Monday, June 02, 2008

The Dunes in the Clouds

We had some rain yesterday. Normally that would not be unusual in this part of the world, but we have had an uncommon dry spell. The grass is looking the worse for it. Gardens are needing watering. The heavy cloud that hovered above the ground was a welcome promise of some rain.

After pottering around the house all morning, the prospect of a walk on a beach with my friend who introduced me to Portskerra was irresistible. The chores would wait. The mist, neither oppressively heavy nor thick enough to obscure things altogether, tempered the normally searing light into pastels and damped sound as well.

We headed west, which means even wider open spaces. The sun shone palely through some thinner spots in the low hanging cloud At the tops of the hills that begin in earnest on the other side of the village of Reay, the sun shone palely through thinner spots in the low hanging cloud.

The road to Melvich beach, as with so many of the stunning sites up here, is marked only by a simple black and white metal sign "Melvich Beach" pointing to a road that looks unlike a road. It is easy to overlook or to turn back when you encounter the dangerously high middle of the road between deep, well-worn grooves made by tyres of working vehicles--tractors, front loaders, or trailers carrying heavy steel hay feeder rings. Today the road is deserted as we lurch and bounce over the ruts, jangle over the cattle grid, and finally pull into the graveled, widened area that serves as a parking place in the shadow of giant sand dunes.

I hear the sound of water, but it is so soft that I think that it is the rippling of a burn just out of sight. As we approach the enormous swells of sand dunes, cowslips and tiny blue forget me nots give way to marrom grass. Each step is effortful in the loose sand as we walk up the first dune. We then slide more like otters than sensible adults down the steep slope to the beach--a long flat expanse of pinkish sand decorated with a necklace of rounded stones at the high tide mark. Beyond the stones another flat expanse of beach offers larger stones and a variety of shells.

The ocean is so calm, blanketed by the heavy air, the normally rambunctious sound of the long low waves seems as soft as the chattering of a burn.

The line between sky and sea on the horizon is even more blurred than usual with the pastelled hues within the mist. We walk along the beach until driven back by dive bombing nesting birds. We have no need to trespass on their part of the beach.

We climb back up the dunes and linger to catch our breath and to take in the views. A house which was visible from the beach is now only a vague outline on the horizon. We sit on a bench at the crest of a hill and take in sounds usually relegated to background. Through the quiet I hear my first cuckoo. The sound was undeniably that of a cuckoo. It sounded very much like the clocks. I laugh as I lean into the wind to hear it again. As I listen harder I make out the sounds of wood pigeons and songbirds whose names I do not know yet but above it all, the cuckoo.

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At 2:31 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I want to be there!


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