November 14, 2018

France, April

We leave Iona for three weeks – C has work in London, and I am going to France with Saoirse. On the morning we leave, the sun comes out. Everything looks golden, and it feels like the whole island is glittering. It feels like one of these magical moments that nobody can really explain, but everyone understands at once. The guests run out of the hostel giggling and taking pictures. Mark climbs the hill and stands there, a tall and dark silhouette soaking up the sun, arms outstretched. We walk down to the pier all together, and everybody says their goodbyes on the boat. I know we're coming back, but leaving feels difficult this time. This place is home now, and I can't wait to be back.

I am traveling alone with Saoirse for the first time. In London, I board the Eurostar carrying my bag and feeding her to sleep, and I feel like a superhero. She sleeps soundly on the train. We stay at my brother in Paris for a couple of days. Friends come to visit, and it's a delight to see my daughter is the arms of all these people I love so much, and get to see so rarely. Being in Paris is always a good reminder of my life there and why I left – the grey skies are such a contrast from my sunny scottish croft.

We stay at my mum's in the South, and tiredness hits me. It's hard to be parenting alone. I miss C, and because of his working hours we don't get to talk to him very often. I was expecting a warm Spring but the weather is cold and wet. On one sunny day, I sit Saoirse in the garden and she plays with the grass and the flowers. It feels like a moment I've seen before – my baby seeing her first Spring.

November 12, 2018

November 05, 2018

March, 2018

Dearest Saoirse,

The beginning of March is sleepy and icy cold. The hostel is empty whilst your Papa paints the walls in the rooms and the kitchen. Everything looks a mess. It's quite nice to have the places to ourselves for a few days, but with the weather not allowing much going out I am looking forward to welcoming guests again.

Your Papa gets up with you most mornings and goes to the boiler room to turn on the heat – he brings you back to bed for your first nap. Afterwards we start our day – we sit you in your chair and give you sweet potato and yogurt which you smear on everything – sometimes you're interested in eating, sometimes not. Callum makes fresh bread in the morning and the smell of yeast fills the kitchen. In the evening, I bake cakes or makes big batches of soup which we often share when guests have forgotten to buy dinner in the village.

Lately you've been laughing so much more. You've also been sick for the first time, but you were so brave about it, and almost never cried. I've just ordered new clothes for you and when they arrive I run my hands over the linen and the seams, marveling at how big they are. In a few months it'll be summer and we'll have a little person wearing these clothes, starting to walk and saying words.

One morning we go down to the beach for our morning walk. There was a big storm last night. As we walk down to the sand we spot a grey shape hiding in the reeds - it's a young seal. They don't usually beach on Iona but this one must have come ashore to hide from the storm. I kneel down, you still strapped to my chest, and very quietly come closer. The seal is sleeping, but you stir and give a little cry and it wakes up, his wet dark eyes looking around. When it sees us, it breathes noisily, then shrugs and close its eyes again. I give thanks for this encounter, and I know I will tell you this story when you're older. Your first wild animal.

Guests come back. First is a bookbinding retreat. Women fill the common room with their art supplies, driftwood gathered on the beach and scores of different papers, inks and stamps. Some create patterns on the wood to do prints, other sew pages together with silk. At the end of the week their books look so beautiful, each of them a unique work of art depicting their experience on the island. I bake a lemon cake to celebrate and we all share it in the evening with tea, watching the sun go down on the sea.

Our days look alike and yet they go so fast it's a blur. In the evening I sit in the shower to wash you – you like being in my arms and nursing as the water runs over you. Your Papa sits on the floor and watches us silently, then wraps you in a towel for a cuddle. As you drift off to sleep I keep talking to you, telling you everything we did that day and how special it is to share these moments with you.