Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Quarry

The Quarry, Sunday 21st February

Image above: The Children’s House, built by the Findhorn Foundation’s Youth Project, Erraid Quarry

I pace in the quarry, the camera rests on a tripod and I watch the clouds. I have come to wait on the landscape for a gift, a small rectangle of light. The sun has already made it into the island’s afternoon, its rays trimming the patches of snow back into the shadows of the rock faces. Below, the spoil heap artificially extends the quarry workings out into a plateau that crests over the island’s small pine plantation, the bay and the sound. A few years back the community laid out a spiral of rocks amongst the thin turf on the seaward edge of the heap. Even in a relatively short time it has become imbued with a feeling that its creation was in a more distant past, the Celtic symbolism fits with the wider landscape.

Over the sound, Columba’s abbey is side lit rendering its grey walls with deep shadows like folds in the sombre cassock of a monk. Behind the bell tower the rocks look down on the abbey’s thirteen hundred year history with little reverence, their presence stretches back into such inordinate vastness that even to say two and a half thousand million years doesn’t begin to describe its magnitude. I wait and wonder what my part in all this is.

I’m telling stories, I suppose it is something I have done my whole life. And then there are things to be done that don’t require a story, things that need elbow grease or the swing of a pick. Sometimes I confuse the two and think that stories stack roof slates and dig ditches, but they don’t. So what use, these stories?

Maybe I am just sending postcards to some future self, when I look back over my old writing I find time has erased my memory of the creative process leaving me to read the words anew, as if they were penned by the hand of a stranger. This is not unique to writing, sometimes I pull the kitchen draws out and inspect their dovetail joints in an attempt to keep the memory of making them alive but it has already been lost, so I wonder at another’s skill.

The island is littered with the handiwork of others, some good and some not so, but it matters little I live with it all. When Robert Louis Stevenson came here as a lighthouse engineer in training, he wrote of Sabbaths when the stone masons tools fell silent. They have been silent along time and yet Stevenson’s words almost carry as much weight of proof as the blocks that litter the quarry’s spoil heap, or the Dubh Artach lighthouse that guards the southern horizon.

Image below: Abandoned Blacksmith’s, Erraid Quarry

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