February: I watched the sea toss boulders the size of volley balls onto the land in Rackwick. In the Hoy Kirk the force of the wind blew in the window and shattered the plaster off the wall. That night lightening pounded over the sea like continuous cannon fire. Next morning the sun shown silvery gold over the glen and by noon a full rainbow ended outside my bedroom window.
The cliffs are bare of birds. A blue mountain hare turned white for the winter finds shelter in the heather. I walk to the sea that is now calm and watch glistening waves lap onto what it left of the winter beach. A brisk wind has just a hint of balminess. Dark payne grey clouds form in the north sky and I retreat to the cottage and a warm fire. Back to my writing I watch the squall form outside my window and sip something warm.
Why do I return to Orkney?
Orkney is ever changing. One moment it is harsh and violent and the next there is lulling golden light and calm. The dark clouds and sea of the winter become Bermuda blue coves and fields of bright yellow in spring and summer. The birds and sea life disappear and reemerge with the seasons in the extreme as do boats and ferries carrying hikers, historians, musicians and all who come by design or accident to Orkney. Looking at the well-preserved ruins I wonder about the ancient people who inhabited Orkney. Did they and the Norsemen come by design or accident? How was it that a people built the exceptionally grand St. Magnus Cathedral on an island off Britannia in between the North and Atlantic Sea.
I force myself to move past the ancient history and lore and come forward to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; Napoleon’s design to conquer the north of Britain, the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow and the building of the great Churchill Barriers. And if you have ever driven the barriers at high tide you probably won’t do that again. I can’t leave off without at least mentioning the Hudson Bay Company and the American Indians who found their way to Orkney.
Stories for a lifetime
I have more questions than answers for my short time in Orkney and more than I can contemplate for the imagining of stories to be written. Andy and Emma are a joyful beginning.