Partings, losses, endings: sailing from Stornoway

On my last evening I park by the slipway at Cuddy Point and watch part of a rusty moon peer through the clouds over Stornoway’s inner harbour. I’ve said a few sad goodbyes, which I hope are so longs. I’ve made more friends even in the last days, walking Murph in the wooded castle grounds and sharing the paths with a couple of lovely women. On my last morning I buy lichen-coloured tweed, say some more farewells, and quell tears and departure-nausea as two walkers watch the ferry turn from the rocky woodland above the parking spot I left just an hour ago. I am sad not to have seen Joe, a wildlife tour guide I met on Mull last year with plans to move to Stornoway but whose number I lost. I am sad not to have made it to the St. Kilda swimmers’ party. I am sad not to have visited Cathy and her weaver husband at Achmore. I am sad not to be able to join the next session in An Lanntair or the next singaround in the Carlton or the next gig in the Retirement Centre. I am sad that I didn’t follow up Angus and Violet’s invitation to retreat to their self-catering cottage. I am sad that that crystal blue day at Husinish did not last forever. I am sad that the West Harris Trust are seeking new residents and I am not one. I am sad that there is a great crofthouse in the most beautiful corner of Lewis that I could rent if the world were different. I am sad about all of this and something more. I am sad about the empty holiday houses throughout the Hebrides and South West and everywhere else; the struggling rural communities that cannot fill pubs, buses or sustain post offices; the careless building in beautiful wilderness; the uncertainty of not knowing where my home is; the Syrian and other refugees dying for want of a safe home. And something more. Paths untrodden, opportunities unpursued, and loss: that which we could maybe have had but cannot, or choose not to, even without knowing why. The ferry rolls gently but my stomach doesn’t like it, and Leodhais, island of the materially poor, cultural millionaires, has disappeared into the fog.

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