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.
That bridge of sand at St Ninian knows so many prints of our feet. Human or not, we tread its length in and out, trace & retrace like sand weavers…
The other day, I took a friend after lunchtime. The sky was right, and we fancied to share our marks with sand and shells, light… Atlantic.
So we walked it, came heart to heart with waterline… Reflected with clouds in mirror – smiled at the sun & sea of jade.
And if we felt alone on this vast expanse of freedom, our journey back to the mainland was crowned with a fabulous encounter in the form of two Arctic Skuas that came to add their prints to ours. My friend spotted them first from the distance. She knew my heart would pounce, and lens would wish to immortalise them. So I approached them with caution, and deep respect.
What a moment. Eye to eye with their majesty – heart to heart with our world. Such earthly encounter.
Their tolerance allowed a couple of shots before they decided to leave the sand for a moment… At every opportunity, such meeting feels a privilege, so natural and whimsical.
I still feel grateful to my friend for pointing me out to such moment.
And as we continued to imprint that fabulous sand bar, other wings on passage ennobled our afternoon, in the form of our swallows of the sea, locally known as tirricks, or Arctic Terns, those phenomenal travellers that come to grace our skies every summer.
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