Interlude: A wooden seat at the edge of the world

I am sitting on a wooden plank. My seat is perched at the edge of a small cliff which overlooks croft fields. The steep, wooded cliff is an ancient river terrace, so I am sitting among the tree tops and I can look down to the Red River. The plank is held fast by some large grey stones and a sturdy red branch of an old Scots pine but I feel like I am at the edge of the world.

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I am looking out at the boundaries of the fields where they meet the sea. From high up the meadows appear crumpled, rucked up by the Red River’s meanders and little waterfalls as they run to the west.

Around me, in this far-flung and most marginal of places, the land is folded, wrapped, crinkled and torn. Mountain geology appears to cavort and twirl in palaeo-gyrations, thrusting and hanging in brooding highs and dark lows.

This is a formidable edge-land and my eyrie overlooks it all. I am sheltered by furze and birch, ash and pine in a treetop hidey-hole where breeze and birdsong flit from branch to branch. It is a good place to sit.

I see the sea, white topped waves and all. Beyond the gallivanting waters the horizon seems fingertip-close and the north-dipping slopes of the Trotternish are crisp and blue. Tiny skerries dip in and out of view on the edges of vision: transubstantial, glowing now and then in gold and pearl and bright amongst the turquoise sea and azure sky.

My seat is at the rim of the world. For a while today this is my world view and thoughts dash about, leaping from one place to another, like a salmon soaring upstream, though without their determination and direction. More like the first few autumn leaves: skittering about then flying in the breeze.

Now it is raining, the autumn sun banished. My precipitous high seat is enveloped in mists that have suddenly rolled in from the sea, quietly singing and soaking everything. Caught unawares, this edge-land has become a cloud moving across the world, stealing shadows, forms and sounds as it goes.

There are no boundaries now. I rub my eyes to clear drops of water from my lashes. Where have the fields and folds gone, the ditches and fences. Where is the river? Or the waterfalls? The sea is no more. My horizon-view has dribbled away like a watercolour painting whose colours slide and fade with too much water and too little skill.

Is there anything really here at the margins of the world? No. The sea just flows over an edge, or so I’ve read somewhere.

Higher, a brightness is growing. I feel like I’m flying now towards the sun; below me is mist. I hear the tree branches creaking and I grip my edge-bench as it seems to move, with a deep beating pulse. Pale shapes come and go, wraithlike. I hear a gentle snorting: one of the ponies in the field below perhaps.

Birdsong once again illuminates the trees like fairy lights. A gentle breeze is ruffling leaves. The trees exclaim to the river and its waterfalls, who reply in unison. They all call to the sea and the sea sings back. The air is stirring, full of music again. Borders and boundaries appear. Sunshine cleaves the mist and rain. A rainbow arches across the river like a bridge of magic from one world to another. Clouds flow uphill chased by the flurrying wind, away from the sea.

In the sun I see the field margins greet the sea again. From high up the river meanders and little waterfalls appear to dance, spreading out in flood-braids across the crumpled, rucked up meadows as they run to the west. The sea returns to gallivant between distant skerries and the surfaces of this world-rim are washed once more in gold and pearl.

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Perhaps the sea does flow over the edge, like some believe. The world cannot be round or there would be no lines to cross.

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About Annie O'G Worsley

I'm a mum of four, gran, writer, crofter & Professor of 'Environmental Change'. I now live on a small farm (known as a croft) by the sea in a place surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the Scottish NW Highlands. I was a full-time academic, a geographer, but I decided to go feral and follow my dream of living a smaller, simpler, wilder life. I have always loved wild places. As a child I was inspired by tales of Trader Horn (my great-great-great uncle Alfred Aloysius Smith) told to me by my mother. Trader Horn spent his life wandering, mostly in Africa. I too, love stravaiging (Gaelic for wandering) and spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a young researcher, living with tribes there. Although I spent years researching and teaching university students about environments, processes and habitats, I am discovering much, much more exploring the wilds around me. In moving away from scientific writing, I have rediscovered my wilder self and have a much deeper, truer understanding of nature than I ever had before. My work is published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place. I continue to write academic papers with my research colleagues but I am developing new skills including landscape photography and painting. And of course, I still love to wander.
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