Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Hush and a Roar

   This morning we walked stones circles with friends before work.  The nights have been full of sideways sheets of rain and winds that gnaw the sides of the buildings.

 I have been trying to pretend the summer isn't over, loyally wearing a summer dress in wind and rain and eight-degree temperatures, so as not to offend August (even as she blows my umbrella inside out). 

We had to work on Saturday and so we missed our friend's last year of piping in the Lonach march.  But on Sunday night we went out into the wild weather to see his band troupe up and into a small stone church at the start of its service, so that it was overflowing with wild piping and the granite was racked with music.  And then at the end we followed them off down the hill, into the rain.

There is something a bit magical about marching through the countryside.

In the church I heard a man say it was wrong, but I love the world, and I love it dearly.  As the first crisp, shivery bits of autumn set in I find I love everything ten times more.  This evening stirring cocoa on the stove, cool crisp air came in at the window, bringing voices from the street, and from another direction a single pair of high heels ringing hollowly on the pavement, and it came back to me just how much I look forward to hearing these sounds on autumn nights.

Saturday, after working in the market all day, selling things in the chill and rain, I came home and lit the fire.  All evening I worked at my copper plates amid the crackling and popping, as if I were in an engine room at the boiling centre of everything.

     Summer and autumn are running zigzags past each other.  I noticed the other day that our calendar rather strangely and abruptly runs out of pages after August.  How funny to see it written so plainly that we are reaching out, out into uncharted waters now.  The lease is almost up as well, and there are so many decisions to make.  Time to gather acorns, I suppose.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A quick sketch in blurred photos.

   A small hello from the world beside my desk before starting on some copper plates.  The sunsets are creeping up and making it harder to catch a bit of daylight to work by.  The rooftops are emptier too, except for the occasional return of the gulls that hatched a few months ago.  These end of summer days roar by so quickly.  Yesterday we sat down on some driftwood at the seashore.  Some dolphins went leaping through the waves down the beach and back up it again, and the whole evening was gone, just like that.  Perhaps I need a little pad of paper with me so I can pin some of these moments down on the pages.  There is a stack of wood by the fireplace now, waiting for the cold nights. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

The oceans of my shoes, the rivers of my back.

   In the woods yesterday we happened to meet some builders of leafy houses, gathering ferns and sticking them into place just so.  We said hello and passed on, finding the skeletons of a few more houses further down the way, left over from other days, I guess.  We peeked into some mossy corners of the forest, where my friend had seen good mushrooms growing before.  But between the rain showers and the mad sun, we had another purpose, and it grew low to the ground, in the heathery bog up a hill. 

The darkest, sweetest wild blueberries. 

   With bellies already full of raspberries from down in the woods, we set about collecting bottles full of blueberries to bring home to husbands who had to be at work or write dissertations.  The berries were ripe, overripe, falling between our fingers to the ground sometimes when we tried to pick them.  The rain returned and we persevered, wandering off in separate directions, calling back at each other through the downpour.  When the rain finally came pelting down in a sheet we sat in a dry place beneath some trees to wait it out.

  It was possible to see all the way to the sea past Aberdeen (just there on the right).  It looked for a moment as though the sun might stay out for a while, but it was not to be.  As we walked down the path, which had become a river, the rain started up again.  By the time we were in the woods, the sky had grown so dark, that the shadows under the trees had darkened into a sort of false night.  Even though it was not cold we could see our breath in the moist air.

   We decided to go off in search of a statue that looked like a round wooden room with no roof.  On the way we encountered many mushrooms, only one of which was edible (a nice cep).  My camera was having a bit of trouble with the weather, so these photos of beautiful, but poisonous, mushrooms come from another walk in another wood, a week or so ago.  You'll have to imagine the gloom of the rain dark forest on them. 

   It was a lovely day altogether, even beyond the afternoon in the woods.  We woke early (for a Sunday) to walk down to the Aberdeen Art Fair in the city music hall (where I had a print showing) to see the work of a friend.  Then there was tea and melon in the sun, and cupcakes for dessert.  Late in the day there were bowls of fresh wild blueberries, work on tiny drawings, and another fine rainbow at the window before the evening came and the full moon rose. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

When fire and water are not opposites.

   Four of us set off westwards, having only met a short time before.  Mountains danced circles around us in the daylight, and when the evenings came on we searched for dry, even land, for trees, and sheepless places.  We hoped to sleep beside water.  One night the tiny strip of woods between the road and a loch gave us shelter and firewood and wild mushrooms for breakfast.  And water as smooth as a looking glass, until the rain came.

On our little journey we learned a lot about the moods of mountains.


It turns that on Skye you never pass the same scenery twice, and sometimes maybe you don't pass by anything at all... except clouds and fog and mist!

We turned up on the Isle of Skye on a bright blue-skied day.  Some mountains wore tiny cloud hats.  Looking up at them, I felt filled with a longing to climb up and experience the pleasure of temporarily having a tiny palace of mists and vapours to roam about in.

Though, in the end there was no need.  We sat on a hill and cooked fish on a barbecue, enjoying the sun, watching the cows a little beyond us, looking far out across the sea.  Though there had not been anything but a hint of cloud at the very edge of the world when we sat down, before the food was cooked it was clear that something had altered.

 The temperature for one thing.  Even once we had put on jackets and scarves, it was no longer warm enough to enjoy the sweet, summery picnic we had been waiting for all day. (I've been taking my breakfast with Moomins the past few days... so please permit me to say that it was a little like a Groke had passed by).

   Soon there were no more hills or mountains, only the damp grass at our feet and a world of grey and shadows.  So it happens that we passed some of the most scenic spots on the island, without getting any idea of how they look.

We made up for it in other ways though.  Eating a homemade dinner and homebaked cake that had flown with our friend all the way from Poland on the first morning of our trip.  Another night, scrambling eggs by the sea, with an audience of many sea gulls, we even spotted a whale passing by.  There was also some collecting of firewood from recent clear cuts, and then fitting it into every possible space in the overfull car, so we could sit around a fireside in the rain.  In fact, I am not sure there has ever been so much outdoor cooking under such rainy conditions.  Perhaps it was the buffalo grass vodka that flew in from Poland too?

Fires and vodka you say?  Please don't think we wrecked the place... only the flattened grass from under our tents would have indicated where we set up camp. Promise.

We became spoiled for waterfalls.  At the start of the trip we called out excitedly at each new discovery of water crashing down a cliff or mountain.  By the end of it these cries were being qualified: "oh, only a small waterfall over there". The place was just too beautiful.

And even on the way to and from the island, there were wonders.

Like the famous Eilean Donan castle, beneath which the king of the otters is said to lie buried in a coat of silver.

And inside of which we found a nest of swallows, with all the chicks sitting in a row.  We had unwittingly stumbled in on their feeding time, and scared away their mother, so they were probably a bit peeved when this photo was taken.

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the part of the journey where we wound our way past the mountains called The Five Sisters of Kintail, though I was too awestruck to take any photos.

The road home followed the long sides of Loch Ness with a special stop in at Fort Augustus to sneak onto the grounds of the old monastery there.  It's all private residences now, so we really did have sneak, past the wealthy families playing catch on the expansive and empty lawns, past the post restaurant.  My husband's school was founded by Benedictine monks that came from Fort Augustus.  The monks who taught him ate lunch every day under murals of the founding school.  So we snuck.

And then it was all over too soon, and we were home again, minds full and sparkling from days so packed with goodness, and our campfire smoky smell suddenly seeming so brash in the closed up apartment.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The spinning top takes a nap.

    Today haar came in off the sea, a thick fog that rushes in and makes everything disappear all at once.  Soon again it drifted out on the waves, the sun came out, the evening fell, then blue night caterwauled in the lanes.  Between this post and the last one I have travelled across Scotland and back twice.  There have been whales and castle gardens, hermit crabs and harpists, campfires and sitting in cold pools made by mountain streams.  My mother came over from Canada too, and we hunted in the woods and on the hills, by the sea and into the city shops for pretty things together.  And at the end of all of it, I feel still too wrapped up in travels and talk to write much of anything in this neglected little place.  Today someone asked what I am working on right now, and I had to say I wasn't sure.  But soon, soon I will have pictures to share and stories to tell, and I will catch up on yours.