Sunday, 19 January 2014

Culbin by train

The train stuttered and swung its way from the east coast through the familiar litany of towns packed with bored and down cast commuters.  I did not care – I was not there.  A few miles north Culbin lies quiet and secret under the full moon, invisible beyond the infinity mirror windows of the train. 

I seem to remember I was having trouble with riding on sand. The back wheel was breaking away and I was tipping over. Aye, that was it. So I headed for the fire tracks and braved the mud left by the harvesters before breaking away myself into the empty still wood. I aimed for the Buckie Loch just to see. When I got there it was a stony field of downy dried thistles hiding from the sea’s next big temper behind a ridge of stones. The bike and I climbed the stones in a fluid pull on the bars and stopped, stunned and stilled.
Waves dropped quiet on the sand. Not breaking along the beach but just dropping – plop, soosh - in a single second across as far as the eye could see.  White dry sand blew along dark wet sand in swirls. Out to sea gannets speared into the white caps. Rise, cruciform, turn, spear, splash.  Fishermen in endless benediction.

I dropped the bike and sat down. The ridge top was a mosaic of small pebbles. Red granites, white quartz, layered toffee sandstones, smoothed ancient gneiss on its last journey after 3 billion years. Glaciers had gifted these stones to the sea as rough rocks ripped from Cairngorm, the tors of Avon, the hills of the great glen and many others. The sea had loved them smooth as skin, cold as their mother ice under my hand.

It was overwhelming to have all my senses competing at once.  I lay down, head on the ancient stones and closed my eyes – smell of sea, taste of salt, sound of a single wave.

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