Louise and I left Glasgow after packing her digital piano, the Rhodes, the amp, the cables and the mixing deck into the back of her Vauxhall Corsa. We curled the off-ramp and headed north, the moorlands expanding around us in mounds of soft jade and broom. As time passed, our words awoke like an old engine — at first in little tumbles, then chugging with a warm hum. By late afternoon we’d crested the northwestern tip of Skye and arrived at a crofter’s house, now called Red Roof — a miniscule, chapel-like café with a pitched ceiling, a weaver’s guild, pottery studios, orbited by a flock of sheep. Artists’ spaces and holiday rentals sit hungry for future poets. I got out of the car and stood in the thousand-year-old wind.
A recent survey by the U.S. National Parks and Recreation Association found that 38% of Americans describe themselves as “always” feeling rushed. Mindfulness junkies call it “hurry sickness” — some even interpret the Chinese ideogram for “busy” as made up of the characters for “heart” and “perish.” Labels aside, under Skye’s long gloaming I felt my imagination open like a cloud-break. “It is in our idleness, in our dreams,” wrote Virginia Woolf, “that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
The inhabitants of Skye discuss the weather with a passion New Yorkers reserve for things like real estate and parking. Stories of winter gales and writing by hand at dawn, of hill-running and lighthouse keeping, set the imagination to the rhythms of nature — the pace of every daydream measured only by hours of daylight or twilight and the cadence of sheep bleats coming from the fold. A gateway to creativity motions from the blowing grasses and the distant earthy lip of a skyward tilting cliff edge.
Here are a few ideas:
Omit something from an over-scheduled schedule.
Pay attention to the hurry of a small task — slow it down.
Look for a long time.
Walk slowly without destination.
Arrange a shrine to slowness and keep it within view.
In sacred creative spaces, let there be no timers.
Watch the weather.
PS: “Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.” (Theodore Roethke)
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown; for going out, I found, was really going in.” (John Muir)
Esoterica: By the time we reached Ullapool, our heartbeats had synched to the rhythm of the sleepy tugs pushing their shiny reflections to the harbour’s edge. I pulled at an ancient doorway and slipped into a vestibule stacked with slow things: a catalogue of charts showing remote Scottish islands, a book of Gaelic poems, sheets of music, cake recipes, essays on politics, the environment, religion. “The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey,” wrote Trappist Monk Thomas Merton. “One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”
“Stare. Educate the eye. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” (Walker Evans)
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