We took a turn about today- to the woods and the beach, with a few craft fairs visited in village halls on the way.
I took my camera of course.
We are just planning our first ‘quiet weekend’ using the new accommodation space at Sgath an Tighe. This will be from Friday evening the 11th of January to Sunday the 13th.
These weekends are intended to allow individuals and couples to set time aside to reflect, pray, meditate and share some evenings around a fireside. Our starting point for entering into meditation here is Christian spirituality- of a generous open kind.
The spaces at our house will allow for three double bedrooms, one twin, and one single, and it would be lovely to fill these.
Our first weekend will cost £200 per person, including accommodation, all meals and activities. (We cook simple but lovely wholemeal vegetarian food.)
We will divide our time into periods of silence – where guests are welcome to use prepared spaces in the house, the garden, or to take walks along the shore – and times of sharing.
There will be an opportunity to be part of morning and evening rituals, and to use clay and other art materials to aid reflection and meditation.
If you are interested, get in touch and we will send you a booking form.
Michaela and Pauline have been running lots of craft course over the past few months, under the guise of Blue Sky Craft Workshops. (They have a FB page here, website is under construction.)
Recently they have run a whole series of introductory pottery courses- hand building, using the wheel and generally having fun with clay. These have been a roaring success- I was particularly pleased to see how much our lovely ‘Scottish Grannie’ Netta enjoyed her session yesterday- see the picture above and below.
Pottery in particular is one of those things that seems to transcend age class and gender- most people enjoy the feel of clay in their hands!
If you are interested in giving it a go, it might be worth considering a holiday break up here in Dunoon. It is often a lovely weather up here in the Autumn, as the Argyll forest gets all golden and busy with red squirrels preparing for winter;
Michaela took this photo yesterday morning from our house;
If you fancy a trip to see this place for yourself, we have a holiday annex which sleeps 4, and in the next couple of months will also have two en suite bed and breakfast rooms.
You can get in touch with us through our website here.
Or if you drop me a line, I can ask Michaela to add you to her mailing list for the wider craft workshops and it may well be possible to co-ordinate a wee trip here around them- felt making, learning how to use sewing machine, jewellery making, christmas cards, Christmas wrapping with a difference….
I took a trip into the wilderness of Argyll at the weekend. Along with some friends I canoed along Loch Striven, camping on the shoreline amongst the birch trees and the bluebells. The air was alive with spring- birds stuffing last years grass into cracks being watched carefully by all those noisy cuckoos. The sea loch still enough to carry the tell tale ripples made by porpoise or the eager seals or the arrow like dive of the gannets. A huge moon rising over the hills bright enough to cast shadows.
On days like this it is impossible not to be aware of the new season- winter is over and everything is coming alive (even though it was VERY cold at night!) However, our connection to these things is increasingly distanced by the way we live. Our air conditioned centrally heated living spaces remain the same temperature the year long, the food we eat is available no matter what the growing season and the lengthening days serve only to facilitate our leisure pursuits.
It was not always like this. Many of the festivals we celebrate have their roots in ancient ways of marking the changing of the seasons. We humans have a way of ritualising and celebrating boundaries and transitions- particularly the ones that matter- the ones that might be the difference between life and death. So, the coming of milk to the fist pregnant ewe came to be called Imbolc in these parts, and the first blossom on the apple trees brought about the riotous dancing of Beltane. Then there was the celebration of the very last of the harvest- Lughnasadh.
This connection to the natural world is one that many of us still crave, without always being clear why. It is something we only really experience when in the vulnerability of being in wild places. By watching the progression of the year from the sleep of winter to the wilt of late summer and the last blaze of Autumn it becomes possible to see once again this world for what it is, and our small place within it all.
Then the season becomes like a song. It finds its way inside us.
We are back after a wonderful few days out in the wild.
This year the Aoradh wilderness trip did not venture out to one of the islands- a few people dropped out and so the boat charter would have just been too expensive. We decided that we would stay more local, so I scouted out a location half way up one of our lovely lochs- Loch Striven. Five of us walked/canoed in from the road end and spent two days and nights in silence, in community and preparing lavish outdoor meals.
This time we managed to bake bread in a biscuit tin oven, bake potatoes and apples, cook mussels harvested from the shore in front of the tent, and spend hours sitting round the campfire talking and laughing.
Even though the weather was mostly lovely it was unusually cold, which was a shame as I took advantage of the trees to use my camping hammock/tarp set up- which turned out to be rather chilly.
This trip was very different to our other wilderness retreats but still really great- it made us appreciate again the wild places right on our doorstep here in Argyll. We also wondered whether it might be a chance to offer people short taster sessions of what wilderness and spirituality together can offer.
I also got to do some canoeing too, for the first time for a while. Andy and I clocked up around 18 miles of paddling. In the process of which we saw seals, porpoise and countless sea birds. Today we canoed to the head of the Loch and Michaela came to collect us. Lovely!
I came across a lovely blog the other day- Westcoastings. Well worth checking out not just because the author is but a skip across the peninsular from here, but also because it is beautifully written.
It also mentioned Polphail village- a collection of empty buildings out along the coast built in the early 1970’s to house the workers of a proposed oil platform construction yard. The yard never happened, and the houses were never occupied. Instead they have lain empty for all these years, slowly soaking up the west coast weather and mouldering into the hillside. It stands as one of those failed 1970’s macro economic experiments gone wrong- and despite many false dawns no alternative use for the site was ever found.
It is already an atmospheric place- a strange piece of urban decay in the middle of wilderness- as if a slice of the inner city had been teleported in some kind of science fiction experiment gone wrong.
What I was not aware of however was that a Graffiti outfit called Agents of Change used Polphail as a blank canvas (hmm- perhaps that is not the best metaphor come to think of it) for all sorts of wonderful art.
So this afternoon we took a trip out there, cameras in hand.
It was a rather wonderful experience. It feels like some kind of furtive secret discovery, and the contrasts and contradictions land on you like lead weights as you wander round.
Soon it will all be gone, either because the site will be demolished, or simply because it will fall down. Either way, if you visit- be careful!
Here are some more pics- click to open…
I am just back from the island of Bute. It was one of the those white knuckle journeys after which you sink into the chair at home with the white lines still coming at you like machine gun tracer.
Not that there always are white lines on the roads I drive- the shaky shot above was taken on one of those half road-half hillside single track ‘roads’ we have up here. They can be dangerous, particularly if you take them for granted. Particularly if you are in a hurry.
Sometimes I take for granted just how wonderful the landscape is that I live and work in. Today was not one of those days as the power of the wind and the huge deluge of water falling was impossible to ignore. Here are a few shots taken on my commute home…