Up here on the eastern edge of the Sound of Rum, the famous sands sing their ancient song, luring us far from the Rainy City, washing up on quartz shores with the rest of the flotsam. I cannot tell if the tide is coming in or going out. Beyond the bleached bone log on which we sit, the dorsal fins of porpoise pierce the waves then disappear, stealing our breath to dive deeper.
In ceaseless rain south west of Howlin, I watch the Sound, rising, falling, rising, falling through the skein of an intricate sail, the outline of islands beyond any horizon furling, unfurling, furling, unfurling, compass points creasing, aping the roll of the waves in the wind, giving an accurate bearing as the ocean and the skies remain static yet the land itself is reeling, the helm is spinning, revolution, revolution, revolution, unhinged by the gabbro, the most chaotic rock of all.
In 1886 the Columbine runs aground, off a western coast, Norwegian fishermen land an unexpected catch, after eight long days alone at sea, Elizabeth Mouat feels the earth beneath her feet, crowds swell the streets, Edinburgh and Lerwick, royalty bestows funds. Through the skein of the intricate sail, dazed by the northern lights, I cannot tell if the tide is coming in or going out. Again, the Columbine runs aground. Again and again the Columbine runs aground. In 2015, after eight long days alone at sea, Elizabeth Mouat shivers in the hold. Through the skein of an intricate sail, the outline of islands beyond any horizon furling, unfurling, furling, unfurling, compass points creasing, in 2015 the Columbine runs aground, the crew disappeared, again and again, no fishermen, no rescue, just waiting for the tide to turn the ship around. I cannot tell if the tide is coming in or going out.
Across the dinner table strong currents weave between the courses, volcanic vents rumble below the surface, faultlines are found. Each one of us has drifted to this island, still drifting, always drifting, to Callanaish, five thousand years ago, to nineteenth century Lepsoy, to Eigg, to Dover in Kent. The Columbine runs aground. The helm is still spinning…
Laig beach, Isle of Eigg