I have lost all sense of how I feel about this new land of mine in which I inhabit. The night of gales so harsh brought snow blizzards in 53mph winds. It was not a surprise to me but still I was not ready. Every experience is still in my first year. The long, dark, lonely, isolated winter had, I thought, passed but the night of harsh weather brought it all back and I wonder what is my purpose to being here.   I knew at 6pm yesterday that the night hours would be harsh and I began to compare the weather here with the photos of Sheffield in blossom and there is no comparison, no point in looking south because either I embrace the weather here, or it will beat me. This is not an island for blossoms.

I looked out at the sheltering boats in my sight line, knowing they were there because of the roaring North Westerly winds.  I wondered how these men survive out at sea and the oil rig guys and then the poor sheep ready to lamb.  Before daylight vanished yesterday, before the light was anywhere near dark, the snow had been blown into a low sea of ripples coating the road as if a fine sanded beach but the snow was frozen into solid ice.  Ice ripples. It is both magnificent and daunting to see this elemental response to winds, snows, freezing temperatures and exposure to the elements through no shelter. I gathered wood for the fire and shut the door.

In the morning, in the bedroom facing the sea with a chimney full of swirling, angry winds, I have lost all sense of what I feel. Remnants of the long winter are still within me, in my bones and memory. The Easter blizzards have brought back a reminder of an isolated feeling.

At 5am, the sun will not show a hint of light, whereas during the week running up to this storm, the sunlight glowed at the same time. I imagined the sun wrestling in the sky with winds, snows and clouds so ferocious that all it could do was wait for a gap, wait for the elements to die down so it might shine.   The forecast gives no respite for 2 days.  It feels as though we are plunged back in to winter except that we have more day light hours. It is lighter.  The cats want to go out but Alfie is terrified of these winds but he can wait no longer.   I stand at the door shaking to my bones whilst he goes for a pee under the poor Christmas tree.  I think it is his doing that has made the tree lose needles. Tiggy thinks twice about the whole idea of going out but finally has to. They shoot back in the  house, brushing my legs with their bodies.

I  leave the outside porch light on to let the boats know that we are here on the  land, whilst remembering the story I was told last week of  the winter storm where a ship hit the rocks at the south end of Levenwick. Eleven men scrambled off the sinking ship on to the rocks, in to the sea and up the cliff.  It was pitch dark but in the  darkness, they saw a light in a small house which they made towards and were taken in.  If they had not seen the light, they would have perished outside, wet, in a freezing storm at night.  The rest of the crew were lost at sea and only the Captain and his sea chest were washed ashore.   Years later, the cabin boy, who survived, returned, as a skipper of his own boat, to the house where they were taken in.  He sat upon the cliff and cried at his memory – then he sailed the boat that he was skippering to  the place of the wreck, stayed a moment then sailed on.   This is a land of survival.  The cats and I are adjusting, learning, swimming, treading water as we only can.  City bodies on an island. 

It is way past the time of sunrise – the sky is still midnight blue, the sea as if ink. What will the day bring – I will have to go and dig out the coal, bring in the peats, light the fire and be grateful for this opportunity to live in this environment but even so, I am aware that this is the harshest of gales that the cats and I have been here for and feel that instead of looking at the harsh extremes, I begin to  actually see the extreme beauty where nothing is missed and  I am aware of everything.  

Living a real life, missing no details.

Author: traceydoxeydesigns

Site specific Artist using own created textiles, laser cuts and hand block printed wallpaper to engage with narratives of landscapes, social history and place.

19 thoughts on “Easter”

  1. Your post is beautiful and reminds us of our connection with the strength of nature. And perhaps the simplicity of our real needs.
    On another note, I’m in the Highlands and we have snow too today!


  2. A wonderful read Tracey, and such evocative photographs. Makes you think about all the women who have gone before, waiting for sons and husbands out at sea to return safely through the weather, keeping their minds busy with their makkin’ and baking and mending and tending, and the importance of community. Lockdown has brought a little flavour of that to mind for the rest of us, coincidentally, but no doubt we will unfortunately discard some of the lessons once things get back to normal, whereas you are “in it” and “of it” and undoubtedly the better for it! Thank you for sharing.


  3. Your post describes the fickleness of spring here in northern Vermont – it is always a fan dance – all rosy body parts one minute and teeth and claws the next – the grass is greening here today but yesterday a light crust of frozen snow – the tulips and daffodils pay no attention – guided by increasing daylight they keep stretching upward. I would not be surprised if you felt your ears burning over the Easter weekend – spent some time with 2 grown nieces – one a knitter and the other a graphic designer – urged them to look up your work and your Shetland story – and told them of my desire to take a post-pandemic trip back to Shetland with an actual visit with you rather than a virtual one – longing for a vaccinated world where all of us are safe to gather and meet


  4. Tracey, I have been following you on Instagram for a while now and enjoy every little photo and comment. Your post on the blog today was especially inspiring – beautifully written and sharing your feelings vividly. I live in South West Kerry in Ireland knowing the feeling of strong winds and struggling nature although it is here certainly a bit more softer than out on the islands. With 4 cats that hate strong wind as much as your two I knew exactly how you felt letting them out. We have a litter box in the house for emergencies but it is very rarely used. Even our rescue Persian cat prefers the outside. Anyway, thank you for sharing all this and I hope you will continue doing so. Living in a very remote area is not easy but has so many rewards too – one of them is sitting in front of a burning stove, snuggled up with the cats and some beautiful knitting – something I dreamt of for so many years while working in an office in a big city. Warm regards, Antje


  5. Dear Tracey, I read all your posts and follow your Instagram. I am from Shetland now living in Calgary, Canada. I do have to say that the weather your are experiencing is extreme, even by Shetland standards, and more like the weather we get here. We can still get big snow falls in May. There really isn’t spring here and I miss that dearly. Anyway, I hope you can stay strong and stay your course in your new life and adventure. I am sure in the week to come you will be delighted with sunlight and spring weather once again. One hour, one day, one week at a time…..xx


  6. Love this post – and it calms, a bit, my passion to live on Orkney or Shetland, since I’ve mostly accepted my years for that have passed. Ah hardy you are- the long, dark days and nights. And in return a brilliant, sometimes harsh beauty. I feel a little ache of jealousy, and a huge well of longing. Carry on through your indigo days and inky nights. Your blog is such a gift.


    1. I have just discovered Traceys Instagram and blog and share your sentiments, there is something about Shetland that draws me, though I’ve yet to visit, and I often daydream about living there which probably won’t happen , though hopefully a visit before too long.


  7. I feel your sense of isolation and trepidation, but I think it is just a test to your resolve to make this wild place your own. The past year and the virus business has magnified all the challenges but know you have done well and come so far. Spring and then summer will arrive and chase these dark times away. A fire, a whiskey and a warm bed with the cats in tow will get you through. Onward, you are inspirational:) xo


  8. We are here in our first six months on Skye, on an exposed, sea-facing croft too. Worse, in a static! Having started to breathe again after a wild winter with gales, snow and hailstorms that nearly blew us down the hill into the sea, winter has returned here too. It will pass. Stay strong. It will be worth it, for nothing worth having is come by easily x


  9. There is nothing like extreme weather to make me realize that we humans are truly not as powerful as we have led ourselves to believe. Wind, flooding, fire, earthquakes; there is only the illusion of control. I hope you had comfort in the fact that your house has stood many years and has endured similar weather. Thank you for sharing with us; I hope for a return to “normal” spring weather for you and Alf and Tig.


  10. A beautiful lyrical, feeling piece as always Tracey.
    If it is any consolation here in Nottingham I am reeling from the sudden change from Thursday and Friday short sleeves and sunscreen required as the strong sunshine encouraged a blossom encore to full on hail and snow blizzard today requiring biggest winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves once again.


  11. So beautifully written and wonderful images. You give a real sense of the weather and challenges faced living on Shetland. I live on a small farm on a hill and winter winds can be fierce but not a fraction of what you experience. Shetland is top of my places to visit, hopefully before too long.


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