What you cannot see on this page header is the rainbow. So here is the photograph in full, from a commercial postcard to which I would like to give full credit but cannot find. I’ve put it somewhere safe, as usual! I do recall that the caption read LOST IN SCOTLAND (or something of that ilk), which made me smile in wry fashion. “That woman walking under an umbrella could be me”, I remember thinking, feeling more than a little lost at the time. But no longer.
We have landscape like this within a few miles. As for the sheep, they are everywhere right now. Being Japanese my husband is entranced by lambs; there are few sheep in his country (excepting on the northern island of Hokkaido) and being a city boy (Tokyo!) living in the countryside is a total novelty.
So are rainbows as fact not fiction. I remember a few from my 26 years in Japan, but here they are part of the everyday landscape and its climatic variability/swift changeability. That Scottish mix of misted rain and sunlight, following swiftly one upon another and often together (think ongoing April showers) seem to spark rainbows in abundance.
They choose their moments also. There was a splendid arch over the moorland behind Forneth, the hamlet that is our postal address, on the morning after my aunt died in 2012. And that was in December, not April!
It replicated itself soon after Akii arrived from Japan, as if offering a welcoming gift, and the photo he took is now on the Clunie Hall website (www.cluniehall.co.uk).
In April we drove west to Fort William and then crossed by ferry from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye. I had not visited since 1953, when I was put on a train – the Caledonian Express, no less – from Birmingham to Edinburgh, to spend time with my father’s elder sister who was based in Inverness. Their younger sister Betty had died in childbirth, and the trip was to spare me that reality. Thoughtful maybe, but it was years before I was enabled to put the two events together, and then it came as rather a shock.
My aunt drove us west from Inverness to visit friends in Lochcarron and “over the sea to Skye”, with a part of this journey described in my book Chasing Shooting Stars (Part 2, page 153):
In the morning I play shinty on the loch-side road, with local kids, using my stick more to hook and drive debris from an overnight storm – branches and seaweed – back into the water than to hit a puck: a pebble I think.
On the ferry over to Skye (there was no bridge in those days) I lean over the side and one of my aunt’s mittens fall into the sea. My hands has been cold, and she had taken off her gloves and out them over my own. Though a bit if a stickler, Catherine treated me above all else as if I was an intelligent being in my own right. She was not only extremely kind, she was also considerate and respectful. I liked that.
I remember nothing of Skye itself, beyond a feeling of being completely over-whelmed.
Returning after sixty years, that sensation remains undiminished. Skye is stunning in any weather, and that first day – cold, rainy and wind-swept – blew me away. Water was streaming and cascading down mountainsides; we could hear it water-falling through the windows of the jeep, and ongoing misted landscapes were more magical and inspiring than monotonous. (You would not believe the negativity of the average tourist: the weather was awful, there was nothing to do or see…the trip a waste of time!)
We drove through five rainbows that first day alone, on our way to Portree. And I remembered Anastasia’s joyous piece of writing on the DOTWW course earlier in the year, about the single rainbow she and then boyfriend had driven under and through near Perth on a weekend jaunt. It was an omen, she felt. A message…
Five messages were a blessing, but by the end of our three day trip, our count was up to ten, which is beyond a blessing: it’s more an awakening.
Not the mystical awakening I experienced in Japan, sitting one day in my garden. More a reminder than the especially intense kick up the backside that inspired the following lines. I leave you with them, together with all the pots of gold found at the feet of so many arches of splintered light, a bountiful bouquet of rainbows gathered from the sky above Skye.
I am my skin in which I fit,
I am this seat on which I sit,
I am the sun warm on my face,
I am the stones that pave this place,
I am all trees that give me shade,
I am all grasses, each single blade,
I am the fresh milk in my glass,
I am the cloud that makes to pass,
I am fur, feather, nail, beak and claw,
I am heart and soul and so much more,
I am earth, air, water, wind and fire,
I am the sum of sexual desire,
I am the planets, stars and moon,
I am the eternal galactic tune,
I am everything yet nothing at all,
I am a dancer at the universal ball,
I am here, gone, yet here again,
I am wild and free, all-knowing and tame,
I am at peace in a state of elation,
I am at one with the act of creation.
20 April 2003