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.
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 The blue skies of recent days have been replaced by translucent white, very high cloud.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.
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.
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.
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.
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!