November 2012

There is sound before there is sight, and then, visions. The sea makes small noises on the beach, spitting out round stones at the tide line like cherry pits sucked clean and dribbled between lips. The hollow clack-crunch of footsteps among the stones presages bodies moving toward the water. A child’s exclamations, a mother’s soft remonstrations. The damp air collapses upon noise like a fire blanket cast upon an errant flame. I am waiting for the ferry to take me across the Kilbrannan Sound, from the Isle of Arran to the Kintyre Peninsula and then on to Islay. I look, finally, to see if my ears have lied to my eyes.

A mother leads her tiny, pink daughter to the tide. They stare across the gray expanse to hills with scarves of mist. Time slows. The child is quiet…
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The Pink Arch in The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland

A thing cannot be created from nothing. The mind must be fed, must digest, and through this alchemy something new manifests in the medium: a painting, a composition, a sculpture…a story. So I have been busy adding ingredients, making a brain stew of period films like Centurion and The Eagle, listening to The Sword, reading related historical fantasy like Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun, and checking out armloads of research material from the library.

Anything to keep the flames burning.

Of course, I’m talking about the book. My book. I haven’t found a name for it yet, but perhaps I’m avoiding that in case it dies young. The idea has been gestating for nearly a year – to some, a dangerously long time to suspend in the mind, formless. It IS taking shape, though. I recently passed 52,000 words and hit 160 pages at my 25% completion mark.

I’m not sleeping well. Read more...

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Across the peacock sea where the waves lunge into the heavens like waterfowl slung toward the cirraform clouds, our skiff, the Hoy Lass, skims over the glass deeps west of the Isle of Mull, among the Treshnish Isles. The seas have risen, have cut off these tiny isles from one another, like sailors buried in sand to their necks, watching the tide roll in, though they hold hands beneath the surface. Our captain captures a floating pier, some prop from the movie Waterworld, and delivers us to the uninhabitated isle of Lunga. The names of all these islands are the jetsam of distant Vikings. The wind rocks our bridge to Lunga and I wonder what lagan awaits me.

I pick my way across sharp, volcanic rock toward the sound of mewling seal pups…
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Breabach Live at Glenfiddich Distillery

One of my favorite moments from the entire Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival was soaking in the music of Breabach inside Glenfiddich distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. The festival showcases Scottish folk music during a handful of Celtic Spirit shows throughout the festival, and when I saw that Breabach, who I had seen tear up the Shetland Folk Festival last year, was headlining one of these shows, I knew serendipity had intervened.

And I don’t get in serendipity’s way. Read more...

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Languid waves tumble into the bay of Portmahomack like drunks stumbling in the dark searching for home. A tiny restaurant stands quiet and dour behind me as I stare across the Dornoch Firth to another spar of the Tarbat Peninsula, to Dornoch in the distance. All the world’s light held in a steel-gray vice of cloud and sea. The air is heavy with the unborn ocean, ready to descend on the fishing village in a million earthly drops. And with it a kind of atmospheric delirium – this place feels aligned on the axes of epochs. The rare faces that stare from windows are adrift in the surf of time.

There is no record of Saint Colmóc ever having lived in Scotland, yet this town is named for him. History is little but a collage of pockmarked pages and splintered memories…
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