My time on Iona is drawing to an end as I leave next weekend. I was very keen for Norrie to come and see where I have been and what I’ve been doing. I needed someone to talk to about the work and a little encouragement to get through the increasingly irritating discomfort. The boggy path to the Shepherds hut is now UNDER water, my boots are smelly and the daily journey with a bucket full of pee has become annoying as I have a daily dread of slipping on the uneven rocks and pouring it over myself. The pile of finished work is getting larger but there is nowhere to put it without the threat of damp and this morning I found a whole folio of paper that is now soaking wet. So a visit from my husband felt like a necessary essential to keep me going. And then the forecast was for gales and one of the staff was convinced that the ferry service was already cancelled. I set off in a state of despondency knowing that if Norrie couldn’t cross two ferries and deliver my food supply, I would need to shop in the village anyway. At each vista of the Sound I could glimpse the ferry standing off and arrived in the village convinced that the boat would not sail and that we would be unable to meet. I watched it restlessly shifted position convinced that the tide and currents were making the crossing too dangerous but eventually I could see progress was being made and as it got nearer I could see the post van was aboard. When the ferry services of the West Highlands plough up and down on a beautiful summer day often full of seasonal visitors, as we experience living near the Corran Ferry, it is easy to forget the essential nature of the service the ferries provide. Watching the little ferry, a temporary boat whilst the usual one is away for a refit, I felt profoundly grateful to the crew for providing such a reliable service. And then weighed down with shopping and without a proper coat, there was my dear husband, the noble Norrie.
The weather has been severe with the rattling of corrugated iron, swinging gates and knocking metal. The sea has become rougher and rougher as the islands swim in and out of view through the mist. A flash of lightning behind The Dutchman’s Cap, an island Norrie now terms The Submarine, the hostel is freezing as someone insists on leaving the windows of every bathroom open through night and day and even with several blankets and a hotwarter bottle I could not get warm last night. So as the morning dawned it was lovely to sit in bed with a cup of tea having a conversation with my best friend which has fortified me to stay for the last week despite running out of materials, the post being slow so a slim prospect of a new delivery and the Byre, more of a colander than a dry space. And then we had a walk on the beach, leaning rather than walking and found quicksand where the tide is low and the moon full. Finally, studio time and I started to paint. An onslaught of hail which came in through every hole, landing on every surface and threatening to destroy the work I have constructed.
Gave up and withdrew inside, determined to stay the last few days but aware that I have been pushed almost too far. The result is that the work feels authentic and the question we discussed over a cup of tea is whether the struggle is intrinsic to the result and if so, how to bring that into daily life?