October 19, 2018

February - I




February is here and the storms are back. It's freezing outside. It doesn't deter John or Snuffy the dog – every morning and evening we watch them walk across the croft for their daily walks, no matter what the weather. John is a giant, and his yellow wellies and flat cap are visible from a distance. A few mornings we wake up and the waves on the beach below are frozen. Pools of saltwater freeze in between rocks, trapping seaweed and bubbles of air. They look like artworks.

Artists abound in our hostel. Writers, painters and jewelers come here for inspiration. The last one to arrive is Kate, a middle age woman with turquoise hair and a warm smile. She and Saoirse get on immediately and for the next few weeks she often steals Saoirse in the mornings. Sometimes we'll wonder where our baby has gone and we'll find her playing with Kate's brushes on her bed. Kate paints incredible watercolours of the coastline, but she also paints with pure water on canvas, creating creases and fold in the paper to resemble waves. I don't have the words to describe it – it's breathtaking and it looks alive. She has traveled extensively in Asia and China to learn their techniques with ink and papermaking. It's only when she leaves that we find her website and realise she is a very well known artist.

Callum's family visits. It's so funny to see them up here, but they love it all in their own way. Callum's father seems particularly happy, wandering endlessly outside in the wind and rain and learning all about seaweed. I'm so happy people come to see us here and experience the magic for themselves.

One sunday the cold has gone, and the sun is unbelievable. We go out in the t-shirt – it sounds like nothing but on the island, people are running around without coats, like they're trying to soak up as much warmth as possible. We decide to walk to Columba's bay, at the other end of the island. We tried it once in autumn, but got lost in the moor and turned back. This time the mud has dried and there's no sign of rain. Columba's bay is where Saint Columba is believed to have made land after his journey from Ireland. A stone labyrinth marks the place. A few sheep graze peacefully next to us. The beach is made of roughly smoothed pebbles, among which shines the off piece of greenstone – they call it Iona marble here. They are lovely white stones with bright green streaks. I place them on our windowsill where they catch the light and send green rays across the room. We come home with our first sunburn of the year.

Saoirse turns six months old. We sit her in the dining room, in a beautiful wooden high chair John got for us, and give her her first solid foods. She plays around with sticks of sweet potato and carrots, and smears applesauce all over her face. I feel so proud and so moved watching her. For six months I nourished her exclusively from my body, and now she is eating on her own. It feels like such a milestone, and the first one to separate us, slightly.

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