Monday, 11 February 2013

People Need Wild Places

I’m in a much better head space now than I was this time last year, though it’s difficult to pin down exactly why.  A different mix of people on the island, more social events, better weather, feeling as though I’ve actually achieved something; maybe a combination of these.   As the Independence Debate steps up a gear with the setting of The Question, I’m hopeful that a new popular democratic movement will emerge.  I’m all in favour of devolved power – right down to community level, but with the caveat that with increased power comes increased responsibility and maybe not everyone is quite ready for that yet.  I’m watching these guys closely – So Say Scotland is a project working to bring people closer to the decision making process.  It happened in Iceland after The Crash, why not here? 

On a more mundane note, we’re still trying to figure out how to pay for the repairs to the roads (every day the potholes get a little bit bigger, cycling from the pier to the village takes longer & becomes more jarring).  We are the state of the nation in miniature.  Yet when I walk past our weathered-in camping cabins, I have a little smile to myself, remembering that they weren’t here this time last year and it was me that made them happen (with a little help from my friends); this is what community ownership is about.  Planning permission has been granted for our new bunkhouse and I’ve submitted our funding application to Big Lottery - I feel suddenly lighter, brighter, less worried.  I’ve had time to put together some adverts for our Marketing Rum campaign which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed – watch out for us in the Visit Scotland guide and the Highlands & Islands Travellers Guide.  I love sharing the best bits of our beautiful island with others.
 This is from Barbara Kingsolver, in her book ‘Small Wonder’ – “People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully. Looking out on a clean plank of planet earth, we can get shaken right down to the bone by the bronze-eyed possibility of lives that are not our own."

This is what makes Rum so special.
I have a new housemate – my fourth in 18 months – an ecologist doing a phd on our thriving rat population.  He’s become known as the Rat Man, obviously.  He’s here for two years and we’re getting along just fine, so hopefully that’s one thing that won’t change for a few months, even if everything else does.  It’s interesting seeing the island through his eyes – he has the same hope and enthusiasm I had when I first arrived: so many possibilities! 

Change continues to be as relentless as the ebb and flow of the tides; our Castle Manager and his wife & child have left for a new job in York, and another of my friends is planning to depart in the spring.  I think we need a moratorium on people leaving; it’s too hard saying goodbye every few months to someone I’ve come to know & like.  The future of the Castle itself is up for debate through the spring, with a discussion of positive options involving various stakeholders, including the Rum community.  Like it or not, it’s central to the island’s identity – a giant folly, a rich man’s extravagance, but in a sense as much ours now as the hills, the rivers and the wildlife.  How would we feel, actually, if it was bought by a private investor who had the money to restore it but shut us out of the building, the woods and the grounds?  We don’t necessarily want it, but do we want someone else to have it?

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