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Blether One, May, 2020
~Power, Humility and Grace~
It’s 1996. I’m holding keys to the early Scottish Colourists Stanley Cursiter’s Ancestral cottage on a street where streets are sea water in Stromness, Orkney. I’ve been gifted a few weeks here by one of his Descendants. It is a true gift to stay in such an inspiring art gallery of a home and feel the impact of his art in my body cells and blood veins taking me deeper into exploring ancient living lands, stories and writing.
One such exploration is on the Island of Hoy.
Taking the ferry where two seas meet in swell to Orkney from Scotland, l first see land again through mist, Hoy. High time-carved cliffs emerge through slow haze; land so old l can imagine dinosaurs coming into view. I know in my bones l must go to Hoy.
It’s just after midsummer, the daylight is the longest l’ve known being so far North, only a fraction of dark at night. I’m landing on Hoy from a much smaller ferryboat. Not many people, but still l want to walk off-track and saunter over the higher cliffs; be as close as possible to the ancient cliffs l saw when first arriving. I feel my heart racing with anticipation as l walk up hill. As l near the cliff top not yet seeing views across the sea, l feel a presence…a big bird flies towards me from behind, silent wings swooping above my head. I find myself ducking my head down in surprise as my heart misses a beat as l carry on my way. Another big bird swoops down this time from before me and l watch it coming closer. It swoops just above my head again before lifting, Then another. I see a nest on the ground with eggs. Whichever way l walk is another nest. Another Great Skua takes a dive at me, lifting her/himself just above my head. Oh, l realize l have wandered into the Great Skua’s nesting ground; l’m in the wrong place. l learn there are places humans don’t go….and what do l do now that l’m in the wrong place.
Indeed, l’m now in the middle of the wrong place. Whichever way l go l’m going to meet another nest, and do; and meet another Great Skua, l do. Realizing l’m in their territory l decide to turn and face each one as they descend towards me. I look them in the eyes speaking my deep apology, acknowledging them. It’s extraordinary to look these fierce creatures in the eyes, gazing fully into one another. As they come closer, l place my hands together like a prayer and bow my head to them in deep apology. Each time they descend, they also rise from just above my head without harming me at all. Believe me, the fierce power in these ones as they defend their nest is so great that it feels they could choose otherwise if they wanted. It is fair to say they ‘had me’.
It is impossible to say how long this goes on for, first hearing silent sounds of gliding wings, a kind of felt sensed attunement in my body, a way of knowing which direction the bird is coming from. Each time becomes more a gift of humility and grace, as if something happens between us like a wonder and celebration as l gaze on the magnificence of these ones: solid, a flash of white-strip feathered wide wing span, gaze of piercing focus eyes; a hook beak. I realize yet again that humans are not the only ones who know deep intimacy as l feel the depth of intimacy in these birds and between us, as if they too are experiencing awareness of something in me; a presence of fierce intimacy and love force in life.
These ones still live in me. They continue to guide me when l slow down enough to watch where l place my feet; when l remember l’m walking on Holy ground, which is all life, a prayer with the ‘more-than-human’ world.