Leaves are brown, skies are grey

Well not quite, but heading that way. And as ever the skies are a rainbow of colours from greys, to blues to stunning sunsets and of course actual rainbows too.

September, or the start of autumn always feels like the time to make a change for me, much more so than January and an actual new year. It’s obviously the back to school feeling leftover from my own school days with new pencil cases, slightly too large and stiff from being brand new school uniform, new classrooms, timetables and new teachers. Brand new exercise books filled with blank pages and the feeling of all that new learning ahead. Five times in my childhood / teens September would have meant a whole new school or college. A quick count up finds at least three new jobs started in September in my adult life. We got married in September so a whole new name, became parents for the first time in September. Obviously we didn’t do school but Davies and Scarlett attended scouts, guides, St Johns Ambulance, RSPB wildlife explorers, swimming lessons, Forest School sessions all of which ran termly and re-started after a summer off with a timetable of four or five evenings a week hitting the rush hour traffic to get them there and ensuring they had the relevant uniform and termly subs.

Meanwhile nature sounds, looks and smells different. I think the change from summer to autumn is definitely one of the more dramatic seasonal changes – leaves changing colour and dropping, altering from shiny and soft, to crunchy and crispy underfoot before becoming soggy to walk through. The air becomes cooler and the smell of bonfires or people lighting their fires fills the air. Morning dew, maybe even the first frosts sparkle on the spiders webs that are suddenly everywhere. Nights draw in and we dig out a warmer pair of socks or cosier jumper. Even when we lived in a town I noticed wildlife changing at this time of year – birdsong is different – no longer the mating or rearing young type calls. The cast of your garden birds may change as migrations to and forth begin. Spiders start coming in, drunken drowsy wasps buzz around. Here on Rum we notice our own livestock altering – the pigs begin to thicken their fur in advance of the winter, the geese are no longer so feisty, the cockerels happily stand side by side rather than preparing to duel. The hills have gone from green to purple.

In previous years autumn here heralded the start of preparing for another harsh winter. Of starting the winter stockpile of tins and dried food, of long life milk in case of cancelled ferries. Of ensuring the firewood stash would see us through. Aside from these practical tasks also came the need for the mental preparation of another winter here. That got both easier in some ways and harder in others as we learnt exactly what to expect of the months ahead. None of us really struggle with the darker days and lack of sunlight. All of us struggled with days of endless rain, nights of howling winds shaking the caravan, condensation and damp. We’ve come a very long way from our first winter where we were still carrying water across from the often raging burn, lighting our long evenings with candles, collecting firewood daily as we’d not had time to prepare in advance. We’ve put measures in place to help with the more testing aspects of life here over winter which have included both the practical and also the soul feeding self care things like regular events to look forward to, at least one trip off over winter to top up on the comforts of warm, comfortable accommodation and access to mainland treats.

This year though autumn marks the start of our next adventure – leaving Rum. Certainly for now, possibly for the longer term. Autumn is the start of Davies’ next chapter in life of beginning an Open University course. It’s the start of a new location for all of us, building a whole new set of memories, a whole new list of skills and experiences and a brand new blank page. We’ll likely need different uniforms and tools just like starting a new school or job, we’ll meet new people and learn new ways, our status will change once more.

This is massively daunting and thrilling in equal measures, just like it was starting a new school, new job, new marriage, new life every other time we’ve done it. I clearly remember that wobble of wanting to run back to my old classroom with the teacher I knew, not wanting to be the littlest kids at senior school after having been the biggest kids at primary school. Remembering the ease of knowing everything about my old job – where the staff room was, the best place to park, which tasks were boring and which were fun instead of being the new girl who didn’t know anyone’s names yet and felt awkward and uncomfortable. That last second feeling of finality in saying ‘I do’ and signing my new name rather than my old one. The realisation with the first contraction of childbirth that life would never, ever, ever be the same again. Big steps and big changes are always scary, the people staying on the ground watching the roller coaster climb up and up towards the inevitable plunge back down always look briefly like the sensible ones when you are in the carriage heading towards the sky while your tummy is turning somersaults and your hands are gripping the bar in front of you. But the big moments – the photographic evidence, the life affirming stuff, the moments you know you are alive are the ones where you are pronounced husband and wife, where you hold your tiny born and look into their eyes while they grasp your finger tight. The day you realise you know which floor the English class is on, a newer colleague than you starts work and you are the one showing them around. The grainy digital picture of you screaming with equal measures of joy and sheer excitement as the roller coaster swings you round and you feel sorry for those people back on the ground who haven’t felt what you have.

More than all this though, we have reached a point where our current life feels like the safe option. It will take more courage to step on the ferry and leave this behind than to stay here and carry on with it. This life, on a remote island, miles from family and friends, living with no mains power, where our existence relies on wheelbarrows and clambering up muddy hills, where every forecast gale has us climbing up ladders to tie up wind turbines and wondering if this will be the one that destroys the caravan. A life so unusual that is is worthy of TV shows, this blog, articles in magazines and visitors every year taking photographs. If this life has become the safe option then we know our perspective is skewed. We know we need to remind ourselves of what else is out there – both the good and bad, the rough and the smooth. Staying in the same place should only feel right if it continues to offer enough highs to balance to lows and enough thrills to remind you you’re alive.

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