Just a Glimpse

I went to heaven yesterday. Well, maybe I didn’t quite reach it – but I could see it clearly from time to time, if only for a moment or two.

I took the old path from Breanish to the summer grazings – over the mountains and eastward. It is many years since anyone has spent the summer out at the shielings. So the path, where it is visible at all, is just the faintest of signals amongst the noise of the rocks and the thin black soil.


Nonetheless, I met many people on the way. Too many people and too briefly glimpsed for me to be able to recall them all. But I especially remember a man who was cursing constantly – he had lost a son in war. His beautiful old phrases were peppered with obscenities in English because there are few, if any, really potent swear-words in Gaelic. And there was a sad young woman who could not go home because she had lost her calf and must look for it. It was unthinkable that she would ever go home without it. The cursing man, the young woman and I, we walked together and saw many miracles – a mountain hare that flew up a cliff, ravens who played loop-the-loop, the Cailleach in the mountains of Harris who was again young and beautiful, a robin which sang in the heather and some other wonderful things that cannot be described in English, but which my travelling companions were kind enough to help me see.

At last we came to a loch, or I should say that we came to a place that looked like a loch. There are some lochs which are not lochs. They are found in the high passes, at watersheds. Places where a man with a good spade and the inclination might easily dig ditches which would make the water flow down one side of the mountain today and then, tomorrow, the other. These places are the eyes of the mountain and yesterday was so calm that the eye was open.  We all sat down. The man stopped swearing. The woman ceased to look for her calf. Even my two sheepdogs were finally still and looked at me to ask if it would be alright to take a drink from the loch. I asked them to wait just a while as we enjoyed the completeness of its smooth surface. The day was so beautiful that we all decided to stay; the ghosts, the dogs and myself. And so it is only a ghost that speaks with you now.


4 comments on “Just a Glimpse

  1. Is it Anna’s Gaelic tuition that says few swear words in Gaelic?
    Lovely piece. We too saw a mountain hare on Suinaval on Sunday. First I have seen here but have an old book that describes the hares in Lewis and Harris as blue mountain hares – and it did have a bluish tinge reflected off the rock.

    • Hi Fiona. Quite a few people (including some who would for sure know!) have said that the type of swearing we do in English doesn’t translate. Not that there aren’t powerful oaths and curses – but they just aren’t in the same vein as in English.
      Yes, a just the most fragile hint of blue – “that any known name would crush out of existence”.

    • Aye, I think you’re right – but I’m told they’ll let me home if I tell them enough good stories.

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