- Friday, 18 November 2011 20:06 Hits: 4019
“Unfortunately, it’s part of living in a community that before you can realistically assess it, you go from extraordinary enchantment to mournful disenchantment.” A quote from Utopian Dreams by Tobias Jones. Its about a chap who spends a year living in various “intentional” communities, some religious, some not. That sentence has stuck with me. It’s not only the recent unreliability of the ferries, the darkening nights, the incessant rain – I miss my friends back in Inverness. I miss being able to distract myself with cinema, tea & cake, idle chat with people I’ve known for years, and who know me.
I’m not sure whether Rum counts as an intentional community; it often seems more like a collection of individuals striking off in their own directions, yet everyone has chosen to come here, and chosen to stay. One of my new friends has a theory that it’s the people who arrive with just a rucksack and no plans for the future that end up staying; those who move their homes and families to start a new life here leave after a few years. Great expectations? There is something brutally exposed about living on an island – on the mainland you can avoid, procrastinate and distract yourself with shopping, cinema, and pubs, but there’s no escaping yourself here. Old patterns of behaviour repeat endlessly, and there’s nothing to do but acknowledge and face up to them (or apply alcohol as an anaesthetic; hot blackcurrant & Rum, anyone?).
I was recently asked what surprised me about life on the island, and I had to think about it for several days before I came up with an answer. I could tell you what the best thing about it is (have you been to Rum? It’s incredible), or the worst thing (feeling isolated), but I hadn’t compared what I expected to find with what I actually found. In a way, the island constantly surprises me. Nature is right there, outside my door, on my walk to work, outside my office window, and acts as a constant reminder to be here, to be present with whatever’s going on. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I’ve found is a community in flux. People are constantly coming and going. Of the 38 residents, less than half have been here for more than 5 years. Since I arrived in June, three new people have come to live here, one has come back from being away, and two have left. When there are constantly new people arriving with their own ideas of how things should be, it's bound have an impact on the community's identity, and its ability to get things done. One of my new housemates just got a shiny new job on the mainland and the pair of them will be leaving in December. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to see them go, and can’t help feeling that their leaving is a small disaster for the community – both of them are directors of the Trust and there’s not exactly a queue forming to replace them.
I suspect that Rum has a lot to teach me about accepting change; I may as well stand at the shore and try to stop the tide from coming in. One of my newly made and recently left friends tells me that things have a way of working out, and I know she’s right, but I’d just got used to things being how they are: I wasn’t quite ready for everything to change again.
At least the rain let up for a while there, gardening is much more pleasant now the midges have gone. This edition was uploaded on the new superfast broadband connection installed in the village hall and took mere seconds instead of the usual half an hour. News from the East is that my faraway friends are wrapped up against the cold while I’ve been enjoying some oddly balmy sunny weather. There are some benefits to living on this sodden island, then.