbling with my own forward momentum, tumbling and stumbling over rocks and into mire. I am afraid of my knees, afraid to go forward and afraid of retreat.
I eat a chocolate marshmallow tea cake and the lusciousness soothes me in a way that coffee does not. I must write, must continue, must record but for now I must move on.
How inspirational it is to be amongst artists. Ellis talks about never recovering from living in the arctic, never coming back to accept the world as it is, talks of sifting and trying to make sense of her experience. I think that may be true of my time living in the desert with the never recovering being the residual urge that I continue to try to place, to search for, rehome. Something elemental was opened within and perhaps I can never go back to being who I was before. I look at her charcoal work and talk with her about how the weather is so much more, so much outside of us, so much a force to reckon with and she describes the elemental awe of being that I feel.
And now, I sit in a chair and feel safe and gratitude for the tingling of my legs and the wildness of my hair and for the knowingness that I am alive and my spirit is not dead.
Bea is writing a book about forty something days of her life, how many books might I write? The question is how to go about it, how to form structure and find a narrative and content that is beyond myself and of interest. When my writing is not in the moment it becomes lame and contrived.
I have removed myself, taken myself away. I am alone and with a freedom to write yet my urgent witness of this mornings walk has been dulled by an arcane talk, a discussion around guillemot eggs, the last great auk, other extinct species and I think perhaps a suggestion that we need to preserve island culture before it disappears but I don’t quite recall that being said.
I find I have missed the point of several talks I have experienced whilst in Orkney. I find myself suppressing yawns and wishing I might be elsewhere almost just as scrumptious as the local cheeses and oatcakes sounded yet they disappoint once eaten together, need to be eaten alone. Perhaps the talks would taste better served as a pick and mix rather than a three course sit down meal in polite company. Such it is then that I am now skipping the solo violinist and his response to the notion of island.
How can I begin to recreate my mood from my morning walk for trying to do so would force responses, make my words lame or laboured. I considered my plan for a short walk to be sensible enough and by its very nature it ought to have been but the weather and the marshy, rough terrain made my journey difficult, even perilous as gale became hail, a new weather condition but one to which I am rapidly becoming accustomed.