Storms, super tides and salty starlings

black and while storm beach

So this is my last week.  I feel very lucky to have been here for the highest tide for 18 and a half years, caused by a cycle of the moon ( a so -called super tide).  It also coincided with a proper force 10 + storm hitting the west of Scotland so the waves have been phenomenal.  The risks are not to be underestimated – I have kept well back from the edge of the sea.  I have not tried to work on the waves in art form yet but that might come after I leave here.  The white stuff on the dunes are piles of hailstones.  Its not been weather for the faint heated but I am pleased to discover that I have not got  too soft in my middle age and have been quite resilient. I have walked out every day and continued to sleep in the hut although it has been a bit interrupted by the hailstones and  a couple of times by thunder and lighting.

STORM BEACH 6 hail on sand dunesstorm beach 3 storm beaCH 5

The power has been off today but we kept the stove lit in the hostel.  This is a picture of the sound of Iona looking to Fionnphort.  The waves were entering the sound at the south of the island and running up the length of the Sound .  No chance for the ferry – it has gone away to its sheltered harbour on the other side and tied up, but a good surfer could probably travel the length of the sound on the right wave.

IMG_3408  seal ink painting lino blocks

I have spent three days developing a lino cut from drawings I made of a dead seal pup washed up along the coast.  I started with a drawing and went back to her on the beach to make an ink wash painting then gradually cutting a lino block. This page of my sketchbook shows a proof print at the start of cutting to help me work out if the marks I am making look right before I cut any more.   Finally I printed some in black and white and some with additional colour in the background.  One was printed with browns and creams – close to the colour of the seal pup and one was printed in grey tones with a black final layer.  Finally I made one print only with a coloured background and monoprinting of seaweeds before printing the sea – imagining her swimming underwater again.  I went back to the beach and the huge seas have taken her away.

black seal large brown seal large seal and background large

The skies today have been amazing.  Here is the beach from my morning walk.  I see the sky like this and the sensible part of me says leave the beach now and run for home before that hits you, and another part says, “no stay and get the shot….”.  Everything has its price!  Purple sky like that  means very soon I will be on the receiving end of a big hail and sleet storm.

IMG_3510 sea and beach 24 february

Drawing outside has been really tough due to the strong wind and cold hands so I did some work in my sketchbook inside.  These studies of “mermaids purses”  are preparation for a body of which I will complete once I am away from here.

sketch book page

The wildlife is still rich even in the storm – the starlings are ever present. Here they are flying on the storm beach.  By the time I made it back to the hostel they have joined me and I catch them taking a bath in the fresh water on the field and wash the salt off their feathers.

storm beach starlings starlings bathing

Gulls seem to genuinely love the wind and waves and are coasting along just above the splashes.

storm beach 2

Johns sheep are less enamoured by the hailstones – they have taken to sheltering under the slopes of Dun I.  They emerge at feeding time  – here is John’s Ram, who is actually a bit timid, giving me one if his very hard stares because I am standing too near the hay for him to come forwards and eat.


Has Iona been “special”?Yes it has,but I was speaking with John and Mark here about Iona and they both separately said that you don’t really know how Iona has affected you until you leave. John was talking about pilgrimages here – something I have read and thought a lot about during my stay.  He argues that its not only the coming to the place that matters but the leaving. So I suppose rather sadly I need to allow myself to think about returning to my real world soon. Looking forward to seeing the family and dogs but this month is going to take a lot of processing I think.  A part of me belongs beside the sea and it nurtures my soul to be here.  By choosing to live inland I am going against part of my nature, but I believe in the last lines of “His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman: “We must build the kingdom of heaven in the place where we are”.  I will be writing another  post about this residency and have a number of works I want to develop as screen prints so will put those up once they emerge.