A last Shetland sunrise

teeep in a blur

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 smile
I walk out to greet the glow
Sky, wind, cold envelope me.
Sheltering from the Baltic wind in a steadfast porch that faces east,
I watch
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”

Levenwick, Shetland. 23/10/21

A new day. Shetland

The moon, a crescent, wakes me at just before 4am. It is shining through the window, the night sky pitch black but studded with stars.  Outside, I can see everything by the light of the moon.

In all the time that I have lived here, I have wanted to sit by the light of a long, outside, taper-candle on the beach. Now, I light it in the garden by the light of the moon in a windless night just after 4am.  I stick the taper into the ground in front of the house,  between my thinking bench and the wall. The shadow of the flickering flame dances like a sundial, resting on the south side of the taper, whilst the flame gently flickers north.  There is no wind, just a gentle whisp of a breath of air.  Here, I can see where the breeze arrives and leaves.

The sky is studded with stars.  The only constellation that I know is the Plough.  It is ahead of the house in the North East, I think. The rest I do not know but I look around and around in awe of miles and miles of stars, not seen as clearly in cities or towns.   Slowly, faintly, the sky begins to lighten in the East, showing its arrival through the crack between earth and sky, splitting and dividing the darkness into sea and sky. Still, the taper dances on unhindered, glowing light and a slight warmth.   I am not cold here on my thinking bench between house and porch, drinking tea and eating a Tunnock biscuit. There is no sound other than the sea down at the beach.

Northlink arriving from the South

As the skyline lightens with the approaching sun, the stars fade but I still see them.

The stars have all but disappeared. The light is magical. I use the camera to capture the moon. There is only enough battery to take three photos before it shuts down. I capture the moon in two. 

This fulcrum of time of darkness and light tipping from one to the other, is magical. What a gift to be alive at this moment, in this place.  There is no nip in the air but it is clear and crisp. The taper flickers on.   This is turning out to be one of my most beautiful mornings here, to watch the world in front of me change from dark to light guided by the light of a flickering outdoor taper, serenaded by the sound of the waves.

At 5:45, the sky has a faint peachy glow in between the sea and sky horizon line. As I look South, I see the tiny glowing lights of the Northlink arriving far away. What a peaceful calm sailing the passengers must be enjoying, sailing into sunrise.

A peach ribbon of light stretches south. The light begins to form the shape of a horizontal shard – the point of which is at the South and the wide end of light to the North, many miles away. There is a clear dividing layer of cloud, sky, sea – taking on hues of peach, pink, lilac, a deep rose colour and blue.  Slowly, slowly, the Northlink sails into the shard of light. The sky looks as if it is a tide upon a beach.

I sense the present moment in elements – Earth, Sea, Sky, Water, breeze and see the colours of peach, pink, lilac, blue and rose whilst sitting facing the sunrising and the moon leaving.  Light is pushing away the darkness, bleeding into it forming a new day.

Just think, if I had slept through this.

At 6:40am the first Starling arrives. I have baked them oats.  I don’t know if they can eat them but figure that if we can – then why not.

I have been on this bench for 2 hours celebrating a new day – what a start.

Shetland.

Shetland Wool Week 2021

This week is Shetland Wool week 2021.  The first time I visited Shetland, was for a Wool Week in 2015. I stayed at the hostel in Lerwick and every bed in every room was taken by wool week visitors.  I fell in love with Shetland, its culture of knitting and the tangible, visible history across the islands.  I also visited St Ninians for the first time and squealed with joy at just seeing it.  I still sometimes squeal at seeing St Ninians. 

Since 2015, I revisited again and again – for Up Helly Aa in 2016, a few more holiday trips, an Artist residency at the Booth in Scalloway in December 2017, and an R&D trip to Unst in 2018.  All of these trips deepened my love of the social history across the islands and my love for Shetland knitting.  I remember meeting Hazel Tindall in the Textile Museum one day in May 2017, and I recorded her talking about her Grandmother collecting the peats for the rayburn. (At that time, I had a passion for old stoves left in abandoned croft houses)   I still have that recording and I have always been in awe of Hazel, her skill and her warm character. She makes me smile when I see her. She is a Wool Week Goddess.  I met her for lunch a couple of months ago.  We went to the Mareel.  It was a joy to be with her, such an honour.

Hazel in one of her amazing knits.

Six years after first visiting Shetland, it is once again, Wool Week.  It is not a face to face Wool Week where thousands of participants descend upon Lerwick and the surrounding areas to enjoy workshops, trips, visits to museums and of course both Jamieson’s wool shops, but a virtual wool week. Next year will be real, I know it.   But, in 2015, it was my first experience of being here – I sat by the pier knitting and watched an otter come in carrying a huge fish.  He didn’t know I was there until I moved. I mean, a city girl watching an otter whilst sitting on the pier knitting in the town – who would have believed it?

Here is a blog from that time https://www.travelblog.org/Europe/United-Kingdom/Scotland/Shetland/Wick/blog-901174.html

This week, six years later, I am teaching Online Colour blending sessions in the Virtual Shetland Wool Week programme -2 this weekend, 2 next weekend and on Friday, three ladies are coming to the house to do a face to face colour blending session and incidentally, they are from my home town of Matlock.   Seemingly, we are 6 degrees of separation, or maybe just one degree.

I’ve been teaching online sessions since January when one of my supporters asked for a class, in December, for her friends for a Christmas present.  I said that I was busy with the house but would do a workshop in the January.  It happened the last weekend of Jan, – I got in by the skin of my teeth and since then have been teaching up to 4 sessions every month ever since – except when I took a 6 week break to work on the Dear Susan Project.  I would very much like to thank that supporter who truly developed my own Creative Practice.

This weekend, I have met ladies from America, Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, The Netherlands,  Sweden and Scotland.  Today, I had two ladies join me from Canada and America at 2am and 5am their time – I felt honoured and flattered that they were so dedicated to join me in the middle of their night.

Every time I do an online workshop, I feel warm and happy afterwards.  I get so many messages after the sessions that I know that all the hard work to teach, inspire, engage with and to share skills is worth it.  Some of the ladies over the last 6 months have also become my international online friends – especially Cait St. George, whom I met through a session with Cream City Yarn in Milwaukee.  Cait became my test knitter for Dear Susan and also number crunched the pattern.  The Internet and Instagram has made these sessions possible and I want to thank every one who has attended a session already, everyone who is booked on to a session and to future bookers.   You make my creative practice valued and I value every one who has joined me.   If you would like to join a colour blending workshop, I have a couple of places left on 17th October and I am taking a waiting list for November (dates to be confirmed) If you go to my online workshop tab, here on the website, you can see information of the classes.

Dear Susan jumper

Here’s to Shetland Wool Week 2021.

I look forward to seeing your work – tag me on Instagram.  Tracey 😊

Oh yes, I have 20% off all of my knitting patterns during wool week.
The code for the basket is Wool Week Workshop

and patterns are here

https://www.ravelry.com/designers/tracey-doxey

A quick postcard from Shetland

Alfie and the ribbon sky.

Some days, Shetland is good at sparkling.  Yesterday, from sunrise until the rain came in the afternoon, the South of the Island sparkled.  My friend is here for a week and she loves to walk.  The day started with the most beautiful sunrise, sky ribbons and pink sunlight. I nipped to Levenwick beach first thing to walk along the edges of the tidal waves coming in. The beach is a gift.  The sun rising above the cemetery cast a pink glow upon the sea horse waves coming in and a seal bobbed a little way out, the ebb and flow of the sea water cast a net of ridges upon the sand as if hair splayed out.

There was just me on the beach and a seal – what a start to a beautiful day. 

Whilst Deb has been here, we have been to all of the beaches in the South of the island – long, curved Scousburgh probably being the best experience as half a dozen young seals followed us in the sea as we walked along the beach and back. They played and we smiled. St Ninian’s is always beautiful and West Voe, always barren and astonishing in beauty with its wide vista edged in waving grasses.  No seals bathed on Rerwick.

On Sunday, we walked along the coast line in Levenick to the Broch (or what is left of it ) with a special view from the old water mill grinding stones. It was boggy and wet underfoot, the fog was lowering and the landscape became atmospheric.  So much tangible history here touched by many hands over time. This was Deb’s favourite walk.

Yesterday returned to Jarlshof to walk to Sumburgh lighthouse along a track that skirts the coast which we saw clearly marked from a standing point above, last Friday.   Along the track are many Cairns, we placed stones and I made a wish.   It was sunny and breezy and light – a perfect walk, and this became my favourite walk.

Sea water, swimming water, salt water

clarity

It is one year since arriving and I am now leaving. The biggest memory I will take back with me is one year living by the water. Water is ever present in Shetland, latterly, in fog and mist but on the clear days, and even on the not so clear days, I have been swimming in the sea with a really good friend in the village, on my own and once to a magical place on the West Side on the most sparkling of days. When the fog rests across the ground, it is easy to forget the magical swimming days but even last Saturday, we went swimming in the sunshine and left the beach in the rain.

Levenwick, Saturday 4th September

It takes a while to get ready to go swimming at the beach, and often it takes longer to sort stuff out when you get home, but I walk down the road, in the wetsuit with a jumper on top, to meet my friend and we walk and chat on the way to the beach. She has given me the confidence to really enjoy the sea, its depths, its clarity, its coldness and its power to bring me to the very present moment and feel alive.

Last Saturday, the sea was pale green, reflected from an overcast sky. Each time, the sea is different in colour, clarity, choppiness, or calmness and each time we are accompanied by different creatures, a cheeky seal or birds or a crab and sometimes jelly fish but always, and every time, it is a wonder and the sound of water is a healing property. Sometimes, the sun glistens across the surface of the water and you are part of a different world – not of land but of sea.

When the sea is pearlescent green, but still clear to the sand bed and the sky is washed out white/grey, and I wade in confidently, it is an exhilarating moment.  Striding up to knee height is easy, thigh height and sea water seeps in between your sea slippers and the bottom of the wet suit climbing up your legs but it is not until the sea water reaches to the top of our legs, do you feel that you are in sea water 60 degrees north.  Keep walking, do not stop. The northern temperature bites through the zip at the back of my wetsuit, flooding my bare back with an icy reminder of cold and still I keep walking until, just until, I can breathe and have stopped swearing and waving my arms around and then, surprisingly, after about five minutes of cursing and squeaking, the water warms, or my body cools – either way, body and water harmoniously exist side by side to bring the mind exactly to the present moment.  When I swim, I no longer feel the coldness. It is then that the sea water laps down the neck of the suit and reminds me of the temperature

Keep going, don’t stop. I could have done more becasue I have only just begun to understand the water. I wasn’t born by the sea but it has become my ever present friend over the last year.

Keep going – do not stop, this is one of the beauties of living here. Raw, alive, cold, awake, harmonious– sea swimming at Levenwick beach, at Scousburgh Sands, at St Ninian’s and on the West Side.

Some days in Shetland are crystalline. They don’t always start that way but develop in the the most glistening of days. Swimming in this rock pool with Foula in the distance was such a day. Everything glistened and we swam without wet suits. A true and clear world was reflected back from the pool and the sky in clear colour of blue and green. On days such as this, there is no finer place to be with a great friend, astonishing beauty, no noice, no litter and a completely natural world.

And then I went home to my beautiful house, which faces the sea, with all its doors and windows open, just smiling.

Where’s Alfie?

Levenwick Beach is perfect for sea swimming. We wade out, keep going, swim across the bay and back again. In the summer we met a group of 10 yorkshire ladies – all sisters and aunts and cousins, who went in the sea every day on their 2 week holiday. They were also there, chatting and laughing and it is heart warming to see people enjoying this place.

approach

LOVE

One day, I went to Scousburgh, with another friend. I started swimming in the wet suit, got acclimatised then peeled it off and went back in, in just my costume. We brought the suits and shoes and gloves back in a large blue tub. It was a fine afternoon spent on one of the finest beaches in Shetland. A local group of 4 women were leaving as we were arriving. Women love the water.

And, then there is the local swimming pool. I still go every day and swim gently or hammer out 50 lengths. The women here are powerful swimmers and I’m so impressed by their strength and stamina to swim solidly like seals for an hour – me, I potter but swimming has been part of my life for 40 years or so. The pool at Sandwick has few people using it. Over the past year, attendance has grown but yesterday, I had it to myself to start with. The staff are brilliant. They know me and my routine and they are all really lovely, accomodating people. Swimming is an activity that has been my companion for a year in Shetland and for many years before arriving. All forms of water immersion are mindful.

Sandwick Pool

On Thursday, A friend is coming to stay for a week from Sheffield. She wants to go sea swimming so I will lend her my suit and socks and gloves and I will borrow a suit and we will go. I will not tell her how the cold takes your breath or that you will bob up and down on your toes to acclimatise. I will be quiet so that she can enjoy her own experience 60 degrees north and hopefully take away something rare to remember. We will maybe go at late sunrise with knitted hats on.

Levenwick Sunrise swimming

A house of two women.

July 2021

In September 2020, I moved to a croft house in Levenwick and began, more or less immediately, to research the people that had lived here before me. Through conversations with local people, the return of photographs and pottery and 8 sessions in Shetland Museum Archives,  I found that the Halcrow family had lived here from the mid 1800’s until 1960.  I became particularly interested in researching a woman called Susan (Cissie) b1876 –  d1960 who lived in my croft house for 83 years – and after her parents and brother died, from 1916, she was alone.  She made the fire in the hearth, grew things, opened the old latch door and looked out to sea every day, as I now do, also as a single woman.   Susan was the last of three generations of the Halcrow family to live in this house and she lived through some of the most recorded changeable times in Shetland history.

Through this new frame of mine, I began to write a story of two women living in the same house over a century apart.  I began to write and research through my own lived experiences, diarised in a daily practice of writing. I researched a story of Susan, this house and Shetland, juxtaposed with my own lived experiences in the same house and out of that story, I knitted a pattern for Susan.  When I look at Susan’s face in any of the photographs that I have been given, she looks calm, serene and has a real beauty about her.  The glint in her eye was there to the end.

I was awarded a VACMA award.  (Visual Arts Craft MakersAward) to write the story of Susan and myself living in this house over a century apart and to design a knitted piece dedicated to Susan Halcrow.  I have made a neat little pullover dedicated to her, with her in mind. The jumper hopes to embody the natural elements of Shetland and how serene and calm Susan looked –  always smart, usually wearing a brooch or collar when photographed outside the house.  The body of the jumper is inspired by the colours of the Shetland seas of turquoise, aqua, greens and all the blues you could ever imagine and I wanted the yoke to be jewel-like.  It is a knitting recipe of light, wind, the sea, yarn, Shetland life and a woman called Susan as well as my own creative practice. My creative practice is a way of expressing my life through the art of storytelling and technology of knitting and through the use of expressive colour.

I would like to thank Shetland Arts and Creative Scotland for supporting this project – for me, it is a thing of great beauty – not only the design but the 15 page story of Susan and I.  The writing of this work has been a research and a personal journey written in letters to Susan. If you are interested in the knitting pattern, it is available on ravelry (with the story too).

Big love from Shetland in these long summer days. Tracey.

For the knitting pattern and 15 page story

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dear-susan

The approach of mid summer.

We are approaching midsummer, the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. We are in the Shetland Simmer Dim – my first fully experienced one here and it is a rare experience. June is the time of year where we are graced with a light until after midnight although the sun sets at around 10:30pm.  The evenings are some kind of twilight, a half light in which you can still see everything even at 1am. From the bed, I look out to sea where the twilight meets the sun rise at around 3:30am.  Together, these joining lights and the calmness of the evenings full of bird song are recognisable only as Shetland.   

For a few short weeks, Simmer Dim means that there is no true darkness at all, which I am accepting as the flip side of the coin of Winter whereupon it is daylight between 9am and 3pm and if it is a bad day, there is no true daylight at all – just a greyness.

In June, time is like a breath.  It feels as if the world held its breath so long that now, there is an opportunity for a gentle exhale.  

The Summer light in which we are living by here in Shetland, brings us out from hibernation. I have become lighter with the lightness fo the weather. The plants grow at a speedy rate, pushed on by the long days. The cats lounge outside rolling around in the dust. Finally, the winds have slowed.  

I find myself wallpapering at 11pm because it feels like early evening then I’m awake by 4:30am because of the fully sun lit day light. The cats think it is breakfast time, I’m up, dressed, out and down on the beach by 7am before work. I feel tired because I’m doing so much but it is not an exhausted tired.  It’s a fulfilled tired of living a long full day, Then, I am aware that on 21st June, the days will begin to grow shorter, slowly at first then gather speed.   I don’t even want to think about it.

I was hoping a friend would be here on Summer Solstice but I am not sure, so, I will mark the day in some special way – by doing something I hardly do anymore, camping or swimming in the sea, or just by sitting out and listening to the world – not knitting, or writing – just sitting and marvelling at this special place where the season of Summer rewards our waiting.  Maybe I’ll do all three.

Shetland -a hint of summer and a call out.

St Ninian’s

Today is one of those rare perfect days – it is still, calm, bright, sunny and clear.  The Ewes are still lambing, the air is filled with the sound of birds and it’s a rare opportunity for me to get out on the bike.  The regular winds make cycling difficult here. I used to bike about 8 miles a day in Sheffield, every day, in all weathers, up the hills with all the shopping in the panniers and a back pack on.  Here, my bike has been in the outbuilding for about 5 months.

Today, I oiled it, brushed the dead bugs out of the paniers, loaded it up and set off for St Ninian’s and Bigton hall for soup and cake lunch for £5. Along the side of the road Sea Pinks and wild primroses grow.  The deep blue sea is always to my right going to St Ninian’s and to my left returning.   When cycling, you see all the things missed by being in a car and I felt grateful – really grateful to be alive and grateful to live in this beautiful place – so extreme that the weather governs emotions.  St Ninian’s is 3 miles around the corner from here.   Seeing it has never ceased to make me happy, whatever the weather, time of day or how ever I am feeling. Just seeing the natural tombola makes my heart sing.

Back home, Tiggy sits beside me now on the South side of the house. We both soak in the sun’s warmth.  His fur warms up. His eyes run from the winds. My shoulders loosen.

At the back of my house is an old barn and a small byre.  I dug the byre out and sieved every bit of soil that now rests in two builder’s bags.   One is full of growing potatoes (they’re too close – let’s see what happens) and the other has carrots, onions, beetroot and strawberries in it.  They may never grow, never ripen, the weather in chilly.   Until last night, I covered the potato bag because of the chill.  It is still really cold at night – but last night was still, calm and clear. I captured the early moon  and at 1am, it was still light.  On some occasions, it makes me laugh – just to be here, to see this incredible world so far north, to try to grow things, get the bike out, paint things and make tidy the untidy.    When I sat at the small café at Sumburgh yesterday, I looked at the edge of the earth, the horizon, Fair Isle 24 miles away, and I watched the birds rise up and fly.

During the week, I am working now, 3 days a week and I also volunteer another day.  I do this to meet people, be part of the community, give back to others and to pay my bills. The work is full on, with few pauses and it’s extremely detailed.  I also teach online knitting workshops and manage the online process and am currently writing a booklet about Susan Halcrow and I,  living in the same house over a century apart. So, understandably, there is little time and today, I have decided to put out a call for a strong person who is able to help me with the back yard, lift the stones, lay flags, remove some soil, rebuild a low garden wall and help with painting the outside of the house because I am short and getting on a bit.  If you are interested in 2 – 3 weeks staying here in Shetland, in my guest room with full board in exchange for helping me with all the stones at the back of the house and to paint the front and week the endless dandelions out, then contact me. If I don’t know you, I will have to ask for a reference. But, Just contact me if you are interested because I am interested in getting this work done and sharing the opportunity of staying in this amazing location with another person.  

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Susan, Smola and me.

As a reader of my blogs, you’ll know that in September 2020, I moved to a croft house in Levenwick, Shetland.  It has been a busy 7 months, buying a car, driving a car again after 12 years of not doing so, restoring the south bedroom to its original floor and fireplace and to a more relaxed palette, applying for work, getting project co-ordinator jobs, developing, devising and presenting successful online knitting workshops, digging out a byre, sieving soil, learning how to get furniture to an island parallel to Norway, that although is technically in the UK, it is miles away from London and finding that deliveries do not easily arrive on this island.

As well as living here, I have been researching Susan Halcrow and her parents and paternal grandparents who lived in this house for 3 generations from the early 1800’s.   I’m particularly interested in researching Susan (Cissie) b1876, d1960 who was born in this house and lived here alone after her parents died early 1908 and 1914 and then her brother died in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

I, as Susan did, make the fire in the hearth, grow things, open the latch door and look out to sea every day.  We both live and lived here as single women.  

Through this new frame of mine, my Shetland practice became entirely local (Shetland) based and I began to want to develop a digital written piece with an online knitted design created through my own (phenomenological) lived experiences of living in the same house that Susan had. I diarised my life in small chapters related to the morning or light, or sun rises or moon and frequently of the wind.  Through a daily practice of experiential writing, I began to wonder about Susan and her life by researching photographs of her and working on a small colour blending knitting design.  That pattern became,  Good Wishes for the New Year  and it was exactly that – all about Susan. 

But, I wanted to develop a deeper understanding underpinned by archival researching of her and her family to write my story of Susan, this house and Shetland, juxtaposed with my own lived experiences in the same house and to share it internationally.  This can never be The story because I cannot talk with her but it will be a story to honour a woman who lived a long life within this house.

At the end of January, I read about The Visual Artist and Craft Makers Awards (VACMA) which is a programme of small grants schemes with a range of local authorities and art agencies across Scotland to support Scotland-based visual artists and craft makers in their creative and professional development. I had become really interested in the idea of writing a booklet about Susan and I living in the same house about 140 years apart. And to write part of the story through the experience of developing a knitting design with Susan in mind. 

So, I applied for a Visual Arts and Craft Maker Award (VACMA) 2 days before the closing date, and submitted by the skin of my teeth on 2nd February.  The application flowed because this is real for me.  I don’t have to make this up, it is my life, my home, seen alongside a very real woman who lived here – I just have to find the right way to write it.

I hope to creatively experiment through an auto ethnographic practice (personal experience in order to understand cultural experience) to enable me produce a 16-page digital booklet about the real life of 2 single women in different times living in the same house (140 years apart).

I will be experimenting with written word, photography and knitted design to tell our linked stories and I will also include a pattern design in the booklet. The project will bring together my previous 5 year’s skills and experiences, my Masters, Artist Residencies and my move to Shetland in an ongoing commitment to my creative practice.

Within time, I received an email from Shetland Arts to say that my VACMA application was successful, which I was over the moon about. To enable me to dedicate time to the project, I stopped all online teaching colour blending workshops until the end of May to give me time to knit the sample, research the family in the Archives at the Museum and to design the pattern and to write this work as beautifully as possible.

Though, from next week, my part time job has increased hours and I also volunteer at Women’s Aid too so I’m finding life very busy and full on but still, without fail, this booklet, the writing, research, design and knitting has been on my mind every day since February. I’ve been to the archives 4 times, I write when I can, I have, tonight, just finished the sample knit which has two different sleeve finishes and uses two types of yarn – as a sample, I am happy. The pullover will develop into another piece.  I have a wonderful test knitter, Cait, from Cream City Yarn, a wonderful yarn shop and creative knitting space in a one-room schoolhouse located in the suburbs of Milwaukee.

Maybe the booklet doesn’t need a knitting pattern design in it, but a recipe of life in this house, and of knitting and two women.  

This project is supported by VACMA from Creative Scotland, Shetland Arts and Shetland Islands Council

Easter

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.