“Thermometer and barometer measure our seasons capriciously; the Orkney year should be seen rather as a stark drama of light and darkness.”
Spend a year here and you’ll see how right he was. In midwinter it’s dark by 4pm. Now, as we approach midsummer, there’s always a gleam of light in the sky. But I really was wearing all my winter layers up until a week ago!
That was when I took the picture above, from the top of the cliffs at Marwick Head, late one evening. There was a very slight haar, or sea fog, that made the horizon blurry, and the sea looked like beaten metal. The seabird breeding colony there is already in full swing, with thousands of birds cramming the cliff ledges. If you look carefully at the bottom right you can see a tiny, white kittiwake in flight.
Did you say it’s made of waves?
Yes, that’s it.
I wonder what the waves are made of.
Oh, waves are made of waves.
Waves are what they are,
Rhythmical movement which is the inherent essence of all things.
Ultimately, there’s only movement,
The movement that light is
Comes out of the sun
And it’s so gorgeous a thing
That nothing else is ever anything unless lit by it.
from Sarah Neely (ed.), Margaret Tait: Poems, Stories and Writings (Carcanet, 2012), by permission of the publisher