Rain sheets off the drystone croft’s slate roof as my breath fogs the windowpane. The blind world loses itself in hysteric gales and gusts, its reedy voice keening through stone walls and over rooftops like a bow upon a fiddle string. In the dour absence of light we measure the passing day in pints and drams, nestled in our watery holes like shivering voles. I watch birds streak across the sky in reckless parabolas, etching clovers of flight in my sun-starved eyes. The wind does not relent. Seafingers, cold as winter rain, rake across Orkney’s rolling, barren hills, aching to add men and his works to its collection of trees and light.
Then, as the Jura runs low, a line of fire burns across the belly of the sky. My dad and I knife through the elements and skid to a halt on the flagstones in the yard. A kaleidoscope of light ricochets through the rain hanging in the air. There are standing stones and burial cairns and dark age brochs across Orkney gleaming in this blast of sun. Thousands of years of Orcadian tempests have failed to undo these human birthmarks. And I think, I have been so quick to retreat inside when the fog descends and the light fades. The clouds continue spitting toward the setting sun, and my shaggy hair and clothes whip and snap like flags in the wind.