November, month of hellery – this fine Shetland dialect word that encapsulates the worse from the sky in the form of storms of any kind – enshrouded in darkness since daylight feels more and more elusive.
Hel, hell, hellery, as 2020 has never matched our expectations; held us hostage within our walls, and loved ones disappear…
Spaekalation – another fine Shetland dialect word that translates as gossip – is a raw piece written at night, as an attempt to deal with both the savagery of the sky and a sudden and an unexpected bereavement. This poem was first written in the dialect and then translated in English
Is yun a gooster or a ghoul?
Twa goggly eens i'da tree,
is yun an owl o some kind?
Ta da dare-say o'da mirken, da vaelensi is juist
dey say dat ghosts ir among wis,
waanderin, lone, aroond wir laand - dy an
da tattie crö, barn an byre -
dey say dey travel wi da flan an da snitter,
skid juist laek bairns apö
da snaa an glerl o ice,
hide i'da white o'da moorie ta
mind da reek o chimney stacks.
Dey say dey sit by da fire atween
da caird an da wirsit -
da Slockit Licht,
crabbit embers ta keep
da memory alive.
glide alaang da waa,
listen ta da saang o'da nicht.
Is that a messy gust of wind or just a ghoul?
Two goggly eyes inside a tree,
is it an owl of some kind?
To the hear-say of dusk,
That brisk downpour has just begun;
They say that ghosts are among us,
wandering, lone, around
the land, my and
the spud corner, barn and cowshed -
they say they travel with wind gusts or biting cold air,
Saoirse the Cat, tended and out, released from her nocturnal curfew, remains oblivious to any weekday or clock change… To her, daybreak demands my care and attention, as a new day calls from the sky .
November, month of shorter days, storms and shine. Sunrise reddens hillsides and refracts on window panes… Tis the time to break your fast with starlings that came to raid the bird feeders and forage frantic through rot and golden leaves roses littered to feed the ground.
Days, precious days, where time whirl inside oceanic rollers… And light vanishes for long nights. Every minute counts, as life depends on it.
To watch a sundown and wonder at it, listening to the Atlantic, incessant music from our Earth, and feel at one with the divine.
Tis a time where the island welcomes dwellers for winter, from the planet or colder climes. Mother Nature is amazing. In between episodes of hel, hell, hellery, they come to grace our shores and lives.
So much beauty we share and tend to forget as we lock ourselves in this man-made artificial world. This world regulated by clocks and figures of all kinds…. Compartmented in social scales meant to keep us on some frontline. Calendars and even clock change that still belong to another century tainted with wars…
November remembers months of madness, when guns turned life into nightmares, harm and darkness; where eyes opened for a last time, feet inside mud, lice, ice and rats.
That war that never ended all others, as we don’t seem to learn lessons from our own past. Most of our kind regard history to the property of scholars locked in libraries inside books. And even though suffering still tarnish our own lives, we fall for the same one… We invent organisations to temperate bombs and emergency crises. And when leaders spit at freedom, we say amen and stay quiet behind small screens.
November the great month of changes and miracles…
Today, we cry our relief to the world, celebrate light and a new world that reconciled with wisdom instead of darkness, as the world’s first democracy dared to elect a tandem that may relieve a whole planet…
A first woman in the land of the forefathers. A new milestone seeding new possibilities.
I can only pray wisdom prevails over dollars; pray to walk the shore and marvel at life in all its forms, as I depend on it all to survive. Every daybreak feels a miracle in itself – every sundown, the path to reconvene with stars… Trillions of eyes from a creator of light and life. How can a species wreck it all?
Tis time to repair whilst we can.
I wish to enjoy the garden, breakfast with starlings at sunrise, and feel at one with the island, sky and ocean.
Starlings are like vikings - when they descend on trees, they will raid without shame treasure troves to the last! Starlings are gregarious - They're no robin or wren... glitter, shiny armoured, billed to loot the suet - they argue without end on branches or dead leaves, pitiless in their squads... If they could hold an axe, they would kill merciless, to the final fat crumb... They've got the floor, forage through the gold of rose leaves, leave so little to the sparrows; they might tolerate a blackbird, they're dressed to hammer with their bills, squabble and survive November, the savage price named survival.
We are never fully aware of things until they skelp (slap) you in the face.
My first drive back north to catch the sunset at Mavis Grind – the gateway to Northmavine, the north end of the main island – turned far darker as I caught windfarm ground work in progress with trucks at rest at the foot of hills along the A970 off Sandwater Loch. My heart sank. So far, I had only gazed at stills and drone footage in social media… All of the sudden, it became real.
For years, I have marvelled at Central Mainland – Sandwater, Kergord, da Lang Kames… Nesting, Voe – legendary places of wilderness teeming with rich and varied life. For years, we have been wrestling with a nightmare that will change life and lives – wild as well as human – forever.
For years, I have walked the shore and shared it openly: take a picture of it all before it is changed for ever.
Yet instead of the expected pictures taken from the roadside, I thought of friend & artist Paul Bloomer’s current project entitled Shadowed Valley.
Whilst Paul has been developing his response on canvas through the main medium of charcoal, selected recent pieces of his work struck me over recent time.
In turn, I am expressing in words as my response to his work. With gracious thanks, Paul, for your kindness & powerful work.
Da Death Valley
Winds of change,
listen to the silent valley.
Through the darklands we now wander –
round da paets’ broos, where
gigantic claws obey men’s will;
among heather & crowberries where
merlins hide their love and genes,
metallic claws slash & plunder deep through
this land where
redshanks call, protect their youngs between a loch and
way past the ridges of wir Kames,
Lottie’s Half-Way Hoose and
Shackled men to demon-money only
see gold, far away vaults,
far too oblivious to
whimbrels, merlins or
mystic mountain hares, Heather Ling or rich purple bells,
the divine sanctuary of life.
Men dunna ken,
they come with trucks as giant claws rage through wir laand,
da paets’ broos: (Shetland dialect) the edge of eroded peat (turf); da Laang Kames (place-name): the long valley shaped from Sandwater Loch to the Village of Voe and Nesting area; Peta: (from O.N. & Shetland folklore) name given to a giant that fell asleep in the valley of da Laang Kames; “Men dunna ken”: (from Shetland dialect) expression meaning “people don’t know”; wir laand: our homeland.
Here comes a piece right from the heart, as I begin to come to terms with a virus that confine us and still stirs fears won’t go away and belongs to Natural Laws.
As soon as we accept this, we become survivors. Put aside politics, those daily obscure statistics… Are we seriously reminded daily about death rates related to the flu, coronary disease, smoking & other drugs? And if only… If only we were reminded daily about the state of our homeworld; victims from climate change.
Yes, it is dangerous; yes, it can kill. Yet like others, we will pull through or disappear… Life is precious and every new morning feels a blank page.
New, New beginnings, threads from loose ends, shreds of blankness left in a corner of a page, chapter so void of ink and thoughts.
New, that point of singularity where dreams wonder out of nowhere, elemental as hydrogen in time and space, where syllables echo like dots from a ballpoint pen ready to blacken first page, new beginnings in a cartridge without smudges, writer’s mistakes… Look at it now, It has darkened beyond belief, as new beginnings set to sail as asteroids, debris, comets, bouncing flash balls from nebulae still to be imagined and penned. Fresh universe to the writer.
Da Lang Kames, from O.N., “Long Ridges” . This is a part of my island. A magical gateway to this last corners of wilderness, as BBC Wildlife broadcaster Simon King once defined Shetland.
There is a deep blanket of peat, a rich, precious, protective and fragile habitat about to be destroyed in the name of greed by a few. In spite of a seven year campaign or so, wir community ignored when alternatives exist. A too grand-scale project and areas of special scientific interest decimated by bulldozers… Folk impacted notably involve Nesting, Aith and up to Vidlin, as da Kames extend East and West.
Do not take me wrong.
Not against renewable energy – but against the sheer size of a wind farm in such a small gem of archipelago & impact on my local environment: destruction of peat blanket, loss of precious & fragile habitat… Wir rural community ignored for years in the name of money, as well as long-term impact on tourism, incl. eco-tourism. A terrible mistake for Shetland.
There are alternatives that could have made us independent from this hellish national grid: peerie community turbines (tidal or wind). Instead, sold out to a giant parent company (SSE) for snap short-term profit… Utter Disgrace.
I want to believe it is not too late. Too late to save the rest of Shetland from those who want to destroy it.
If you too have visited my islands,
You will have marvelled at these magical places… Maybe you drove/were driven along the N/S road along da Lang Kames to reach magic places like Eshaness, Uyea or Toft on your way to Yell and Unst or Fetlar, wir North Isles…
Shetland is world famous for its many natural and archaeological treasures –
To plunder it this way is both eco-genocide and damaging to our community.
When night returns on my latitude, and conditions are right, we see it all… Stars, constellations, our Milky Way, meteors and auroras. It is magic.
On Friday night, and to my great surprise, it did just this… Against the odds of forecasters, the veil vanished and let me contemplate such marvellous spectacle. Here comes a prose poem to celebrate it .
Tonight, I captured Arcturus. Its light pulsed heart, so unmatched glow flicked and flickered in my parallel universe... W by NW, there, inside mid-August twilight, as Elvis echoed deep in stars, I felt the weight of the great Plough lost in a sea of sentinels. Tonight, I harnessed Aquila.
Where Perseids crash in oblivion, I looked for his wings in North night and imagined a hooded friend with two ravens, cloaked and solemn, eyes down on us.
Tonight, I saw the Milky Way, forbidden patches among stars…
So elusive in August skies, the whole of my world in your hands. Light refracted to reach us out and remind us our loneliness belongs to black; that area called underworld, Hades or Hel.
The Creator gave us Lyra, Betelgeuse and Altair in an effort to help our way – never lose sight of the greatness our universe colours with grace; redraw known shapes with my index like a Kepler or a dreamer.
Tonight, I wished for that white star that bears my name to protect us from knives and blades, shackles or chains – reunite us with divine light, and let us shine among stardust.
When Viola invited me to contribute to Island Dreams 2020, I felt honoured and jumped at the opportunity to pen my love of this archipelago for her project. Shetland is this very special place where I live, love, share and celebrate without bounds.
From the O(ld) N(orse), Hjaltland is above all the Old Viking name to my home islands, wir Auld Rock, as we love to call Shetland.
To get back to da Auld Rock is to go hame, or home… Or heim if you are Norwegian in search of cultural connection, or sailing adventures.
I have always regarded Shetland as a collection of hidden gems inside a blue (or jade… Or metallic grey, as our sky defines it!) casket. Living on the fringe of Scotland – as north as you can go, and yet full of surprises. Together with Orkney, Shetland form the Northern Isles.
Yet each island group remains distinctive in every way – including flags and dialects – and both have to be explored.
An adventurer’s paradise
Nestled between a sea and an ocean on the 60th parallel, da Auld Rock has everything to offer. From history, language, culture, food to nature. And our natural world is magic! After all, it is not for nothing naturalist & TV Broadcaster Simon King once defined it as one of Britain’s last corners of utter wilderness...
Ideally situated at the crossroads with Scotland and the Nordic world (Norway to the East, Faroe & Iceland, North West) we are both the most northerly edge of the UK and the Scandinavian corner of Scotland!
Whilst Orkney has wonderful, lush gentle slopes and rounded heads, Shetland offers both gentle and more rugged landscapes (from mini-fjords to towering cliffs via miles of moorland) with a greater diversity of habitats (due to its own collection of rocks, ranging from soapstone to serpentine, via sandstone, limestone or pink granite to name but a few…) which, in turn, offers unparalleled wildlife at and around 60N… In one word, breathtaking.
We are a maritime world, and what best but discover it from the sea – highly recommended in summer, as our Roost (the open area where tides from the North Sea and Atlantic collide) feels far friendlier than in winter…
Hame is a land where we lose sight of horizon, as sea and sky become one…
Hame is a land where boats are more than a way of life… If an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat, a Shetlander is a sailor with a peerie (small) plot of land.
Hame is anchored in history, from the very earliest human settlements to today, where we have made a close-knit community.
Curious about it? Jarlshof remains one of our most impressive archaeological sites that is so unique in Britain, for it offers us a time walk unrivalled… Another hidden gem!
From Dunrossness to Unst, our most northerly inhabited isle, the land is littered with Norse and pre-Norse treasures.
Nature, naturally natural!
Hame is that place to get away from it all! Throw away your watch to the sea, and dare ask time to a selkie…
From flora to marine and avifauna, we are ruled by nature, in turn, ruled by seasons and the sky.
You too are a keen nature lover? Then Shetland is for you!
Shetland so inspiring…
From the darkest nights, at times coloured by our Northern Lights (Mirrie Dancers) in winter to our azure nights (Simmer Dim), where our sky’s filled with birdsong, Shetland is alive.
But in summer..
Here, dare to virtually explore further : nordicblackbird60n for I love to record my homeworld as a photographer.
This is hame, home, as I live and love it. So I speak, share and write about it as a poet with so much passion. When the time is right, and if you too wish to leap to this Auld Rock, stay for a while, and want to walk this shore with me, your adventure will truly start either on board MV Hrossey or Hjaltland.
Et si vous voulez tout cela en français, je me ferai une immense joie de partager ma maison shetlandaise avec vous. 😌
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