Picture This: The Old Man of Hoy

by Keith Savage · 2 comments


The young northern sun claims blinding bodies on the chop and roil of the Pentland Firth. The ferry beneath me churns Thurso into memory as we ply north toward Orkney’s magnetic archipelago. In the air hangs the haze of yestermorrow, like opiate smoke climbing from the sea, bending time into a circle. Our laden vessel scuds toward land in the distance, decks and berths rocking, perceptions unbalanced. Another of those moments of displacement, déjà vu, and dissociation glowing in my consciousness like a light bulb’s wolfram filament. Like I’ve experienced this in some half-remembered age.

A seastack detaches itself from the mass of a deserted island. The Old Man of Hoy is red sandstone on basalt and cloud-like in its ability to take on different visages to different viewers. I am staring at a snowflake in hand, its geological life that of a mayfly. Other selves I have been would dwell on this eventual demise, but I am now circling back to an appreciation of this window, that the privilege of the moment might, for once, overcome the dismay of the inevitable. The Old Man is disappearing into memory as Stromness steams toward me, but memory is like a basement overstuffed and disorganized. You can’t always find the things you seek, but they’re there, waiting and infinite.


KenNo Gravatar January 24, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Wow. Very poetic, spiritual perhaps. I remember seeing the old guy and thinking weather, geology, erosive forces. I like your view better. Now I think of Orkney and the ever present wind, and of the Peedee Chippie and Haggis Lasagna. There was something otherworldly about Orkney. What an amazing place.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 26, 2013 at 12:42 AM

One of my favorites in Scotland. As for perception, well, it is just an inconsequential frame for what can never be conveyed.

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