Looking toward the Burg from Eilean nan damh (island of the stags) Mull, Scotland
I drove four hundred miles crossing the border into Scotland and taking the ferry to the Isle of Mull, I thought I had outran my pneumonia but there it was like a heavy suitcase that someone had chained around my neck. For the best part of a week I sat staring out of the cottage window or the windscreen onto the bay and beach while the ocean and my fishing tackle rested easy. Not fishing is hard; not fishing here is almost criminal.
At a loose end I read the guide books and some of the history of local settlements that had been emptied in the Clearances almost two centuries ago. Sad letters from old men begging to stay on the land where they were born and had made lives, sad letters that were answered with bailiffs. While the words penned are now only a matter of historical record the voices they conjure have lost none of their power to tug at my own feelings for land and loss.
The empty villages still haunt the glens, un-roofed carcasses sleeping in moorland grasses or remnant hearths and stacks that have the look of giants stalled by the soft peat.
A little further up from the bay my friends are carving out at new life from that same island soil on a small croft. The first beds have been dug and the kelp collected from the beach has been laid as a blanket to rot down and replenish.
Their boat lies in the grass awaiting some minor repairs before it too returns to the bay a little ahead of the returning summer mackerel. Maybe I will return but a little less weighed down with luggage.