from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 29 April 2013

the wild western reaches

Driving west from Inverness lifts my heart. After Achnashellach the land becomes magical; less desolate, more treed, more rivery, and still ringed by the snow-capped mountains. I resist a strong urge to drive northwest to Shieldaig, Applecross, Torridon proper, and head for the pretty Strathcarron and the road to Skye.

Here, above, we're looking across to the straggle of cottages leading Lochcarron towards the sea where, 3 decades ago, my then-lover and I sat and watched otters playing in the dusk. 

Below we're looking back up to Strathcarron at the head of the Loch.

The name Kyle of Lochalsh has resonated in my imagination like a distant bell since I was 11 or younger. Now, here I am.

It was close by here that Gavin Maxwell lived, and wrote of his life intertwined with otters in Ring of Bright Water – a book that, with its prefacing poem by his one-time lover Kathleen Raine, was not only my favourite book but also the one that determined me to be a writer.

It was also to where my favourite – everyone's favourite – Great Uncle Arthur came, year on year, to stay and visit the islands (in the company of at least one and usually more women – he would have been in his 70s by then); they'd dubbed him locally 'MacAngwin'.

I get out of the car to look at the water and stretch my sore back; think about the road bridge to Skye which no doubt has made life easier for the islanders but of course destroys some of the romance of being on an island (rumour has it that my bridge-building father was a consultant on the works for a few weeks up here).

I go in search of takeaway coffee and something to eat. This herring gull insinuates that he'd be happy to share my lunch.


The noticeboard behind him (or her – how do you tell with herring gulls?) tells me how bottlenose dolphins have been filmed hereabouts playing 'football' with a jellyfish, and yields a few words on the marine ecosystem here:

And to my delight here on the noticeboard too is a poem by my friend and frequent co-tutor Ken Steven:

And then I'm over the bridge and away, driving up the coast of Skye 

and loving the colours in this often-bleak landscape; my fingers itch to create something; not sure what – a tapestry, a woven panel from veg-dyed wool that I stitch into the front of a jacket, as I would have done 30+ years ago; maybe a painting? And of course it's the landscape colours, and also the dyes yielded by lichen, bark and plants, that lie behind the wonderful subtle colours in such woven cloth as Harris tweed...

Here on Skye we find also, to our joy, many live music sessions; my daughter's first foray into an unpromising local pub yields one of the best British fiddlers, Ross Couper, who we went to hear in a sleepy Devon village last autumn, and who, like my daughter, is many many miles from his home of Shetland, and jamming here with several other top-class musicians, in the traditional Scottish way. Although many of them are now over at Knoydart playing a festival, the hills still send forth their musicians, and there's good craic to be had...

And since I still find myself voiceless in relation to the course I've just co-led with Sharon Blackie, 'Singing over the Bones', here's a link to one of the participants' blog about it:

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