Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Selkie and the Fisherman

Thursday 25 March 2010, spring light on Bressay SoundLerwick, Shetland.

Bressay Sound is that corridor of water that separates Lerwick from the Island of Bressay, just east of the Shetland capital.
An an end of term treat to my team’s ASN pupils present today, we take our cameras and seek the many treasures we can find… Seabirds, sea mammals, fishermen… We share one common heritage, the sea.

Although initially in search of dive-bombing gannets in the Sound, we end up face to face with selkies (seals), long-tailed ducks, tysties (black guillemots), dunters (common eiders) and scores of scories (Lerwick name for gulls) at Gremista…  
Gremista, Lerwick’s industrial district, north of the town – the North Mouth of the Sound. Pelagic trawlers attract a myriad of wildlife – black backs, bonxies (great skuas), solans (gannets), selkies, that come to the great fishy restaurants… Fish factories! The unloading of their cargo just acts as a magnet to fisherbirds and seals.

And when I think both selkies and fishermen share a massive heritage in local folklore…

Selkies, (also known as silkies or selchies) are fictional creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish and Scottish mythology.They can shed their skin from seals to become humans. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where selch or selk(i.e.) is the Scots word for seal (from Old English seolh). Selected legends linked as follows
Story has it that speaking of those supernatural creatures on board fishing vessels used to be so taboo that fishermen gave them disctinctive names – tang fish (common seal) and haaf fish (grey seals). Whereas common seals are found within coastal waters, grey seals can wander off at high sea.
Now the other thing wir selkies and fishermen share from the sea is mackerel. Both depends on it for their livelihood… Whereas the sea mammal finds its bounty inside our inshore kelp forests, some of our fishermen seek shoals of mackerels a’da haaf (high seas) on their gigantic pelagic trawlers…
Gremista houses The Shetland Catch, Europe’s biggest mackerel (and herring) processing factory. No wonder I do not hesitate in sharing that part of the town with my budding photographers! …Industrial wildlife. But then again, Lerwick‘s long natural harbour not only hosts the local fishing fleet but also acts as a “safe haven” to any fishing vessel  within the Fair Isle Box… 
The Selkie & the Fisherman – not a story but a saga!
 Now to that fish…

ocean tiger
Dream from the boat,
boxed fisherman,
sailing poet –
finned fish;
cylindric soul,
grey-scaled, solemn,
scared of my hook or fishing net…
danger dangled, doom, devilish,
you caught my eye
from the surface,
you, free inside this ocean book,
guardian of gills.
Security inside the shoal,
I’ll catch your name
on the last line –
shetlandic shark,
or shambolic.
© Nat Hall 2010


Filed under 60N, home, images, life, north, shetland, shore, verse

Little cosmic revolution – III. tilted back to the sun

How I relate to Native American wisdom.

Natural, untwisted, based on fundamental, earthly observations. Whether we lost sense of it all, or were partly eclipsed from it  remains a point of opinion.
When my day’s filled with too much noise, I listen to the wind; reconnect my heart with our earth by spreading fingers on the grass. I ken (know) I’m home.
And then I can hear the real world – bird calls, wingbeats from intrepid starlings whizzing around our house,  turn of tide.  Listening to it does not demand much effort, however, it must come from within. We can trek across a city/country park, a glen or a mountain and lock ourselves into its respective earthly pulse, bio-rhythm, every time we open ourselves to it all. Stillness in our heart allows such moments. I cherish them all. Standing on the edge of a woodland and bearing witness to a dawn chorus remains as exhilarating as spotting an orca from the shore…  Or enjoying the robin or the blackbird song at dawn and dusk (whether you sit in a rural or urban garden). Our world speaks through a megaphone…

 Now we have crossed that cosmic line, we are about to run again towards the sun. This period in the year remains one of my favourites – in between spring equinox & summer solstice, as our waders, farmland, moorland and seabirds are gradually returning to their native grounds. Familiar sounds I love to hear, such as drumming snipes in April…  Tap-dancing light rain on our roof tiles whilst curlews call in nearby fields? Light is overriding night – blue dominates on both sides of the horizon. Early morning might still feel fresh; showers may still dampen grass blades, we can’t run away from the sun. Until we hit da simmerdim (light azure late spring/summer mini-nights), the earth gradually unveils a painter’s palette all around – splashes of colours, as described recently by a poet friend :). Meadows will unveil the most delicate wild flowers, just like hillsides, ditches, peat and headlands… Oh, all arrives in due time and my heart pounces in sheer anticipation. Spring, that glorious quarter of circle…

To lie down in tall grass and feel the magic of the world is to be connected with our life. 

Totem Bird
I am raven,
jet solitaire,
diamond-shaped tailed –
messenger, bridge between two worlds;
one palpable,
the other, dream,
my psychic soars above heather.
I bring spirit, inner knowledge & often scavenge
on useless.
I am message & messenger.
I sometimes call… summon or jeer –
my presence breaks
this earth silence,
you know your future is changing.
Let me awake you,
lone dreamer.
Copyright © Nat Hall 2006



Filed under 60N, geopoetics, images, island, writing

Little cosmic revolution – II. Celebration

Spring’s just like “Da peerie Book o First Lines”

Open it up and there unfolds new beginnings.

Today I woke to the sound of geese, sliding raindrops on my window though still quieter skies. And when I went out to inspect the branches of our trees, I chose a moment of solace between splashes of freak showers…
I was hoping to push it up to Ninian Sands, but Machidiel, Angel of March, whispered more celestial clemency tomorrow. So we shall see :).

In the meantime, I went to play in the garden!

I tied my prayer flags to the washing line (…what a better place?) as an offering to the world and watch them fly in northern style. I always promised myself I too would do this ever since I had written that poem, Lines, then published in Shetland Life by Malachy a few years ago. …If they can survive the hissing winds across the Himalayas, am pretty sure they will endure our more maritime (through still windswept) climate. They dance so beautifully on Spring Day!
Wonderful sight 🙂

And then I went to check our trees.

Tystie always accompanies me when I go out in the garden. He, like Babooshka and Peewit, knows we usually play together with long grass stems… Our three feline musketeers just love it! Although Tystie has not  figured out yet he’ll have to wait a little longer before we can do that again… Never mind, I caught his tail under the willow trees. Sweet.

Until then, I’ll ask Uriel to keep an eye in the garden and let it grow away from frosts or even snow! The world is being born again on this side of the equator. Let the Architect’s Dream awake senses – my archangel’s keeping a watch.

That’s world music! :)))


Filed under geopoetics, images, island, shetland, spirit, writing

Little cosmic revolution – I. Early Signs

The sky’s quiet.  

The SW gale has swept away winter spirits from this part of the shore… All is serene here on the northern 60th Parallel.

That gale was still whistling high late last night as I drove back from Weisdale Hall, da Westside Writers’ stronghold.  Donald Anderson, our local Literature Development Officer, enobled it once more by bringing along Choman (& her friend) for a special creative writing session. Never mind that earthly tinnitus outside, we all had a great night there. Friday night being Friday night, I didn’t linger too long around the house and asked our angels one more time for the sky to chill out and went dreaming…

It was only one hour ago, it was all so different then… [PG]

Not “Parental Guidance” but deep words from Peter Gabriel, whom I consider as one of the UK’s the best male musician/songwriters. …Well, together with Jon Anderson and Mike Scott, he’s on my top list, anyway! His poetry speaks loud & clear.

Saturday morning in cold rain. March, month of rainbows, and now I see those signs of change.

It’s like waking out of a dream. Little by little, a gentler wind is ridding clouds away, enabling stronger light to dazzle our eyes and hearts. And talking of light, I wish to thank very humbly my friend & poet Juliet Wilson, aka Crafty Green Poet, for showcasing a piece on her website, Bolts of Silk...What a way to wake to Spring Day! 

Later I shall return to Part II of this blog entry, but before that, I am in need of adventure to celebrate this special day. I promised my heart twartree things: check out our trees in the garden, fly prayer flags somewhere around and stomp again at Ninian Sands! …After all, our little cosmic revolution has begun – we’ve reached that time of equal day and night 🙂

Happy Equinox Day, everyone, wherever you walk in the world!


Filed under 60N, geopoetics, poetry, shetland

Walking the shore with an otter

I could not hope for a more perfect end to this winter’s last weekend.
…No, I am not referring to the 6 Nations’ encounter between France and Italy in rugby… Life is far more precious than this! Woooppppsss, désolée les Bleus!  For this once, I favoured my walking boots to a mêlée and take full advantage of my shore. 
No regret. 
Spring migration is en route, waders & wildfowl move about… I heard rain goose (red-throated diver) around Nesting (N/NE of Lerwick) and delighted my heart with notably shalders (oystercatchers), sandy loos (ringed plovers) – waap (curlews) and corbies (ravens) flying overhead. 
Six days away from that long awaited equinox, this nordic part of the world is awaking from a long and enduring winter… If the land still looks fast asleep, if the north wind still bites the very tip of our fingers, flight calls and wings slash through the sky. Earth magic never stops.

And there, as eyes wander along the kelp at the very edge of the shore, we meet at last. The light is poor.

It’s just gone 5 p.m., the tide has ebbed and has unveiled the very edge of kelp forest… Among dark rocks it comes to feed… I think it caught a crab for its dinner. I must keep low and creep closer – crawl to the edge of that low cliff. My eyes endure might of north wind… 

My heart is pouncing. Such encounter tastes like a priviledge! My otter friend is racing back towards the sea. 

There, there, right in the middle of my lens… And it turns round to check me out!

What better way to end up this winter’s final weekend?
I cannot wait to see more again this summer!


Filed under 60N, geopoetics, images, shetland, writing

Dominant colours

Three images from my homeworld, dominant colours of the sky…

Tonight’s sunset from my window.

Last night’s crimson over Saint Ninian’s Isle…
…In pink & blue through the fisheye.
flamingo sky
you know time’s right;
reach for feathers after sunset.
out on that ridge,
you stop and sense on your mountain.
its sleek pinkness in azure sky,
untouched, unscarred by spring thunder,
it glides and slides above your head,
suave, elusive in silent dusk like a love sign,
in migration between two worlds,
gardens or gates – gallant wader so elegant,
symbiosis fledged in single glance;
cloud en trompe l’oeil,
flamingo sky on camera.
© Nat Hall 2007


Filed under 60N, colours, images, island, verse

In between rhymes & tussock grass

Friday 12 March 2010

This week ended as it began, serene, magic, lit by the stars.
I love night. 300 billion eyes look down on us… At least I know I’m not alone. 

On Monday night, Karen McKelvie hosted a celebration of female talent through International Women’s Day 2010 at the Shetland Museum & Archives at Hays Dock in Lerwick. Since my very first public reading took place at International Women’s Day 2004,  my heart warmed up very naturally to the event. Thank you, Karen for your call. What a brilliant night! 🙂

On Wednesday night, very first meeting with Choman Hardi thanks to Shetland Arts. Having missed the first workshop, I was very eager to join in and let new poetry flow off tip of my fountain pen. We are blessed to have wonderful Writers in Residence and our Literature Development Officer, Donald Anderson, has a fine flair when it comes to inspiring authors. Choman stays with us for the whole month of March. I am looking forward to the two final workshops. Please click on the link below 🙂

Today belonged to the dragon.

Tonight’s crimson was captured just off the settlement of Bigton in the South Mainland. …Watching a replica Viking long ship rocking in the shoormal  at Ninian Sands felt enticing enough; set the craft on fire a week away from the Vernal Equinox by my team leader at the Anderson High & his gang of guizers would not take me away from my favourite beach! I must confess his galley held me up a bit on the road to work this morning, as Lennie brought the craft to the ASN Department as part of a formal visit… Havoc on the A970 past 8 a.m.! 

There’s something special about the event, for David Smith and his Committe set a precedent in the Up-Helly-Aa calendar: The South Mainland of Shetland now has its own fire festival and tonight’s procession set high standards for future ones.  

What’s so special about the 2010 S(outh)M(ainland)U(p)H(elly)A(a)?

…Well, in addition to the Jarl (ha-ha!) & choice of location, his fire festival is open to ladies…Ladies, ladies on the Committee and in the squads… Furthermore, the galley floats on the North Atlantic! 

What a way to spend a Friday night?
Just bring a friend, carefully choose your square of sand dune and watch crimson fade behind St Ninian’s Isle as greylag geese fly over heads and oystercatchers (our dear shalders) break the silence, rengaine of our North Atlantic. Lie down in tussock grass and watch stars light up the increasing indigo sky… Tonight was perfect for such a moment 🙂 My friend & poet Klaudia confessed she could have brought a pot of soup but patience paid off handsomely…

A fire festival procession always looks impressive. Shetland’s version remains unique in the world.

Weel done, Boof, dy een wis impressive! See dee back ida classroom 😉

For more on Up-Helly-Aa, please click on the following link


Filed under 60N, images, island, writing

Back to the hearth

I light candles when I need help.

I asked Uriel to help the thaw.
So he sends me Atlantic rain to wash off snow.

…And asked Michael to protect us.

By Göd’s auld haa they hung up fish on washing lines; inside Göd’s haa they broke coorse breadTheir temple still stands to the wind – nobody dared break that window. And if you came here in July, you would still find fish on the line… It’s tradition. Folk cure piltocks around the clock or preserve ling deep inside salt.

It’s called saat fish.  

 Life measured in simple pleasures, I’ll cook it with peerie tatties on Friday night. But before that, it needs to soak in cold water, just like saat cod I used to find alongside pyramids of cheese covered in moult on Provençal open markets…

Tonight saat fish came from Girlsta. 
Magnie’s heart shines inside the hearth :). 

…Talking of hearth, here comes the pièce de résistance.

The Hearth
                                                     We all depend upon the hearth.
Lamb reestit safe on bluest peat;
soot cumulates black desires,
each dying day returns
  to dust.
It all happens around the hearth,
piled-up comfort, tea, bannocks, grace;
scents of our love sheltered from
gales, grit, greasy storms.
That sense of heat concentrated inside our dreams,
            the way you poke volatile red out of ambers
       like matadors in a bull ring –
    out of passion, my words,
your voice,
through day or night,
  it’s healing us.         
Northern garden, 12 March 2008.                   
Poet’s notes on dialect words:

auld haa: old house (as usually used to refer to the laird’s/landowner’s home)
Göd: God;
piltock: coalfish;
saat fish: salted fish (preserved in salt)

peerie tatties: small potatoes                      

reestit (mutton): piece of lamb dried cured and smoked above a peat (turf) fire
bannocks: homebake, served with tattie soup


Filed under 60N, earth, poetry, world, writing


Wherever I lay eyes on earth, they fall on tracks left in the snow…
All is mindless, invisible.
Every footstep sinks inside white, where wanderers dream of waders, without thinking what the world means to those who lose sight inside dust…

Have you ever accepted to lose yourself on a hillside and follow prints other creatures signed with their paws, hooves or tallons? On a day trip with two fellow photographers, we came across a catalogue of signatures – sheep, arctic hares, rabbits, corvids, oystercatchers, curlews, redshanks. Even in harshest conditions, the world tells us it is alive!

Water may freeze – food become scarce… We, earth dwellers still find a way in resilience to the unknown. Field mice congregate with starlings at my friend’s barn to feed before dusk fills our sky. Survival hangs in the balance.

And then I dream of southern shore, where my twin soul on 30S hides from that greatest scorching star! 

Voyage through the realm of the Southern Garden


I need to walk about,
to dream and be invincible,
follow your footsteps all around,
tarmac so incomprehensible we’ll wander through never-never
and find our way through earthly songs,
iris of the rainbow serpent.

I love to walk about,
to dream and feel invisible,
listen to stories underground,
and learn songlines so magical to reach that ridge where we belong,
every child’s wish, elemental, where campfires burn forever
and life throws at death boomerangs.

Join me on Walkabout,
to dream and grow inseparable,
paint my face all around, cover my body with charcoal,
move like a bird on this homeground, as long as I can hear your song…
Contemplate eyes of the lizard,
iris of our connectedness.

© Nat Hall 2009


Filed under Arcania, celebration, earth, geopoetics, home, images, life, poet, shore, spirit, verse


…Because my heart’s insatiable.

Flight of The Thunderbird will take you to the Canadian wilderness, one of the places in the world where my spirit likes to wander. This piece of flash fiction was written in 2006 and appeared in the Poemata Winter Issue, Canada.

Flight of the Thunderbird
Each child is born with a meaning,
with forces that surround them.
“Hang on in there – don’t let the darkness fill your soul” he whispered to himself. There was something that kept Makya cling to life: light. Light reverberating against ice, blue tainted white of the crevice, which suddenly unveiled itself under the weight of the hunter. He felt as if a dozen knives had penetrated his left boot. The pain grew so intense he sensed their blades piercing his heart.
Betrayed. Makya felt betrayed by the glacier he had endeavoured to conquer in his long search to find himself. Betrayed by the mountains he’s learnt to love like a mother, nourishing earth to which his mind was connected – land & body, equal measure. Betrayed by a crevice he failed to spot from the surface; a crack so deep, steep and narrow.
His breathing slowly stabilised. Makya looked towards the sky, then around him at eye level as if in front of a mirror. He listened for the ice lament – the faintest cracks in its motion. The Great Spirit was his witness. Makya knew his voice could be heard everywhere, from the ripples of the water to the sweet breathing of flowers… Maybe, he thought, in his native Canadian sky the Great Spirit chose Bear Glacier to reassure Makya, who found comfort in this mighty river of ice.
There is no death, only a change of worlds. His ancestors had taught him well. To him, the white man brought only misery to his kind in his effort to whitewash faith, the Great Spirit – a way of life missionaries eradicated from his land.
The ice was beginning to welcome the lukewarmth of crimson, sliding slowly towards his eyes. Makya reached for the front right pocket of his ragged jacket to hold so tightly in his hand his wooden travel companion carefully carved in the shape of the thunderbird. He was calling to the spirits. Makya has always believed that his lost ones wandered in the invisible air, waiting for children to find them if those offspring could be patient. Makya had to learn the sound of their spiritual song. Now he became a young adult he could in turn call upon them. One spirit would become the guardian of his soul. He also knew no living ones could help him get out of his trap. So he brandished his totem friend towards the light.
Above his head the moving icesheet grew purple. The wind had answered his prayer – it held the line with the spirit. Makya smiled for the first time. The crack widened. “Go reach the stars and dream the dream” he muttered to himself – “you have the wings of the eagle, the thunderbird that soars inside.” The spirit had lifted his pain. Makya placed back his totem in the cocoon of his pocket and clambered back to the surface. His two ice-picks would become his talons.
Makya found himself. He, who slid so deep in that crevice, had come closer to nature’s earth. No he crawled back towards the edge of the Glacier, where he felt familiar soil – dust of the flesh, bones and the blood of his tribe’s long gone ancestors covered with snow and fallen rocks. Eagle Hunter regained his way.

© Nat Hall 2006

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Filed under Arcania, Canada, e-Poemata, north, white, writing