By Gabi King
A lot of times it feels like my mind is a place of one million trails of thoughts and worries; some I’m so deeply lost in, some that cross paths with others, some that I have to do everything in my power not to return to. Directions and signs come from the good people in my life: a moment of clarity, looking at all around me instead of inside. Isle of Skye was just that. When I think of what I saw there and what I felt, it feels like the deepest breath I could take. The clearest path in the world.
When we crossed the bridge from the highlands to Isle of Skye, land opened up around us and humans and stresses and everything cleared away. A lot of times we were entirely lost driving through mountain valleys, past waterfalls and next to the ocean. The space around me was so much bigger than any problems.
One rainy day we hiked Storr, rocky formations part of a wall of mountain set in between rolling moss hills. We hiked on through the mist emerged massive spires none of us could believe. I took a deep breath sitting on that huge rock, feeling the mist around me. On our way back down, the sun burnt through and we ran around on the moss hills with sheep and blue sky. I took a deep breath when we lied down on the softest ground on earth in front of a tiny pond in the hills and ate our sandwiches and closed our eyes. We drove around the whole island in between huge mountains, by cliffs, down gravel roads and past white houses dotted in the hills. At the end of one day we drove trying to find these mysterious fairy pools and ended up at on a rocky beach with soft yellow sun setting behind grey clouds. All five of us split up, climbing all over and eventually sitting and watching the waves and the bobbing boats. We watched the mountains slowly clear and disappear again.
On the last day, I drove the car for the first time to go to the ATM in the morning and conveniently drove too far to one side, bringing the car back to our bed and breakfast with a lovely, terrifying screeching sound. Our host, his son, and our entire group was taking off tires and laying under the car and making things work because as it turns out, a lot goes wrong. But somehow it always makes itself right. Somehow things work out in the way they must. The beauty of memory and what I’m trying to teach myself is that it isn’t what I remember most about the trip, or the other wrong things that eventually righted themselves. It was the boggy hike to the lighthouse in the middle of the water we did directly after the car situation. It was sitting on rocks next to the lighthouse, watching an entirely sunny sky shine down on the water. Our drive back through the highlands (and there too) was unworldly and grand. By the time we reached Loch Lomond and neared the end, the sun was setting and the sky was pink. We skipped stones on the lake that Steve and I sang about five thousand times with choir, and is admittedly one of my all time favorite songs. A family was camping next to us with a fire on the beach. I think about laughing in the car, listening to the same songs over and over. Classy, scenic highland peaks on the side of the road. Scottish beer on our first night we arrived. I hope I can find the peace I felt there, anywhere. I hope it’s not only a hazy memory, but an everyday memory too. I hope I can focus on the deep breaths.
A friend recently asked me if I’ve learned any life lessons being abroad, a question poignantly asked in the middle of an extremely worrisome time for me with Isle of Skye in the midst of it. I have realized, along with every person I’ve talked to, that this is it: life doesn’t exist without mistakes and things going wrong. And they are going to happen often and beat us up and make us hurt. But at least we’re doing things that give us the chance to make mistakes. I’ve missed flights, buses, lost money and my DSLR camera. I’ve been lost and overwhelmed. But every single thing is okay. No matter what, it is okay.
Isle of Skye is on my long list of moments in which I thought to myself, “this is it.” This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen or done and ever will experience. A list that sets my mind on a clear trail of importance, smiles and deep breaths. But the list continues to grow. With all its past and all its incredible future potential, moments big and small and full of mistakes.