Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland | July 1, 2009
Dusk was a blanket falling over us as we gazed across the water. In the distance, a finger of land slipped away into the night and the fog. All around us shop lanterns flared in the dark like torches, while in the bay rainbow-hued fishing boats gradually turned black with the fleeing of the light. We filled our lungs with thick air, and I looked at my shadowy companions: mother, father, sister, wife. We had crossed the western highlands and passed through the monolithic Black Cuillins, a drive that forever shattered my definition of natural beauty.
Above the small bay, the convivial haunts of Bosville Terrace were discernible only by the scarlet and ochre tones yellowed by the lamp light. The faint sound of revelers from the bars and restaurants along that narrow road carried to our ears as we moved past the deserted streets and town square. In the vacuum of people slept a contented silence and safety.
At the top of the hill we came upon the Bosville Hotel and shouldered into the Merchant Bar. We shook off the night air to a din: the pressurized gasping of beer taps, cloudy glasses thudding tabletops, the occasional laugh piercing the ever-present human turbulence. The atmosphere was close but pleasurable, like a light hug or a winter quilt, with a potpourri of aged wood, brine, and spirits in the air. We pounced on a pair of beaten leather loveseats, and pints and drams soon filled our hands.
In the corner, the first few notes of a fiddle climbed to the ceiling through a forest of patrons. A session was starting. We smiled at each other over our cups. Few sounds fill my heart with such an array of elemental emotion. I slithered through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the artists at work. People danced and clapped. Fingers flickered over the bagpipes, fiddle, bodhran, guitar, and buttonbox.
Time flickered too.
Long after my parents had retired to Ben Tianavaig, I remained enthralled by the skirling, impromptu music of the sessioners. Later, out in the damp apex of night, laced with whisky and ale, my sister, wife, and I leaned against the old stone wall overlooking the bay far below. Small puffs of our breath drifted skyward like corporeal prayers. And I prayed the dawn would wait a few more hours.