Tag Archives: stravaig


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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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 Libération 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



des anges habillés bleu et noir,

avec dans leurs yeux, du courage;

l’iris riveté au soleil, avides d’amour hors des nuages, sous

les génoises, elles font un voeu.



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.



elles traversent déserts, champs et mers,

se confient aux cours d’eau, les chansons de la terre

pour retrouver enfin une once du berceau.



they fly across deserts, meadows and seas;

confide to waterways, the many earthly songs, to

find at last an ounce from home.


Je les entends venir enfin,

leurs longues plumes dans mon ciel,

s’arrêter  sur un fil de fer, entre iris et mur de pierres,

un rebord de gouttière,

la latitude de leurs ancêtres.


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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The island remains a honeypot for all kinds of visitors – sometimes I let my imagination loose at sea, and imagine lighthouse beams as magnets… Too irresistible to the intrepid one to ignore.

  Two kinds of visitors caught my eye. The first clad in clinker and rivets looked at the lerwigian sky like in defiance – yes, a dragon in the heart of our only town!

 From the Norwegian, it translated as Dragon Harald the Fairhair, back at Alexandra Wharf for a first time in a couple of years – en route to NY via the old Viking routes. Draken Harald certainly caught our attention & hearts.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl had arrived and already moored at her usual place at Victoria Pier. I would catch her the following morning just off Bressay Light with my other notable visitor, Lancashire based Landscape Photographer, Peter Laurence who followed in the footsteps of Britain’s Landscape Photography master, Faye Godwin,  who had immortalised the island in the 1980s…

A day in the field would only seal friendship, challenge the eye, as we employed a whole day well spent between the old lime kilns of Fladdabister to the edge of the rocky promontory, Grutness.

And what a day it proved to be. Armed with our respective lenses, time turned irrelevant, for our wandering in between tall grass and muddy roadsides filled our eyes with smiles.

And we wandered across tall grass and May flowers…

And pointed to the majesty of the southern edge of my homeworld.

I may spend a lifetime  capturing that power of place, the eye remains challenged as time loses sight in salt. 

With gracious thanks to Peter for a memorable day. Enjoy Compass Head inside each page. 🙂 

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that something more

That something more I felt yesterday as I wandered around the edge of my island with kindred spirits… Respite from a violent storm, Beaufort 9-12 winds had made a truce for Saturday and let winter light shine from sunrise to sunset. Arcania looked so magical in spite of the big sea that made boulders ramble from the shoormal to the shore. I felt at one with my wild world! Salt filled everything: the air, our hair, tainted lipstick on all lips… Our spirits.

If the land – from peatlands to meadows – have reached levels of water saturation, I & my fellow companions welcomed that day of light, which is so rare this January. So we stood still and admired the great earthly show that unfolded before our eyes.

Heart warmer, as that storm resumed with even more vehemence from this morning.

Here, a a peerie string of images as a token of light.

Namaste 🙂20140126-133541.jpg


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Filed under 2014, 60N, Arcania, celebration, colours, geopoetics, home, images, island, north, shore, spirit, wind, world, writing

discover ALBALAPSE

Got contacted by Alba Lapse earlier on today via Twitter. They shared a wonderful video promoting the magic of Scotland. Fell in love with their poetics, even though not the whole of Scotland is featured – but I love the spirit 🙂

Enjoy their work here: ALBALAPSE – A Timelapse Film of Scotland – ‘Proof of Concept’


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va et vient

As November unleashes its cargo of gales, here , two new pieces for your eyes – fresh from the pen, they will take you across the mighty Atlantic.

Old Guards’ Line

Inside blue boreal forest,
hidden gem,
dreams under northern lights,
coniferous silence,
in between
bogs and fens –
lone army of
so heavily mantled,
stand as giant chessmen
from Newfoundland & Labrador to
the last rocks of Alaska.


Day of The Gale

Semantics from the SW sky
ruffles feathers as
salt buds fly –
shalders, gulls,
sanderlings, purple
sandpipers on one leg
will bite the verve, dust, sleaze & lies
from this hissing storyteller.
Taste of salt plastered
on your lips.

© Nat Hall 2013

————————– Nov 2013


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coup de coeur

Fair Isle in blue e- There is a voice from Fair Isle I learnt to appreciate and love. This voice is timeless, as I am listening to her final opus, A Time to Keep. And remember all encounters. Her words and sounds flow like da tide in between the island I watch from Sumburgh Head and my hearth. And remember the very first time I actually listened to Lisa live in Lerwick at some Folk Festival. It was at The Shetland Hotel. Long time friend , Dorothy Nickerson, had invited me along. This was the start of our friendship. We later met at separate occasions, most of the time at Mary’s hoose in Lerwick, or at Wordplay. My only creative connection with Lisa dates back to 2006-7, when she approached me with the request to translate her selection of verse from Shetland dialect into French, for the purpose of the Ouessant Poetry Festival. Lisa wanted her French-speaking audience & hosts in Brittany to understand her Fair Isle & Shetland poetic scapes. She was really chuffed about that.

Today, I still listen to Lisa, and remember a gentle woman and true wordsmith. Her poetics is timeless, as well as tattooed in my heart.

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poet’s voice

Donna in her own voice


listen to the the Canadian side, in her own words, thanks to soundcloud.

Her side of the shore for you to enjoy. I still remember each line, as an earthly communion with each gentle leaping of tiny waves on the sand. Now it is recorded for posterity. Thank you, D, for such a gift 🙂Shoormal_cvr_s

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Walking on the wild side

For days on end, we learn to walk. Then we taste rubber on tarmac and we lose purpose of our feet. Too long I aimed to lace my boots and reconvene with wild peatlands.
I just did that yesterday with a friend who made me trek through a palette of earth colours. For this, I crossed the “wild haired sea” in between 9 and 10 a.m. to find the island man calls Yell.
Very few folk inhabit it, but it harbours both hearts and dreams – a plethora of hidden gems that await you on either side of fenced tarmac.

So we gathered off Ulsta Pier and headed north for a wander. Yell first looks so desolate from its west side, way past West Sandwick. A uniformed titanium sky (though still deprived from steekit mist – or summer fog) let us admire this enormous blanket of peat.

Friday belonged to the heather, cotton grass, yarrow, tormentil, as we wandered west to the sea. In this corner of wilderness, each burn (stream) meanders to a loch.
To my surprise, late violets still flourish with bog asphodel – red throated divers display all their love in a spirit of true courtship, and we watch them though our child’s eyes.
All around us, meadow pipits and skylarks sing. The odd curlew calls from afar.
As we followed the first loch’s edge, my ears are distracted by calls I had not heard for quite a while: a pair of Merlins hunt on the edge of skyline. My heart sings wild! For a moment, we paused and watched.
So many nests through hillside grass, I always dread to flush feathers… By the edge of the second loch, a gang of bonxies (great skuas) – bachelors – desalt in style, as they come to splash in numbers. They must keep feathers in pristine conditions to ensure their own survival.
And then, the gorge.
Its entrance show first sight of fence. For a minute, I thought it blocked, but my friend smile. “They try to grow trees once again,” he smiled. Young sycamore and hazelnut? Soil is lush inside the narrow carved bedrock.

So we followed the gentle stream that would lead us straight to the sea. I never cease to be amazed by the power of elements. Ice carved the whole of those islands, water erodes with time and wind, and yet we walked and hopped across that burn and imagined a gigantic glacier above! A summer breeze carries the sounds of passing birds – wrens or tirricks (arctic terns) echo against ledges of rock.
We nominate a high level rock by The Bend for a much deserved spot of lunch. The view is clearly breath taking! My last souvenir of a gorge (except for Ardèche & Verdon, which obey to a huger scale!) takes me back to Upper Provence off the hamlet of Opédette.
Strangely, my heart retraced memories of lavender & wild thyme!
We continued till dumped boulders override its magic lushness. Two hours of wild trek through peat bogs, mires and wild grass! We sat and marvelled at the sea. We shared dark chocolate and apples, caught our own breath in this ocean of silence, only distracted by the breeze, two inquisitive seals and wrens. Idyllic “now”!

Whilst I attempt to capture a wren through the lens, my friend dips his line in the sea. The tide flows in…
Yet soon we must wander back to tarmac. As we opted to walk along the South edge of the second loch, we would return by its opposite side. I must confess walking through the peatlands is hard work. My hiking pole is a true friend!
But first, as we ascended parts of the gorge, I enjoyed a Birdseye view of the place. We stepped back on stones to cross water. It feels the land Tolkien imagined for Frodo – it feels the desert from Giono’s southern alpine wonders.

Every footstep feels a little heavier as time eludes us in heather. On the approach of the second loch, I see a house, and my friend slows his pace a little more. We hopped on secluded beaches, paused for a while to catch our breath, and continued till we steeple chased that first fence.
My eyes, riveted to flowers, dare not look back. That house grows bigger as we tread through the mires (marshy patches of land) that feels like a mattress under your foot.
Tarmac’s in sight, with my friend’s car.

Above our heads, blue overrode titanium grey. We smiled at the final gate. We have made it – four hours of some wild stravaig (wandering) through a corner of remote wilderness. “By 6,” he said, “we shall be home where we can enjoy dinner!” He did not lie.
The evening flew like a skylark, and far too soon, we parted from each other at Ulsta Pier. On the way out, I caught the sunset on Yell Sound, in a true blue Simmerdim style.

This day is tattooed in my heart.

And, oh, as for my birds’ list:


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Stravaig Issue 2 is OUT!

iced haylor Stop Press: Stravaig Issue 2 is out!

Happy reading 🙂

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