Missing links: what I learned from two weeks on Skye

I’m recently back from two weeks on holiday on the Isle of Skye, studying beginner’s Gaelic at Sabhal Mor Ostaig.  Holidays - time out from our normal routines - provide us with a great opportunity to reflect, to learn, to see things in a different light.  I don’t know about you but I often also find new words and ideas bubbling up when I’m away, phrases that get scribbled down on loose ends of paper.  Words that are asking to be written even if I don’t know, then, just what they’re going to mean.

So when I found out that Robert Hruzek’s latest group writing project was on “what I learned from… vacation” I knew this would be a good opportunity to take stock of what I’d learned.  In essence I’d say that being there, just being there - in such a wild, brooding and beautiful place - provided me and the other people that I met with some of the essential links that we so often feel are missing from our lives.
To try and elaborate:

There’s a sense of coming home. Each time I drive along the A87 towards Kyle of Localsh and catch the first glimpse of the bridge across the water - my heart leaps. I have to stop, take a photo, breathe in and wonder… each and every time.

People are moved - extraordinarily - by wild and beautiful places. On Skye you will meet people from all over the world who have fallen utterly, terribly in love with the place.  People who will return time after time, year after year, not just in sunshine but come rain and wind and midges too.  Perhaps Skye reminds them of other haunting, mystical places.  Some lovely Americans that I met said that the island reminded them of Hawaii.  (I found myself wondering if this is why I am so connected to the words and work of Rosa Say…)

A sense of place is crucial to our sense of who we are.  I always feel more confident, more self-assured - more ready to write - when I’m plugged into my source.

Learning makes us feel connected. All the learners at the college were having the most amazing time learning new skills, meeting new people, sharing stories, making connections.  There was a sense that we had all come there looking for some of the same things - a sense of reconnection with something that been lost to us as individuals, families, communities or society: an ancient language, a sense of history, family connections, traditional singing and music.

Music is part of who we are.
I was lucky enough to be in Skye in the same fortnight as their annual music festival Feis an Eilein.  This was a fantastic celebration of Celtic music both old and new, passing on traditions and skills, marveling at the skills of youngsters who were just setting out, reveling in the magic of musicians and singers coming together for the first time and making music that moves and inspires - and gets us jigging, of course!

Wild places matter. One of the shows I went to see was a play about the work of John Muir, sponsored originally by the John Muir Trust.  It was a great reminder of the importance of wild places not just in their own right but for us to function as whole, healthy human beings.  John Muir wrote:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

There are more walks to be written.
I love exploring on the island and this was the inspiration for my first published book, Short Walks on Skye (sadly out of print just now).  As I wandered different paths and trails this summer I knew that there was more I wanted to write.  My favourite kind of walk is the one you make up for yourself - where you drive to the road end and then see what kind of path you can follow or create down to the shore.  There’s something about writing about walking beyond the end of the road that appeals to me.  I’m not yet sure if this is going to be literal (a walking guide) or metaphorical (walking off the beaten track) or maybe both…

It all connects. There’s a connection to be made, somewhere, between this sense of place, history and culture; my love of walking; the importance of wild places; coaching people to find their own path; writing that flows most freely when I’m plugged into the source.  I just don’t know what it is yet.

Writing helps us to make sense of it all.  Vacations provide a great opportunity to be still, to be away, to change perspective, to take stock.  Words and ideas tumble out when we’re away.  But making sense of it often needs to wait until we come back - and writing it down is surely the best way of starting to fathom what it means.

Thanks once again Robert for the encouragement to write, and learn, and to try and work out together what sense we can make of it all.

If you want to take part in the group writing project there’s still time - you need to have entries in by Monday 13th.  If you’ve reflections you want to share on what you learned from your own vacations - the comment box is ready and waiting for you.

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6 Responses to “Missing links: what I learned from two weeks on Skye”

  1. On August 12, 2007 at 11:01 pm Rosa Say responded with... #

    How richly provocative this is Joanna! It leaves me with only one option and no other - getting away from this keyboard and getting outside where I can feel the land under my feet and the sun on my face. A prayer of appreciation, gratitude and profound thankfulness is called for; right NOW. Mahalo.

  2. On August 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Oh Rosa, it’s so much fun to think of writing here on a cool grey day, finding words that inspire someone so far away to step outside and feel the sun on her face. So far away - and yet that same land under our feet.

    I hope you enjoyed your Sunday time outside.


  3. On August 14, 2007 at 3:42 pm Mike responded with... #


    This is a wonderful piece. I’m lucky to live in Arizona, where we have an abundance of wild and beautiful places, and I agree wholeheartedly with your quote from the conquerer of the Colorado River.


  4. On August 14, 2007 at 7:16 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Mike, thank you, and thanks for stopping by.

    I loved your piece too - not least the photos! You are lucky indeed - and I hope I can get there myself some time.

    Maybe luck isn’t quite the right word though - I guess we can all learn to feel lucky, wherever we are, and to love and appreciate “our” wild and beautiful places


  5. On April 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm Managing with Aloha Coaching responded with... #

    Hau‘oli la hanau to Joanna Young!

    Surely you know Joanna by now too: She is the personification of our Ho‘ohana Community in Scotland! Today is her birthday. Because of Joanna, I can now spell Edinburgh right the first time, without checking, and knowing that she is



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