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Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.
—A Bottle and a Friend, Robert Burns

A thank you letter to Arran.

Some weeks ago, I turned to Arran, the small Scottish island I call home, for help. Two friends and I had hoped to get together on Arran last April. Because of the pandemic, we postponed it to this year. But between continuing covid restrictions that left me marooned in Italy, and life-threatening health issues that came up for each of my friends, we realized that wasn’t likely either. (You can read about their personal, sad, funny, and amazingly life-affirming cancer journeys on Mary Smith’s Cancer Diaries and Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.)

The solution, for anyone who has ever lived on Arran, was obvious. I posted a message on the island’s Facebook page saying I was trying to arrange a virtual Arran visit, and asking for photos I could include in an island slide show to make the visit real. Even though I knew people would help, I was still stunned by the scale of the response. Literally hundreds of stunning photos poured in. But the response didn’t stop there.

Patrick and Beverly Scott made a video of themselves playing Auld Lang Syne at our street. Others sent short clips of Arran scenes. Artists like Angela Elliott-Walker and Hannah Marie Pryor Mills offered images of their work.

And then the messages and gifts started to roll in. Mega-talented Heather Macleod designed three matching scarves, one for each of us to wear at our meetup. Then she sent a CD of her Ceilidh band for background. Artist Senja Brendan sent gorgeous Arran mugs, coasters, and notecards. Karen Bell offered coasters. Caroline McArdle crafted friendship bracelets with Arran’s iconic red squirrels as charms. Edinburgh based artist Catriona Tod sent prints and exquisite miniature paintings of Arran scenes via Roxi Milligan. Liz McLean at the big Coop offered help and suggestions. Clair and Stuart at Baystores assembled incredible hampers of Arran foods—not to mention Arran booze and the all-important Arran Gold tablet!

By permission of artist, Hannah Marie Pryor Mills

Scheduling was still difficult, working between my friends’ medical treatments and crises. It was clear that time would not be our friend. But Kristy Park generously assembled, labeled, wrapped, and mailed everything to each of us, and the date was set. And reset.

Finally, wonderfully, our Arran visit occurred on Monday. We laughed, cried, remembered, and wished we could hug. You can read Sue’s account of how we made memories.

But I wanted to take this moment to thank each and every person on Arran. You have built an incredible, generous community that is unique in my experience and perhaps unique in today’s world. The only question asked when you hear about a problem isn’t “How can I help?” You simply say “Here is my help. Let me know if you need anything else. Anything at all.”

It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes an entire island to make a community. How did I ever get so lucky?

**Special thanks**

To those who sent literally hundreds of images and videos, there are no words to thank you for your generosity. You deserve someone with better technical skills to do them justice. But here is the (poorly organized, even more poorly edited) slideshow, beginning with Patrick and Beverly Scott’s bagpipes. I like to think the stunning beauty of Arran shines through and hides my shortcomings.