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…).
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am water, not the rock – I am able to flow instead of being eroded.
Powerful affirmation in a world that never teaches us to fall, but our ability to rise again and adapt, mend our bruises and scars, with time and sheer resilience, remains a strength in many of us. Life takes us to amazing places, a thought I very recently shared with a close friend – sometimes, totally unexpected, with their areas of “shimmering” and “dark” areas… The fear of the unknown, the dark lands with its own pitfalls and question marks – paths littered with both flowers and pot holes, sometimes deep. Irrespective of all this, we make our own choices, and, when trusting our own decisions, select the path ahead. Because we dare to take a risk and our eagerness to see the light will act as a magnet. We, journey folk through our lives, will use our boots and hearts well. To adapt in a world in perpetual motion, with its own sudden twists and turns, sometimes out of our own jurisdiction, is key to survival, living. We can at times lose track of the compass – our own sense of direction – however, it is our own ability to steer our own boat and free that sail – be resourceful, innovative in our own sense of self and trustfulness.
At different stages in our lives, we shall reach crossroads; a change of wind that may define a change of current. That’s when our compass tell us of change to come. We are living in extraordinary times, with others taking all kinds of decisions on our behalf. Again, our survival senses that need to re-assess our current position and, with wisdom and trust in the water, will help us find and write a course in life that will take us away from a maelstrom that can feel dangerous or too dark to our taste. This journey may feel treacherous, it is however necessary to find ourselves in calmer waters, because we simply need it.
And yet, I need headlands, and lighthouses.
In the kingdom named Animalia, we are, by definition, land mammals. This may make many of you smile… But is it a fact. And I am with a passionate sense of place, solid, with a beacon that reminds my being and spirit where “home” is. Because we make it where it is. Home, that concept – feeling more than a place when one comes to think of it – can be reached, eventually. For nearly two decades, I have experienced the joy of such feeling, and rooting up like thrift, or sea rocket, by the edge of the water. A poet friend once confessed to me how “fortunate” I was to reach such el dorado, feeling of home, for she was still searching for it. Being born in one place on Earth does not necessarily defines it automatically as home. Far from it, as we have neither chose it in the first nor do we have necessarily have to simply “get on with it” and die where were once born. Some of us will feel a pull from a far away land… Yes we turn back into what our ancestors were, nomadic in our minds and hearts. We were made sedentary by politics imposed by some elite in pursuit no other than materialistic, or sheer wish to control us – where we are, what we do, what is expected of us as contributors to their world (not ours).
I believe in bettering myself whilst contributing to the community in which I have settled. Important as it will define my sense of assimilation within such community, hence, feeling home. I am the water, not the rock, and adapting to where I anchor my mind and heart feels paramount. Enriching the self whilst enriching others with a different culture. A two-way process in a multi-cultural world, or island. My own island where I live has been subjected to this throughout history, as it is bathing in both a sea and an ocean. Nomads in search of their own treasure island mingling, blending with natives to contribute to the fabric of a much more open society. A blessing and a powerful feeling.
My own beacon still shines very bright on top of that headland. However, I have reached others that feel equally powerful in their luminosity, hence defining and accepting in my head the notions of hame, Heim, home in an effort to avoid losing either partial or complete track of the compass. From the moment I chose to leap out and make my life an adventure, as encouraged by my grandmother (who always believed in me) I have begun to believe much more deeply this is a wonderful privilege to be able to have more than one beacon. I have felt and found myself in a couple of treacherous types of maelstrom in the past half decade, but, with the love of support of what I consider my kinsfolk, soul family, as well as all those who deeply embrace me as a human being, have helped me to flow again as I naturally do it.
Compass Head has come home, or should I rather use “returned” home yesterday, as I found my own copy in the postbox.
Funny enough, I had tidied up my main writing table the night before, when I notably found the original paper manuscript, still inside its blue plastic binder, with each piece tightly typed and protected by a plastic pocket.
What a journey it has taken, from regular wandering in between writers’ groups right from the start… Ninian’s Café in Bigton, Bowlers’ Bar in Lerwick and various private houses in between Weisdale and West Burrafirth, before we (as the Westside Writers) settled at the Whiteness & Weisdale Hall. Until last December, it was confined within the delimited coastline of the Auld Rock.
And then the digital manuscript turned a galley, as it travelled East, across tides of our shared North Sea, to Norway. It slid across that much loved latitude of 60N.
You could think of the auld Viking trails and sea routes, amazing waterways as those borrowed by the Northmen… I love this concept.
So, if we follow such line of thought, we could mention a homecoming, or, as we call it here in Shetland, a hamefarin.
25 years on… 25 years ago, my journey back north had begun. A renaissance, new lease of life, wth many dreams to fulfil, projects and ambitions that found deep & solid threads.
For the first time, stepping stones appeared before my eyes. Each one would allow me to step forward.
25 years through the kaleidoscope, with their moments of pleasure, smiles, tears, fears and hopes.
25 years on, all but few dreams fulfilled. May the next 25 help me realise a few more.
Geopoetics in motion
With Kenneth White in mind, he in Britanny and I, in Scotland, one could evoke a chassé croisé… As life wanderings take us on extraordinary journeys, only death can curtail. For it is the journey that matters (and not the destination.)
There are more adventures to be unveiled. So many archipelagos 🙂
Cheers, Slainte, Santé! …Because I believe in life before death; and I trust my angels.
The Federation of Writers (Scotland) is an organisation dedicated to making the written and spoken word available to the public of Scotland, with respect for diversity and recognition of additional support needs. Caidreachas nan Sgrìobhaiche (Alba) ’S e prìomh-amas Caidreachas nan Sgrìobhaiche (Alba) litreachas sgrìobhte is labhairte a chur mu choinneamh poball na h-Alba, a’ toirt spèis do dh’iomadachd agus feumannan-taice a bharrachd.