I stand in grasses thick as uncombed hair and bounded by ridges laced with tiny pink and yellow flowers. There is an overpowering scent of alkaline sea and the rumble-hiss of breaking waves, but I can’t see the water. So I clamber up the embankment that once formed the wall of a 1,200-year-old Pictish fort. An empty bench, the white and cloud-gray paint chipped and peeling, crouches before the Moray Firth’s expanse. Clouds bleed into the distant blue sky, blue sea, blue hills. Black Isle, Easter Ross, the Fearn Peninsula, and Sutherland: All far away places to my eye, but as close as the shirt upon my back compared to what lies beneath my feet. For whom does this Burghead bench wait?
I can almost see a man, years beyond his wisdom, sitting on this bench and staring at that child’s scrawl of horizon-bound land. He watches dolphins and whales in the firth, carves pieces of driftwood into animals, and imagines meaning in the cloud shapes. He acknowledges the warmth of sun; the shiver of wind; the chill of rain. When the weather turns and the rain lashes into the grass with the sound of knife on steel, he doesn’t get up. How different from me. I can see he has left–or was taken. I take a photo of his bench on the ramparts of time, but I don’t sit on it. Perhaps someday.