• Nadine Almer

A Love Letter To The Isle of Lewis

Travel Days 325 - 339

29.10.- 12.12.2021

When I first came to the Isle of Lewis I did not know what to expect. I knew it was remote and due to my arrival being in winter in the midst of yet another lockdown, I figured that I would barely have any human interaction apart from my hosts.

I was in no way disappointed.

It was exactly what I needed and what I was looking for.

Situated on the most north-westernly point of the UK, Aird the town I am staying in, rests atop the outskirts of a dramatic land- and seascape. Gigantic cliffs surround it with a small bay at its feet. Waves crashing relentlessly from every side, winds blowing inexhaustibly.

The sun is not often seen, but when she makes an appearance she is so very welcome that you might even find more than two people on the endlessly long white sandy beaches than you might be accustomed to. Mostly though even then the vast beaches are empty. There is no telling for how long she graces the islanders with her presence. Before long clouds may arrive sooner than expected, and they might bring rain or not. Especially when so-called breezes make the endless sea in the sky float by extremely fast, it is never certain how long it will cover up the warming rays or if it will disappear into nothingness within the blink of an eye. At the same note, you’d be daring some days and go out without a waterproof jacket because the wild blue yonder above promises undisturbed pleasures of walking or hiking. And the next thing you know is the unforeseen emptying of buckets from up above or you find yourself within a dense, moist fog, literally within a cloud, with the tiniest particles of drops soaking all layers that you so cautiously have put on. Mind you, sometimes even the most expensive and innovative waterproof technology of clothes falls victim to fault when the Scottish weather hits. Which might also be the reason why the most trusted garment is the one knitted out of sheep wool and made of Harris Tweed. After all, the sheep of Scotland are the true heroes, surviving even the most horrific weather conditions all year round.

I absolutely adore it, I love it, I value this connection to nature and its force. Admittedly, I have the comforts of a warm home and shower to go back to whenever the biting cold found its way through to my bones. Not long ago, people living here had no electricity and no running, hot water. These people truly knew how to survive, how to live in alignment with what Mother Earth threw at them. I am glad I do not have to endure these living conditions in order to be rewarded with the beauty it has to offer, nonetheless I bow in awe and astonishment before them. Their relationship with this land, their determined perseverance and raw sense of survival made it possible that I am able to visit today, in this time and age, and be witness to the magnificence of what they called their home.

Colours and Textures

The many hours that I spend outside are not all work related. In fact, the majority of time I spend outdoors are mostly related to walking, hiking and shooting- footage that is, not creatures. There is a lot to capture, footage again and not animals. Colours and textures made by nature are one of my top three visual contents to bring with me home and create something out of it. This group has a lot of sub-categories, like water mirroring the sky, clouds floating, wildlife floating above or below, movement of the mighty ocean, visible signs of the blazing winds and sunsets. There are so many different colours and textures that I cannot even begin to describe what excites me about them. Every single one is so special and has the kind of uniqueness when words cease to be able to describe its innate beauty and grace.

If I were to talk about water and what glory it embodies, I could start with the obvious big water, the Atlantic, then have to add the hundreds of Lochs (lakes), the waterfalls (or water-rise, depending on how strong the winds are), the powerful rivers and little streams, the moss-falls (a phenomenon I refer to with this name because it literally is water that runs down over the edge of moss whenever there has been a lot of rain), the muddles and puddles that form throughout the moors and shimmer like a thousand glimmering diamonds strewn out all over the land.

And if you’d get me started on clouds. They are magnificence times ten. Their movements, slow or fast depending on the wind, their shapes, their colours, their textures, their patterns. Whenever I do a Timelapse video (mostly during a walk when dusk starts to take over and slowly puts the islanders, but not all of the wildlife, to sleep) I cannot stop myself from admiring it over and over again. They are so unpredictable in their collisions, transformations, movements and what they will bring with them. One moment you have bright sunlight and then a cold breeze that gets stronger by the second announces heavy darkness approaching. And while you zip up your jacket, put on your hood and make everything tight and closed, ready to withstand the elements of nature, suddenly it passed and took its curtain of rain with it to visit somewhere else. Other times you might be waving a nearing grey veil from the distance off, judging from the wind’s direction, and it might just be the worst mistake ever made, leaving you drenched right through to your very bones. Regardless of the outcome, the surprised outcry of delight regarding colours and patterns it produces, is there nine times out of ten. The tenth time most likely being the second time of the day you spend outside and therefore the second time you getting soaked, leading to the first time out of nine others that you feel the need to just warm up and leave the colours and patterns un-captured for the time being.

Have I told you about the mountains, valleys, moors and vastness of the landscapes yet? No? Well, since you already made it this far in this post, I might as well go all in and unravel another concept of wonder. Admittedly, there are no trees left, except maybe artificially planted ones on private properties or for commercial use. The majority of land though is stripped off of trees and bushes. An atmosphere similar to a vast nothingness with scattered boulders, rocky underground layer free from soil, and a mix of hardy, strong miniature briar, moss and grass. It is a delight, scarce at it might look at first. The lack of trees has one very simple effect that is not to be underestimated- vastness, endlessness, infinity. For me this is equal to a deep breath, a long meditation, a scream of excitement, ointment for my soul, glory to my eyes, sight that makes my heart go faster after skipping a beat first.

Red thread to this long, elaborate story is this: the same patch of moss is never the same again. Colours and textures are all around me, all day and every day, and the variety can never be told or fully understood, never grasped and fully held, never truly captured or shot. Not in one lifetime, not in a thousand. This is change, this is life itself. I cannot get enough of it.


Animals

Currently, as you all may well know, I am one part of a two member team, formed by Marjorie and I. She is furry and has four legs, species dog. I love her with all my heart. Usually we are found outside, roaming new lands alone, on the lookout for new adventures. These days, here on the Isle of Lewis, our team grew drastically. We are now a pack of nine. This includes five others from the species of dog and three others from the species human. Therefore, she and I, we are outside almost always accompanied by at least one other dog, most of the times though we have four other dogs with us, sometimes all six of them are out with me. I introduce each one in my video called 'Come, hike with us' on YouTube, if you would like to get to know them better.

The joy (and sometimes pain) it brings is near to be indescribable. The joy is seeing them outside, running, sprinting, sniffing, jumping, barking, coming every once in a while for a cuddle and then being off again. The pain (mostly inflicted by Marjorie for only listening when she chooses to do so, the others are trained to perfection on the back call or back whistle) comes from simply having no control over them, because they are beings with their own feelings and notions and characters.

But there are more animals here to watch. Deer, rabbits, mice, seabirds, eagles, sheep, cows, chickens, ravens, insects… oh, and midges, but although probably also important to the whole of Gaia’s functional ecosystem, I will not lie and tell you that they spark joy in me. All of the other listed animals from above, however, do very much spark a lot of joy. If I blend out the fact that the livestock will be killed by humans at some point in their existence, instead focusing on the freedom they have while they live, I get intense bliss in watching them. Our cows have names and due to the intense closeness with them, I am lucky enough to get to know their character. The chickens do not have names, regardless it is fun watching them, being greeted by them and followed in want of food. If there are deer, they never run if you simply park at the side of the road and let the window down to catch a good photo or video. Eagles are harder to spot and even harder to get footage of, therefore they taught me a lot about stop fussing around with a lens and using my own eyes to marvel instead.

Maybe I can convey why animals make the second place on my most beloved aspects of this island. They are a blessing and having time to be able to watch them, be in their presence, is a necessity for my happiness by now.


Freedom

I have been thinking a lot on how to describe the essence of what all the other small details about this island combined mean to me. Freedom is the only word that remotely captures all of it. I am talking about the people and how they embrace uniqueness as part of who you are. About the clothes hanging out to dry with triple enforcement or they would be blown away, the Arctic most probably.

The ever changing weather. How the wind plays with the clouds, how the light dances with a thousand different shades of every colour known to us. How every day you set out to the unknown. An encounter with a deer, sighting of an eagle or simply standing still on the midst of the road because of a flock of sheep or a quick talk from one driver to the other, just because.

The loud quietness after a few days of heavy storms. The terrifying noise of these storms against my window. The gentle, subtle, consistent waves on a seemingly never ending white beach. At times the total absence of noise atop a mountain, the cries of birds, the panting of dogs, the sound of shoes and paws making their way through moors and mud and puddles. Occasionally meeting a stranger and having a simple talk about the weather, most of the times though meeting no one at all. The mental force of truly being alone with yourself and the mental force of realising how precious life is, how momentous, how unpredictable, how uncontrollable. Epiphanies about yourself and how time is our most valuable asset. How sometimes we forget to live, while we live. All of it made me fall in love.

All of it.

All. Of. It.

 

I tried to translate my love for Lewis into an attempt on visual poetry, here is my latest video on YouTube 'A Love Letter To Lewis'. It was not easy- mostly because it is hard to show what you feel deep inside. This love letter to the Isle of Lewis is as unconventional as the island. It is not about blind adoration, it is more like the realisation that there is more to love than just what meets the eye. Not just about indulging in postcard moments, but also hard work and resilience. More about feeling the innate connection humans have to nature than it is about taking pictures and leaving afterwards. Something happens when you spend a lot of time on this island. Because time ticks differently here. There is space to go and find yourself. Space to breathe, space to be. Less outwardly, more inwardly.

No masks, no games, no hiding.

Constant change, not artificial like fashion, organic like the seasons.

Timelessness, although the clock still exists but it bends to what Earth gives you, like daylight and weather conditions.

With the stress of a city, or plainly said the majority of humanity, gone, all of that is possible. And it takes away pressure to be someone, giving you the opportunity to be yourself instead. Your true, glorious self, with all its perks and flaws. And it is scary, at first. Then it makes you feel more alive than ever before.

I feel at ease here.

I feel at peace here.

I feel like this could be a home for my heart and soul.

One day.

Maybe.


Love and light to all of you, beloved souls!

Be at ease.

Nadine

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