Thursday, 22 September 2011
The Other Side
Before the nights settle in and overwhelm the days, and before summer seems almost too distant to be plausible, I thought I should finally post some more photos taken on my wanderings of a few months ago, when my mother visited from Canada and we set off down the walk, through the lanes and then down the many roads that wound us west.
If I'm honest, I'll admit that it seemed for a while that we could sum up our trip quite easily:
There were days of bare feet on the dashboard, mountains looming high on all sides, the road winding and worsening, becoming potholed, single-track dirt paths that clung to the sides of mountains, with any oncoming traffic initiating a sometimes precarious dance of backing into passing places and customary polite waves and nods.
And the landscape gave up its treasures, the wrecks of castles scattered about on lonely vantage points.
Sometimes they didn't emerge fully from their surroundings, and the forests wrapped themselves about them tightly.
Other times they were too exposed, and the wind and the years devoured them slowly.
There were lighthouses that dreamt of mosques, and stood on the shores watching ceaselessly for things that might wash up beside them, carried over the waves to them from faraway lands.
And sometimes those waves opened up into a great network of roads for us; some days we went from island to island on little quests we had set for ourselves.
On a calm day we landed on Staffa to visit Fingal's cave. We crept inside to hear the echos that inspired a seasick Mendelssohn, but the ocean was too still, and we heard instead only the approaching voices of others coming to explore the cave. So we went off to take pictures of our shoes on the hexagon-shaped rocks that make up the island, and explore.
Sitting by the edge of a cliff we had a visit from a group of puffins, and a group of midges, both of which hovered around our ankles, keeping close company.
The odd doddering gait of puffins, and their close, uninhibited carry on made me feel as if I had stumbled into a sort of fable full of gentlemanly animals that spoke politely and kept appointments for afternoon tea.
A minke whale swam alongside us as we left Staffa and the clear, turquoise waters turned a cold, opaque blue. We landed on Iona and wandered in a fog.
We slipped into the cloisters of Columba's church after closing time and then haunted the cathedral for a while before heading out into the cold, wet centre of the thick cloud that was sat on the island.
Other days we traded in our sea legs and we moved along the outlines of the mountains, though our eyes still floated across the formless seas.
We happened upon a few hidden pockets of paradise, waded in the shallow pools made by the many waterfalls that cascaded down from the mountains, their waters stopping to sit for a while in the shade of the trees before rushing over a cliff edge and falling straight down down down.
We ate mussels every night in little harbour towns where tiny fishing boats rolled and pulled at their anchors, or sat still and stuck when the tide was out and the harbour was transformed into an almost-empty bucket of sand.
And, always, there was more road ahead.
Somehow, I am not the best at keeping a holiday moving along from destination to exciting destination following opening hours and itineraries. The details that seem important are not normally written on maps.
And so we wandered graveyards and found glass tubes of angels outside of must-see castles that we did not see...
...we stopped and smelt the flowers leaning out of the closed-up gardens and then we tripped off down another lane, and another, until we were far away, far away like a September's night.