I penned this post on the Isle of Harris in November. It’s now January and I’m finally hitting ‘publish’. Busy, busy, busy!
So much for faithfully writing my blog once a month.
I had the best of intentions back in spring. Somehow, it’s now NOVEMBER and I’m looking back on a six-month gap in my writing.
Summer and autumn passed in a frenzy of weddings… all the weddings that had long been in my diary for 2021, and the majority of the weddings rescheduled from Scotland’s two lockdowns. I’m delighted to say that my photography business is BOOMING. However, I’m less than thrilled about my work-life balance going to the wall.
I’ve managed to squeeze in some sanity-restoring breaks: a few days caravanning in Tongue in June, immediately before the wedding onslaught; cycling the length of the Western Isles during a week in August (an epic adventure!); an autumn caravan trip to Deeside; and now, finally, a mini break on the Isle of Harris.
The price I’ve paid for these trips is zero days off (well, it certainly feels that way). The weeks have rolled by, the months have merged into each other, and the seasons have changed. All the while, I’ve been chasing my tail, in an effort to keep on top of an enormous backlog of editing for my wedding clients, whilst juggling a growing demand for family and commercial shoots, not to mention my landscape photography workshops.
Light at the end of the tunnel
With winter looming, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. No more six- or seven-day weeks. Goodbye stress. Hello days off. Headspace. ‘Me’ time. Photography for pleasure. Writing.
I don’t have to wait until January to make resolutions. It’s time for a change now. I’m putting in place a new system to manage my time more effectively and increase my profitability. I’m determined to look ahead to the 2022 wedding season without dread.
Life is short. My thirties are precious. I’m adamant that I’ll defend my free time next year, and that my physical and mental well-being won’t always fall to the foot of my priority list.
The Isle of Harris, my spiritual home
Where better to reinvent myself than my spiritual home, the Isle of Harris?
This place is achingly beautiful, even on a squally week in November, with howling Hebridean winds and rain hammering against the windows of our holiday cottage. The cloud base may be down over the hills and mountains, but the sea pounding on the island’s sandy west shore still has a faint turquoise hue. Here in the Bays, on the south east coast of Harris, a single track road weaves its way through a hostile landscape of rock and peat bog, past quaint cottages and tiny harbours.
Not only is the Isle of Harris a place of sublime beauty. It’s also imbued with memories from throughout my adult life.
Something fell into place on my first visit here in 2002, at the youthful age of 16. The ancient landscape and Gaelic culture spoke to me in a way that nothing else ever could. I returned to the mainland and my final year of school a changed person, forever nursing a longing for the Outer Hebrides.
So significant is this place that I chose it as the setting for my wedding in 2017. No other venue on Earth could compete with the deserted golden sands of Luskentyre. It had to be here.
I’m losing count of the number of pilgrimages I’ve made to Harris over the years. However, this one, this week, is special. I’m here with my mum. My dad is here in spirit.
Hope and possibility
In 2002, when life – my life – was full of hope and possibility, my dad surprised us by booking a self-catering holiday for the first time since the ‘80s. We left our touring caravan parked in our driveway in Perth and headed north, across the Highlands to the Isle of Skye, where we boarded the MV Hebrides, bound for Harris.
Until then, the Western Isles had been an ‘otherworldly’ place; their landforms only ever shapes on the distant horizon. Now, they are a part of me. This love of place lies at my very core.
Only a time machine could transport me back to the way I felt in the early 2000s. Life seemed to stretch out ahead of me like those distant Hebridean views. My family felt as stable as the 3-billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss under my feet. Cancer wasn’t a concern; it happened to other families.
A new chapter
My mum and I are now settling into a new chapter of our lives. We’re moving forward but we’ll never move on. The joy of a sunset on a secluded beach sits alongside our grief. Escape from the life sentence of underlying sadness is only ever temporary; sometimes as fleeting as the rainbows which enrich this island landscape in autumn.
For us, moving forward means embracing the here and now, whilst always paying homage to the past.
My ‘Before and After’ project helps me to express my deepest feelings, from my undying love for my late father, to my unshakeable connections with the landscapes we shared together.
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