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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 Ă  bientĂŽt !

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

Contrasts

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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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je me souviens #14-18now

One hundred years ago, a small party of men gathered in a wagon inside a French forest somewhere in Picardy to stop madness and attrition, a futile butchery, unparalleled till then, agree to terms for an Armistice. Humanity defaced, filled with hurt, on its knees.

To those millions of innocents, victims who fell and died, I wrote a short poem four years ago, entitled


Of Flowers and Men

Little lead men
fell one by
 one
inside a field other than theirs, 
 where
 red flowers now flourish high -
scarlet to colour
a river to remind us
 there is 
danger
inside our walls.

Four years later, on that same month of November, I penned a string of verse to remember you all – irrespective of alliance, skin colour or religious denomination – because you were all human beings turned inhumane inside a theatre of death. You fell or you were shot, because you had beliefs.

On this occasion, the following verse is in your honour.

In memoriam, 14-18 Now

War Flowers
Time belongs to lush poppy fields. 
They walked by their millions in wet mud, 
France or Flanders, 
leather laces in No Man's Land, along with 
shells and barbwrire. 
Canary girls back in Clydebank or in Gretna 
manufactured what was to kill 
somebody's boy in a cornfield, or 
their own genes here on homeground... 
An assemblage of sacrifice in 
the name of an empire, country or king. 
They fell by millions in cold mud, 
furrow or field they never sowed - 
through earth layers, 
chromatic world recorded shell shock and their fears, 
humanity's blood in a flood. 
They rest by millions as poppies, 
pinned on thick tweed on some jacket - on 
photographs and cenotaphs, 
a sea of names on 
monuments, 
lost inside waves, 
crosses, headstones,
inside the flame from a candle, in 
every heart and every 
home.
© Nat Hall 2018    

Within an hour, I will join all those who remember them at my local beach – St Ninian’s Sands – and read poetry to those clad in a uniform as part of this project  #pagesfromthesea because I don’t forget. Later tonight, as part of this year’s edition of #shetlandwordplay (the annualbook festival in Lerwick), I will join in for the last event, the Open Mic and read both aloud, as part of a sequence dedicated to #14-18now.

Je ne vous oublie pas.   

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wild

starlings in black n white

October, the month of heaven & grace

Marvellous moments of lightness, privileged times among paired swans, preening and sharing love in grace at last light… Statuesque haigries (herons) around our bays, the joy to reconvene with our beautiful Earth. I observe them from the distance, with that humble feeling, so intimate the moment. The light is soft, nearly sunset. The air is charged with tenderness and love in that autumnal sense of rawness…

Intimate. So privileged, I feel.

Sensual, magical.

This north end corner of Spiggie Loch gradually welcomes them back, as the Arctic winter dictates. They will flock in and preen, share a few weeds with a few ducks – gather on the shore for bathing and arrange their feathers, and roost by twos… A bit of love inside a world so few can taste.

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Bressay

Lerwick Harbour [1]It takes a day to meet and share an adventure.

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.

 

Bressay

 

Alexandra Wharf on a Sunday afternoon, where

feet wander between islands, and

boats are tied to

known

bollards;

I look at you from

my town side, between

the Knab & Kebister.

You, inside

waves,

in

between Hay’s Dock and Bryggen, where

clouds fly past, white,

oblivious; where

fishermen anchored in hords to

fill barrels with

scales and

salt,

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

ripples and

tides,

ink and blotches from well-kept books somebody wrote on

Bergen side –

countless columns,

whole salesman’s world.

But you stand firm against each gale,

shelter my side of the

harbour,

and

when

I look at your

portside, I see the meadows of summer,

the great white whale

clad inside

snow.

NH, 2017

 

Oh, we saw that otter in Sandness, and savoured cake, as we sat on the edge of the pier.

dratsie at Melby 13 Aug 2017

 

 

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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 LibĂ©ration 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 rivetĂ© 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’arrĂȘter  sur un fil de fer, entre iris et mur de pierres,

un rebord de gouttiĂšre,

la latitude de leurs ancĂȘtres.

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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storm

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Provençal Sakura

I always associate the coming of cherry blossoms at the foot of the Luberon with my grand mother’s change of world. To me, she flourishes every spring, and this year, I arrived just in time, for the season is precocious.

Already most fruit trees had shed most blossoms… Only a few quince and cherry trees gave me that joy. The kitchen garden well ahead for April. I landed back at Marseille-Provence in soaring temperatures, thanks to a twist of luck that allowed me to to fly direct from Edinburgh the very morning I left my northern roost.

And what a trek across the sky 🙂

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My favourite mountain, Luberon, so majestic, as we descended into Marseille… Giono’s blue whale so bright and clear by afternoon.

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Marseille, gate to the East and Africa, Massilia-Massalia, founded by Greeks, grown by Romans, with les ßles du Frioul and If in the foreground, minutes before landing. La Grande Bleue, plain and magic.

 

I shan’t forget such moments. Always a thrill from my humble seat inside the fuselage. This year, I reconvened with JJ and Monique, whom I had such pleasure sharing with again. JJ fell in love with my poetics and he is very sensitive to artists and poets. As a matter of fact, he invests in art as a benefactor. We shared beautiful conversations and he is becoming to know me much better now. Let’s see what is going to heave out of those moments of sharing. 🙂

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Ten days inside blue could be called a fantastic symphony. I reconvened with Les Huguenots, where life turns out immoveable, but also with relatives and my close friends from Pertuis, Isa and Michel, who hosted me for two days – sheer moments of pleasure.

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Two days with my lifelong friend and her clan, including her grand children. We had lots of fun jam-packed in and around their home. Moments of pleasure.

 

L’orage

Out of ten days, an afternoon tainted by grey and rain, as April strikes in any form. That heat heaved thunder and lightning in one afternoon.  Not surprising as the thermometer had soared a bit too quickly to my taste.

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The air turned more breathable, colours vanished and the whole of the sky blackened to unleash its madness. That palm tree and flowers suddenly yielded to its wrath and felt the weight of freak clocking rain.

It prompted a poem, entitled l’orage / the storm.

 

L’orage

 

En un Ă©clair,

le ciel est devenu métal, nuages de

charbon et d’acier.

Fort de ton flash, ciel

photographe,

tous les oiseaux se sont cachés, entre les fleurs du cognassier.

Sous les tuiles je t’entends gronder,

glisser les gouttes de ta colĂšre sur toutes

les feuilles de l’olivier.

Et sous le poids de ton humeur,

toutes les tulipes se sont courbĂ©es – robes d’or et

de rouge, leurs pétals protÚgent

le trĂ©sor…

Le vent fait frétiller les palmes toutes luisantes de la pluie;

nettoie ce ciel chargé de cendres,

dĂ©charne un peu plus le vieux chĂȘne.

Tu montes le ton et vide

ton sac…

Et maintenant tu t’envenimes et te dĂ©chaĂźnes!

Son et lumiĂšres, tes perles tombent

drues, s’Ă©crasent sur tout

ce qu’elles touchent;

sacageur de bleu provençal, dans la maison

je trouve refuge, et me souviens

du mot  frisqué.

 

The Storm

 

This sky

turned metallic in a flash, with clouds tainted

charcoal and steel.

Fully charged

blitz,

photographer,

all the birds hid between the flowers of the quince.

Under that roof, Provençal tiles,

I hear rebuke land & heat;

let slide raindrops

from your own

wrath on

the

leaves of the olive tree.

Under the weight of your temper,

all tulips bowed to protect

the treasure clad inside gold and red petals.

The wind animates every palm of

the date tree

drumming snipe

style…

And wipes a sky

charged up with ash,

unloads the old oak of dead leaves.

Now, you raise your voice, spill the beans…

Unleash your wrath, torrential

style!

It felt epic, equatorial.

You, Provençal

blue

saboteur,

against my will, I seek shelter, and

remember that word,

frisqué*.

 

© Nat Hall 2017

 

Note:

frisquĂ© (Provençal) meaning “chilly”/ “cold”)

 

 

All in all, nine and half blue days, moments of pleasure, and every time, that same feeling about where I really belong.

My trek back home – to my northern roost – proved even more epic. A story of mechanical failure miraculously took me home A LATER than scheduled, but am back hame, and am happy.

 

 

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entente more than “cordiale” :-)

1917, somewhere in hell, the fabric of humanity and life

I smiled tonight as, scrolling down the “Reader” section of wordpress, I found a xmas post from fellow poet & blogger Jackdaw.

One hundred years ago, London and Paris were building that Entente Cordiale, from the ashes of centuries of political warfare that engulfed generations of men to their deaths via so many bloody battles. Even though distrust was/has always been de rigueur, the two old enemies had found common ground. The necessities of the alliance system had eventually prevailed in an early 20th century torn by imperialistic competition and jealousy. Ironic, when we know it all began with a family feud between cousins who, notably, did not seem to agree on their own “gallery of toys”… Incidentally, 1917 also resonates with the entry of the US in that war of attrition, as well as the collapse of the medieval tsarist Russia…

This image, so powerful, prompted a comment to Jackdaw’s post. How humane, powerful will to defy the absurdity of war (total or not)  and show the world nations do not “hate” one another… There is light in darkness.

2017… One hundred years later

Russia has her 21st century blend of tsar under a more capitalistic etiquette, dealing happily with the world in a nostalgic way… The US have a new leader looking towards such Russian counterpart… Writing a brand new page of history that – I dearly hope – will not plunge our planet into chaos as in the first half of the last century. London is on her way alone… Somehow I would like to think that today’s generations of men and teenagers will not end up in a patch of no man’s land filled with horrors and absurdity. My grand mother’s words still echo in my head, as I still hear her telling me, as a child, how lucky I was to be born under “the right star”. By this, she meant in a period of (relative) peace in our homeworld. I still want to believe it. And I am also reluctant to be sucked in a bipolar world again. I still remember die Grenze between East and West as a teenager on a school exchange in (then) West Germany back in 1983 and 1984. Much favour a united world in which people feel “home” without (too many) fears…

Thank you, dear Jackdaw, for such blogpost. What a kiss!

May the image be plastered, like W. Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, on every town square, national parliament, school, embassy and the UN, both in Geneva and New York.

A soldier of the Machine Gun Corps in a sheepskin coat kissing a French farm-girl under a sprig of mistletoe. Hesdin, France, December, 1917. Merry Christmas to you all. Don’t get chapped lips from all that kissing.

via Christmas Kiss — City Jackdaw

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worldwide

Excellent news from Nordland Publishing! A few days ago, I received a message from a blog reader regretting not to be able to order Compass Head directly from her own island-continent, Australia. I relayed the message to my publishers in Norway, who, not only were concerned, but have now made for amends. And they did more.

Now, this geopoetics in action and in full motion. That peerie yoal has already travelled far and wide. Let it reach YOU.

“Row, row your boat” as the tune says…

compass-head-book-cover From now on, dear reader, you can now reach out to Compass Head DIRECTLY from practically WORLDWIDE, including Australia, China, India, Brazil, as well as other amazing places on Earth! So jump on the boat and, fair wind, sailors, and join in all those who have already enjoyed the ADVENTUROUS journey from The Songs from the North 🙂 Just CLICK ON the LINKs!

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in my own words…

 I write because I have things to say. When I don’t, I listen to the world – the wind, the ocean, birds and auroras – and I look up to the stars. The onpaper-and-wordse who stops looking at them forgets. The one who keeps looking at the stars will find his/her footprints in he snow. I live on an extraordinary island that feeds my spirit and imagination. Come and discover my journey, as I have lived my life with a compass in my head.

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