Monday, 1 May 2017

Sea Crossing, Corncrake Country

 
Today really felt like the first of May when I woke up this morning. It felt new, it felt spring, it felt as if the boats of the past, those millstone memories, to mix metaphors a little, had been reduced to ashes. The night before, I had even imagined burning things from the past, that I really did not need to hold onto any more, things with painful associations. And only this morning, remembered that last night was Beltane, the night of fire and burning. In olden days when people had hearth fires which they kept going all the time, they let the fire go out on Beltane Eve, and lit a new one in the morning, May Day.

I said to a friend today that I would not, not ever, go camping in Scotland again. But I’m glad I went, I said, for going away anywhere always changes something in you, and this time, I am totally appreciating my home now that I am back here, to have a house for shelter, to have a warm bed to sleep in, to work in the garden weeding and grass cutting, and to see the little seedlings I had planted, sprouting above the earth. All this is joyous, after the cold of camping, so cold I hardly slept. But I did enjoy the bus journeys, past gorgeous lochs surrounded by mountains, and the ferry from Oban to the Isle of Colonsay.





We camped at the end of a small loch, beside a grove of willow trees, beloved of bees, off a track which was muddy in places and in others pitted with water-filled holes. By the side of the track was marshy ground and I spent a lot of time trying not to sink into the marsh mud-and-water mix. Sometimes I found paths around the boggy areas, sometimes they just had to be negotiated. Further on up the track, there is a tiny stone circle.





Downhill from there, I heard a sound which could almost have been a frog sound, and almost a cricket sound. C reckoned it was a grasshopper warbler. Further on still, a blackbird, visible on a fence post, and quite unperturbed by us walking past, made a sound like laughter, on a descending scale. Then reverted to its usual, melodious call. As it got dark there was still birdsong and the occasional flights of geese. Apart from that, silence so thick you begin to imagine you can hear the trees breathing. 





The next day we followed a path by a loch, 





then through a wooded area that skirts the big house and grounds, and on to the Kiloran Bay, a wide sweep of sand brushed smooth by the sea and winds, no shadow of a footprint. Until I clamber over the rocks and walk across the sand to the sea. Wet sand close to the sea, still with a film of water over it, reflecting rocks and clouds. Tiny little wavelets. 






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The bees hum around the hazel trees next to the tents. The catkins are coming out, all pollen dusty. The bees hum and move from one catkin clump to the next. After Kiloran Bay I walked back to the village where the ferry docks, where there is a Post Office, a petrol pump




a general store and most wondrous, the Pantry, selling coffee and a beehive cluster of dark cakes. I feel much better after that. Because of lack of sleep and resulting exhaustion, the walking has been arduous.
 

On the way to the bay we heard a corncrake, singing its saw song, its grinding notes sounding almost mechanical, like an electric saw or an engine trying to start.

After the delicious foamy cappuccino and cake, refreshed and invigorated, I stagger slowly up the hill back to the camp.

The humming of the bees sounds like approaching summer, like the tug boats pulling the huge ferry of the summer, into land. The sky’s still cloud covered but the sun wrestles with the thin places, gnaws at the edges, and shimmers them with light.

Whatever ghosts are here are mavericks, dramatists at heart, only wanting just a little admiration just some recognition of their bravery and history and dealing just as we do, with the vagaries of nature, the swampy ground, the insects and the rain. We are blessed with no rain, just the constant oozing of the peat lands, in places running over the track till you long for gravel so you can lift your eyes up scan rocks and hills and sky and keep a lookout for the sea. The clouds have broken into cotton clumps which the sun has prised apart. Rents of blue show through the seams and lightens up the bee trees, their pollen filling station.

When C gets back he gathers dried heather stems and makes a small fire. The smell of woodsmoke plumes around us in the changing wind. Night creeps closer and the birds are singing still.