Just because the low-lying pastures of the west mainland are beginning to look somewhat drained and washed out, Orkney’s upland moors have been intensifying to a wonderful technicolour. Amid dry grasses glow the sunshine-yellow embers of summer time – tormentil and hawkbit – as hawkmoth caterpillars of furious, nearly radioactive inexperienced hump between stems as they seek for a protected place to overwinter.
Most dominant of all are the wealthy purples, with which the excessive floor is ablaze. The heather is in bloom in all its varied guises: the hanging lanterns of cross-leaved heath in mauve and amethyst; tiny, needle-petalled ling in pale, pearlescent tones; and traditional bell heather in a wealthy and regal plum.
The Orcadian author Amy Liptrot wrote recently of how “the geographies of our childhoods” outline us, reflecting with some sorrow that her son’s default reference for nature wouldn’t comprise of cliffs and huge horizons like her personal, however the mill ponds and dappled woodlands of Yorkshire. As Amy moved south, I got here north, and felt this identical dissonance – the sense of being a stranger to the panorama – in reverse.
So it has been with a way of aid that, as I go into my sophomore yr in Orkney, I really feel myself start to recognise and orient myself by the wild waymarkers of island seasons. A fortnight in the past, I noticed the thatch of heather had been pierced by means of by skinny stems bearing pompom heads of blue-violet, and felt their identify blossom, unbidden in my thoughts. Devil’s-bit scabious, I believed, and I used to be proper. I remembered them – they appeared in the identical place on the identical time final yr. In a patch of short-cropped grass grew a smattering of flowers like silver, five-pointed stars. No have to look them up: grass of Parnassus. Curling on the corners of the footpaths, a frilled and flowering herb: eyebright.
All species that, a yr in the past, had been unusual to me. Now right here they’re, my floral familiars. I start to see how, as time passes by, one’s data of the land builds up in layers. I’ll by no means be from right here, however, over time, these windswept hills would possibly come to really feel like residence.
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