Yesterday I bought a calendar to hang on my wall. It was the first time I’ve ever bought one for myself. Up until this year, I always got one as a christmas present from my mum. Even last year, when she was only a few weeks away from dying, and could only look through a catalogue and point out the one she wanted my sister to get for me, I still got a calendar.
It was a very silly, and a very small, thing, but every time I turned over a page and looked at the new photograph it was like the tiniest of connections back to my mum: a concrete, material way she was still here, still affecting my life.
But this year, for the first time, I have to forage for myself.
The calendar I’ve gone for is called ‘Scotland: The Light and the Land’, and it’s a sequence of photographs by Colin Baxter. It’s hanging on my wall now, and January’s picture is of ‘Loch Duig, from Invershiel.’ It’s in the west highlands, between Fort Augustus (at the foot of Loch Ness) and the Kyle of Lochalsh, where you used to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye, but where you now, in these more prosaic times, trundle over a bridge instead.
The photograph is practically monochrome: low grey clouds reflected on the grey surface of the loch, and surrounded by low, black hills dusted with white snow. You can’t quite tell if the surface of the loch is water, or ice.
I travelled this route 16 years ago, with my mum and dad, when they were both still alive. It was the last holiday we had together.
I want to go there now, alone, and sit on a rock down by the shore, and feel my warmth bleed out into the stillness, and the grey.