Every evening waves sever the Brough of Birsay from the Orkney mainland. The moon’s black wolves swirl over tumbled stones and the seaweed-lined concrete causeway, which reminds me of a plane’s emergency floor lighting. The wise check when high tide arrives; the foolhardy make the trek based on the non-committal words of the attendant running the turquoise food van here on the edge of the world. I inch across the slippery causeway, eyes glued to the pocked cement, lest I slip into a tide pool and break upon the cold rocks. Evening approaches fast and I pray that I’m not forced to spend a freezing night alone upon the bones of long-dead civilizations.
The remains of the Picts and the Norse lay upon the Brough of Birsay, buried beneath the salt-sprayed sward like fingerprints lost beneath the dust of accumulated centuries. This tidal island is the perfect defensible position, and, indeed, fortress after fortress appears to have been built here. For what? Simply to withstand long seasons of bitter enmity amongst brothers? Or to protect something of great significance, something Promethean? I amble among the stone outlines of buildings with an eye toward the green stripe, worried my umbilical cord back from this strange and otherworldly place might disappear beneath the black water. But then answers always lie on the other side.