Blue Air

by Keith Savage · 13 comments


Post image for Blue Air

Westray, Orkney Islands, Scotland | October 2, 2007

At 59° North, old Kirkwall sank into the sea behind us. Earl Sigurd’s great engine churned the blue-black ocean and bravely carried us to the fringes of the Orkney Islands. Shapinsay, Rousay, and Eday drifted past as we baked in the rare, hot sun, their masses like the upturned hulls of long lost Scandinavian demigods. The tree-less islands appeared as the pates of drowning sailors, scarcely cresting the sub-arctic waves, the archipelago itself the somber detritus of a tectonic shipwreck. This was a journey to the westerly and distant island of Westray, the final breath of our honeymoon.

The terminal at Rapness marked the border of the kingdom of gulls and hares. Here, all men were foreigners and their creations seemed to fall into disrepair with shocking quickness. Inside the passenger van we patted dry our damp skin and counted sheep as we sped down the spare road to Pierowall, a pocketful of buildings that was the closest thing to a town on the island. In the village, hanging beneath the overcast sky and wheeling like a child’s mobile, dirty sea gulls stuttered their familiar laughing calls. The van expelled its contents and the driver kindly carted us the rest of the way to our self-catered cottage overlooking the sea.

Free of our belongings, we reemerged into the maritime blue air. The heady smell of salt water accompanied us as we tromped over the grassy cliffs of Marwick Head Nature Reserve. A disappearing path led us to the northwest through hollow fields rife with rabbits and along cliff faces draped with rare nesting birds. Ragged sandstone pillars towered above the water and colossal flagstones pierced the earth at acute angles. Beneath us, the sea persistently thundered against the rocky foot of the island. As with most things, it was only a matter of time.

At the Noup Head lighthouse we stopped to catch our breath and released body heat from zippered layers. Day rotated toward evening as the sun dipped below the cloud cover and burnished the waves spread around us like the spears of an indefatigable army. Its breath become our breath, our sweat, our cooling winds.

We stood on the edge of a world in the midst of reclamation. At some point, Sarah and I clasped cold, red hands and shared more silence. Staring into that expanse, I couldn’t help but feel time was short: for us, for this little rocky island overflowing with seagulls and rabbits and lambs, for everything.

We simply breathed deep blue air, hugged each other, and started back down the rocky path arm in arm.


KenNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 7:01 AM

I love the little vignettes about Scotland most of all your posts. They are bittersweet for me in a sense yet they bring back great memories. Ah, those Scottish breakfasts, that black puddin’.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 9:59 AM

I feel the same way writing them.

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ShawnNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 6:09 AM

Hey Keith thanks for the nice writing and pictures that you post.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Thanks for coming here and reading, Shawn!

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Lauren QuinnNo Gravatar July 23, 2010 at 12:02 PM

I’m thinking you should start a series of Travel Moments, cause they’re some of my favorite posts that you do. Especially love the bit about the seagull mobile and clasping cold red hands.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 23, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Thanks Lauren. It’s funny you say that. I was thinking about packaging this kind of post with a series title but nothing really stuck. Still thinking about it. These definitely aren’t the most popular posts, but I really enjoy writing them. Glad you enjoy reading them.

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AndiNo Gravatar July 22, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Beautiful writing, didn’t want it to end!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Maybe some of the magic in its brevity. Thanks Andi.

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Ted NelsonNo Gravatar July 22, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Reading your eloquent posts makes me a better writer.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Thanks Ted, that’s a meaningful compliment.

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GrayNo Gravatar July 22, 2010 at 7:56 AM

Once again, your writing takes my breath away, Keith. There is so much gorgeous imagery here, like “In the village, hanging beneath the overcast sky and wheeling like a child’s mobile, dirty sea gulls stuttered their familiar laughing calls. ” Calling it the “the final breath” of your honeymoon just adds to that sense of importance, of needing to make these moments count before they’re gone. Great stuff.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Thanks Gray, you are exactly the type of person I write these for. And by that I mean we share similar tastes.

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