Thinking back to Orkney and wondering was it just a dream? So intense. The hallucinatory light. The surging, uneasy sea. And me as this infinitesimally tiny creature scratching its surfaces and waiting – with my camera – for the magic to emerge.
Was it just a dream?
Here I am following literally in the footsteps of the Orcadian poet and writer George Mackay Brown, who walked this coastal path each day.
MacKay Brown’s daily walk in his own words:
Monday I found a boot –
Rust and salt leather.
I gave it back to the sea, to dance in.
Tuesday a spar of timber worth thirty bob.
It will be a chair, a coffin, a bed.
Wednesday a half can of Swedish spirits.
I tilted my head.
The shore was cold with mermaids and angels.
Thursday I got nothing, seaweed,
A whale bone,
Wet feet and a loud cough.
Friday I held a seaman’s skull,
Sand spilling from it
The way time is told on kirkyard stones.
Saturday a barrel of sodden oranges.
A Spanish ship
Was wrecked last month at The Kame.
Sunday, for fear of the elders,
I sit on my bum.
What’s heaven? A sea chest with a thousand gold coins.
Mackay Brown wrote (in Contemporary Poets, 1980) that his themes were ‘mainly religious (birth, love, death, resurrection, ceremonies of fishing and agriculture)’, that the verse forms he used were ‘traditional stanza forms, sonnets, ballads, vers libre, prose poems, runes, choruses, etc.’ and his sources and influences were ‘Norse sagas, Catholic rituals and ceremonies, island lore. He is buried in the distance, just around the corner from this this photograph, in Warebeth Cemetery. His poetic creed is expressed in the words on his gravestone (taken from the poem ‘A Work for Poets’): ‘Carve the runes / Then be content with silence’.