• AMo

Chessman

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

On the shattered edge of the continent, it’s elemental. The elements are mental. Crack hit-squalls send us to ground, coming out twitching like hunted rabbits. The wind occupies the world with impossible, draining energy. Behind glass we pity the cows, distant persecuted kindred in life clinging here. Birds, the characters of the coast, are whipped off like wavespray to huddle somewhere. The charisma of the place is in the life of waves and clouds, sand and rocks.

No other rock is so beautiful and so ugly. Ripples and swirls, amputation scars and viscera of the Archean earth. The Screaming Wall is an exquisite mess, a Fauvist overspill of serpentine folds, splashes, contortions. Most ancient, most primal, a rendering of the violence that put us here – the unfeeling, nurturing chaos. At Bhragair, a livid white scar the height of the cliff – fresh as ceramic, and the sea has swallowed the abrupt debris like it was never there. Closer inspection, tip-toed voyeur to a smouldering carcrash, confirms – a new, white corner still weeping the insidious trickles, the thousand tiny cuts that bled into the cataclysmic moment. And the raw white walls, capillaried and veined, bleeding dry in the evening sun. The absence rings like presence, an aura of some leviathan – which could destroy me without even waking up. Insect to a ploughing windscreen, oblivious to the terminal splatter.

A milder morning steeps us in sunshine, coming up from the watery darkness. Wet stone pales. Buried again by a gloss of temporary calm, the earth is less volatile, sublime power cloaked. We come to the surface, beetle and burn, make a mess. Coffee grounds and rice grains on the machair, a chilly place to die when you’ve grown up in the tropics. A pathetic legacy to floating continents of dead plastic. Give us an inch…there is no love for us in these hostile perimeters, where our effluence runs to a trickle, no love for anything, no mobile phone reception, a grudging host for plants even, but we are drawn to them anyway. To the flab of fertile countryside or the nerve centre of human networks, this is the bones and bare teeth. It is not the world we made, as charmless as anything worked over too long, but a glimpse of the stranger world that made us, a glimpse to the immediacy of our ancestral being. 

As a domesticated animal, it is a gift to experience that. 

The Painted Wall is another lost Matisse, a gaudy clash of pattern and shape, desaturated by the numb grey of the day. The geo is raised above the sea, but occasionally the waves slop a careless warning slap into the tidal pool. The wall hangs up one side of a slippery black amphitheatre, above a giant’s staircase of ledges. We came here to escape the scouring wind, but an occasional slice of Atlantic ferocity whips off some face and marauds berserkly around the arena. Tethered to a ledge by a lonely strand of rope, I’m puppeteered without mercy by an invisible enemy’s whim. Hunted, cornered. Unable to make a move, to out-manoeuvre my opponent. If I was free, I would not feel this way – prone as bait, of no use but to pay out the swaying line.

Ferdia is keened and stealthy at the sharp end, moving with pointed grace, fearless.