Category: light words

sunlight on water
the slow turn
of a lotus flower

Even in the hills, the pure stickiness of this afternoon: a trickle of sweat, so many clouds of flies, the pool at the centre of the garden the splashing of a blackbird.

Samye Ling, August 2013

The long grass is soaking between the graves at Cille Bharra. A late spring, only the yellow of primroses on the slopes above the cemetery and dotted gaily round the stones. We move slowly, reading dates and names.

In the centre of the graveyard: three tiny chapels. Bending low into the doorway, a single light illuminates the rough hewn walls. Rain squalls outside, a battery of wind – the distant sound of chanted prayer, and still the touch of water, pooled in the curve of a stone.

Blinking back into the light, we find his grave. I had thought it would be more: some lines about his work, or the stories, a plaque perhaps to that Whisky Galore! but after all it’s only this – a name, and dates: the beginning, and the end.

on a wild primrose
– this stranger’s grave

blowing over
the rasping of a corncrake
after the rain

The writer Sir Compton Mackenzie, author of many books including Whisky Galore (the inspiration for the much loved film of the same name) is buried in Barra, the island that he took as his home for many years. His gravestone is in the ancient churchyard at Cille Bharra, near Eoligarry, in the north end of the island, one of the few places in the UK where you can still hear a corncrake.

It comes suddenly in my memory, rolling off the North Sea and catching us unawares. Although it has been known to move slowly and settle, blanketing the whole of a day, it moves fast at the shore till we’re running and shrieking not just with cold but laughter at the need to leave the sea so suddenly.

The haar already thick and white with cold, I see my mother standing by the dunes, her arms outstretched with towels that will scratch our skin with sand.

at the water’s edge
a shroud of haar
the seagulls cry

There’s an hour before the sun goes down. A cloudy evening but from the shore at Tarskavaig I know the light will fade against the backdrop of the Cuillins, with Rum stretching out on the horizon. It’s a fifteen minute drive, the narrow road up over the moor, no other traffic tonight, pausing only in a passing place to watch the way the light moves shades of brown on the lochan, the dot of lambs on winter-brown grass, a touch of snow on the peaks.

A small crossroads at the township, and a red phone box marks the way to the car park. Beyond the deer-gate, a path leads up over the moor, ten minutes to the bay. Swallows swoop overhead.

picking my way –
a sheep’s track
so many primroses

dusk falling…
the sound of the water
pulls on shingle

to the west
a makeshift bench…
Atlantic driftwood

barely a ripple
across the bay
a cuckoo calls

fading light –
lichen on the black rocks
a splash of sea thrift

The stillness of this soft Skye air – already the midges! Almost dark now, I make my way back up the hill, the images still playing: the blue of the sea melding into blue of the sky, only the deepest blue of Rum, its peaks a jagged echo of the Cuillins, marking the horizon.

Even in the fading light, it’s an easy path back, the red breast of a robin marking the deer fence at the end of the open moor. I pause at the door of the car. The song of a blackbird fills the evening air, perched in an oak tree that’s been bent almost double with the wind.

The road hugs the coast before the steep climb back to Kilbeg. Ahead of the final turn, the wideness of the bay at Achnachloiche and I pull over for a minute to watch the last of the evening light, fading fast now behind the dark mass of the Cuillins.

twilight on water
a line of oystercatchers
suddenly rising

Orange streaks in the cold winter sky as the morning breaks over Criffel. A v of geese flying ahead. Fields, sky, hill.

V of geese, streaks of the morning. My breath moves with the V of the geese, with the breath of the morning. This morning, a hundred timepast winter’s mornings, all winter morns to come.

Fields, sky, hill. V of geese, streaks of the morning.

The earth holds the cold of this day. The groan of frozen fields. A bloom of snowdrops by the river.

Sky dusk purple as the light sets on snow fields, sliver of gold on the horizon.

Clouds of geese flock against the twilight.

The sky is big this morning. There’s a point in the road where the landscape opens up and the sky becomes vast – it feels like you’re in the middle of a painting, by someone Dutch, or German, I can’t remember who but the sense of recognition sparks at the back of my mind – and the sky is wild this morning, clouds scudding over as the storm brushes past, mad streaks of colour that hint at winter coming, the fields all earth and brown and flooded silver where the river spilled its banks.

I want to tip my head back and drink in the vastness of this sky, its bigness, its streaks, its clouds rushing madly over.

There is nothing mellow about this autumn morning. It is vast and scudding, wildly changeable, streaked with the winds of the falling of this fall. It is energising, liberating, captivating. It is the earth: madly, wildly alive, and I too want to feel this energy, to drink up its madness, to be vast and big and madly, wildly alive.

The sky is grey to the left, blue to the right. The day is cold. It was raining, heavily, early in the morning, and the air is washed. The landscape has been washed with January sunlight, and cold rain.

The hills to the left are showing their folds like the most magnificent eastern princess, fat, sensual, curvaceous: lying back and waiting to be touched, to be admired. To be fed grapes by gasping, drooling admirers.

To the left, the sky is dark. a rainbow cuts through the sky, illuminating my passage.

The sky lights up as the road climbs the hill. The day starts to break.

The cloud starts to break with the breaking of the morning, a slice of peach golden apricot, god golden apricot, streaking through the sky, and breaking the morning.

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