I’ve been struggling a bit lately. Feeling like I’m on my own – working alone, going home alone, everyone’s busy with their own thing. An island of mainly couples can be a lonesome place for a single girl... I’m also terrible at asking for help, yet when I do, I realise I have really good friends here and I’m not so much alone as I think. I’ve had many kind words and buckets of good advice: one person can’t change the world, even a world as small as an island – I knew this when I came here, and I’d forgotten it. Change will come in its own time and will be the result of everyone’s efforts, not just mine. One day I’ll return to the island and see how much things have moved on, and I’ll know I was a part of it – but just one part of many.
Picking blackberries for wine has been therapeutic; keeping eyes and hands busy so the mind is free to wander. I had a good visit from a mainland friend which reminded me there’s a whole world beyond this island – it’s easy to forget this and become too focussed on the minutiae of life in a small community. I’ve resolved to be more positive and outward-looking, less introspective and dark. It’s easy to get lost in the woods, especially now the nights are getting longer. I'm also on an 8 week course of mindfulness meditation, to help me recognise the difference between a practical problem which can be puzzled over and solved, and an emotional reaction which quickly descends into a spiral of self-doubt and frustration if I think about it too much - trying to "fix" it only makes it worse.
In a National Geographic article recently one of our Muckity Muck neighbours described these as “Wee places...not much travelled today, inhabited by dreamers and stoics. Retreats from the world. Blank canvases for quixotic quests.” Dreamers and stoics – perhaps you need to be a bit of both to thrive here. There was an interesting piece in the Scottish Community Alliance newsletter (a.k.a. Local People Leading) this month about how social capital – or wealth measured in terms of local networks and people working together – can help communities survive natural disasters. The article suggests that social capital can be built through engaging local people in discussion groups, social events, and just by making a little effort to get to know one’s neighbours. Programmes like HIE’s Community Account Management may be the best strategy for the survival of vulnerable communities like mine, by investing in the social infrastructure of community trusts, as well as assisting economic development.
We had a really good community engagement event last month, facilitated by the Scottish Community Development Centre. 22 of the 31 adults on the island turned out for it, along with our local councillor, MSP, and representatives from SNH and HIE. Housing, infrastructure, developments past, present & future, and how to get more of the community actively involved were up for round-table discussion, with a great deal of consensus and some radical ideas for solutions. There is hope for the future on our small island – in contrast to our other neighbour which continues to haemorrhage residents at a depressing rate.
I’m leaving the island for two weeks now – the longest I’ll have been away since I moved here. I have to admit, I’m very much looking forward to a change of scenery, and will be interested to see how I feel about coming back.