Orkney, Mainland

We have much to learn from the sea … it’s timeless persistence, its petulant disfavour, its soothing sighs and distracting calm … It’s in my breath and the beat of my heart – sometimes, there is no difference between us.

I wake early, sit by the window and watch the sun rise over the harbour. On a good day the clouds, wind and sea produce a symphony of colour, reflection and light – this is a good day. The small fishing vessel chugs slowly into view and I’m transported back to Makara, the Osprey heading out around the point for a days fishing. Here, on the other side of the world, on a different island the fishermen still curse the westerly winds and scan the red dawn sky hoping this week’s catch will sustain the family.

There is promise in this perfect morning. I shall walk and climb and comb beaches today. I’ll have the sea always in sight, be able to hear it breathing, taste it on my lips and smell its saltness.

Orkney has its own unique way of reminding me that we emerged from the water that sloshes around and under this planet …that we are about sixty percent water, and that it cycles through us over millennia, over mountains and rain forests … the synergy between sky and earth. And that’s where we lie, between Ranginui and Papatūānuku .

I’m walking Orkney Mainland and taking a shortcut along the edge of a field. It’s been raining on and off all day as I follow the coast … sometimes along beaches, sometimes along cliffs with sheer drops to jagged rocks many metres below.

The island is like a sponge, soaking up the rain, but eventually, saturation is reached, and the pores of the land become bloated. As I cross the boggy field I sink deeper into grassy slush with each footfall. I pull hard to lift my foot … this land seems reluctant to release me, threatening to suck me down to the Neolithic age where ancient pottery lies waiting for storms to offer it back to the descendants of those who made it. But finally, with a watery squelch, I win my foot back. I assess my next move, resigned to playing this game of hide and seek with the boggy field.

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