Monthly Archives: April 2011

in the boat shed


To enter a boat shed is like… Just ask any boat builder and their world suddenly becomes a wondrous oyster – a cave of wonders among all the marvels from our world!

As soon as you push the door, the scent of wood freshly chiseled fills your nostrils just like perfume! It has a special scent. Dust jigs through sun beams like May flies and tools litter inside and all around works in progress. A bit like a session musician inside a studio or a poet at the writing table! Your senses feed your imagination without effort. In this boat shed, Robbie Tait and his mates repair Shetland traditional boats, such as Ness Yoals… In the last few years, they even built a sixareen – or six-oared fishing boat complete with sail – that is moored inside Hays’ Dock, just outside our Shetland Museum & Archives. Shetland Museum Photo Gallery

Robbie Tait is very humble about his work. He is happy to share words with visitors and smiles with humility. His love for wood, rivets and tools shines outside the building, as finished works are proudly displayed in the Boat Hall and outside. His shed speaks for the talent of the boat builder. 

I came to find Robbie Tait to share a few words about Humblyband. Ruth has the ambition to tie another string to her bow and experience the art of Shetland’s craftsmanship in terms of traditional seafaring crafts. Her love for sheds, wood and tools is unbounded! Her very capable hands will feel at home on this latitude. 

So we spoke for a while. Yet Robbie Tait does not hesitate to mention Willie Mouat, Unst’s boat builder, Shetland’s most northerly master of their craft. 

My next visit to the most northerly edge of the realm – the Island of Unst – will focus on the Gardie Boat!

the meantime,

 I’ll stick to my Ness Yoal 🙂 

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

Meandering through spring

Between Mousa Broch and Beltaine

If I stick to this Earth Year Calendar, we now stand seven days away from the Greater Sabbath, Beltaine, and will follow the cosmic wheel of seasons.

A week earlier, and we were wandering though the offshore island of Mousa… 
Mousa, home of the wild, flat stones and rust – this big rock, east off my township of Sandwick, is home to its own Iron Age fortification, known as the Mousa Broch (we are talking over 2000 years old construction!) itself under the watchful eyes of Historic Scotland, AND inhabited in summer by the smallest of the Petrel family, the Storm Petrel, locally christened as Peerie Mootie.

Still early in the season, the broch’s tenants are yet to land in between stones and beach boulders… We nonetheless had a wild time among skylarks, bonxies as well as two Red-throated divers flying around our heads! 

To give you a greater idea of size of such man-made wonder, here is the gang aginst that broch. And if you want to find out what it really looks once you’ve entered it, well, let’s play Mootie inside those ancient stones. 
Now I’m waiting for both avian and human visitors in this corner of wilderness. Thank you, dear Nadia for your lens!
All Mousa photographs courtesy of Nadia Gould 2011.
And as evening settled, we enjoyed two massive male orcas  playing in the Sound at Burland… I love Saturday night on my 60th Parallel! 

as Earth rotates…

Now, on 21 April, four weeks exactly after our cosmic rite of passage through Ostara, otherwise known as the Vernal Equinox, the island bathed from dawn till dusk in sheer boreal blue.

 I remember staring at my Nordic sky through the windows of many classrooms from Lerwick and hoped it would remain the same till our star slides through the silk of our Atlantic… How I love my northern sky when it fulfills such hope!
So blue, we decided to divert to the very southern tip of the island to salute sunset and seabirds. How magnificent in such light, i never get tired of it. As we are galloping to the azure of the Simmerdim (our light blue night season of summer!), our sun takes so much more time to dip in… To give you a better idea of daytime, today, the sun rose at 0522 and will set at 2038 GMT – in other words, we are enjoying 15 hours and 15 min of light!
As a result, days extend like loose rubberbands and nights shrink like nylon exposed to fire. 
So we wandered around this magical headland… Its occupants played around it and nearby stacks. Common Guillemots, Shags, Fulmars, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Puffins – all six species amused our hearts. 
It felt like a real summer evening, light, calm, warm and soothing. Back home, my garden and nearby fields teeming with life, as shalders, skylarks, sparrows and blackbirds deafen our hearts! At the same time, two swallows graced our sky. They too now perch on our dizzy latitude.

Beltaine begins in seven days. Beltaine, gateway to da Simmerdim!


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

post scriptum to between baskets & the wild wood

twist of fate

Let’s talk of small world for a moment.

In my previous blog entry, I mentioned Humblyband, as I was day-dreaming in the main room at Shetland’s main art gallery, for a very simple reason: basketry.

Humblyband project: Humblyband 

As I was exploring Ruth Macdougall’s latest blog entries for an update of her curach we shall carry and row at a later stage, I suddenly realised that both artists, Macdougall and Walpole, would deliver their respective talk at some International Conference, “Basketry & Beyond: constructing cultures” at the University of East Anglia on the same day, one, following the other! Needless to say Ruth must have smiled when she read my comment on FB… 

Without a doubt, this world could fit inside a single basket.

About our local art gallery: Bonhoga

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Filed under 60N, exhibition, project, shetland

between baskets and the wild wood

woven adventure

I love my local art gallery. 
It hosts the world in many forms and never fails to attract spirits of one kind. 
When Klaudie decides to get out, we have guaranteed adventures. This time, we opted for The Bonhoga, exhibition complete with lunch, as we both love art and good food! This month’s exhibitor, Lois Walpole, would offer us something different. …Basketry. My mind was already rowing around the world! Friends already warned me I would enjoy it. 

Well, here is what we found when we pushed the door on the first floor of the restored Weisdale Water Mill…

world-made, man-made fabric, 
tightly woven, 

just like somewhere in the Andes, Nepal or Africa! Humblyband was sitting on my lips thoughout the entire day.
I smiled at the Camembert boxes. Ms Walpole has a great sense of humour 🙂
…So many treasures!
Fabulous exhibition if you have not seen it yet… 

So much to marvel in one room, we took our time before heading to the CafĂ© downstairs for lunch. Al fresco, it would have to be, so blue outside…

Mackerel Paté with oatcakes for Klaudia, herring in dill and oatcakes for my taste buds. It never fails as a delight!

And then , we headed to the woods… Wood, in Shetland? You may think I am teasing. Well, not exactly wild, but certainly unique in the area! Magic of our natural world, on a carpet of lesser celandine, as expected for the time of season. Next month, blue will override yellow. Meantime, it reflected the magic of the sun that was beaming between branches. 

It certainly felt like spring in such light.

What kind of blue were we after? The viewpoint at Wormadale never fails to deceive either, So spectacular through the fisheye. I love Sundays of this kind! Magic moment filled with a myriad of colours, delights and smiles.


Filed under 60N, celebration, colours, exhibition, shetland, writing

with or without Lady Mist

at one with the world

Have you heard of the arrow of time? It belongs to laws of physics and dictates us a one way ticket in the world. When I reflect on yesterday (the past) I know I cannot find myself sipping that same cup tea on the patio, listening to that beautiful earthsong in some unashamed sun… Divine moment of serenity, as birdsong filled my northern sky: sparrows, starlings, skylarks, meadow pipits… Curlews, oystercatchers (my dear shalders!) … What else, oh, yes, greylag geese and golden plovers enchanted the afternoon (though breezy) sky, as if inside a gigantic auditorium! Sunsets keep retreating on the clock of time. So we retired to the hearth. But then, as dusk began to glow, a snipe drummed above a nearby field and a hedgehog wandered freely in our garden. First for the season! Happy moment I have to treasure as a memory. This belongs to the arrow of time.

Today, the island feels different.

Eerie, serene though mysterious, as mist clads sea and hills. Birdsong even sound different. It does not fight against the wind, but plays hide and seek with sea fog. If you lived on the edge of Norway, or in Faeroe – come on, let’s push it to Iceland – those  sea-, sky- and landscapes will appear familiar to you. But then again, when sea fog strikes on the planet, no matter where  one stands… Along the stretch of the American, African continent, Asia, Antarctica or Australia, ships wrecks are found stranded in sand… rocks or ice. 
There, on my rock, where spring birds return to fare chicks, or rest a bit for further northern realms, I feel the power of seafog, which I once called so affectionately Lady Mist in a poem. 

Everything changes all the time.

We just cannot run away from the arrow of time. 
It flies like water in a stream, as it filters emotions through moments.   What makes it magical is our technical skills to immortalize on silver paper or a chip!  There, the water stops forever on my picture; the light shines at its surface, whatever the colour of my sky as I am typing.  And yet, in our natural world, water still flows, seafog comes and goes as it pleases!  Only our sun can set alight  the petticoat from Lady Mist!

So let me share with you two more images from the island, with or without Lady Mist, as I wandered through the second week of April.

There, at my feet, lesser celandine re-emerges, as delicate as a skylark’s song; meadow pipits court and parachute in the sky… The air is crisp, as the wind gusts across the land.

As we progress through the season,  the island intensifies in colours, and soon this painter’s palette will shine and dazzle both locals and visitors’ eyes and hearts!

For I never take for granted why I live and breathe on this island, whatever colour of the sky and the ocean. My joy to share it with the rest of the world remains intact in the face of the arrow of time. 

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Filed under 60N, celebration, geopoetics, island, spring, world, writing

early spring wanderings

through the mind of the motionless traveler

I love limpets. There, clinging to boulders at low tide, they embody the very spirit of dreamers. Immobile, intriguing, eyeless under their carapace of nacre, and yet, so sensitive to the motion around them… Our world may spin, they have to wait for the next tide. In the meantime, they owe survival to one muscle against rock, and salt water under their hat.

Their destiny on one island. 

The light was soft earlier this week.
Water in the bay  tainted jade in the shallows,  I let my spirit watch the world in its vastness for the first time since the few days that followed the Vernal Equinox. I was tempted to step barefooted inside sand, although I knew this would worsen the very cold I had nurtured for a fortnight. So I abandoned the idea and hopped in between rocks to catch a glance of the dragon and the turtle through the fisheye.  
And I listened to the shoormal, gentleness of rollers, like a rengaine.
At the very edge of the sand, oystercatchers gathered and conversed in their traditional tongue, oblivious to my armoured friends clutching at rocks. They know they’ll have to forage inside the softness of wet sand to hope for lunch. 
A rude redshank slashed their rowdy conversation.

But limpets have a secret life. As soon as the water returns, they unglue themselves from their rock and wander free below the surf in search of food and adventure! A bit like us, when we unleash our deeper self and dare to leap off the bubble of the artificial world. It takes courage to dare and glide without fretting from others’ thoughts. Poets do this across their verse; artists, on paper or canvas… Musicians score theirs with a quill or keyboard of a computer. Writers heave worlds inside pages… The reader turns a traveler. 

As a regular on this sand, I record treasures on a chip. 

My deepening into the majesty of the real world, regulated by irrefutable laws of physics, allows my spirit to attain a greater sense of belonging and reach out  to plenitude.
Our world is generous enough to offer us the gift of life, a sense of place and generates so many dreams, as we tune in.  Now, we glide like kites in the wind, or limpets inside surf.

We attain stillness in our hearts.

Spring tides, equinox, the great pulls towards light, solstice. Some called it great cosmic clockwork time keeps unfolding in circles (or ellipsis). I ate my sandwich at the beach and wandered off to other parts of the island. As I went south, I watched the magic of late March: common seals gathering on deserted white sand, two Red-Throated divers (looms) courting in emerald waters, common eiders congregating (males in full regalia), and wren song erupting in darkening Atlantic sky.  Moments of joy deep in my heart.

Light games

I love the island at springtime. As I type, gardens drink light rain. Our every tree, bush and shrub reveal their colours. Flower before leaf is a game that need water to burst and shine. What a contrast with last weekend, as we bathed in unashamed blue! 

Festival from our star inside our very own patch of life! Its great energy, so precious, has delivered us from winter. There is a local word for spring, Voar. In the mind of one great motionless traveler, Jean Giono, I re-explored his Provençal world, Regain. Jean Giono Regain, spring, voar… Renaissance, rebirth.  I first discovered the Manosque-born writer as a pupil back in my lycĂ©e years in Aix-en-Provence (France). Giono celebrates the earth, la terre, with a lower case “e” as well as man’s place through two parts, winter and spring. I love the way he speaks of the elements, and the wind in particular. Giono paints a very sensual world that speaks so loud to the poet and day-dreamer that I am! Monsieur Giono remains one of my main influences without a doubt. Re-opening Regain at the beginning of spring remains a source of sheer self-indulgence.

Geopoetics in motion

And whilst I deserted the monitor of my computer to enjoy the bounty from our sun, like-minded friends congregated in Cumbria (northern England) to celebrate the poetics of the real world. The former home of John Ruskin harboured a weekend of magic. Please click on the link to find out more geopoetics . Three fascinating videos to let you arouse your senses as well as different insights inside of the world(s) of respective creative hearts. If man remains an amazing machine made of stardust, his sense of celebrating the world shines through geopoetics, the making (or re-making) of the real world. Geopoetics and John Ruskin: a conversation

Spring has arrived on the island. The land is warming to longer days, game of light, mist and life. And as night shrinks, this boreal latitude begins to glitter in colours.


Filed under 60N, Arcania, celebration, colours, geopoetics, shore, spirit