The great silence

Sat, May 16, 2020

Storm brewing over the Red Hills, Isle of Skye

The land is so dry it’s a relief to see grey curtains of rain wrapping the hills. Like chain mail hanging from a giant war horse jumping the Clach Glas ridge and trailing the over the Red Hills.

Was that the thundering of hooves or distant thunder from the massing storm clouds towering over Rum? Black horizontal strands of velum strapping them together, squeezing them higher, blacker, louder. Great crashing waves of wind shooting high over the Rum Cuillin, soaring in lenticulars in the last of the morning’s blue sky. Elements charging, crashing, rising, tumbling, obscuring and yet, not a sound as far as the stormy horizon.

Walking the old railway track along Strath, stonechats scolded from the bushes, chaperoning me past their nest in the heather. A skylark relaying the approaching weather from her high vantage point, a stream of bits and bytes raining down on the parched land. Not a single burn had water. All were dry as bones. A snipe pushed its squeaky wheel somewhere on the moor. A lapwing took the skylark’s stream of data and smoothed it out into words. Two ravens rushed low across the land.

The bird sounds were immense, filling the strath from one side to the other. It was Cairngorm silent. Outside the tourist season I can sit in the old graveyard at Cille Chriosd and for a few moments be transported back to those remote glens. The granite ruins with the cropped grass and heather of Ben Suardail are quintessentially ‘gormy. The place feels a thousand feet higher than it actually is and a hundred times remoter and I felt that remoteness and sense of ancient history this morning. No traffic, no sounds other than the natural world. The wind in the grass as another wave of grey broke over Blaven, obscuring the land and joining in the great silence.

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