Sunday, 26 December 2010

Image Above: Light On The Bay
Location: Erraid Sound, Erraid

The Thaw

Christmas Eve 24th December

Around the gutters and windowsills the movement of water had begun, every projecting surface held a drip tapping out its rhythm on the wet surface of the snow. By late afternoon the drips had found rivulets running unseen under ice. The world had begun to sag uncomfortably, where the snow had concealed it now clung to the skeleton of the island like a piece of linen blown from a washing line. I felt a little sad as if woken from a dream or finding myself falling out of love and realising despite grasping hands that it had slipped through my fingers.

And so the mask has fallen and ordinary objects return to their duties freed from the burden of being a sculpture. The chaos of human existence is revealed in misplaced sandals, spades lodged in garden borders and bags of rubbish abandoned on route to the bin store. I am still not used to snow, it comes from some other place that seems to be governed by pure whimsy. I take comfort that there are still things that even on my best day I could never have imagined.

When the blizzards had began a little over a week ago I had watched the water of the bay stilled and softened by the lightest of touches. I rowed out between snowfalls and felt the change in density the melting iced fronds had brought to this salted lagoon. Beneath the boat a translucence touched with the grey of snow clouds obscured the sea bed. The low water sands and the strand lines of kelp had also fallen for the spell, leaving only the brine as a counterpane to the monotone depths of the sky. The ocean eventually reclaimed the bay. Each incremental rise of successive tides redefined what was given to the water and what belonged to the land leaving a sharp line drawn beneath the whiteness.

While the snow and ice was barely passable and the tides ran under a full moon we waited for the bay to drain. The sands lent passage and we could deliver Christmas presents to our neighbours, returning with news and mussels plucked from weed drenched rocks. Yesterday I wandered the shallows in the afternoon sunshine as a creature of the tidal race with the hermit crabs and sand gobies for company enjoying the warmth beneath that cold band of snow. Today all has changed and the world seems almost ill-defined, the land runs with water, while the tide carries away small bergs of frozen beachfront.

In the late afternoon the cows return to the byre, their coats wet from a shower trail vapours in the darkness as afternoon turns to evening.

Image Above Right : Coils Of Pea Fencing
Image Above Left: Hay Loft Floor
Image Below: Hermit Crab

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Zed Bed Sled

Image Above: Bea And The Zed Bed Sled
Location: Isle Of Erraid
The Zed Bed Sled
Sunday 19th December

I chased Isaac out of the tool shed before dropping the mask’s visor and drawing an arc of molten light over the final joint in the steel. Isaac waited in the snow displaying his impatience with well timed questions as children do marooned on the back seat of the longest journey. Eventually I slid the bent steels out of the shed and let the welds hiss in snow. We found a seat sized piece of plywood amongst the remnants of the zed bed I had abandoned earlier on the pier. A little over an hour ago it had been silently rusting in the corner of the boat shed, with a little effort and a cutting disc its days of torturing spare room guests were finally over.

The rope came from the ‘rope trailer’; named cunningly because it holds the island’s collection of old rope in what could only be described as the world’s biggest knot, rather than pull at threads in search of an end I wisely took a knife. Celia fetched oil and a rag from the garden shed, old vegetable oil used to put a sheen on spades and a slickness on steel runners. We gathered on the street, kids, neighbours and trudged through walled in whiteness of grass gardens pausing at the gate to look out over the bay. The moon had risen out of Ben More and hung over the silence of the snow rimmed bay in ownership of the late afternoon like a benevolent soul.

I had forgotten about the simple pleasure of sliding down a hill and felt ashamed that somehow I had not devoted enough of my life to this pursuit. It was rumoured that a local shopkeeper who had displayed a sledge for the last six snowless winters had exaggerated its annual inflationary rise as the first few inches had begun to settle, never mind that he was dealing with a sacred object. All objects travel in space and time but few instantly transport what it is to be a child as seamlessly as a sledge . It is not the past that rushes up to meet me but a freedom in the moment and the pure joy of it . But I am not the first of my family to build time machines. My great uncle went to night school metal work classes and furnished my childhood winters’ with a sledge that seemed to run equally on air as snow. And then my father and his metal imagings, sledges crafted from junk that could hold a street full of kids and send them hurtling down the rolly polly field.

Once again It was my turn at the top of the hill and lifting my feet I let the world rush by. Later I wondered if the zed bed had ever imagined such an afterlife.