There is something really fascinating about people on the edge of normal life. People generally are endlessly fascinating I think but those of us who live life not quite conforming, treading their own path, truly living up to the human condition of being individuals are really. Everyone here on Rum is in that category. You don’t find yourself on a remote island by accident and actually even if you do then choosing to stay here and make it work is a conscious decision. No one is here without having actively decided to be here. That makes for a really colourful collection of people. Not an Intentional Community like some of the inspiring and amazing gatherings of like minded people with common goals that we WWOOFed at in 2011. Not a group of people who all share a dream, a vision, a passion even. Rather a group of people who are all here for individual, unique reasons. All with back stories, ideas, motivators and agendas of their own. It’s like a micro society, except we are light on the wage slaves and crowd followers and heavy on the individuals and ‘different’ people.
I do not document anyone else’s story here – their tales are not mine to tell or even to recount. But I am privileged to hear many of them, to listen and learn from the eclectic mix of of people that call Rum home. I get to discover what brought them here, what keeps them here and see the ways in which they make their own personal mark on what happens next on our island. Every individual here counts for 2.5% of the population, everyone has a big loud voice, everyone is a stakeholder. No one can be discounted or written off, nobody ‘doesn’t count’ or ‘doesn’t matter’. There is no room for ‘never mind me’ or ;what I want is not important’. Certainly that can make for frustration, obstruction, slow progress. But it truly is both democracy AND anarchy in action. Power of the people, to the people, for the people. It’s real and true and matters. One person’s crisis is everyone’s crisis, the victory and celebration of one is that of many.
Rum and it’s component parts – people, organisations, factions and groups – are not like a jigsaw or an airfix model where there is only one correct way of putting them all together – I think they are more like a lego set with infinite possibilities or better still a box set of plasticine, where things can be shaped and moulded, pushed together, set apart, reformed and remade, grouped in different ways, different scenes and alternative realities.
Never is this more apparent to me than each month when I pull together and edit the content for the community newsletter. I gather factual information and communications from SNH, the Isle of Rum Community Trust, the Residents Association, the school, the crofts, the gardeners, the shop and post office, the Ranger, the people with passions about wildlife, nature, the island. Information about events on the island, birthdays and announcements. Gossip, jokes, photos, a spotlight on a different resident each month and one of my personal highlights is Quote of the Month. Given to me each month by one of our residents who is the king of finding the right quote to suit any given moment.
This month, as ever I got the slip of paper with a quote for the newsletter but he also gave me a quote he had found and thought was pertinent for me.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
It’s been a challenging week in many ways this week. The rain has been fairly relentless, the mud continues to colonise the croft, everyone except me (so far….) has come down with the cold that the cousins brought with them and another three chicks have died. All taken by the hooded crows. Yes we’ll learn from this, come back stronger, take lessons from it and ensure the same mistakes are not made again but in the first tender weeks since we celebrated our anniversary here we have lost three piglets and seven chicks. That hits pretty hard when your current life relies on the success of rearing livestock and growing crops. When the ground is too wet to plant anything and the weather and wildlife are claiming the lives of your animals it’s hard to find the rainbow through the rain.
There are many things I could credit with keeping us going – the faith and belief in us from afar, the friendship and support from fellow islanders, the half hour intervals here and there of blue skies and sunshine, the moments of pure joy as I call ‘Good Morning Deer!’ to the herd in the field on my way to school in the morning, the refusal to give up from Mama Hen as she spends half an hour calling to the lost chicks before shrugging her feathers and getting back on the next to hatch more.
This week what has kept me believing in tomorrow is the seedlings in the polytunnel. I’ve had herb plants, strawberry runners and various seeds arrive in the post this week, carried on sowing in egg boxes and yet more seeds have germinated and seedlings poked their way through the soil surface. This coming week we’ll be eating salad leaves grown here on the croft – our first crops. In the darker moments I’ve found myself heading for the polytunnel to plant yet more sowings and I know that investing in the future, believing in tomorrow does not come more basic and heartfelt than that.