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 words, but not my curiosity.
Relics from an earlier age, this ocean-side
Hovel, built before bleak black-houses,
Stone cottages, spare shelter, half-buried
Stone room, family huddling, primitive
Escape from winter snows, perpetual
Gales, wind-freezing sea spray.
By candlelight, I crawled into rustic room,
Precision laid stones fast-holding, beehive-
Rising roof. Quiet contemplation, feelings
Perceived, clans sheep-following, music of
Roaming bells, hillside resting place, walled
Opening protected from harsh ocean winds.
Yet, spirits felt round me, like my fishing
Family, hardy crofters on Outer Hebrides.
Where have their kinfolk gone? Were they
Overcome by loneliness? In desolation,
Disappearing into mist-shrouded heights?
Aching death-coldness crept into my bones.
Drawing my shawl shoulder-tight, I felt panic,
No escape from rugged isles, seized by rocky
Coasts, towering cliffs, swift-seas surrounded.
Death endangered, ancient clans abandoned
All their labours, including sheep, ponies,
Hard push for southern seas or Scottish lochs,
Highlands, return to pagan Pictish past. Yet, I
Fear-felt, many rustics survived not migrations,
Spirits lingering along island shores, accounts
Papa realized true, now I know as well.