Thursday, 22 November 2012

No Time to Blog

This has been sitting on my laptop since the start of November when the weather had turned properly cold, leaving feathery ice patterns on my skylight window and a dusting of snow on the hilltops.  Now we’re more than three-quarters of the way through the month & I’m only just getting around to uploading it.  Where has the time gone?  Frittered away in numerous trips to the mainland...   

The path through the bluebell woods has disappeared under a bright coloured carpet of leaves; difficult to navigate by torchlight these days, lucky my feet know the way by now.  Last year I blinked and missed autumn - this year I've been trying to capture it with varying degrees of success.  The leaves don't stay long on the trees in these winds.

We had an excellent community engagement event at the end of September, part of the year of support I won us from the Scottish Community Development Centre’s ACE programme (Achieving Community Empowerment).  Almost everyone turned out for it, as well as our local councillor, MSP, and key people from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Scottish Natural Heritage.  We had round-table discussions on four topics: housing, infrastructure, developments, and getting people involved, each one facilitated and focussing on how to achieve positive ways forward rather than getting bogged down in past gripes.  I was feeling a bit anxious about facilitating my table – I’ve never been in a room with everyone on the island before and I wasn’t sure what would happen.  What if people started shouting at each other?  The cheery chaps from SCDC advised me that everything would be fine and if things did start getting boggy, I could move them on by asking “what can we do to make this better?”  My fears were unfounded, everyone displayed thorough understanding of the issues, and there was a reassuring consensus of opinion.  Being a worrier, I’m still concerned about the ones who didn’t come – if they won’t get on board with an event with a free meal at the end of it, will they back whatever we do next, based on the outcome of this event?
 “What can we do to make this better” has especially resonated with me this month, as I’ve been attending a 5 day course on conflict resolution and mediation targeted at those working with communities.  The course was spread over 4 Fridays and a Monday, so it’s been pretty tiring commuting backwards and forwards to Glasgow, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the course and it’s not so bad compared to the Inverness – Aberdeen commute I did for the two years of my MSc.  Like the man said, everything’s relative.  The course has been useful in helping to identify my own response to conflict (Avoid! Avoid!), and to reflect on whether this is the most constructive way to deal with it (not always).  It’s also got me thinking about how we resolve conflict on Rum, since it seems like a fairly peaceful place compared to one of our near neighbours.  I suspect it has something to do with the relative equality on the island – as individuals nobody really holds any more power than anyone else, everyone has a similar degree of security.  Living on an island we’re very dependent on each other for survival; people will always help each other out, even if they wouldn’t particularly choose to socialise with them.  It’s also an island where women are the main decision makers and business owners; I’m not drawing any conclusions from this, just putting it out there!

Part of mediation involves allowing things to be as they are; allowing both sides the space to find their own solution, rather than trying to impose what you think is best for everyone, and this ties in neatly with a mindfulness programme I’m working my way through.  Can I just accept that things are as they are on the island, and stop making myself crazy trying to “fix” everything?  Can I allow events to unfold in their own time?  I suspect not, if that timescale is measured in decades rather than months and it’s the community bunkhouse we’re talking about, but in other areas, yes – perhaps I can.  Maybe this way I can find a little of the peace and harmony I’m seeking.  Our Rum Mum who departed last autumn for warmer climes was fond of reminding me that things will happen in their own time.

Someone made the radical suggestion to me recently that our island “characters” are as essential to the health and variety of the community as anyone else, and this has got me thinking as well.  People contribute in their own way, and maybe it’s not necessarily by being a director of the Trust, or setting up a community company.  As confidence grows, will more contributions be made in more obvious ways by more people?  This is a community which has historically had everything done for it by someone else.  We’re like a teenager who’s left home for the first time and it’s slowly dawning on us that clothes don’t get cleaned by magic, and the shelves don’t fill themselves.

Skye from Kilmory

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