Blocks of basalt and red sandstone shift beneath my tentative steps, call out in hollow clacks and stony clattering to the levitating gulls overhead. Every day the salty North Sea swallows this stretch of beach on the edge of Orkney’s mainland. When the tide goes out, there are new stones and missing ones. I see chipped bones, the insides of a planetary gullet, jewels. The ruins in the distance grow dark beneath trailing veils of rain from the Orcadian squall that roils the sky in draconic splendor. Feeble light glints off water in the air and gives this lone moment a dreamlike quality. How did I get here?
Orkney jars one off the rails of time. It is a nexus point, a confluence of eras that cuts across what has come before rather than lays them end to end. How different would this vista have looked to the Norse or the Picts or the Neolithic peoples? There is something in its elemental simplicity that screams continuity at me. The squall writhes across the horizon and the sea inches over these ancient, tumbled slabs. The dark will soon follow. Not everything changes. I’m bothered by the comfort that thought brings me.