Monday, October 22, 2012

Something in the Water

It was such a rare and delicious golden day this late in October that even the wind sat back in silent amazement.  We headed into the West for a light supper in what used to be our local--a combination of nostlagia and celebration of the season.  October brings golden light onto the fields turning harvested fields an impossibly bright brass.  When I first saw oil colour paintings of the fields I thought the colours were all wrong and hopelessly brash.  My eyes needed seasoning.

Late afternoon comes early in October, so the shadows were already lengthening as we headed west, but we had time for a look at Portskerra.  With a little-used harbour now and below eye level from the main road, it would be easy to pass by Portskerra without unpacking her little secrets.  Her presence was revealed to me as gift from a friend whose friend had shared it with her.  When a friend from England came north, I took her to Portskerra--after all, gifts are for sharing.

When I took Lydia to Portskerra, the waves were wild and thrashing and splashing against the rocks; the tide was in, the wind was up.  She loved it. We walked carefully along the lower edge of the footpath over the hills, sometimes preferring the safer walking defined by the sheep's hooves nearby.  In contrast, today was so still that I ventured onto a cap of lichen clad rocks that I had never set foot on before and watched the sea idling below.

I followed the path along the coast from a small harbour used by local fishermen to the Portskerra Drownings Memorial.  Scotland has many memorials to those lost at sea.  This is one of the more poignant ones.  I always stop to read the names aloud as if to breathe them one more time into the safety of the harbour.
As I lingered watching the tide coming in and marvelling at how calm the waves were, I noticed something in the water.  Rocks and seals love interchanging roles, so my eyes tried to shape the odd somethings into seals, but the images did nto work.  Seals pop their heads up and disapear below the waves, sometimes plashing in toward the rocks. I have seen them play with each other and ride along the edges of waves, but these patterns on the horizon could not be made to obey these patterns, so I had to watch with new eyes.  Circling, arching gently upward and then through the water.  What my eyes could not quite resolve into a fin or a nose of seal looked more and more like a dorsal fin. A pod of porpoises had chosen this same quiet day to enjoy the waters of Portskerra.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Restless River Walking

The joy of my Yorkshire adventure was cut short by the shock news of the loss of a friend.  I have spent two days not venturing outside depite uncommonly good Caithness weather.  I cleaned the kitchen and baked and listened to a book on my Kindle as if all that activity might banish the unease, but by late afternoon I was still unsettled.

I accepted a ride into town for a walk along the river in Thurso.  This was one of my first walks because it was circular so I could not get lost and had welcoming trees all around--trees being a relatively scarce commodity here in the far north.

Because it is an easy walk and familiar, I had hoped to walk it mindlessly and drift myself back into a less jangled rhythm.  Both the river and I however were struggling to find the comfort of the familiar.  The river was too full--sodden banks, swollen waters complaining as they hurried on to somewhere else, and two places on the far side of the river where the high waters of last week had nibbled at the path. Only one duck paddled toward the island where all the others had already tucked up for the night.  The river walk served more to exacerbate the disconnectedness than to ease it.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Harvest Season

It is a time of golden light and hurrying to gather in supplies before winter and the long dark.  These are bales from my friends and neighbours down the road.  I stopped a week or so ago when the light was just right.  The photos languished in my camera and then in my computer.  I have been doing more dawdling lately, yet fitting in little chores, especially working on my hats and getting some clutter cleared up. 

I missed the Scottish Book Trust deadline for haikus for the seasons for National Poetry Day, but as I walked along today with cattle for company I conjured a haiku for this season:

bales of golden grass
antidotes for long dark nights
byre dreams of green