Hebridean Willow

Adolescent girl of Gaelic ancestry, Willow is a fictional poetic character of early 20th century. Her home is Isle of Barra, Scottish Outer Hebrides, austere islands, molded by crashing seas and ancient cultures. Sheep oft outnumber families, where livelihoods are made by crofting, fishing, small sailing skiffs, working nets in blustery winds, swift currents, cold, offshore depths. Through poetry, Willow reflects on isolated island life, her hillside thoughts and feelings. Over these many months, Willow has matured, facing island challenges, including death of her parents. For more about life on Hebridean Isles, see Norman Heathcote and his book “St. Kilda.”

  • 1333. Willow, Fall Sea Gales
    First morning light, blustery walk on stone-piledBeach, skies red-streaked, father with me, pipe Puffing, fishing boots, walking along side (or Far ahead), concerns for dirty weather on Outer Hebridean Isles. […]
  • 1310. Willow, Torn Seasons
    Gale blowing offshore, swirling rain and snow, Obscuring nearby sea-stacks, Papa and I were Cottage bound, thrust together by dirty weather. Gusting winds, rhythmic thumping of front Door, papa lit […]
  • 1309. Willow, Guiding Lantern Light
    Whilst spring had arrived, days and nights Seemed just as long, seas as cold, yet fishers Took to cresting waves, lowering nets alongDistant rocky isles, coves and bays up andDown […]
  • 1308. Willow, Spring Stream Flowing
    “Our stream will flow again, Willow,” papaPromised, pipe puffing. “Hard winter for Island crofters, hearth fires, cooking pot,Ice melting, first few bubbles for morning Tea, stirabout. Slow-ticking clock, we awaited […]
  • 1290. Willow, Pale Moonlight
    Pale moon, cold light shadow-casting, family Cottage empty, parents gone, sleepless nights, I, Willow, find no peace amongst these stone Walls, footstep-smoothed wooden floors. Night Naked, I am lost, torn […]
  • 1289. Willow, Family Memories
    At sunset, I turned my eyes from sea to hills Behind me, gathering evening mist, low- Lying clouds reflecting rosy hues, ocean Moving, fleeting figures, elevated above my Home, Outer […]
  • 1287. Willow, Eternal Boatmen
    Where have I been? With sickness, many Have died, remaining disappeared. Days of Rain, dreams beyond reach, island life was Cloud-obscured. Fevered coughs, I drifted As rain dripped, streaked windowpanes, […]
  • 1282. Willow, Song of Fair Isles
    How many hills does an island make, streams And pasturelands? It’s not what’s underfoot, But what sings within my heart, fair isles of Seas and skies. Melodies of rock and […]
  • 1281. Willow, Island Old Age
    Where does old age come from? Years island- Spent, amongst things unchanging, ebb and Flow of tides, surf crashing on rocky shores, Life’s grist, wearing flesh and bone. I’ve seen […]
  • 1276. Willow, Death of Fenella
    Illness swept our island, young, elderly, Too weak against taught rope, straining Pull, deep cough, dark nights shallow- Wheezing breaths. “How is she?” crofters Asked of elder mother, Fenella, frail-thin, […]
  • 1274. Willow, Ferry Acquaintance
    When ferry taking, island leaving, I oft stand By myself, steel deck, engines churning, Motion beneath my feet, few face-streaking Tears. Yes, I love this lump of rock called Home, […]
  • 1272. Skena, Malevolent Cloud
    Night waking, wind’s ceaseless song, sea Storms, winter gales, shipwrecked tales told In mournful wails, flotsam foreshores drifting, Legends children learnt by flickering hearth Flames, gusts round chimney howling. Yet, […]
  • 1271. Willow, Peat Pony Beven
    No longer wanted or needed, Peat Pony Beven was given to us. Papa said, “No.” Mama and I said, “Yes.” I brought him Home, baskets, harness, bells, unloved, Beven was […]
  • 1269. Willow, Celtic Connections
    From chapel pulpit, wave of his right hand, Parson announced we were all connected, His sermon, life on outer Scottish islands, Distant cousins, we are all blood-relations, Deep-rooted heritage, time-extending […]
  • 1268. Willow, Cottage Belonging
    How do you where you belong, cottage, field, Or forest? By running one’s hands across time- Weathered walls or stone? Visceral connection, Heart comforts, whispering, “You are home, Child.” Such […]
  • 1267. Willow, Campfire Tales
    Campfire tales we told, strange but familiar To our time and clans, glen-secluded fairies, Dwelling amidst mossy stones, gnarled tree Roots, water-trickling melodies, for islanders, We so shared our home, […]
  • 1266. Willow and Ríonach
    Scudding clouds of fall marked summer’s End, soul-restoring warmth upon my face, Waving-grass secluded granite slabs. Upon Woolen blanket, I dream-slept of decades Past, life on these outer Hebridean isles, […]
  • 1265. Willow, Timeless Moments
    Have you stared until something changed? Glimpsed dozen yesteryears? Foundations Of stone I visited, sat within wind-waving Grassy bounds, shadows of sun and cloud, Concentration I do not force, passing […]
  • 1264. Willow, Legend of Ætherstone
    Cloud-shrouded on island heights, first visit To ancient Ætherstone, Scottish medieval Fortress, partially destroyed, stout outer Walls rubble reduced, abandoned, time-lost. What did I, Willow, expect to find? Gardens Blooming […]
  • 1263. Willow, Island Loneliness
    Overtaken by island loneliness, I’m absorbed By clouded heights, expanse of seas, stretching Beyond circling seabirds, past expectations of What could be if I, Willow, were born someone, Somewhere else […]
  • 1261. Willow, Salt-Herring Packing
    “All we have is sea and sky, land beneath Feet,” Papa said, pipe puffing, net mending, on Outer Hebrides. “Family, too,” he added, Father’s reassurance, windswept islands, Chilly summers, more […]
  • 1252. Willow and Vivanya, Part 3
    Part 3: Destined Fates (Last) Island evening, Vivanya and I, Willow, gazed Upon northern night-shimmering clouds,* Goddess’ sky-reaching hair unbound, sacred Fire-reign over her bridesmaids, elder water- Witch, such accolades […]
  • 1251. Willow and Vivanya, Part 2
    Part 2: Ancient Earth Forces “Child, what secrets do you hold? Vivanya Asked of me. Beneath our hillside, island Families built rock-lined spring, catching New-found water. “Survival of this island,” […]
  • 1250. Willow and Vivanya, Part 1
    Part 1: Vivanya, Water-Witch “They are hand-carrying water,” mother said, Outside window looking, Greer family arrived From Scottish mainland, settling on Hebridean Isle. New blood, generations crofting, sheep, Cows. From […]
  • 1244. Willow, Ocean Passages, Part 5
    Part 5: Celtic Guiding Voices (Last) Storm petrels we are, wing-darting tween When, where,” Hremsa stated, steerboard- Steady, groaning sailing dory, shredding Sails, returning, if not wind-squalled from Deific heights. […]
  • 1243. Willow, Ocean Passages, Part 4
    Part 4: Celtic Myth-Memories Never had I felt seasick, island fishing boats, Papa’s able hands, foaming seas, colliding Wind-waves, Hremsa at steerboard, sailing Dory crest-skimming tween briny depths and Air, […]
  • 1242. Willow, Ocean Passages, Part 3
    Part 3: Sea-Steering Steadying Hands “What bothers you so?” Hremsa asked of me, Willow, Scottish mainland marooned, lost to Family, Hebridean Isles.” “Island is dying,” I replied, “Two  years, peat […]
  • 1241. Willow, Ocean Passages, Part 2
    Part 2: Desperate Discoveries Life on Outer Hebrides islands, perspectives, Sights narrowed, as if ocean viewed from ship Porthole, I, Willow, never ventured beyond our Foreshores. Upon fishing-croft landed, Jannet […]
  • 1240. Willow, Ocean Passages, Part 1
    Part 1: Jannet and Kamden Life’s decisions, ocean passages, waves hard- Steep, Papa, another fisherman, rowing open Dory, we pushed for Atlantic steel-hull trawlers, With us mother, sick boy, seeking […]
  • 1239. Willow, Mother’s Wish
    Night awakened, wind-blown waves, island Crashing, white-crested, foam-streaked, Rolling onto our shores. “What, again?” Mother asked, cottage dark-cold, winter Refusing give way to spring. Cloud-swept dawn, grey wall of waves […]
  • 1238. Willow, New Breath Breathed
    Night quiet-cool, gentle breeze, sounds Traveled amongst cliffs and hills, ocean’s Rhythmic call, first birds stirring, awaiting Sunrise, melodies of sheep bells, island- Living harmonies, I arose from sleep to […]
  • 1237. Willow, North-Sea Storm
    Frosted window, bedroom-entering chill, Sunrise grey-clouded light, floor cold on Bare feet. Fireside hearth-room, I, Willow, Took first sips of warming tea, mother Porridge stirring, Papa arm-loads of peat. “What […]
  • 1236. Willow, Wake of Raibert
    We are earth, and earth has become us, Deep-rooted trees, branches extending From antiquity, beyond island families, Outer Hebrides, primitive boats of sail, Seafaring clans, migrating tribes invading, Inhabiting, blood […]
  • 1235. Willow and Celtic Shepherdess
    During sea-storms, each cottage is a ship,” Papa said, windblown rain door-pounding, Water seeping round window frames, earth- Filled double stonewall, bulwark against Late-autumn gales, long three days, nights, Flickering […]
  • 1234. Willow, Sacred Streams
    Clear streams near cottages field-wandered, Source of water, island life, gardens, sheep, Livestock. Drying days we searched its deep Earth source, enchanted spring Papa said. Mere trickle at its source. […]
  • 1233. Willow, Sunrise Celebrations
    Cold April moonlight crept across cottage Bedroom walls, tomb I imagined, single Small window for outward-peering dead, Awaiting resurrection, trumpet’s call, Divine light. Thus, I, Willow, was taught, Religious beliefs […]
  • 1227. Willow, Halibut Fishing
    Tides pulling us seaward, boat rocking, Everything difficult, wet-heavy, fishing Long-lines tangled at my feet, Papa hard- Steering our sailing boat. “We are too far From shore,” he shouted into […]
  • 1226. Willow, Seafaring Ghosts
    Chill of morning mist, hilltops shrouded By scudding cloud, do I stay by warm Hearth fires or venture into lost, lonely Heights? “What will it be, Willow?” Papa Asked, answer […]
  • 1225. Willow, Secret Place
    Do you have secret place, rocky corner Grass-shrouded, hidden from view? Mine is sacred spot, clear cold water Flowing from crevice in stone face, Rippling pool beneath, few sips thirst- […]
  • 1224. Willow, Island Spring Awakening
    “Papa, can you feel island reawakening?” Sun’s warming light on my face, chilled Winds sea-lessening? Drip, drip, cold Water tasting, except in shaded rocky Crags, ice had disappeared. Earth’s deep […]
  • 1223. Willow, Fire and Stone
    Fire and stone, since ancient ages, burning And unburnt, inseparable from island life By hearth fires, winter we survive, light, Warmth, flickering flames, place to think, Pray, dream of spring […]
  • 1222. Willow, Spring Equinox
    First spring day visiting stone ruins, grass Overgrown in summer, miserable in winter, Desolation heart-piercing, wind-bracing Outpost, keen eyes headlands-searching, For Iron Age, Norse sea invaders, or keeping Beacon fires […]
  • 1221. Ellsbeth’s Norse Sea-Legend
    Coastal storm battering Hebrides outer isles, Children taking shelter in our stone cottage. Around flickering candlelight, Ellsbeth, elder Woman of our island told of Norse legend to Anxious girls and […]
  • 1220. Willow, Mystical Ocean
    “How far and wide is the ocean?” I asked Papa, strong-backed net-man, fishing our Livelihood. Patient pipe puffs, he replied, “Westward reaching cold depths, Willow, Beyond sight and touch.” Doubtful […]
  • 1219. Willow, Winter Island Rain
    When will spring arrive on outer Hebrides? Question I, Willow, asked to setting sun Dying violet light, short winter days, Eternal island nights, ghastly gales, cold, Windblown rain pelting our […]
  • 1218. Willow, Island Mist
    As if ship from foreign land, mist arrived, Grey sails, water heavy, sun vanquished, Our island slipped into nothingness. “Sorrow and doubt” mother called foggy Lantern-carrying days and nights, straying […]
  • 1217. Willow, Glenis’ Wake Song
    Alone on windy heights I sang, no words or Melodies memorized, I told of feelings within My soul, Willow, Hebridean island girl. Of These hills, fishing family life I spoke, […]
  • 1216. Willow and Brygidt
    Ocean reflecting clouds, fishing boats sails Reefed, Papa and I working nets, wet-heavy Weight, peering deep into still water. “You May see another face,” Papa said, “another Fairy-self, lifetimes past, […]
  • 1215. Willow, Ancestral Island Paths
    Who first walked island paths? Following Banks of grazing streams, winding, mist Rising into hillsides, steep-slope summits, One circling above, below the other, less Strenuous lower rocky route. “Who made […]
  • 1214. Willow, Standing-Stone Vision
    Misty Outer Hebrides isles, disappearing Cliffs, no beginning or end, we lived at Ocean’s raw edge, crofters Gaelic-speaking, Seafaring fishers, net mending, sails wind- Stretched. “Amongst ancient magic, we Live,” […]
  • 1213. Willow’s Shieling Visit
    Beyond distant hills, stone ruins I explored, “Stream or Strome,” papa said, rocky place Seldom visited, reasons never given nor I, Willow, asked, lest papa turned his head, Silencing my […]
  • 1212. Willow’s Island Pony Beven
    How old are island ponies, from whence Did they come? Wandering outer isles When Roman soldiers arrived, before “Albion” was coin-struck, painted Picts Guided them from shore-to-shore, across High-sloped folded […]
  • 1211. Willow, Island Reflections
    Is it possible to see beyond one’s self? Beyond this austere island life? I have Peered into reflecting pools, my face Shimmering in sunlight. Who is that Person staring back […]
  • 1210. Stirabout and Starlight
    Before dawn, mother liked stream-fresh Water, not bucket-sitting for stirabout or Tea. “Needs to be fresh, Willow,” she said Eye-rubbing, sleepy in my bed. Shoes sans Socks, lantern light, chilly […]
  • 1209. Wooden Mail-Boats
    Prayers and faith, Bible verse remembered, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you Will find it after many days.”* Such were our Tiny wooden mail-boats, no larger than loaf […]
  • 1208. Willow, Pushing East
    How does one escape nothingness? Island Wasteland, dying community, abandoned Stone cottages, endless chores, footpaths Rising into fog-shrouded rocky heights, Sunless perpetual chill, distant sheep bells. Am I the only […]
  • 1206. Willow and Ríonach
    Shipwreck winds night-howling, half-moon Eclipsed by storm clouds, sailing ship-mast Broken, against cliff rocks splintering, death On western Irish isles. Next morn, lifeless Passengers washed up Scottish shores, Bodies pale […]
  • 1205. Fishing Nets, Island Sheep
    “Fishing nets begin with island sheep and You, Willow,” Papa said, unfathomed mental Connections, roaming flocks, deep-running Schools of flip-flopping fish, warm wool Gathering, spinning taught string, twisting- Turning spindles, […]
  • 1203. Willow, Wind and Stone
    Winter wind, granite stone are siblings, Persistent island presence, unaffected By the other, stone blocks wind, cold Penetrates thin seams between hand Laid stones, sealed with mud-plaster, Wind whistling around […]
  • 1201. Alone on Rocky Hills
    Why do I venture alone on rocky hills? Rugged heights, stone picking my way, Summits oft cloud-lost, hard-pushing Gusts against my face, place where Wind sings of ancient Scottish ways. […]
  • 1200. Willow, Island Magic
    Barefoot girl of ten, rambling rocky ridges, Eyes on far-away places, Willow sang in Evenings, voice clear, warm hearth stones Standing, eyes closed, slight rocking Movement to Scottish melodies unheard […]
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