Bright light, white light and pre-Solstice glowing

June: summer Solstice is almost upon us and all the land is glowing. Warmth and light, at last, have bathed us all in magic, and while cool winds still catch the unwary, in sheltered places the joyous, delicious scent of growth and life is all around.

Night is banished under the ‘simmer dim’; yet before the mercurial miasma quietens us, and after the sun has gently slipped beyond the Hebrides, everything glows deeply, richly and gloriously, as if all the world were crowned with holy flame. Everything is brushed with cochineal and crimson. White walled cottages blush. Mountains shed their rock hard veneer and majesty becoming pincushion soft in rosy, shiny corals, reds and salmon pinks, their uppermost cragginess tipped with royal purples and gold. Green fields radiate and gleam and pink sheep pather between titian clumps of heather. It lasts for quite a while, this roaring rush of blood to the world, until colours fade, airs gently and deeply sigh, and the ‘dim’ begins.

Over the croft garden hedges the land is bathed in warm red light and mountains are softened in pink and purple as the sun sets

Over the croft garden hedges the land is bathed in warm peach light 

Mountains seem less forbidding when clothed in salmon pink, cochineal and ruby red

Mountains seem less forbidding when clothed in salmon pink, cochineal and ruby red

Today, morning light is eye-squintingly bright. The blue skies of recent days have been replaced by translucent white, very high cloud. To the east the great mountains brood once more, as if painted thoroughly in Payne’s grey. And in the west, the sea is a quicksilver mirror of flashing and glimmering, of illusion and hallucination, horizonless, interfusing with moisture laden atmospheres into one formless, yet motile being whose heart is beating and whose body is pulsing with energy. I am drawn to it, this silver sea, like a moth to a flame, or iron to magnet. From the croft it looks limitless, reaching to the sky, the stars and beyond.

The sea and sky are bright, pale and seemingly as one; there are no waves, juts gentle pulsing and movement across the surface water

The sea and sky are bright, pale and seemingly as one; there are no waves, just gentle pulsing and rippling across the surface water

So I walk to the shore seeking edges: of waters, of motion, and the reassuring solidity of land meeting sea. Although it seems changed in this strange white light, I know this place; where sands are churned, birds rush hither and thither and ocean waters break into song with every wave. It is still there, the shore, just as the sandpipers, ringed plovers, oyster catchers, gulls and bonxies are there. Is it only me that is unnerved by the disappearance of marine form and atmospheric substance? I hear the waves, they are gentle in this non-wind, but the silver mirror before me does not look like the sea. It is almost motionless. And the birds are quiet; all gathered along the beach, yes, but heads are tucked, bodies are still, predator stands alongside prey.

 

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One gentle wave begins to grow, a sign of the turning tide

Around them orange sands glow with otherworldliness. Sounds are not muffled as in thick city fogs, but the ocean is breathing gently, sighing, whispering, murmuring. It is a day of calm, to be savoured surely, in this land of wind and storm.

I see now that the waters are multi-coloured; silver satin, polished ivory, pewter and gunmetal, aluminium and quicksilver. And all the while glowing brightly. My glasses go quite dark in response and my eyes still squint.

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Waters are of molten quicksilver and brightly and gently pulse

There is no land fog; there is no haar;  the sea stretches away from me but there is no horizon, no limit. I look up to a silver satin sky; back to the sea-become-sky. I know the sand is beneath my feet, I know the mountains are at my back, I know the islands are yonder, yet this day of merging feels supernatural, a transitional, dissonant space, where you begin to wonder where self begins and sea ends. Today, this is an ‘edgeland’, an ‘elsewhere’, a place of magic and change, metamorphosis and transfiguration.  A solstice-in-waiting.

Later, as the tide turns, the waves slowly waken and grow though they are still made of flowing mercury, and yet, as they break across the sand and then retreat, they scatter like shrouds of filigreed froth or star-studded fishermen’s netting.

And then the skylarks rise to call and greet the breeze, the snoozing shore birds are roused and in confusion rush about crossly, as if caught guiltily in mid-crime.  The wind rises and across the sea the Hebrides hove into view like ships finally reaching safety in coastal waters after a long and perilous ocean crossing.

The Hebrides reappear, and my footsteps re-emerge from the 'edgelines' and 'elsewher'e of this mercurial morning

The Hebrides reappear, and my footsteps re-emerge from the ‘edgelines’ and ‘elsewhere’ of this mercurial morning

I, too, waken, shake my head and turn to home. As I leave the shore trail and walk steadily up the cliff a pale sun emerges, its shape diffuse, almost formless, diluted by high heavenly moistures, trillions of tiny water droplets like mirrors reflecting white lemon light. Away from the sea, now, whispery breezes almost fail and, as I approach the little woodland at the edge of the croft, I see another mist. Ah, they have come! This trick of light is not derived from atmosphere. The midges are here!

 

 

About Annie O'Garra Worsley

Hello there. I'm a mother, grandmother, writer, crofter & Professor of Physical Geography specialising in ‘environmental change'. I live on a smallholding known as a 'croft'. The croft is close to the sea and surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the NW Highlands. I was a fulltime mother, then a full-time academic living and working in north-west England. In 2013 we decided to try and live a smaller, simpler, wilder life in the remote mountain and coastal landscapes of Wester Ross. When I was a young researcher, I spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea living with indigenous communities there. They taught me about the interconnectedness and sacredness of the living world. After having my four children I worked in universities continuing my research and teaching students about environments, landform processes and landscape change. Eventually, after 12 years, I moved away from the rigours of scientific writing, rediscovered my wilder self and turned to nature non-fiction writing. My work has been published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I have essays in several editions of the highly acclaimed journal ‘Elementum’, each one partnered with artworks by contemporary artists. I also still work with former colleagues and publish in peer-reviewed academic journals. I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place which will be published by Harper Collins.
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3 Responses to Bright light, white light and pre-Solstice glowing

  1. Excellent, and a great ending. I’m sure that one years’ worth of these, spanning the four seasons, will be highly book-worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful beautiful beautiful! That light really is special 🙂 cannot wait to be up there again next week! Digging out my crimson and Paynes grey!

    Like

  3. peatyjen says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. Your best yet, I think. So many ways of describing the colours of an experience. I could sense the peace.

    Like

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