joanna paterson

along the way


waiting for the boat

I’m in the waiting room.
I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.
I’m waiting to exchange missives on the purchase of a house.
I’m waiting for the keys.
I’m waiting to hear about a job.
I’m waiting to work through my notice.
I’m waiting for an email, hour after slow-dragging hour.
I’m waiting for letters, for phone calls, for texts.
I’m waiting for responses.
I’m waiting for people to be on my time, and not theirs.
I’m waiting less than patiently.
I’m waiting to go to the island.
I’m waiting to be not-here.
I’m waiting to be there.
I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.

As I wait, I am trying to remember:

That there can be something truly lovely about the state of in-between, moving between one place and another, when you’ve left but are not yet there (when you’re on a ferry boat, anyway).

As I wait I am trying to remember:

The feeling of a poem that I first read many moons ago – some words I found in a newspaper, and cut out and pinned to my wall, without really understanding what it meant, or why it moved me. I’m nearly close to reading it in Gaelic now and though I still don’t fully understand the words in either language I know there is something there I need to remember, that as much as I am waiting, and planning, and making list after list after list, the destination isn’t the end and the horizon will no doubt stretch again when I get there.

An Dàrna Eilean

Nuair a ràinig sinn an t-eilean
bha feasgar ann
‘s bha sinn aig fois,
a’ ghrian a’ dol a laighe
fo chuibhrig cuain
‘s am bruadar a’ tòiseachadh às ùr.

Ach anns a’ mhadainn
shad sinn dhinn a’ chuibhrig
‘s anns an t-solas gheal sin
chunnaic sinn loch anns an eilean
is eilean anns an loch,
is chunnaic sinn
gun do theich am bruadar pìos eile bhuainn.

Tha an staran cugallach
chon an dàrna eilen,
tha a’ chlach air uideil
tha a’ dìon nan dearcag,
tha chraobh chaorainn a’ crìonadh,
fàileadh na h-iadhshlait a’ faileachdainn oirnn a-nis.

The Second Island

When we reached the island
it was evening
and we were at peace,
the sun lying down
under the sea’s quilt
and the dream beginning anew.

But in the morning
we tossed the cover aside
and in that white light
saw a loch in the island,
and an island in the loch,
and we recognised
that the dream had moved away from us again.

The stepping-stones are chancy
to the second island,
the stone totters
that guards the berries,
the rowan withers,
we have lost now the scent of the honeysuckle.

Derick Thomson / Ruaraidh MacThomais from the book Creachadh na Clàrsaich

Translation by the poet

(Apologies for the apostrophes appearing incorrectly on the ‘s in the Gaelic, I’m trying to find out how to fix this in WordPress.)

For those of you who have followed my meandering journey over the years, a slightly less oblique version of this is that yes, we are moving again. This time truly west, and north, to the Isle of Lewis. I hope to be there by the beginning of November. More no doubt to follow!

Also just to say a big thank you to those of you who took the time to comment or email in response to the last post. It was much appreciated, and a lovely reminder of the quiet power of blogging to connect, even for those of us who do it haphazardly now. Thank you.

Away and Towards

more than ever we need people willing to pause and listen, to open their hearts to what is uncomfortable, and to hold space and attention until the new thing emerges

~ Christine Valtners Paintner

Every so often, mainly on a Sunday, I think about writing something here. It can’t be that hard I think: just a title, a photograph, some words. A way back in, opening the door, back into your own space.

Sometimes I find a title, and sometimes a photo, and sometimes the fragments of some words, but even so, I don’t get beyond.

It’s something to do with the seeming size of the task, to find something worth saying, a practice worth practicing in the face of all the… the sheer weight of all the stuff that’s going on out there, day in, day out, relentless, remorseless.

It’s something to do with the shininess of the modern web, its gloss and promise. I miss the scruffiness of the human web I used to know, the home-made sites, the people sharing words and worlds without pretence at knowing.

Yet still in the turning away from so many things I do not wish to list, still there is a turning towards even if the shape of the new thing is unknown.

It’s not (for me) Art, or Writing, or Photography, but still something in this space between the lines that blogging offered / offers: unpolished, not knowing, open, human, connecting, here.

I fear I am not close to finding half the words I wish to, but also do not wish to let another Sunday pass away without some claiming back of space, some way of saying that even as we turn away and further keep on turning – we can still turn towards: unpolished, unknowing, open, human, here.

fishing boat, Ullapool

With thanks to Christine at the Abbey of the Arts for sharing ‘Mystical Hope and the New Thing‘ including the reminder to keep practicing, together and the nudge to me to keep going.

Walking This Earth

This has been a strange and unsettling ten days in the UK.

So many things are in flux, the future uncertain, huge questions being asked about politics, identity, nationality, and at the deepest core about our values – what kind of a society we claim to be, and want to be.

I found myself in England last weekend, two days after the referendum. Sometimes, switching on the news, this country where I was born and grew up can feel like a foreign country, changed and changing, different.

Not so in the hills.

We headed out for a walk in the Peak District where the world was green and lush, the air warm, the brief but heavy showers providing welcome relief from the stickiness of the climb. It was quiet on the paths on the way up and back down again, but along the top was a ridge path, easily accessible from a car-park, and the place was hoaching with people.

We sat and enjoyed a picnic a short distance from the path, watching the rain clouds in the valley beyond, the greenness of the hills, and the beautiful diversity of the people walking by: no stereotyped hikers here but all ages, shapes and sizes, all kinds of voices, all backgrounds, points of view. People smiled at each other and greeted the day, in all its rainy sunny loveliness.

Ridge walk, the Peak District

Ridge walk, the Peak District

Things felt different here, quieter and more human. I couldn’t help thinking, up there eating my sandwiches and back here looking at this photograph, that the world conspires to make us feel separate and different, to see a gulf that lies between us.

And yet here we all are, one Saturday afternoon in June, just walking this earth together.



I was half watching a programme the other night about space. The presenter was talking about gravity.

One way to think about gravity, he said, is that everything in the universe is just falling through space time.

The moon is falling into the valley created by the mass of the earth. The earth is falling into the valley created by the sun, and the solar system is falling into the valley created by our galaxy, and our galaxy is falling towards other galaxies in the universe.

wonders of the universe

He looked pretty happy about this theory (perhaps this is because he was perched on top of a stunning mountain range) but I confess it made me feel a little strange, this feeling that everything might just be: falling.

Sometimes the time that we’re in has that feeling too, that things are getting darker, tumbling in a way that’s outwith our control. The political environment is toxic, the news is dark as can be, and despite our fancy theories about the wonders of the universe we seem little closer to knowing how to look after this most beautiful planet.

It’s one of the reasons I find myself returning over and again to the quiet, tiny wonder of macro photography. Sometimes even the size of a landscape is too much to me but I always love the detail of the close-up watching, the surprise of what the lens might reveal. Plus you always know where you stand with a flower.

Here are a few recent macro shots, taken with the Hipstamatic. I hope you enjoy them.

Beginning Again, Again

macro shot of a dandelion seeding

already turning
to seed
the dandelions
in my notebook
after this long silence

I took a break from here which turned into a little longer than expected.

And then, as happens when you take a break from blogging (and which is why in truth it’s better just to keep on going and shift position as you go) it became harder to come back again.

Somehow you wish for some grand insight, some truth you’d hauled to the surface during your time away, while in reality I just have most of the same old questions, and a reminder of the same old truth that the art of practice is simply being willing enough, and humble enough, to begin again, again.

without the words
to begin again
I watch an orange-tip
carve a passage
through the sun