It’s a time machine, the sea.
From out in the Minch, you’re seeing the land
as the Lord of the Isles would have seen it.
You sail along, part the water,
it folds in behind.
You’ve made no trace.
You’re moving silently,
self-reliant in an environment
that has hardly changed for eons.
If you can read the geology
it tells the full deep time story.
It’s all just there for your imagination to see
with a real sense of discovery,
of days gone by on the sea highways –
Viking boatmen who named these landmarks,
Spanish sailors who came to grief in the Armada time,
the puffer trade, like clockwork,
on the old sea roads.
Here’s the past. It’s not long ago
boats were vital
to the very existence of these communities.
In so many anchorages you can see
where stones have been cleared
to make a little slip
for a small boat
to go fishing from the bottom of the croft.
These people lived their lives
close to the sea, dependent on it.
Our economies have revolved
around the shoreline:
close in you see a salmon bothy, lazy beds,
derelict homes, ruins,
old shielings going back to earth.
Someone lived there,
did a lot of work there,
took their livestock out to graze
in that now uninhabited spot.
Things are fragile.
The kelp industry has been and gone.
Yet the tide keeps coming in and out
and on the sea you can see
straight back into times past
and out into the future too
(with thanks to Alan Rankin and Murdo McPherson)