In the west of Scotland there’s a tiny island, south of Oban, called Easdale where there are no cars, no roads, no street lamps and about sixty inhabitants. It’s nestled between the Isle of Mull and the mainland, making it feel soft and sheltered, or perhaps that was just the luck of my visit to the area. Those who arrive onto Easdale from the small ferry are met with a row of upturned wheelbarrows into which one can deposit ones goods and chattels before making the onwards journey by foot and wheel. Isn’t that something? I know it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea; I can visualise my friend S. blanch with dread at the thought of being marooned there. S. will have a different way of finding her place apart – her space, peace, simplicity – for we all need one. Whether it is a trip to Easdale, a couple of hours in the corner café of a busy city street, or a weekend away in a cottage outside Lisnagunogue, it’s important to find occasional shelter from life’s demands. Lord knows, my life is less complicated than most, but any of those three options would do me, from time to time.
I’ve spent the last few weeks up to my neck in documents as the ‘business’ of life seems to grow ever more complicated: car tax, insurance, M.O.T., television licence, changing energy provider, getting faster broadband, smart metre installation, renewing parking permit, new mobile phone contract, weighing up the merits of maintaining AA membership, getting the boiler serviced, the gutters cleaned, the dog wormed…. ok, you’ll know from recent posts that my dog is virtual, but nonetheless, you get the message: the list never ends. Doctor, dentist, taxidermist – was life always so form-filled and appointment-heavy? Perhaps I’m at the top of the bell curve of life, that middle-age point when one reaches ‘peak-paperwork’. As one enters and leaves life we have little need for bureaucracy, it’s done for us; then it builds and subsides as we grow up and grow down. A hugely inspirational priest named Father Daniel O’Leary died in January of this year, aged 82. In an article, chronicling his final days, he wrote: “Gradually, everything somehow is becoming more simple – and just fading away. We grow, we die, by subtraction.” His words remind me that there will come a time when things will become simpler, whether we like it or not. Thinking this way brings me a new perspective, and I come full circle to a place where I am (almost) grateful for the annual slew of checks, payments and renewals – it’s a sign that I’m still growing! That said, a temporary retreat from it wouldn’t go amiss.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by W.B. Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.