I love mindless, simple tasks. I love the head space that something occupying your physical self without the need to engage your mental self offers. The opportunity for your mind to wander, butterfly like all over the place. I relish the methodical, rhythmic pace of an activity your body can get stuck into and what that does to my state of mind. I have never meditated, or done exercise for the sake of it but I suspect this is what it would be like.
Being outside in nature makes the exercise so much easier to become creative in your thoughts, you have the sky to remind you how very small you are, the sounds of birds singing, insects buzzing, the river running to lull and soothe you and feel in good company with your busyness, the ever changing landscape, the sun on your back, wind in your hair, raindrops on your face to stay in tune with. The ground beneath your feet, the trees, the rocks all tell you that they were here before you existed, will remain long after you have walked away or left this life.
I have picked brambles this week alone. I have picked them with Scarlett, who chatters almost constantly – in a stream of consciousness style, sharing every thought as it enters her mind. I have picked with Ady, an experience which usually is about laughter, teasing, the odd rant and a bit of competitive seeing who fills the bag first. I have picked with a friend who happened to join us as we walked by and came along for the walk and chat for an hour or so. I have picked in the sunshine, I have picked in the rain, I have picked in the wind. I have picked listening to music and I have picked while singing. I have picked on my way to the village, on my way home, on the croft and around and about.
As I pick I compile blog posts, letters to friends, replies to emails, acceptance speeches, leaving announcements, closing words… all things I will likely never write or say or send. It’s an exercise in words which have always been my currency. I make my peace with things, reach conclusions, realise what I should do next.
Brambles are like pigs – you should never chase them.
Some brambles are not for you to pick, you need to let them go, they are for someone else to pick.
It is worth weighing up the risk of the out of reach or dangerous brambles. Sometimes I balance on precarious footings, tread on ground I am unsure of, stretch further than I can really reach. Sometimes the bag gets ripped on a thorn and I lose everything I had already picked just because I was being greedy and trying to get a bit more. I often leave the path that others have already taken and find an amazing patch of brambles just around the corner. More frequently I discover that if I look lower down under the leaves where I think I have already picked everything there is a huge amount of brambles just hidden but already easily in my reach.
It’s been a very Rum week. I’ve posted out jam and a bag, taken orders for bread, pies, cookies and cakes for the next few weeks. We learned that someone who was here before we arrived is leaving the island soon, waved off someone who left this week. Our resident numbers are in rapid decline this year. Ferries were cancelled, stranding people here who didn’t intend staying so long, preventing others from arriving at all. There was a potato shortage meaning amendments of menus and adaptations of food plans. Ady has been ghillying, leading a pony around parts of Rum he would probably not otherwise walk, I have done a castle tour and a post office shift. We had a community meal, a leaving party, heard the first roaring stags of the season, ate venison.
And jam. We are at 282 jars and 98 mini jars of jam made so far. While working out costings for jars and sugar I calculated that I have picked about half my own body weight in brambles this season so far. That’s a whole lot of brambles. And a whole lot of time philosophising!