Picture This: A Portrait of Orkney

by Keith Savage · 6 comments

As the north Atlantic gales descend upon the Orkney Islands, the hungry sea imbues their forms with watery caprice. A black dog bounds toward me along the lip of the grassy overhang, a clear signal that mere moments separate us from that distant, wet erasure. So I snap a portrait of the Orkney that filters into my mind on rainy days at home, where the grass flaps in the wind and the sea takes great, dragging bites from the land. Plumes of saltwater shatter against the extruded bones of the island; granule by grain, the tide feeds its appetite.

Such beautiful violence. And yet I can’t shake the image of a rottweiler killing a fawn by the river in Dunkeld, can’t help but see it, again, here in this portrait. I stand at a distance watching one thing kill another, powerless. Water separates us. But when has one shed tears over erosion? This predation will happen with or without me, and the thought provides me with a measure of calm. The dog disappears down the rocky beach, but I can see the strand between this portrait and that mewling fawn. Maybe that ghost has finally eased its chokehold.

MikeachimNo Gravatar October 21, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Please don’t tell me this pic is the Links of Noltland / Grobust on Westray. I heard erosion there was picking up, but….yeah, hope this isn’t it, because if it is, that’s a lot of the Orkney I know gone into the sea…


Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 22, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Hey Mike. It’s not. This photo was shot near the Brough of Birsay.


KenNo Gravatar October 19, 2012 at 5:21 AM

It’s early here. Couldn’t sleep thinking about leaving Wisconsin. Your post combines the beautiful violence of nature, as you say, with its less than beautiful side. The juxtaposition reminds me somehow of that old tune by Kansas, Dust in The Wind. Orkney. An amazing place! Beautiful and mysterious. Crazy windy and constantly changing weather. The standing stones, Skara Brae, the Peedee Chippee, haggis lasagna, Highland Park. But I’ve enjoyed all of the Scotland that I’ve seen so far. Your posts bring it all back. Thanks.


Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 22, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Orkney is always special. It kind of exists outside the norm.


Jade - OurOyster.comNo Gravatar October 18, 2012 at 7:16 PM

I lived in Scotland for almost 2 years, and never made it up here despite really wanting to 🙁


Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 22, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Go back, rectify!


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