03 May Watching
Weather watching absorbs you here on the Atlantic edge. Weather is big. Dramatic. Can be fickle too. Mornings feign to announce a succession of pure, clear, sunlit days to follow. Stolen away in the night. Come the new morning, a hesitant reveal, landscape fused with mists and memories.
Watching for breaks in the cloud. It lingers, damp and uneventful. Outside, it clings like a soggy scarf around my neck and shoulders.
Rain. The really wet kind. People laugh but it’s true that rain comes in varying degrees of wetness. This rain doesn’t bounce off; just soaks in, in no time.
Yesterday was fine, all light and shade. Clouds on the move. Me too. Climbed Armadale Hill to gaze in all directions – Cuillin ridges, tips of islands, mainland mountains and coastal inlets. A little cruise ship at the pier, red funnel, red flag.
Thinking back. Last week on tiny, lovely Muck I spent a lot of time watching. Watching nature watching other forms of itself.
Gallanach Bay one morning. Gulls at their daily rituals: feeding along the shore; floating on gentle waves; strident swooping effortlessly over shallows; a dozen or so standing still and silent on the sand, come together to face in the same direction, westwards, as if paying respects to some gull divinity. Worshipful.
Below them nearer the water’s edge, forty or more oystercatchers honour the same deity out there in the west. Standing in lines, neat rows stacked like children at school assembly, white shirts showing above black blazers. But no solemn silence among the chatterboxes of the bird world. Endless jabbering. About what?
Scattered across the field above the shore, sheep great with lambs. The still-pregnant separated from their post-partum sisters. Four cock pheasants strut their stuff. Like they own the place. Pheasants have attitude. Posh tails held at an alluring angle. Tail heavy. Squawking and eyeing one another. Swaggering, showing off. Such and act. Suddenly they scarper at the sound of a distant tractor – scaredy-pants. The sheep pay them no attention – seen it all before. Not even alluring tail feathers will detain them from their day’s work. Munching.
Isleornsay, Skye. In the kitchen of the rented cottage. A rabbit hops across the sloping bank below the woods at the back of the house. White button tail. Brown saucer eyes. Alert. Watchful. Fidgeting. Full of fear. Doesn’t tarry.
Three ducks smuggle themselves out of the undergrowth higher up on the bank. Promenade across the short grass to the corner of the house to look at something I can’t see. Ganders having a gander, heads high, beaks thrust out, shimmering emerald green meets ripe banana yellow.
In the sitting room watching the light change on each indrawn breath. Tide ebbing, its copper-bronze leavings of seaweed on the rocky shore. Sand like putty sucks up shrinking sea. Low cloud smudges yesterday’s hills. The land lies still and sorrowful. Are these sorrows to be stolen away again in the coming night?