Solitude, Spontaneity and Sanity
Of course, every day when I walk to school or the shop or even just look out of the window, I’m struck by how lucky I am to live somewhere as beautiful as Skye. This is more often the case when we don’t have horizontal rain and howling winds, but still. It’s stunning. Everywhere.
I don’t use the car as often as I used to despite us living over 20 miles from town. But when I do drive, alone and not in any real hurry to get from A to B (or from B back to A at least), there are opportunities for exploration and small excursions. I put the radio on and drive on roads running alongside the sea or across open moorland with pine forests and rushing streams and mountains beyond. Sometimes the landscape is gentler, greener with deciduous trees and lush hollows and verges. Neat little crofts with solid whitewashed houses and lines of washing.
I’m aware that, if somewhere looks inviting and intriguing - an almost-hidden footpath leading down to the shore, a shady hollow filled with foxgloves - I can park the car somewhere sensible (the way people interpret the rules of the road up here has many islanders in a state of constant exasperation) before hopping out with my camera and going to explore. At the moment that often involves tramping through a dense and undulating ocean of bracken or stooping under leafy boughs and around tangles of cow parsley.
You discover so many delights during these spontaneous little adventures. Fuchsias growing deep in the trees by a brook, their delicate crimson lanterns trembling in the breeze. New vistas across the water to tiny islands and secret coves. Strange flowers and shrubs (the latest I identified only last night as ‘Salmon berries’ with their glowing amber-coloured fruits, native to North America yet growing quite happily here).
You see, if you have the chance to get out alone then you don’t need to ask for permission to pull over. There’s no explaining or justifying why this place, just here, is calling out to you to come and explore. It could take a minute or it could take an hour. A quick snap of those foxgloves or the decision to acknowledge that urge to wander a little further. Yes, it’s easily done up here. Everywhere is a photo opportunity. But allowing yourself a while longer sometimes, alone, to get a tiny bit lost and take the road less travelled is such a gift. Punctuate that journey home from the shops or the bank, the trip to see relatives, with a small detour up that pretty lane you usually pass. Stop in the part of town with those sweet houses and dreamy front gardens. Pause and lean across the gate and take in that field full of wheat or oilseed rape, dazzlingly yellow to the horizon. Give yourself a bit of breathing space, time to reset. By wandering up that footpath – even if you’ll be turning back around again after ten minutes – you’re doing something very important. You’re switching off. From the requests of others, from conversation. Instead you’re tuning in to the seasons and the details around you: nature. The sound of birds and buzzing insects and the wind in the trees. The smell of the earth and sun-warmed grass, the feel of leaves as you brush past. Indulge your curiosity. Reset. The obligations and their accompanying emotions: stress, resentfulness, mild anxiety: they can be let go for a little while as you take some time for yourself and savour your surroundings.
So the next time you’re alone and busily running errands, try and allow for some stopping and smelling of the proverbial roses. Schedule it in. Set out a bit earlier and return via the scenic route. It’s just as important as all those other tasks and deserves a place on the to-do list (and preferably not at the bottom!)