Today is the anniversary of me leaving an island and returning to a city.
It doesn’t matter much to me and certainly not to anyone else about this fact – not really. But, I suppose it is a personal landmark, and seemingly one that matters enough for me to dwell upon the date when I cannot normally manage to remember the day of the week. Too many things have happened since I returned, most of the first six months, I’d rather forget. What matters, I suppose, is that we get on with things in life, whatever happens, even when it takes longer than we hoped, even if we rise more slowly than we used to – we still rise. Even now, I am still a work in progress.
If there is no need to mark this anniversary, then why put words to paper?
People generally mark time by anniversaries. Today, I reflect, I take stock, I take a pause, to be grateful for the place I am now at, both physically and emotionally. As I sit here, I can hear the neighbour practicing his mandolin with Fleetwood Mac playing on his stereo in the background and later, I will hear the Chinese lady teaching piano class, Alfie sleeps peacefully beside me, clouds drift, dogs are out being walked. Life, for me, carries on here. It is not just me and fog and wind in a beautiful house.
Our experiences are like beads on a necklace. Some beads shine, some are dull, some broken, chipped, rough or smooth but the beads mark our journey. Shetland is a large, multi-faceted, rich bead on my necklace of life, one I will never forget and one that my life would not have been fulfilled without doing, whatever the cost.
I think what it boils down to is me accepting that I do feel this one-year anniversary of leaving a place I thought I would never leave. I do feel the passing of the year between arriving and now. I know that not one other person will be interested and although I didn’t think that this anniversary was important to me, as I write, I find a growing personal importance in honouring this day today and that day, one year ago. I remember the adrenalin of that day before leaving the croft house in Shetland, counting the hours, of two great friends visiting me as I was packing the car, helping me, bringing food and secret presents. And when I left, I did not look back.
The last morning shone with a burning scarlet sunrise
Here are the words I wrote one year ago – almost to the minute.
A last Shetland sunrise
Its flaring red, pink, lilac and blue skyscape performs to remind
the boys and I of perfect
untainted natural beauty.
I walk out to greet the glow
Sky, wind, cold envelope me.
Sheltering from the Baltic wind in a steadfast porch that faces east,
To etch the view forever.
A basin of ice cold sea
wraps the surface of a world below a rippled dancing sky.
Alfie by my feet
on the age old stones.
The red sky does not fade,
it glows, it sings, it morphs
It shouts to me
“Goodbye, do not forget me,
For I am in your soul”
This September, one month ago, I returned to Shetland; to draw a line, to closes the circle, to see if I made a mistake leaving. I found beauty and wind and I met friends in Lerwick and I remembered memories. But on the day of leaving, when the bus went past my house in Levenwick on the way to the airport, in the dark and wind and rain, I felt nothing.
When I saw the lights on in the windows of the homes of the friends that I knew, I thought about the sweetness of them, of Lynn and of our sea swimming and walks, of Martin and how I regularly got in his truck to go out to feed his beautiful sheep, of Jimmy and Archie and our talks on art and Carol who lived in the house behind me, but as the bus approached the back of the house, I craned my neck to see the roof and the chimneys, the bus moving at the same slow, meandering pace as my mind – I felt nothing. I mainly looked forward to my return to the city, to my small flat, to my cats. I looked forward to a peace that I am finally finding in myself – mainly because I finally found a small home, a place of safety, a place to think and grow again. I have a simple city life with a lot to do. I have a peace I did not find in Shetland.
Yesterday, I sat around a table in a small room, in the centre of Sheffield with a group of people who joined to spend time together talking about non fiction works. There were at least 5 nationalities bringing their joys in a shared pastime and I inwardly celebrated being back in the land of cultural difference, acceptance, and open ness. In the city, there is still a thread of autonomy. Last Friday, I dipped my toe into the realms of writing by entering a novel slam organised as part of Off the Shelf festival. I’ve never read in front of anyone, let alone on a stage, I’ve never used a microphone before, let alone on a stage in front of a judging audience to read my own work and I’ve never entered a competition like this before.
I had to get through stage one with a one minute pitch. After round one. The audience voted 8 people through to round two. I went with no one, just in case I couldn’t do it. I noticed that the other participants had gone with friends who not only cheered them on but voted for them to go through to round two. It was then that I realised that maybe I had missed a trick. Surprisingly, I got through round one, and read my 3 minute pitch in round 2 and even more surprisingly, I came 3rd
What this did for me – was make me realise that I owned the act that I am writing. That was my prize. I quietly thought, I can do this.
Here’s my one minute pitch.
Dear Susan, A house of two women
In the 57th year of my life, I bought a 200 yr old croft house, facing the sea in Shetland and moved in with one bag and two cats, my furniture following on a lorry in the hold of a ferry.
The tactile house was made of stone and wood, with latches and sounds echoing back in time. It had hardly changed from its beginning. In the archives, I found that a woman had been born there in 1876, living for 83 years, 50 of those, alone.
This is a love letter to an old house, the everchanging landscapes of a year 60 degrees north, the way that light falls when there is nothing in its path, the tactile art of knitting with colour, the drifting scent of peat fires, sea swimming, watching moon beams across my wooden floors, a woman called Susan who loved the house as much as I did, and why I had to leave.
It’s about what we find out when we set out to live our dreams…
In writing a book about my year in Shetland, I am re learning about my journey, why I did it and why I left. I’m seeing it retrospectively with hindsight through a year of journalling, photographs and blogs. Instead of rushing outward to find a sensation or a life less ordinary to feed me, I seem to be taking my free time more slowly doing the basics, setting up a home – to plant myself firmly back into this world. I’ve been painting a lot of pink
I have been offering 25% off all of my knitting patterns until midnight on Sunday 23rd October. I’ll extend the 25% off offer for another 24 hours – until midnight tomorrow, Monday 24th October to celebrate this anniversary and because I am trying to save to buy tiles for my kitchen – basic. 😊
link to patterns is below – no code needed – 25% taken off bill in basket.
6 thoughts on “One year on – Island to city”
Loved this post. So important to mark these anniversaries which change us.
I remembered your anniversary because I stuck your final picture of Smola in my little devotional diary a year ago. I still don’t know if I will get any closer to my Cornish dream. It all seems distant right now as I focus on regaining my health and strength – like you, this year has seen a huge realignment of my priorities. Well done for putting the book proposal out there, and do carry on with it. I’m here if you need me, and I’m very glad that you feel you made the right decision a year ago.
Thank you. That’s a really beautiful message. I will get in touch via email. Xxx
“… not one other person will be interested “??? Not so!
Tracey, I have so loved reading your posts and ponderings over the last few years. Although your journey is yours alone, it also resonates deeply for many of us who have known dislocation, upheaval, and the exhilaration and exhaustion of starting over. Thank you for writing, and for putting into words what we (who are so much less articulate) also feel.
I bought one of your Ravelry patterns today, even though I have no hope of ever knitting it, given my skill level and attention span. But I love having the pattern anyway; its presence in my library will remind me of you and your indefatigable spirit.
thank you, Cindy, that’s really kind of you 🙂
Just wonderful to read and i can’t wait for your book. Such an inspiration to me when faced with a similar prospect on shetland. Thank you