Saturday, 7 March 2009
Image Left: Bran
Sometimes I wish the seasons could fast forward a little; I long for mornings when the sun cuts the room with blades of light focused through a gap in the shutters. Today it feels as though the world beyond the window has been replaced by a accountant’s office, leaving a phosphorescent glow of strip lighting to creep round the frame. If I don’t wake to sound of the wind dancing about the windows and doors, I lie a little uneasy wondering who’s bed I have woken to. I pick out the shape of a buzzard’s forewing clutching a medicine wheel pendant as they both hang over a joint in the wallpaper and know that I am home.
This morning I am out early to milk and muck out the ‘clockwork cows‘. A gate at the end of the small row of cottages marks the point where the street becomes the track; from here its course descends in a long curve past the woods and byre before straightening to meet the pier and sheds. I pass through with the milking bucket, vegetable peelings for the cows and leftovers for the chickens. The byre cats generally take their cue from the clang of the latch to roll at my feet and test my balance with full hands. Then the chickens emerge from woods and gaps in the fences looking for breakfast and spurred on by the group dynamics of the flock. The island’s longest resident Gustav Gans, a goose who’s age is reckoned to be somewhere between twenty five and thirty begins his lazy descent on foot from the meditation sanctuary he guards on the hill.
For the winter months the island’s cows spend their evenings in the byre bedded down in straw and safe from the squalls the North Atlantic is fond of dishing up. I click the latch and work through the pens and loft, shunting, cleaning, feeding and if the cows are happy with the rhythm they respond with gentle movements taking up their part in the dance. Milking is a brief affair, at the moment we are only milking Movern, the head of the herd, Jeanie, our other milk cow is drying off as her calf is weaned. The heifer Jessie joins the two calves to forage on the hill while I take to the stool and bucket. I call them the clockwork cows, but some times in a forgetful moment I half close a gate or a misplaced spade throws a spanner in the works and the pattern is lost. Today Movern left the byre and headed in the wrong direction; despite my words of encouragement and cajoling manner I had to wait for her to see the error of her ways. A friend of mine maintains that if cows had brains they would easily take over the world.
The chickens are in moult and finding eggs for breakfast is more of lucky dip than a guarantee. I drop a handful of corn on the track for Gustav and he responds with mock attempt to get airborne like Howard Hughes’s spruce goose. When the cows are out and the feed buckets washed I get to stop, take a moment to look down to the pier and the stretch of water that confirms I live on an Island. Today the landscape is grey, its shadows removed by the diffusion of a blanketed sky. The cliff faces of the Burg appears to be dropping mist like the foam spray of a waterfall. Ben More is lost in a ring of cloud its mass still palpable. Out in the sound the heads of seals bob up and down like creel floats as they too satisfy their own curiosity about the shape of the world this morning.