We all need a way of hearing our small, quiet voice within, so we can live a full life. For me, that way is being alone in nature's quiet places. Solitary time is when my subconscious, creative mind comes to life and work can emerge from a place deep within.
The remote Scottish islands are the embodiment of all the values I uphold in my life and work. They are wild, peaceful places where I have time and space. Alongside the solitude they give, their beautiful stretches of landscape touch the soul with their raw beauty. The islands excite and draw me back time and time again. I am drawn to exploring smaller, more remote and lesser known islands such as Islay, Tiree and Muck, alongside the Isle of Harris & Lewis where I return to regularly.
I recently experienced what I can only describe as the perfect day on the Isle of Islay at Saligo Bay. After waiting four days until the promised swells arrived, I walked over the dunes towards the beach in the early morning and my heart just lifted. Huge rolling waves, each one showing flashes of turquoise water as it turned, sending spray high into the air as the wind met the wave. To me it was perfection; the conditions I seek all year round, right in front of me. I stood for hours watching the waves turn, the birds fly overhead, listening to the sounds of the sea, without another soul on this beautiful beach. My mind was still, just yards away from twelve-foot waves crashing onto the shore.
The photographs I create represent a state of mind rather than a literal translation of the landscape: the calm in the storm. I often stay on the islands for up to a week at a time, alone, waiting for conditions to be right. Mobile phone signal is patchy or non-existent so I can often go for days without communication. I allow myself time to immerse in the landscape and often spend time wild swimming when I am away. It helps me gain clarity of thought along with a feeling of serenity, surrounded completely by nature. Walking, swimming and slowing down within the landscape are all part of the image- making process.
I have to experience aloneness; I must find that peaceful place that I go to whilst immersed in a landscape that speaks to me.
I find that peace at the water's edge, ironically often in wild and stormy conditions. Storms bring with them an absorption into the landscape like no other: a feeling of being fully alive and at peace, embracing the roaring seas, feeling the salt water and being whipped with a wind that wakes all the senses. Winter brings the best conditions for travelling: changeable and atmospheric light, bigger swells, and deserted beaches.
The sea can be a metaphor for introverts. It relentlessly and rhythmically sends waves forward, day in and day out. Some of the common traits of introverts include long-term dedication, persistence and a strong sense of purpose. The similarity strikes me: quiet and powerful.
I am intrigued by the healing power of silence in nature. While the quiet gives us mental respite from the busy chatter of social media, materialism and TV news, nature's unspoiled surrounds give us fresh air, night-time darkness for deep sleep and a reason to move.
What if the antidote to burn-out, overload and stress is simply to go to the stillness of wild places? Hitting a reset button can be that simple.
It can also be a time of creativity with new thoughts and insights. When the noise and chatter of others are removed, you can hear your own voice with clarity. This is why silence, stillness and solitude are golden resources I treasure as part of my creative process.
Shutting out the world is not about turning your back on it; it's more a step back, taking a deep breath and seeing things more clearly, so that we can jump back in - relaxed, invigorated and inspired.
Margaret Soraya, 5 October 2019