Tis already time to return… Cross back oceans, straits, continents. Here is a piece I offer you in high summer from my boreal latitude. It is entitled “Survival” as inspired by Red-Necked Phalaropes, Oystercatchers and all those great avian migrants in search of warmth, food, survival.
Filled with magical wildness, Vikingness and wildlife, it is the said island RLS chose as – in terms of outline – his treasure island for the purpose of his famous novel…
An island fit for exploration and adventures that will unveil so many treasures…
And speaking of treasures, two nights ago, I found a treasure in which a poem was sleeping in a pocket-size moleskin I once took with me to this top of my northerly archipelago (well as north as “inhabited” can go!) – the edge of my world.
In this precious notebook, I travelled back to those late July days where a friend and I returned to a favourite beach – Eastings, Sandwick, Unst – Uyesound, Baltasound, Skaw, Norwick, Hermaness and its nearby Boat Station… Magic places I never tire of. That summer was that in 2017.
eyes riveted to horizon, that gang of tirricks above surf,
that perfect beach lost inside blue,
home to sanderlings and solans,
the Moon’s best friend, whatever tide.
Tirrick: Arctic (or common Tern); Solan: Gannet
Out of the sea an otter runs,
fur filled with dreams,
walks out on sand.
3. Island Life
Bonxie, Loch of Cliff – female Dunters, Hermaness, Boat Station – meadow pipit chick on roadside – Tysties and Rock Pipits, Boat Station – Solans off Boat Heaven, Haroldswick… Dratsie fishing in the bay with its head popping up – two Swallows, Saxavord Resort – Pied Wagtail, 2 Raingjus at Norwick…
Bonxie: Great Skua, Dunters: Common Eiders, Tystie: Guillemot, Raingjus: Red-Throated Diver.
4. Norwick Shalls
You walked back ta da Noost wi shalls,
a braally treasure i’da haands;
da sheenie kind,
better dan silver, gold an aa.
And from da Shetland Dialect:
You walked back to the top of the beach with shells,
A fine treasure in your hands;
the shining kind,
better than silver, gold and all.
A’da end o’da boannie road dat takks dee awye fae da sea,
follow da steinshakkers,
da lone clood an da wind-
da ocean bed, raw serpentine…
Dere is a meadow a’da end,
a bed o eyebright an a stream –
Eden shaped up couleur croissant.
6. Da Lang Hoose
Inside da laang hoose wir entered, an fun fowr chairs chiselled by haands oot’ o pine trees…
As if spirits invited wis fur a laang yarn or juist fur mead.
Dere wis nae fire i’da hearth, bit wir felt hame, sae wir sat doon.
And from the Shetland Dialect:
6. The Long House
Inside the long house we entered and found four chairs chiselled by hands out of pine trees…
As if spirits invited us for a long chat or just for mead.
…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.
I toy with the thought of
touching the Moon that
hangs out in
this dark blue sky;
tide turns in
your favour, on that last weekend of
I feel its pull, rolled up in
I lit a tea light in your name, and
let the lantern on the deck, for
you to find me in
mørke, mørkin, in murky night, where
the Moon shies here in
thin clouds, between my world and
summer tides – where Angle shades fly to the flame, where your voice vanishes with
When it comes to the Nordic connection, the web widens as we network. This is exactly what happened with a kindred spirit from Hamburg, as we began to mingle via Instagram, followed by Facebook. Northwhile, alias Diana Lukas-Nülle, is a lover of all things north, wild, sheepish, travel, design, hearts carved by nature and write. I love the way she speaks about the light, north, snow, Norway or Fair Isle… Whilst she insists how I would love Iceland. Funny how we eventually met in Shetland on her way to the Hebrides.
Photo by Nordicblackbird
This intrepid north wanderer returned to an island she loves and has a pied-à-terre, as she had a contract with a knitting designer and Misa Hay to design this year’s WoolWeek Magazine. On two occasions, we met and shared by the water – in Melby, where we watched an otter playing in the bay whilst we savoured some homemade cake we found and bought from a local box; and at Ninian Sands, where we marvelled at the magic of the Atlantic, a wondrous sky, changing light and the shape of clouds… We spoke deep words, found some hearts fashioned in stone and felt the wings of the maalie, my favourite seabird the Fulmar (Petrel) I love to nickname “Jonathan”, for this long distant relative of the albatross seems to fly for fun – and sometimes at very close quarter!
Some enchanting evening we pursued at my humble hut for a splash of homemade lamb curry and a hope to see Northern Lights after twilight. Of all those moments shared, the one that prompted a poem was triggered as we walked along da shoormal (that area in the shallows…) on that bridge of shell and sand. Diana was combing in search of something specific, whilst I was gathering my own pocketful of treasures.
This prompted the following poem.
For you, D. L-N.,
for your friendship & cunning eye.
On the great bridge of sand and shell,
she untied her shoes and
walked free to
feel the pulse of each sandgrain,
blue of evening and
by the shoormal where dark sand shifts,
she imprinted her higher self,
eyed washed off
vile tides, hunting for
hearts molten in
hearts in shingle, or tidal shaped, among
plovers and sugar kelp –
what the Moon pulls in between
stars, thin waterline,
She came to walk to an island,
she entangled time in
smiled at the world’s greatest tiara,
gifted my hearth with two
her heart and mind still in
She said one day she will own sheep… She’s still to find her home island. In the meantime we share that passion for the Nordic realm – Norway, Norge – island life, light, wild & remote, hearts molten in anything natural and photography.
In anticipation to meeting a kindred spirit at the Bressay Ferry Terminal – en route to the most westerly point of the island – came that invisible bridge between two harbours, tied by one stretch of water, our very Bressay Sound. From April to September, many seaworthy crafts come to anchor or to moor in our waters… And Leirna criss-crosses like a spider.
Bressay, the great sheltering whale-shaped island just opposite our only town, stands between two worlds I love.
My visiting friend, who emerged from the ferry with two Bressay residents I know so well, had freshly arrived from this other side of the North Sea, via Bergen. She too was ready for a great adventure, in the hope to see an otter among our many local wild treasures. As I waited for her on the Lerwick side, came a poem.
Alexandra Wharf on a Sunday afternoon, where
feet wander between islands, and
boats are tied to
I look at you from
my town side, between
the Knab & Kebister.
between Hay’s Dock and Bryggen, where
clouds fly past, white,
fishermen anchored in hords to
fill barrels with
silver darlings –
we share the sea, wharves,
dark box beds, cracks in floorboards,
lead diamond shapes from old windows, as two towns rose,
rust, labyrinth of wood and salt,
two stories tied where
folk wander off
a ferry and
imprint their lives on tarmac… And still
remember old cobbles.
I’m still counting
ink and blotches from well-kept books somebody wrote on
Bergen side –
whole salesman’s world.
But you stand firm against each gale,
shelter my side of the
I look at your
portside, I see the meadows of summer,
the great white whale
Oh, we saw that otter in Sandness, and savoured cake, as we sat on the edge of the pier.
Monsieur Proust had his madeleine, I have my summer berries…
Loved my Sunday yesterday. Ingirid invited a small paty of us to play with her in her garden. She is at the helm of a magical eden where everything seems to grow in both open air and in polytunnels… Just magic. A list of tasks were clearly scribbled on postcards. Ingirid pointed out two areas: peaches to be harvested from well established trees in one polycrub, and, that secluded corner where gooseberries, black and redcurrants ripen in the sun. So much flew back inside my poet’s mind. Whilst the first task was achieved at lightning speed, that latter harvest heaved a bowlful of those tiny summer gems, as well as poetics.
As in micropoetry form at first…
petits fruits rouges, en grapes, en vrac,
entre martinets et sourires,
là où le temps
Peerie red fruits clinging like grapes
in between swifts & smiles,
there, when time
locked in a
and then, as a poem,
You, scarlet gems so well hidden.
So delicate, in
one corner of a garden, where my hands search in between
leaves, guardians of time – where
time writes fate in
I first found you as a child,
crouched against earth and loneliness,
that thin mesh, invisible cage to let the sun work
miracles after each battering of rain.
You, tiny gems so well
precious stones of summer.
Later, a feast awaited us as we gathered in the garden to share a marvellous Sunday afternoon. I love gardening parties. So much to enjoy from such capsules of time.
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