BY JOHN WHITE
A few years ago on a beautiful clear morning we were walking to the monastery on Eilean Chaluim Chille in the drained loch in front of Whitewave in Kilmuir.
High up a plane flew over leaving a thick, white vapour trail, soon to be followed by another and another. I started counting them and by the time we reached the island, over 30 planes had flown across, each leaving a mark in the sky.
The clear blue became hazy, and the afternoon never returned to the clarity of when we began our walk.
These days in lockdown, as we experience this incredible weather we have the clarity which was lost that day.
With few or no airliners flying over, the atmosphere seems sharper, brighter, and maybe pollution from industrial parts spreads worldwide and in the past, found its way over to us via jet streams and high air currents.
This pollution seems now much reduced.
The talk now is of exit strategies and how we end this lockdown. The term “other side” has been coined and was even used in last week’s very moving front page editorial.
What will the other side look like?
There will be many in tough situations during lock down, and for many more the future will be uncertain, and much of the stress from that uncertainty will probably revolve around financial security.
A new normal will have to emerge, and we might hope that it will be more sustainable, on all fronts, both locally and globally.
Some say that it was Steve Jobs of Apple computers who turned wants into needs, and empires have been built in our commercial world by making desires into needs.
There seem to be business models which require constant expansion or ‘biggering’, to use a phrase from the well-known Dr Suess’ children’s book ‘The Lorax’, which is warning of the consequence of continual industrial growth.
It is always worth looking at nature, even when thinking of economy and industry.
Diversity is healthy in the natural world, a healthy ecosystem has an element of sustainability, but within that system, things grow and die, and more importantly are eaten, nothing is wasted.
Businesses will come and go, but the reliance on a single sector for a whole community could never be healthy.
The tourists are unlikely to visit Skye in the numbers they have in the last few years, and perhaps never will again.
There will be no ‘go’ button pressed after lock-down, and even next season is likely to be considerably quieter. We will have to learn to exist with the reduced numbers.
There is risk in business, such is the way of it, and I suspect there was a perception that investing in tourism on Skye was a fairly reliable bet.
Investing to meet the seemingly never-ending demand was something even banks might have been comfortable with. Looking back at the tourist season last year, maybe it just could not have continued growing and growing.
Something had to give, it is just that nobody could have envisaged such a collapse, and for such a reason.
Many of us are guilty of chasing the dollar, but is it for the dollars sake, is it for needs or wants, and what do we lose in the quest?
I used to joke about retiring to the city “where the pace of life is slower”. The cliché of getting a work/life balance sorted is never more relevant.
On my few travels into Portree, I have seen parents playing football with their children in their gardens. I have seen family groups taking their daily exercise, one group having a picnic on a small cnoc above the road, being together, enjoying time together.
I have seen on social media, electricians proudly showing off their first loaf of bread, and a joiner with his first batch of home brew bottled. Is this reluctantly filling in time before we go back to normal, or is it learning new behaviours, new ways of being.
Of course, we need the security of paying the mortgage, feeding our families, paying bills, but what are our real needs, and what have we been coerced into thinking we need?
During this lockdown, whilst we might have no income, many of us have been gifted that incredibly precious commodity – time.
As the air gets clearer, I would hope that as individuals, communities and a wider society, we can take this opportunity to re-evaluate what is essential, what it is we need.
We should look at our lives with the polished unpolluted lens of this lockdown period at what our values and real requirements are and decide what should be on the other side.
I have sat on those planes that fly over, but the stars last night were simply stunning after the evening light had turned from orange to deep, deep blue.
I think we need clarity on the other side