Face first in this stone-strewn sand somewhere under the western arm of Shetland’s mainland, my perspective shifts to that of a cockle shell as the world magnifies again and again. Seawater so cold it hardly bothers to fall on the beach shushes away just as we’re about to make a cold embrace. Weak light filters through low clouds, color-blinding everything. Where people are absent there is a silence that pulls at my guts and sends shivers skittering up my spine.
Away from Lerwick, so much of Shetland is draining of people. Hard times, lack of infrastructure, and a void of opportunities are sending the people away from the hills and into the city or off the islands completely. Here, on Sand Beach, my only companions are loner sheep and the ever-present cry of the wind. Life can continue here, but it will need to be compromised, austere, and self-sustaining. Is that even possible any longer in our world of networks, specialization, and skills lost in the passing generations?