Category Archives: world

Hairst

Seasonal gathering of silage.

Hairst

Da shalders* have moved on. Da playing fields, once

more silent.

Their flight calls,

memories.

As

summer’s

sliding into Hairst,

wir hame sky changed

its song; tis now

time for

sheepdogs,

shriek calls from

young blackbirds still

clad in brown

feathers;

mass

gathering of

life around cliffs and

headlands, our

first sign of

winter.

Now

silage

rolled in bails,

the winged world can

move on, our

gulls will

fill a

sky and

join Aeolus in

his quest for new songs.

8 Aug 2020.

NH

#

Golden Plover in cotton grass

Poet’s Notes

Hairst means harvest, and is also the Shetland name for autumn, derived from Norwegian Høst & German Herbst…

Shalders, the Shetland name for oystercatchers.

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goosebumps

We, at the WestsideWriters’ Group, were challenged to come up with something on the topic of goosebumps for tonight’s gathering via Zoom.

Here is where it took me…

As inspired by a movie…
The duality of language in the creative process.

Different!

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wildaboutshetland

Sumburgh Head, our most southerly headland, where nature blends with RSL and his family of lighthouse builders.

Hjaltland,

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.

Looking towards the Atlantic from the Scord of Wormadale.

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 wildness…

Wild and spacious, looking towards St. Ninian’s Isle in the North Atlantic.

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.

Shetland ponies in buttercups

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…

Looking towards Hellister (headland, left) and Norway!

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.

Whilst only two inhabited islands are accessible by one-way bridges, a boat will take you about everywhere, including to birds!

Hame is anchored in history, from the very earliest human settlements to today, where we have made a close-knit community.

South Shetland Up-Helly-Aa, a unique fire fest postponed till 2021 due to CO-VID times…

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…

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…

“Just give me five minutes, will you???”

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.

Aurora Borealis from my back garden.

But in summer..

Blue night known locally as Simmer Dim.

Here, dare to virtually explore further : nordicblackbird60n for I love to record my homeworld as a photographer.

The magic latitude

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.

Eyebright

Et si vous voulez tout cela en français, je me ferai une immense joie de partager ma maison shetlandaise avec vous. 😌

Suivez-moi… Follow me 🙂

See you soon, and fair winds!

Bon vent, et à bientôt !

Literary works: From Shore to Shoormal/D’un rivage à l’autre (BJP, with D. Allard, 1992) and Compass Head (Nordland Publishing, 1996)

Contrasts

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survival

July.

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.

juv Tern, Shetland, 5 July 2020. En route to a journey clocked at some 12,500 miles…

Survival

Two storks above the Sahara, in

search of food beyond

gold sand;

the price of life, or

survival to

reach their home south of

sly dunes,

the Sea of Sand;

free from

boreal equinox,

they have to trek back to

the sun, where

grass stalks grow so bountiful, where

birdsong beat ice, icicles,

night and unknown –

heaven so

bright,

ephemeral, as

winged nomads strive to

survive…

But

when I look at

our own kind, the one that

cage or kill them all,

lose drifting nets,

trap to get

gold,

I

say

we lost

sense of it all;

our right to live as visitors is

not worthy of Mother

Earth.

Life or survival,

gift or curse,

now

bow to greeting albatross.

© NH 2020.

Red-Necked Phalarope, 5 July 2020.

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Da May Snaa

Da May snaa juist does’na exist,

da flukra,

juist a bairn’s daydream,

peerie man’s imagination –

a moorie caavie i’da bowl, laek beremael gröl… Far tae

white fur

da Simmer Dim;

far tae cauld fur

da Mayflooer,

da kattiklu or

da blugga.

© Nat Hall 2020

Snow in May… Not a daydream.

The May Snow

The May snow just does not exist,

The gentle fall of fat snowflakes, just

a child’s daydream,

little boy’s imagination –

a blizzard in a bowl, like

porridge oats, far too

white for

a summer’s night;

far too cold for

our primroses,

bird’s foot trefoil…

marigold.

© Nat Hall 2020

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Unst

Unst is my summer/autumn “pilgrimage”.

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.

AUDIO VERSION available https://soundcloud.com/nordicblackbird/unst-wir-treasure-island-by/s-bTquKktEyE8

Sandwick Beach, Unst

This poem is entitled

Unst, Wir Treasure Island

1. Sandwick Beach

Inside your hood, you hide and smile –

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.

Note:

Tirrick: Arctic (or common Tern); Solan: Gannet

Dratsie (otter) at Sandwick Beach, 27/7/17

2. Dratsie

Out of the sea an otter runs,

fur filled with dreams,

walks out on sand.

Boat Station, off Hermaness

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…

Note:

Bonxie: Great Skua, Dunters: Common Eiders, Tystie: Guillemot, Raingjus: Red-Throated Diver.

Norwick Beach

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.

Any’s shalls 🙂

5. Skaw

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.

Any at da Lang Hoose (Harodswick, Viking Unst Project)

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.

Inside da Laang Hoose, Haroldswick.

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.

There was no fire in the hearth, but we sat down.

Da hearth 🙂

© Nat Hall 2020 (revisited from regional verse initially penned 27-29 July 2017).

For you, Any, intrepid adventurer, with love.

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Cacophonous

Cirrus clouds above our land

In this world silenced by a terrorist disease, skylarks still sing above an early April hissing gale.

In this part of the main island, where Sandness looks lost inside haze, tussock grass yields, yet those birds we call laverick have returned as lairds o’da braes – elevated above da tun an da scattald (human dwellings and open fields where grazing’s shared among crofters…).

Deserted world except for birds…

They will defy the harshest gust, ignore that brutal tongue from gales to sing to blueness and the sun.

To each passing of cirrus clouds, they do not know the world’s locked down, as they ascend among ravens, oblivious to material us.

They have returned in their hundreds to the daresay of each hillside.

On this Monday lost in April, this sky has turned cacophonous, as hillsides home song of skylarks, that dare to ignore gusts from gales…

And us, below, slaved to silence.

© Nat Hall 2020

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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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fatalité

ablaze

Victor Hugo had cried for her in his foreword… And it took a book (“Notre Dame de Paris“) to trigger major restoration works, as the elderly lady was notably suffering from severe erosion to time, history and the elements.

What happened last night felt totally surreal. Notre-Dame has survived so many ordeals – human assaults, the hands from time – and during those 850 years (or so), she saw a city grow and thrive.

Inside her so many memories. Her world famous bell – le bourdon – became associated with so many events (including the liberation of Paris in 1944) happy or sad… And against all odds, she has been standing in this Parisian sky.

Last night, my heart bled at the news, and this orange-grey cloud – flames from her heart, as the 19th century spire yielded to a raging fire that engulfed the forest – this nickname given to those 1300 oak trees that served as timber frame to support that huge slate roof.

Like millions of people around the world, I watched powerless, in disbelief, and heaved the following poem, as a tribute or way to cope with shock.

La forêt

Ô Notre Dame,
    ta forêt brûle, ton coeur en flammes!

Une forêt de chênes
         de cent mètres de long,
une forêt de chênes
         charpentée par des anges,
une forêt de chênes 
         anoblie par les âges;

toute une nuit orangée a dévoré ta flèche, ton coeur et
ta charpente -

une forêt de chênes,
         maison pour un bossu et son Esméralda...

toute une nuit d'horreur, pluie battante d'ardoises
retrouvées en poussière à l'issue 
                           d'un déluge -

une forêt de chênes au XXIe siècle toute 
                                      réduite en cendres,

ton coeur, ce cher poumon,
                     au plus proche des âmes.


©Nat Hall 2019

The Forest

 
Ô Notre Dame,
    your forest burns - your heart in flames!

A forest of oak trees
                long of a hundred yards,
a forest of oak trees
              carpented by angels,
a forest of oak trees
              enobled through ages;

it took one orange night to
devour your heart, spire and timber frame -

a forest of oak trees
once homed Esmeralda and her loving hunchback,

one single night of hell in
a deluge of slate as tiles turned into dust -

a forest of oak trees that neared
               a millenium now reduced in ashes.

Your heart, this dearest lung,
                     so close to all our souls.

© Nat Hall 2019

Photo credit to Le Monde for both images. Merci.

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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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