Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'tween time

We are returned home now after our two weeks, which were different from each other in several ways, not least of course the change of self-catering dwelling.  The landscapes of the first week were fertile, productive, a land occupied from pre-history, a land which had collaborated with the folks on it.  A land full of interest at every bend.
Of course Sutherland is also interesting - and in places full of many bends - but it is a land not interested in collaborating with anyone.  I first encountered this landscape in my early 20s and was much attracted.  It has taken over 40 years for us to return, and I don't really know why it has been so long.  I found on return that the draw is just as strong, and the more intense viewing this time most rewarding despite the inevitable changes.
Years ago I learned about the ceramic artist Lotte Glob and her architect designed home and studio on the shore of Loch Eriboll.  Such solitude must be magnificent, I thought - and there was much from which I too would have liked to be removed at the time.  Nowadays, however, she shares the loch side with several other dwellings, new and sparkling, holiday homes and luxury rentals amid them all.  The land is far less empty these days, and of course delivery  vans reach everywhere.
But it is still possible to get away from everyone - for some of the time anyway: believe it or not there is a sports car do on up there at present, and we at one point paused in a passing place to let a string of 20 or so sports cars past! - and these few snaps will give you an idea of the colours of and changing light on the landscape while we were there. 
The county is a large one and the landscape varies from west to east, and the north west coast can astonish with its pristine white beaches.
We were lucky enough on our penultimate day to stop for lunch in the Timespan Museum in Helmsdale where we saw a group of Suzie MacKenzie's prints on display.  One in particular - Mountain and Rock - captured some of what we feel for the landscape we had seen, and so we bought it.
So now we are getting used to being back home, thinking about routines, checking how various plants have done in our absence, washing all those clothes, and for me still recovering from a bout of digestive unwellness - while still savouring that wondrous solitude. 


  1. It reminds me of Connemara - beautiful but hostile.

  2. Your phrase wondrous solitude is so apt. Years ago, about 35 to be precise, we went north all the way to Durness and were amazed by the uncompromising landscape. As I think back, I remember mile after mile of bear rock and sheep and wonderful big barren views without signs of human habitation.
    I love the print by Suzie MacKenzie - I doubt we could have resisted it either!

  3. Margaret, wondrous solitude is a state I seem to desire more and more. It is just so crowded here in what I think of as the soft south.
    Yes, the print is lovely - the whole group that we saw was all attractive, but this one just captured what Meabh so aptly described as beautiful but hostile.

  4. Glorious landscape. It grabbed me and made me homesick, although for where, I'm not sure. Thank you.

  5. June, this last couple of weeks has made me feel bereft of that space we seemed to have in our youth. It was good to go back to just breathing.

  6. Stunning countryside: wild, bleak and magnificent. The landscape, combined with your comments about solitude brought to mind Sara Maitland's The Book of Silence - a way of life that in some way, theoretically, has appealed to me, but not enough to do anything about it.

    You had some an interesting and enjoyable two weeks!

  7. Yes, Eirene, I read most of Sara Maitland's book. We had a wondrous trip, and my mind is full of images, and we both appreciated the much lesser density of population there. We would both like to live in such surroundings, but there are two fundamental disadvantages with Sutherland: the dark for half of the year, and the cold.
    We are incredibly lucky that we return to a quiet location here at home - for instance all I can hear at present apart from the clicking of my laptop keys is the beautiful song of the adjacent blackbird. This is an oasis, and somehow communication technology brings us nearer to an attainable state of solitude without loneliness.