Scotland: The Northern Isles…
8/23/06: 13:20 – Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland
The clouds and rain have parted, the sun is now shining brilliantly. The calm sea sits before me, gentle waves crashing over the rocks; the water as smooth as glass. A family is down on the beach to my right, the kids screaming and laughing as they play in the water; so calm, so peaceful the sea is at this very moment. The hills behind me, a mixture of light and shadow; the heather purple with flower. In the distance, towards the south, Scotland sits. A dark mass of cliffs across the sparkling sea. Before me, not 50m away, the head of a seal bobs up and down among the waves.
Here I sit, on an old and weathered rock of red sandstone. Centuries ago it was, no doubt, part of the great cliffs that surround me and the bay. But now after being worn by the crash of waves over the ages, it is now a comfortable seat, in front of the bothy, above the sea.
My memories from the past have not left me. This view a familiar one, like I never left all those years ago. The rocky shoreline to the right, which gently changes to a magnificent sandy beach of red and gold. The seal still hasn’t moved, perhaps it’s enjoying a break from an morning of fishing.
8/23/06: 16:15 – Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland
I just returned from a walk in the hills; such a day is too brilliant to be spent sitting around in the dark and smokey bothy. And since I’m not one for beach going, to the hills it was for me!
As I climbed the heather covered slope on the southern edge of the beach and gained enough height, I was presented with a view of crystal blue waters. Bright and turquoise near the shore and deep blue as they traveled out to sea. Higher and higher I climbed up the heathery slope, at some points a bit of rock climbing was also involved, until finally the cairn marking the summit was in sight. To the south, the cliffs and mountains of the Scottish mainland, with dark and ominous clouds hanging overhead, slowly approaching my position, though the sun was still shining brightly at this point in time.
I was now on the soft ridge line. Here and there, dozens of small tarns sat among the boggy land, their water black from the tannin of their peat surroundings. The terrain underfoot would change constantly as I headed along the ridge: tarns and mossy grasses, rock and dirt, heather and peat. Overhead, the great Skuas were circling cautiously, keeping a watchful eye over the movements of a trespasser in their domain. At times, in the silence of these hills, I could hear the flapping of their wings as they passed overhead. Fortunately, they seemed more interested in chasing each other rather than myself, but I still kept a watchful eye towards the sky, as dark shadows passed before the sun. From time to time I would surprise a rabbit and watch as it went hopping away. Indeed, the hills here were covered in a crisscross of small game trail, weaving this way and that in no apparent order or direction, to man.
Dark clouds soon blocked the sun and the gentle breeze turned to a chilled wind as I aimlessly wandered, roughly heading towards the summit of a peak far in the distance. But as I had little water with me, I didn’t push myself to reach it. Instead, I comforted myself with slow wanderings and the silence of my thoughts.
8/23/06: 18:30 – Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland
The Sky is calm and silent, the clouds sit low and heavy now; rain showers falling over the sea towards the south, the glow of the sun towards the west. A skua flies along the shore before me, landing on the blackened and bloated carcass of a dolphin, its life now nothing but decay. waves begin to crash on the rocks before me as a swell arrives, then silence again. The light breeze is barely able to keep the midges at bay. The air is cool and heavy, will a storm arrive soon?
St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.