Friday, 7 October 2011

The land doesn't lie

The land doesn't lie. Whilst the sounds deafening my ears, the rain, the bitter wind, blasting my ear drums, arrives unannounced, unwelcome it sounds like winter is here, it can't be, its too soon. The last heather flowers are still colouring the land. However, as I drive home, there are many trees without leaves, naked in the fading light. The light is quickly dying on my drive home, the lighthouse beginning to yawn and blink at me, waking for the evening. Its endeavouring to keep the light in our lives, blinking away, a sure sign that winters on its way. Autumn arrives and departs here in the blink of an eye, winter steals itself two whole seasons in Orkney. Greedy and unwelcome, it thwarts autumns pleas for colour and richness. I resent its impatience.
The nasty bitter cold silently nipping around my nose, my ears, I'm unconsiously wrapping up, increasing the layers I'm wearing, this arrives far too early. My senses are telling me winter has decided it wants to arrive, muscling past, blasting its way in, no autumn here. I'm not mistaken, I'm not confused. It is not time for winter, not for me, or for the plants or the farmers or the land. The land doesn't lie, its slowly working its way through harvest, late summer slipped past, autumn quietly arrived.
The farmers fiercly battle against this unexpected wet, windy cold spell, gales abound, fields are saturated. Its arrival is ferocious, for the life of it, like winters common hard curses and tricks. They fight on desperate to get the harvest home before the animals are rescued from the ever increasing saturated land, the howling gales, they will be carefully hidden away, safe from the worst of it. They'll be missing from my eyes until next April or May. Happier indoors away from the worst of the unrelenting gales and the rain. They will leave soon, once harvest is secured. This has not been a 'good season', cold and wet, miserable, unlike last year. Weather was kind last year, and the harvest good.
Whilst I resent their going, the cows, I truly miss them and it will mean winter is really here. It will mean we've embraced our short season of eternal days of light in summer, vibrant flowers and bird song, its gone in a blink. The winter will be less vibrant, relentless, unyeilding, windy and cruel. However, I have patience, it will pass and I will be glad of the arrival next year of the singing birds and the cows again, harking the arrival of late spring. In the mean time, in the neuks and crannies, berries abound, for a while in the shelter. Lets hope the birds gorge on them before the bitter wind strips the branches ever more bare.
 There is no singing call, no vibrant last swansong of autumn here on the islands. There is summer, and a brief pause, a glimpse of autumnal beauty, just a tease of it, a faint colour of a leaf, berry on a bush, fruit on a branch, leaves almost gone, a tiny glimpse before winter takes its long cruel slow hold.
Before these berries can fall or be eaten, the wind will consume them. The cruel wind announces the arrival of our winter, robbing us of autumn, except for the quickest glance at it. The land and the plants dependant on it, do not lie. Autumn is upon us, its harvest time, but its only here briefly, for a blink of an eye. It brings the winds and roars the onset of our early winters arrival. I dislike being robbed of Autumn's mellow fruitfulness, its calm slip into winter, the colour and the vibrance slowly fading, dropping and slowing into winter. The islands hold such magesty, in so many ways, however the robbing of autumn is a cruel joke and a hard price to pay for its beauty.

We'll say nothing. We'll bide our time.  We'll ponder and plan and wait and drink tea, and watch from the windows or find shelter until its the time to venture out again. In between times we'll listen to the rain and the wind, sympathise with the farmers, we'll wrap up warm and we'll often watch the land through the windows. Often the wind will abait and the sun will shine and we'll be grateful. The land will sleep and the plants will wait until the gales abait.


  1. That sounded really poetic!

  2. I agree. Fay, that was lovely. Yet, up there you are bound into such an age-long cycle, sharing it with the people who built Scara Brae before the pyramids were thought of... Don't you find the sheer power of the North somehow lessens the gap between you and them? Not a perception available to those of us further south (though I too am battening down the hatches now)

  3. Anne thank you. I should have said, I accept it all and forgive our climate of many things. However, being a fierce red head, robbing autumn I can endure, I don't forgive. The damage not letting the plants and land slip into sleep, I find hard to bare.

  4. Kinvinie, you are so right. I wish I had their heart, maybe they mourned the onset of winter in oct? The power of he climate up here is breathtaking. As someone who loves plants, I find it so harsh. I love the changing, the leaves falling and the seasons changing gradually. This year feel particularly harsh as we've shared probably less than a whole month of sun and warm. The eternal 'not quite winter here' we don't get so very cold. Ares is fierce and biting and wet. I can understand skara brae building their shelters under the earth.

    I'll adjust, autumn in it's briefness always takes me by surprise, feeling familiar but a bit cheated.

    I think I need a mainland trip soon. Will settle me a bit. Then, as ever, I'll b accepting, happy and fab.

  5. I agree, so poetic. And I share your feelings about fall. Although we do have a fall that lingers a while, it still portends winter, and that makes it not a season I can get excited about, as I so dislike winter! Spring, I love -- I glory in it. Summer is great, but the humidity can sometimes be a bit much. But I could live with spring all year!

    I enjoy your writing and photos!

  6. I agree with your sentiments. When we were up in northern Sweden, Autumn was a fast flying thing, a migratory visitor really. The snow would fall with the temperatures and remain until May, by which time I, for one, had had enough of it! At least you don't have that metre deep daily threat to look forward to until next May. Batten down the hatches and have a 'good' winter!

  7. Yeractual that does sound worse.......I like the 'migrant autumn' comment, it's spot on! Hatches being battened as we speak, chickens and children tethered by ankles.....:)

  8. Steve and cathy, thank you, very kind. Autumn hails the onset of slumber doesn't it!

    I'm almost over my huffing about it all. Guess time to get planning :)

  9. Your write about the wild Orkney weather so beautifully Fay. And great photos too. I think my soul would shrivel a little if I had to deal with such a very long winter. And I'd get very fat through eating too much pie and potatoes and biscuits and bread in my search for comfort...