The wind hisses as it passes through the tall beach grasses. A golden bracelet of sand rises from the sea as the tides recede. This narrow ayre connects the claw that is mainland Shetland to St. Ninian’s Isle, a blot of land named after that enigmatic papar. Across the expanse a ramshackle 12th-century chapel moulders in its secrets: caches of ancient silver, neolithic graves. Visitors cross the divide in pairs, plodding to the deserted isle in silent pilgrimage. Two tiny, black specks against the gold.
We can only cross from what is to what will be when the time is right. The sea must pull back, the stars align, the moon rise. Our impatient tempers cannot force the issue without unwanted consequences. Perhaps St. Ninian knew this, cut off from the world, as he was, for the better part of each day. On this sunny afternoon I stumbled and combed my way across the sandy umbilical, searching for its sea glass bones. And I sat with my back against the grasses watching the sea cut the world away.