The Isle of Skye has always felt like home for me, though I’ve never lived there and have visited only twice.A first-generation Canadian, I grew up listening to my mother and uncle tell stories about their early days in and around its small capital, Portree.
They spoke of their grandparent’s croft on the outskirts of town, of their uncle’s tailor shop, and of the Braeside Cottage where Mum hung out her bedroom window and watched the fishermen going to sea The Atlantic is a constant presence with its smells and grey-green surface encircling the island and those who inhabit it.
I’d heard stories about The Lump -a natural amphitheater near the center of town where the Highland Games are held each August- so often it seemed I could actually recall having played there as a girl, instead of my mother.
Mist and myth shroud Skye; the jagged contours and hulking shapes of the Cullins constantly changing according to the time of day and the light. In July, it’s twilight for most of the night, creating the most magical atmosphere.The mountains are ephemeral, not quite tangible, as if stepping out of a fairy tale.Yet when the sun breaks, everything seems to snap to attention; the land gleams—green, and lush.
My husband and I scheduled our trip to Skye so we’d be in Portree for the August Scottish games. We loved the highland games in the San Francisco Bay Area; the pipers, the kilts, the dancing, and the “heavies”, throwing the stone and tossing the caber. Yet comparatively, San Francisco couldn’t hold a candle to the games in Portree.
On the morning of the contests, I was showering at my cousin Douglas’s house when I heard his resonant voice booming over a microphone from the other end of town. He was announcing the first competition; I’d forgotten that he’s often been master of ceremonies.
Douglas and I first met in1985 when Mum and I visited Skye, he was three years my junior.From the minute he opened his mouth, we began bantering, as if we were old friends. I knew during that conversation I was home.It’s unexplainable, but we already knew each other on some level – now we just needed a little time to catch up.