“No place remains static and unchanged, frozen in its past, but the past gives us a sense of place and belonging that helps shape our future, and this is what Lewis has shown me.”
Some thoughts on my recent residency on Lewis with Island Darkroom have been posted up on their site. I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend time there in February, and you can read the full account of what I have taken away from it, here:
‘No land barer; and yet the moor was filled with untapped memory and story, locked away like the carbon stored within the peat…’
Very pleased to have a new piece of writing feature on Paul Scraton’s online blog Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. It has come out of wider work stemming from my recent residency on Lewis with Island Darkroom, and explores the legacy of the island through its impact on the work of poet Iain Crichton Smith. Click on the image above to read.
I drove to Calanais in the rain, looking for the stones. I found them there, standing tall in the mist, like a distant dream I had once dreamt but long forgotten, a silent memory. Did they walk this way those thousands of years ago? What gods and spirits did they dream of; what lost stories did they tell? Where do they dream now, long buried in the ground? Across Loch Ròg to Kirkibost the sleeping woman lies, and the Shining One waits in the west. Too many stories wait here, commodified even now: unreal place, resting in its unknown truth.
I looped round Harris before another storm blew through, chasing echoes from the past: old saints and their stories; old places filled with memory, fleeting shadows from another time. Losgaintir shone with a cold brilliance against its ancient hills. Time slept, dreaming the ocean, its voice lost to the wind without echo or meaning. I drove back through a landscape of splintered rock as old as the earth, leaving the beach and its impossible confluence behind.
Following threads across the moor down to Bernera, I was escorted by a white-tailed Eagle for a few miles as she soared along the high ridge of granite tors above the road. At Bhòstaigh where Donald MacAulay described in his poem ‘Air Tràigh Bhòstaigh’ (On Bosta Beach) how ‘the people lie – in their history’ I slid down boggy slopes to the reconstructed Iron Age Round House and was startled by a head of Highland Cattle hunkered down against the wind in their stone shelter above the burial ground. The waves were terrifying, the wind relentless, spray sent fuming up above Little Bernera’s bulk on the horizon. I listened for the ‘Time and Tide’ bell but could hear only the wind. I left the beach and chased my thoughts across the moor to Carloway, met with a crofter – an Incomer – who has made this island home.
Poem quote taken from Donald MacAulay, ‘Air Tràigh Bhòstaigh’, Deilbh is Faileasan (Images and Reflections), (Stornoway, Acair Books, 2008).