Saturday, 9 March 2013

Day Between Days...

Six pieces. Grains of sand and salt crusted in the smooth grooves and crevices.

Found in the slush and mush of a seaweed tideline on a sloped beach of grey pebbles and shining silver sand, where oystercatchers divebombed black backed gulls and the sun crackled on the surface of the water - and we couldn't help but turn to it and close our eyes.

We got there by mud-sucking path that was drenched and saturated after days of rain, past curious scraggy cows with long highland horns, clumps of muck clinging to their bellies, past gorse that smelled of coconut if you crushed it in your palms.

It was a day between days, a day of casting off clothes, of cares; for gazing in happy awe at rock pipits courting in the crevices of the cliff face, at the winter-starved pipistrelle venturing from his sleepy hollow to catch a snack in the sun, at the flash of  a redshank's legs.

Driftwood. Drift. Drifting..

One piece is long, round and smooth like a relay runner's baton, another is broad and rectangular, worked and worked by the sea until it is all but hollow. A third is long hard and spiralled, as if someone has taken each end and twisted and twisted.

They smell of wet sand and sea and seaside air and, fleetingly, of woodsmoke, and I collect them and add them to the pebbles, shells and stones in the rucksack.

Around the cottage we have eagles and otters, shiny, chunky rocks and water, water everywhere.

There is a stove with a creel hauled above it where we dry the tea-towels; there's a supply of too-damp logs, a torn, raggedy patchwork quilt on the lumpy bed, a bath with a spider in it and chairs that sag and tip you out.

Our home squats on a peninsula and we wander from window to window constantly - spotting birds, watching the snowline drift on the mountains - and at night we watch the flashes from distant lighthouses. By day we have it to ourselves and at night it is blacker than black outside and we hunker down.

Today the hills across the Sound of Mull are dripping with grey, heavy, slung-low cloud and on this side of the cottage - the sea side - the wind whips the water and every ripple is an otter's slick back or shiny snout or a porpoise fin. Light flinking and flashing, playing tricks on the eyes.

On the loch-side of the cottage, in the little harbour near the front door, the water is millpond calm and in each passing moment, the tide slides away exposing oily, pulpy seaweed.

It's sheltered from the wind here and the long grasses springing from the deep muddy prints left by Highland cows are russet brown and dipping gently, heavy with raindrops...although the rain stopped long ago.

I brought you here once.

 I don't know what you made of it. We sat together on the rocks on a beaming blue day and watched porpoise, scores and scores of them, rolling and rolling in the blue. The sea glittered.

Then we had a snack of yoghurt, bananas and juice on a rug at the foot of Ben More and we rode on the Mull Little Railway. You chuckled as it clattered on the tracks, as if you couldn't believe your luck.

It is one of my happiest memories. That special week, all of us together....

Time moves differently here, more slowly.

Or perhaps we just notice more, second by second.

On the little pier near the cottage, the sea sucks, gloops and slurps.

Black-headed gulls hunt one last time before flying to roost. They lift on a bank of air, hover, spot something beneath the surface - and dip, settling briefly, before they paddle, paddle, paddle, feet pattering on the water, and up again.

A curlew lifts and makes his lonely, rippling call and a grey heron stalks the shallows. And as day turns to dusk the wind finally finds us and brings with it icy rain.

Driftwood. Found on one of the days between days, between the day you died and the day you were born.

A week of anniversaries this. Lifted, lifted by the soar of golden eagles in Glen More, by the otters and their rings of bright water, by the mother and cub swirling and twirling together near the shoreline - the little one swimming for the beach and leaping and bounding as if for the simple joy of living.

By the white-tailed sea eagle languidly coasting low over grey waters; by the bright eyes of fallow deer; by sheep-infested seashores.

By oysters collected on a desolate, deserted beach; by a hen harrier dipping and looping, pausing and swooping over hillocks and heather-strewn wilderness.

By wild winds, driving snow, bitter cold and, on that one day, by a gift of spring.

A week of anniversaries, of  memories of birth and death, of days before and days before that . Of a whole life lived and then lost.

And here, on our island sanctuary, the wind strengthens, the rain is hard against the window. A log drops down in the fire and the sea is a constant gentle roar.

And it is so very peaceful.



  1. That was truly lovely Nicola. Thinking of you and Thomas at this time of year. xxxx

  2. A heartfelt write-up you have here...and it's very touching..and beautiful. Thanks for sharing Thomas {and your memories} with us all.