Monday, February 28, 2005

'Gift Egg' V3 Kilta - Skye
Photo courtesy of

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Gift Eggs

Like gift eggs, boulders can be given, presented to each other, it is almost our duty to reserve stones for others, like putting the first fish back, to witness second hand the freedom gained, movement by proxy, slipping away in someone else's timestream... Si had left these stones, silent and untouched, overlooking the Raasay currents, his back rooked, maybe enjoying the gifting, the curiosity of others' movements, the establishment of different rhythms and limits...

The gulls wheeling over like screaming heads, the Sound whipped up into quiffs and the chill blue of winter sun in the water... one of those days when the wind blows through the very minute construction of the body, through the chemistry of flesh, you're transparent and part of the landscape, as malleable as vapour and just as fluid, moving over the rocks like wind, sifting, drifting, merging...

The currents of other climbers move in and out of each other, their company like speeded winds clash and merge in strange brief shapes, laughter is wind, the rocks are but shapers and cleavers of movement... the Coire receives us like natural beasts, inheritors of stone, our hands touch them lightly, the whole day a clear blue flickering of light and flesh, our small bleedings gathered into the heather and washed off in the burns, to become part of the unseen river which moves through all our interstices.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Why do I climb?

'An Garradh', or 'the Copse' - the Stronachlachlar boulders
‘An Garradh’

‘She is a curious ghost following me through the boulders in the copse. I don’t see her until I gain the height and see the shadowed grass of her family’s run-rigs, the melted rubble of her shieling. It is the late spring sun which brings her out to play, to join me on the boulders. Everyone gains vision on top of a boulder, it makes you stall the moment, swathe into the current of time, opening vistas from their channel, voices echo like birds startled in the woods.

You can see for miles here. She clutches her skinny raw legs and bites her knees, soaking up the glory of her Highland home, tranquil in the sun, a lookout at the junction of these perpendicular lochs, watching the smoke of her house rise into the still air of a clear Scottish day. She is curious why I climb, what are you doing? She clutches and frowns, am I here to harm? No, of course not, I reassure. Why do you touch the rocks?

I clutch my own knees and gaze into the past, the shieling rebuilds itself like the internal magic of salt crystals, the run-rigs sprout with crops, the detail sharpens and there she is, running over the tufted grass, through the sucking sphagnum up to the boulders where her favourite spot is, where she gains reflection, where she comes to claim this land as her own. This is her view, these are her shielings. Her father will call her down, but for the moment she is queen of the rocks in this hardened place. I am a curious visitor, like a coloured bird from the woods, or a strange beetle she might poke with a snapped reed.

For a late winter afternoon, we share this small kingdom, we hear the same buzzard crying, we see the same pencil of wood-smoke rising, the loch is beaten into copper gold by the sun and all vanishes before us…’