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The Meaning of Home

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

After relocating to The Isle of Arran, landscape artist Naomi Rae muses on the

journey that brought her there and the meaning of home.


View from my studio, across the Kilbrannan Sound


 

In the autumn of 2020, I fulfilled a dream that began in my early childhood; to live on an

island. Sold up and packed up, we were blown further and further north in our laden

Transit van by fierce, autumnal gales; me, my husband and our old and curmudgeonly

Boston Terrier. Our final destination drew us north like a homing beacon; the beautiful Isle

of Arran.

I am a child of the coast and only truly feel I am where I am meant to be with the sea

stretching out before me and the land lying behind me. I grew up in a wind-whipped

Victorian terraced house, overlooking St. Ives Bay in West Cornwall. During the winter

months, we were rarely able to leave the house by the front door, as the prevailing north

easterly winds made opening said door a Herculean and foolhardy task. November to

March; back door: April to October; front door. Although we lived on the mainland, I always

felt we were somehow on the edge and removed from the centre of it all. I loved it.

Many of my family were accomplished amateur artists and childhood weekends were

spent out on the cliffs and dunes sketching and painting. My mother readily admitted to not

being able to draw a stick figure but loved these trips, as they were a chance to get away

from the hubbub of the town's narrow, cobbled streets and the bright lights of the harbour

front. Man's Head, Clodgy, Porth Kidney, Zennor. Picnic lunch packed and painting gear

stowed away, we set out on foot. My parents didn't drive and so our final destinations were

limited to distances small legs could manage. Our annual summer holidays followed a

similar vein but saw us heading off the mainland to the Isles of Scilly; a stunning

archipelago off the Cornish coast. I couldn't have been happier and I never wanted to

leave.

Auchagallon Stone Circle


On sharing our plans to move to Arran with family and friends, the responses were

invariably positive. All, however were caveated by concerns about the infamous Scottish

weather. Like most Brits I have a healthy interest in looking at the day's weather forecast

but I am by no means preoccupied by it being fair. I am a winter girl and am never happier

than when layered up in wax jacket, scarf and hat. I love the smart of the wind on my face,

the taste of the salt on my lips and the sting of my skin when I return inside from the cold.

As an artist, I am far more inspired by autumn and winter than I am by spring and summer:

blue-black, bruised skies, laden with rain clouds, the tans and golds of the dying bracken

and the way dusk drops heavy as lead.

After leaving Cornwall in my late teens, I subsequently moved around a great deal,

especially in latter years; a combination of the demands of my husband's job and my

restlessness. Moving house is, I understand, said to be one of life's most stressful events

but I have never found it so. A change of scene and the possibilities of the unknown

appeal to me greatly and as an artist, fresh inspiration has always been a strong pull. I

have been blessed to have lived in some beautiful places and apart from a couple of

sojourns inland, have always settled by the water. With each move, however, I carried with

me that ever present itch to live not just by the sea but surrounded by sea, off the

mainland on an island. Only decades on, in moving here to Arran, have I finally scratched

that itch.

 

We have settled on the quiet west coast of the island, up a winding, unsealed track that

wends its way past a Neolithic stone circle. Our house, perched on the hillside, looks

across to the wide sweep of the Kilbrannan Sound to the far shore of the Kintyre

Peninsula. My light drenched studio looks out to sea and I sit and watch the light dance on

the water, the clouds chase across the sky and I am totally absorbed by the ever-changing

vista. As dusk falls I watch for the first blink of the lighthouse on Davaar Island that marks

the mouth of Campbeltown Loch and I am brought full circle back to the child who sat in a

window seat, watching another light blink its warning; Godrevy Lighthouse off St. Ives

Bay.

I grew up with a very deep-rooted sense of what home was supposed to mean. My parents

had never lived anywhere but St. Ives and held a love for the place and our family house

that was unshakeable. They simply couldn't and wouldn't contemplate living anywhere

else. Somehow, this sense of belonging and being rooted to a place escaped me. For me,

home became more about the people I lived with than a particular house or place. As I've

grown older though, I have felt a slowly growing need to settle, to ground myself in one

place. Moving to Arran has been a deliberate sea-change.


The stone circle that I pass each day, as I climb up and down the track to our house has

stood for over 4,000 years. I think of the hands that hefted these stones in to place and

what its completion meant to those that laboured on it and lived near it. The circle is made

up of 15 standing stones. There are gaps where previous stones may have stood but of

those silent sentinels that remain, 13 are formed of red sandstone and two of granite. Red

sandstone dominates the buildings on Arran, less so granite but granite is the common

building stone of my Cornish birthplace. The symbolism of this joining of my past and

present resonates with me deeply. In moving here to Arran, in settling here above this

ancient circle of stones I feel I have become part of something bigger than myself. I have

found a place to belong, a place that my restless, gypsy heart can finally call home.


The track up to my studio


 

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