Category Archives: birds

So

What happens between equinoxes remains a mystery.

…A black hole or stravaig in a desert where time locks itself in, as bubbles inside surf, or footprints lost through tides and gales.

Many walks done and gone. I still remember the Vernal Equinox, as March gave way to light and warmth. When birds returned to the island, and jenny wrens perched on roses to sing their songs, joined by blackbirds at dawn and dusk. A song so powerful, explosive and whimsical, you need to turn back and listen.

And as May comes with its unbound clemence, and shiny bright, stars vanish in the blue of night, as Beltane gives way to summer.

Summer, summer, da Simmer Dim, as our sky turns an opera house. Our island sings in tussock grass, around the bays – above our heads. It is a time filed with bounty, as our summer guests fish and hunt. A time where life fills with colours, where chicks grow feathers outwith dark. Darkness unknown to so many of us and fledlings until Arcturus reappears in late July. Our Atlantic and sense of North glow back orange. We then reignite our candles. In this mystical universe, the very few urban dwellers welcome July with refracting light in the bay. They do not question the great clock – the astronomical delight as da mirkin wins back its way. mirkin, murky times lie ahead…

Some walk through time on land, at sea.

As August wanes in honey gold, our most westerly land beacon feels a poltergheist at sunset. Foula, foul, fugl Island, with its bewildering cliff tops, redefines ife, geometry. Light as we knew from Simmer Dim – our nightless nights – lose in power, intensity. Our path to hairst and the autumnal equinox becomes clearer.

It is when night unveils its kaleidoscope of gales and stars. And we look more carefully, auroral glows in between clouds. Our pace hastens as we go home to the fire back in our hearths. Too soon the tides will speak out loud, and auroras trapped inside clouds will signal a new phase across the season. Few gannets fly, fish in the bay. Rose flowers gave way to their own fuits. The overgrowth lost its lushness… A lower sun shines through few leaves from alders or strong willows. That sense of blue tarnished with grey has lost its way. Deep purple hills back to bracken, bare and so brown.

September stepped in as a thief. October followed in its grace. Each wake-up call from our bedside triggers the start of each sunrise. Each minute lost now and regained, days have shortened and yet, still bright. I hear Sawhain’s still a long shot… Our winged friends wander south and south. For us, dwellers of thre island, we need to prepare for dark times.

Now, the island can sleep in peace, with auroras, constellations, stars and comets – a twany moon there as a friend.

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renouveau

Spring has multiplied signs throught that long and still ice-bladed month of March. If light has reached parity with darkness on the 20th day, and our migrating visitors called at night and settled back in our fields and meadows whilst others pursued their incredible journey north, the island still needs to wake to the promises of the season.

April, April… Life rekindles

March now behind us. Tonight I heard eight puffin scouts have been located west of my favourite headland in our inshore waters. Earlier, friends reported the magical ascending song of a skylark as they wandered by abandoned crofts… Common Eider drakes already sit by their concubines… On inspection of the ground, daisies and bluebells have long braved snow, ice and thaws, re-icing and equinox gales. Even within the perimeter of my sanctuary, the grass has grown and would deserve a serious cut. Spring, voar, so precocious.
Eider drake and its concubine reunited at Aith Voe.
Light reappears on the 60th North Parallel. I read somewhere that between the two solstices – and more precisely as we approached the Vernal Equinox – we were gaining up to two hours of light every month… Now, as April has entered in the great cosmic ballroom, my sunrises and sunsets are becoming more epic.
Turnstones by the edge of water…
Strangely enough, fog has already been rolling on from our local hills. “Exotic” and “curious”, for fog remains an oddity before April… February and March both felt odd in places.
Peculiar episodes of fog we, islanders, usually experience from mid-April…
Yet April promises (or do I really take this for granted?) liberation from many claws – storms, gales, and other signatures from the icy months. And if I have yet to listen to my first skylark, I know it will not be long. The sky just needs to quieten a little more and our star to warm up those acres of storm-bent grass around our meadows… Wake, wake, wake, wake!

April is when you return to me.

The magic of walking to my favourite headland.
As I am typing you are gradually falling asleep. Your case is packed. Your passport lies in a pocket of your handbag… Tomorrow, you too will begin your migration north – north by NE, as you will cross that stretch of your Irish Sea to find your way back in Glasgow before making your way to my North Sea from the mouth of a sheltered harbour. We can travel the world like swallows… or Storm Petrels. But to journey, we need a boat. I may not wait for you from my favourite headland on Saturday, But I will gladly watch that great blue Viking efigee on the white hull we call da boat approach my favourite offshore island of Mousa at about 6.30 in the morning and drive parallel to you, as the bow kisses each wave from our sheltered waters. If we are lucky enough, Mother Sea will let you enter the Bressay Sound with grace.
Happy common seal in the surf. Selkie life…
It will be your first time. Selkies and seagulls will salute you on your passage. You are about to return to me as seabirds find their way across miles of oceanic deserts, da Roost to reconvene with my headlands, bays and meadows. Now, my turn to find sleep from my northern latitude, as I will be by your side tomorrow, in voice and spirit. I have prepared home to welcome you on my northern island. In anticipation to your arrival, I wrote a piece entitled North Voyager. It sounds and reads like a leitmotive… And yet it does epitomise that promise from Spring.
North Voyager

There is a time when you will see edge of
my land,
          the rounded head shaped by
                                that kiss of Atlantic and
cold North Sea; where
solans glide above Spring's crests,
follow the furrow from
                                  the ship,
blue man on white,
head-dressed to defy every tide and
                                 moder dy...
No castle perched, but 
a lighthouse that defines hamewir tun an 
                                      hearth;
and if you stand out on
the deck, that gentle breeze fae 60N will
whisper words in northern tongue,
roll every "r" in every breath,
                            sea spray, spindrift -
touch you with salt glued on its lips.
Now,
you're parallel to my world, birds and 
                                             sandstone -
maalies join solans in the wind,
              Mousa appears left to your eyes,
   inshore waters will guide you to
da Horse's Heid, as Bressay grows 
closer to heart, and
        mine will beat as fast as dyne,
now you're safe in the Bressay Sound.

Only minutes and a pressgang separate us.

                                         Welcome to 
                      my northern island.

 
© Nat Hall 2019 

Dialect word glossary:

solans: Gannets
moder dy: the underlying of the swell used by ancient firshermen as a guide.
hame: home
wir tun: our toonship (human settlements)
Spindrift: sea spray, balls of salt created by gales
maalies: Fulmar Petrels
da Horse's Heid: [place name] the Knab (headland in S Lerwick)
dyne: yours

Solan (Gannet)

Bon voyage!

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treasure islands

img_6439

Love my homeworld, and shared it with five intrepid explorers.

Here it is, in a poetic form.

A Day among Birds

I felt the sea today,

harnessed my

heart to

wave

level.

Gannets,

gannets, gannets filled

my sky – solan,

havsule,

a sea of wings in island blue above

my eyes, like a painting or

magic swarm

morning had flushed off in

a dream…

My memory now

filled with salt they call

spindrift – today I felt

treasure islands.

NH 2017

Photos at my Instagram (@nordicblackbird)

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swallows

 

 

 

 

 

On the topic of migration, hirundines – the embodiment of summer – and swallows in particular have always captivated my heart. I remember them nesting under the roof in rue de la Libération in Gisors as a child; and their return every year throughout life – wherever I have settled – remains magical.

Today I watch them return on the island, so far away from my grandmother’s home, and every time they rekindle that moment of discovery as a child… They fly from West Africa to reach us. Their journey feels incredible – travellers without papers across our northern hemisphere. They come to create the next generation – they have two homes, they are the product of two worlds, and they embody with so much grace many of us, humans, who have been blessed with more than one home…

A powerful allegory.

 

Here, to celebrate those amazing avian wanderers, a string of micropoetry, first written in French, then, translated in mirror.

 

Les hirondelles

1.

Furtives,

des anges habillés bleu et noir,

avec dans leurs yeux, du courage;

l’iris riveté au soleil, avides d’amour hors des nuages, sous

les génoises, elles font un voeu.

1.

Furtive,

they, angels clad in black & blue,

with courage in their eyes;

iris riveted to the sun, avid to love in cloudless skies, under

a roof they make a wish.

2.

Intrépides,

elles traversent déserts, champs et mers,

se confient aux cours d’eau, les chansons de la terre

pour retrouver enfin une once du berceau.

2.

Intrepid,

they fly across deserts, meadows and seas;

confide to waterways, the many earthly songs, to

find at last an ounce from home.

3.

Je les entends venir enfin,

leurs longues plumes dans mon ciel,

s’arrêter  sur un fil de fer, entre iris et mur de pierres,

un rebord de gouttière,

la latitude de leurs ancêtres.

3.

At last I hear them come,

their long feathers inside my sky,

to perch on a wire, in between iris and stone walls,

the edge of a gutter –

their ancestors’ latitude.

 

 

 

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outcry

It’s all about adding and substracting… In the artist’s own words.

Paul Bloomer’s latest exhibition ar the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick, Scotland, UK, feels an epic saga in charcoal, cladding the whitest of walls inside da Gadderie, that non-static space devoted to the muable world.

The huge pictures felt they had been tailored to perfection. Paul needs to create his own creative time at his Bigton studio when he is not lecturing at the Shetland College at Gremista, or travelling to Europe with (or without) his students. 

My top favourite picture – swans’ flight –  was inspired by a recent trip to Vienna…  A regular visitor to Spiggie Loch as a visual artist or devoted angler, I was both surprised and amused to hear it on Sunday as Paul spoke of each charcoal on paper gigantic pictorial metaphors. 

Originally from the Black Country, Paul anchored his heart &  art  on this symbolic latitude where time and space are regulated by light and darkness in that perpetual dance of seasons.

However, as an islander, he too looks at the world in a unique perspective. 

And he works like a poet or a writer, with a pocket size sketchbook, to capture moments he will later reproduce on a gargantuan scale… 

Paul makes parallels between people and avian migration. His dreams transcend through circles… Black versus white.  

He constantly reminds us how mankind generates that poisoning world, itself pictured as a leitmotive throughout and in various ways, metaphors, as Paul reflects on each throughout that Sunday afternoon stroll in his presence.

Paul the environmentalist – politically engaged… Raged by a poisoning world, in which political disciples hide, such as those deduced by populism. His charcoal stick does not fail to challenge the viewer…

He nonetheless searches for lightness through nature, to find love and sensuality among geese, swans or starlings, Shetland’s commonest and yet captivating birds.

Sensuality expressed though the oneness of entangling whooper swans.

Paul very aptly entitled his exhibition a prayer for the healing of nations.


A must see. 🙂 

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world tales


On Top of the World



After the rain,

three herring gulls on

chimney pots;

now

sun’s blazing

Anderson’s slates.

In

between

two rounds of

showers,

blackbird voices,

raw

arc-en-ciel. 

young maa



out of wharf, ripples & ruffle,

it comes to dip among

brown kelp;

bobs

up

&

down

water surface

and finds solace amid

islands,

where clouds

harness silver edge

tides… Where wings wrangle

herring gull pride.

Where they

come to

feed

at

present.

The Edge

Look at the edge of your own world.
Free your heart & feet from tarmac,

where gutters offer

no relief.

Untie your boat, grab your

own oars.

Hear the call of the

waterline,

everlasting song of rollers

melts in white

sand –

some call it a desert

island,

but to my heart,

it is music.

Either side of the shining

edge,

we find our prints tied around kelp:

on the dry side of the mirror,

men have wandered among knives and

white broken

shells spewed offerings;

so few can listen to the wind,

the song of seasons inside wings

of a kingdom made of

lush Land,

where the sun rests

after crimson.
I hear you

say,

“you’re a dreamer” –

“time is money to all of us.”
I say “throw your coins to a sea, paper to oblivious

limpets..

The world you live feeds from

despair, liars and lice;

they gave you dreams as

tasty bait.

Tied to a tree inside concrete,

sea rockets smell so alien…

We imagine resolutions

and yet

shackles

locked around feet,

with their keys kept inside

boardrooms, between

the

hands of

their makers –

make no mistake,

they will not give them easily;

magpies like anything

shiny.

This world I love has its

pure gems.
© Nat Hall 2017

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wheel of life

hairst b and w.jpg

September, month of smiles and tears.

Yesterday, I congragated with friends and fellow writers from the Westside as well as the Waas community to say agoodbye to one of us. I loved the way his son spoke of my friend, and the way Janet somewhat managed to conceal some of her grief. The service was very poignant. I, among so many of us, will miss the good doctor who animated our monthly friday nights in Weisdale, as well as the many facets of everyone who was connected to his life. But he lives in our hearts, and his writings testify the life journey of a very brave, adventurous, life and children loving man. Rest in peace, Robin.

September, change of light.talking sky in Hairst.jpg

Weeks fly like lit gun powder; fridays tear down the pages of our almanacs like a develish, untamed child too eager to rid of school days. And the sky follows suite. Little have I noticed sunsets and sunrises shifted on the the great cosmic clock… That daylight had begun to shrink. The island now unveils those autumnal hues.  A more difuse light now clads everything on the island. The sky awaken and talks again.  Whereas swans are starting to flock at Spiggie, others are thinking to go… Northern wheatears, pied wagetails and meadow pipits, together with a few swallows still grace our fence posts, road verges and fields… Though they too will depart from our shores and let others replace them for the darker months ahead.

September, trade of wings. young wheatear.jpg

That juvenile northern wheatear will home itself south of my eyes for a few months, should it survive that great epic maiden flight south. I feel somewhat eager to reconvene with our winter visitors, whilst already marvelling at eclipse or winter plumage from some of our local avian friends. Guillemots certainly are noticeable from Gutters’ Gaet or Bressay Sound.  And if observation feels rather limited during weekdays, the odd visit to harbours, lochs, fields, voes and wicks (bays) rekindles that pleasure.

mute-swans

And as nothing remains the same, September will vanish in flames, and let October take over. With the tenth month, I too will trade land and migrate for precious time to the other side side of he North Sea, as I will reconvene with friends and fjords. That second collection of verse demands so, as my heart does.

With October, the more prominent return of darkness… And the almanac will obey the laws of the universe.

IMG_2854

 

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