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.
With the Vernal Equinox, that sense of joy and revival, as Mother Earth awakes and grows deep in her bounty and belly, comes an invitation to create, celebrate, as today, Wednesday 21st of the third month, was chosen as our World Poetry Day.
The chance to reconnect with ourselves as Mother Earth’s children, and allow creativity to flow like sap inside our souls.
It is exactly what happened this morning during Period 3 in the classroom with Fourth Year pupils who wished to practise their own creative writing skills through poetry.
They asked me for the first theme, whilst they picked the second.
They sat down inside our world, and, with a few words of guidance, began to write their poetics. Not only happy to hint them into using their own senses, they asked me, the poet, to write my own.
It drips and clops like
a metronome against time,
Clop, clop, clop, clop…
that sense of Spring past Equinox, as they lash into their
cold water unleashed from clouds;
aborted, unborn icicles,
unwanted so late inside March.
I hear them crash against windows, on every corner of
meadows, and feel them
drop inside the
warmth of my collar, as
morning vanishes in
There isn’t a pebble in sight,
polished by angry tides,
riptides and rollers
rolled in wrath
a jealous moon pulled & twisted.
But there are prints from
our own past,
hundred of footprints in white sand
a gale will blow, obliterate through
hands of time, like
a school slate wiped by a child,
timetables & mathematics in
an attempt to unwind
Now your turn to be creative and celebrate the spoken word on this fine day! 🙂
The tidal loch remains frozen at Wadbister on New Year’s Day, and it may well stay in this state for a while…
Wadbister is the place where I buried 2017 with good friends & two of their neighbours. I woke up this late morning and breakfasted with my hosts, Sharon and Andy, looking at a brand new sky. Blue, serene, by a garden and bay that homes a wonderful wildlife. If I missed the otter, I was blessed with my first avian visitors – starling, blackbird, sparrow and robin – when an unusual visitor (to our latitude here anyway!) graced the garden, a great tit. What a grand start to the primal day of the year!
By the time I left my friends’ home, a West wind was recolouring the heavens, as light rain showers began to christen the land…
A year of contrasts – a tale of two halves, with its kaleidoscope of emotions – that took my heart across headlands, bays, the English Channel and the North Sea.
A creative year, as it has anchored my pen into this second collection of poetry in the making… Writing on both sides of the North Sea, with a fabulous return to West Norwegian shores last September.
And our descent to Yule marked by the shifting of our AHS to its new 21st building at Lochside, which proved an extraordinary exercise.
Yet October was graced by extraordinary moments, reunions and meetings that began to pave my way into 2018. For this, I feel humble, blessed and grateful to 2017.
Christie Williamson and Hazel Frew, see you both in your great Celtic town in April!
November also graced by new humane and creative connections thanks to friend and poetess Choman Hardi, who made me discover Barbara Cumbers, a kindred spirit based in London, and regular visitor to Shetland. Magic slices of life shared since, including two readings at the Book Fest and in Scalloway.
December crowned by many smiles
The joy of reaching Yule marked with many delights – a poet’s working blurb published in Shetland Life, a poem inside the Yule Issue of the New Shetlander.
The island clad by sun and snow on the eve of a well deserved break.
A peaceful end to a year that felt a real roller coaster, and as the twelfth month was about to draw to an end, a brand new project now at my writer’s table in the translation of a manuscript. Wonderful challenge and task that began on the Eve of Hogmanay.
Thank you, 2017, for your joys and tears, harvest of adventures, new friends across headlands and seas.
Today, on the primal day of the year, there burns a fire in my heart, like a beacon for the twelve months ahead.
Hello, 2018. Let me welcome you with fresh eyes, a shameless smile, heart filled with hopes.
The road ahead feels both very exciting and promising.
A very happy new year to you all, wherever you walk on this amazing planet. May 2018 grant you good health and happiness.
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.
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.
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.
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 Headdirectly 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…
From now on, dear reader, you can now reach out toCompass 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 ONthe LINKs!
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.