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.

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