September 21, 2018

January - I

January is slow and luminous and happy. Most days it's only us in the hostel, so when guests arrive it feels extra special and exciting, like old friends are coming to visit. They feel like friends when they leave. The sun has come back and even the wind can't get rid of its warmth. Somedays we still get sleet and snow but it never lasts long. Most mornings are now filled with bright golden light. We walk down to the beach everyday and the sunlight makes the frozen sand sparkle. Saoirse sits on a blanket whilst I gather seashells to make her a dreamcatcher. My wellies have cracked and let the water in, but I don't care. Mark gathers red seaweed which he slowly dries in the oven, making the whole house smell like saltwater.

We have our routine. Every monday on our day off, we set off on foot and walk the two miles to the village, wrapped in warm layers. We stop several times on the way to say hello – to our friend Callum who works in the abbey, to the Highland cows peacefully grazing the short grass, to the jeweler and the knitter and the people in the café. We go to the shop to buy a few groceries, and to the tiny post office to deposit our money. The post office is right by the water, and we go and see the rowing boat freshly painted red, with its shiny golden oars. We say hello to the cat who always hang out by the café, and to the ravens hiding in the nunnery, and the fearless little robin who lives in the chapel. When all of that is done we walk home, admiring the cliffs of Mull if the day is clear. Saoirse turns her head left and right in the baby carrier and let herself be rocked to sleep – when we arrive, we deposit her softly on the bed and she continues to nap. We sit in the living room with frozen hands and noses and make hot chocolate, waiting for her to wake up.

I know this all sounds small, but life here seems to expand. Through the simple, repetitive tasks of everyday, our rhythm has meaning. I had almost forgotten what it felt like, to live so simply that every part of your day becomes extraordinary.

September 18, 2018

Christmas, 2017

We leave Iona to spend Christmas in London with my love's family. The way down is something out of a fairytale – snow has fallen overnight and blanketed the Highlands, hanging heavy on the pines.

In London I get food poisoning and Saoirse gets it after me – we spend a night vomiting and a very boring morning in the ER – luckily she's fine and we get to go home. Another day we take my nephew to the Winter Wonderland and we chase each other through the fair, drinking mulled wine and eating candy floss. We look like a strange little family. Saoirse is fast asleep in the carrier and misses most of the excitement, waking up only to stare at the bright lights.

We don't stay long in London, we head to the countryside where the family has rented a house to host everybody. The village it's in is your perfect english fantasy, with lovely cottages and lots of cafés with delicious food. It's sort of strange, spending Christmas in a different family, but it's also fascinating to watch these dynamics from a foreign point of view – so many cousins together remind me of my own, and I miss them.

It feels like we've just packed as much entertainment and life as we could in the last two weeks, and seeing the shape of Iona appears through the fog as the ferry crosses the sound feels right. We breathe, again. We spend new year's eve with family and some new friends in the hostel, sharing a meal and our plans for the year to come.

The first day of a new year is exactly like the others – Saoirse wakes up in bed between us, we cuddle, then put on our warmest clothes and go look at the sea. My love and his dad run into the icy water for a swim. We run back, make breakfast, and settle on the sofa to watch the view whilst the baby plays at our feet. She is five months old today. And as she settles for the night I sing to her, and tell her that no matter what this year holds, it will be magical. If I do nothing this year, but nurse and rock and cradle – if I do nothing but be her mother... it will be enough, and plenty.