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‘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…’

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