There is such a richness of words. Here by the tattered edge of the land where it faces the great ocean. The Gaelic language still holds the land and the sea and the sky in its ancient cupped hands. Its beautiful words are everywhere. There is a superfluity. Some even lie all tangled up with the kelp torn away by storms and the pieces of tat and flotsam of which the ocean rids itself, high up onto the shoreline, bright plastic and torn nets, plastic bottles thrown over the small, once precious fields like confetti at a funeral.  They are words to which I have no rights. They have depth and pedigree and I will never be joined to them as I would wish because I was not born to them. Still, I love them for all that.

Headland seaswell LR

Sometimes the words combine of their own accord. This is a rough and blasted coast where often the sea advances like a rolling barrage of artillery before an assault. Watch for the fall of shot from a headland bulge of bedrock – if you can stand in the westerly more-than-gale – and you will see the sequential detonations of a wave into geos, the depth-charge expulsion of writhing water-flesh over a reef. And so on this blasted coast is a phenomenon of rock-words. In English we have a beach – and the beach may be a sandy beach or a shingle beach or a pebble beach. In Gaelic there is specifically a sandy beach – traigh –  and a pebbly beach – mol. In English we have rock and boulder but in Gaelic there are many words. And pushed high on a mol near to our house, along with reekings of kelp and, twice since we have been here, the lingering song-remains of dead dolphins, are examples of another Gaelic word – ulbhag (noun, feminine) – a boulder ‘larger than one man can handle’. Round, like oversized bowling balls, these giant pebbles without a flat edge to their name, perform a treacherous twist-ankle glissade, confounding the big Atlantic swells. From amongst them we slither and pull the odd fish-box, intact and ripe for the organising of shed-life, we take a whitened skull, we gather a curiosity. And amongst them we leave lines of poems that will likely not be written; of the inside a limpet’s house when the storm is up, of the pools of fresh water on Mealista island, of the springtime strolls of lobsters to their inshore villas.

6 comments on “Beachcombing

  1. Beautiful words, David. I like your description of the forces of nature with words that we generally associate with battle. After all, I reckon this really is the ultimate battle, one of natural elements – their forces combining to become something altogether more stunning in their transformational processes. Thank goodness for the beauty of the Gaelic language!

    • Hi Ravenhare – happily the forces of nature have been having a bit of a snooze today – hope it’s quiet where you are.

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