As part of this series on our holiday to Lewis I thought I would write a post on my thoughts and views on Lewis and one on Harris. One I loved at first sight Harris. Yet it was in fact its brooding sister Lewis that had the greater impact on me and gave me something that I have been looking for years to find. An idea that could turn in time to a story and or a book.
Lewis is beautiful and has some of the best beaches that I have ever been to. To name a few the beach at Uig, the small beach at Ness or our favourite the beach at Great Bernea which is a small island off Lewis that you can drive over a bridge to get to.
But alongside the beauty there is also a greyness and black which disturbed me at times, perturbed me always and made me spend my holiday wondering what was it that gave me this feeling of grey and black when Harris gave me the feeling of blue and green and aqua? Black and grey are not colours that I dislike and they have their place and quite a prominent one in my wardrobe. They are though colours that don’t usually inspire creativity in me. Grey and black weather as it has been much of this summer has really got me down. Yet in Lewis we had some of the best weather that we have had all summer and still I got this black and grey feeling yet for the first time ever it wasn’t getting me down. On the contrary it was inspiring me. Never have I taken so many photos on holiday or had quite so many creative early morning walks as I tried to get to the bottom of this black and grey.
At first I wondered if it was the Presbyterian that was getting to me. On Lewis there are churches everywhere. We counted them daily as we explored the Island and quite often they could be side by side different variations. My history with church is a chequered one. God I believe in I am yet though to be convinced that to know him we have to attend church religiously every Sunday. I find God in his creation while in church I confess I often find that man has made up his own rules and then makes them God’s. I can’t argue about the hundreds of denominations that there are humans do require variety in all that they do and one size doesn’t fit all. I just don’t get that they have to fight about it. In Lewis you can tell that the church has had a huge effect on the Island. And at first I did think that was what gave me this black and grey feeling but after a few days I realised it wasn’t that. In many ways the churches fascinated me and I respected that in this day and age they are such an important part of Island life while knowing in all honesty if I lived there I am not sure that a church is where I would seek God.
So if it wasn’t religion what was it? My second thought was that it was the weather. As I say when we were there the sun shone and we only saw rain on a few occasions. But you could see just from the crofts and miles of moors and machair that life was hard to make a living from and it was easy to imagine how bleak it must be during the winter. Was that what gave the Island this feeling of grey and black for me?
But it wasn’t and so I thought and thought about my feelings about Lewis which were different to any Island I have ever been to. Like many Scottish Islands I loved Lewis and look forward to going back next year. Yet this feeling of grey and black remained.
So it wasn’t till the very end of the holiday that realisation started to come over me and the pieces of the jigsaw started to come together. The reason that I loved it was it was saying history to me. I studied history at Uni and yet it took me to go to this Island to realise that the reason that I have always loved history is that history is simply telling stories and I love a good story which is why I am such an avid reader and like nothing better than immersing myself in a good book.
Lewis is an island which has story after story to tell. You can see it in every abandoned house (and there are hundreds all over the island), you can see it in every croft, every abandoned vehicle and you can read about it in the many graveyards across the island. It’s not always an easy story to tell but there are hundred and hundreds of stories on Lewis and that was what was pulling on my heart-strings and giving me such a fascination with the grey and black because Lewis has given me one of its stories to tell. And I hope I can honour the island by telling it.