It’s a funny old place Rum. So small – just eight miles across in both directions, yet so large – there are so many unexplored, secret areas known to such a few folk – I still don’t know all the names of the peaks let alone the lochs. At times I feel such an authority here – two years in having seen a couple of each season so able to compare, member of various on island bodies, director of some, decision maker in some areas, volunteer in many. At others I realise how little I know, how ignorant of how much I still am.
If you google Rum you will find hundreds, if not thousands of accounts of people’s time here – visits for the day, a week, a month, a season. Folk who studied here, lived here, walked here, explored here, photographed the views, learnt about the wildlife.
My relationship with Rum is like a passionate love affair – at times overwhelming with love and affection, I have hundreds of snapshot memories, photos, scents, sights, sounds which can bring me to instant tears or laughter. At other times Rum can feel cruel, challenging, deliberately testing or punishing. There are days I feel I am taming the island, conquering a corner of the croft, have gotten to know a certain trail or path, could walk an area with my eyes closed. At others I realise I will never truly know everything about this wild place and if I have even a moment of confidence it is marked with the knowledge that at any second I could be proved wrong.
Does Rum belong to those of us here now, living here, making our homes and lives and work here today or will the echoes of those who lived here in the past always ring louder and longer? Is the real Rum owned by the tourists for whom we put on our prettier faces and show only our best sides?
In just our brief time here we have seen folk come and go. There are people who return, for visits, stay in touch with postcards or on facebook. Some people are spoken of with affection, respect and a tinge of regret, others pass by forgotten almost as soon as they wave goodbye and head to the ferry. Some ex residents are the stuff of legend, others merely the butt of a joke. Everyone leaves a mark, a footprint, some legacy, some more than others.
I have no answers to the questions I have posed above. I do know that never have I lived anywhere I have felt so connected to and defined by my address.