In august 2020, when I first saw the croft house that I was buying in Shetland (3weeks before moving in) my friend Janette met me, drove me to Levenwick, walked round and fastened a pinhole camera made out of a beer can to the drainpipe of the house. You can see it in some of these images. It stayed there for just over a year.
In September 2021, just before I left Shetland, she removed it. Last night she sent me the pinhole image of a year taken by that beer can camera that was strapped to the drain pipe.
It took my breath away. Janette has asked me to write 200 words to accompany the image for an exhibition in Somerset. I was excited but then became aware of the enormous nature of writing about my one year in Shetland in 200 words. I have started and restarted. I don’t know if I will be able to capture the essence of my one year there because I’m still processing it. And, that one year is still processing me.
I moved from joy and excitement to vulnerability and an inner trauma that spiraled from my own thoughts. Here is my start, it may change.
At a still point of the turning earth, where stars are caught arching and the sun warms the metal roof,
I ask you,
what did we both see in the one year that we both looked outward?
You, with your objective tin-sheltered eye looking south.
Me with my dream-like wishful eye looking east to the horizon from a bed that became a boat tossed around in a sea of extreme weather and emotions.
I arrived on a tide of high hopes and dreams, having moved heaven and earth to make it from city to island. You stoically rested against the house.
All the things came and went – ALL the things, except my son and daughter.
Hushed by clear moonlit nights, wide-eyed at blue winter days and crystalline turquoise seas, looking up to encounter the milky way in the midnight sky, endless pure unbroken fiery sunrises cracking open the fold in the world between sea and sky, whales and tiny golden birds – there is no place like Shetland. But beauty alone was not enough for me.
You sat beside the house through storms, gales, fog, winds so harsh that I could not stand and still your tin eye stayed open capturing a static and whirling world.
But you did not feel. You did not feel the damaging power of loneliness creeping over the horizon month by month eating me away to a vulnerable husk, looking inward, feeling everything and nothing, seeing little outward.
I am still processing my year in Shetland. In truth, I could not even think of it until asked to write 200 words to accompany the photograph. I feel I am touching on the essence of a full year but have not fully done the time justice. This is my thinking process so far.