I'm on holiday in Assynt, NW Scotland. In a place where the rocks (Lewisian Gneiss, 2.9 billion years old) are the oldest in Europe. Where rocks of 500 million years old (equivalent age to many of the Eryri/Snowdonia rocks) are considered young. Where cuckoos wake you at 4.30am, flying by the house and perching outside your window, where Snipes drum across the road. Where weather and light changes every minute. Where corner shops and houses and whole villages are made from tin sheets and containers and boxes and anything else you can find. Where human colours are as bright as the natural world is sepia. Where water seeps and flows and sits and crashes and pours and pulls, down, into the depths. Where the soil is heavy and dark, woody over its stoney basement. Where the sun blows in brightly, the horizon coming and going, bringing scenes intimate to expansive in the space of seconds. Where the cliffs are eroding into tortuous shapes while beaches are made of huge, ancient, rounded boulders, infilled by plastic, shoes, children's toys and rope. Where every other house sells eggs, has a boat and a caravan in the garden. Where time is controversial. Where there is "nothing so urgent" as a Scottish equivalent of 'Mañana'.
This is a place content in itself. Now. Aware of the past, and welcoming of - but practical - about the future. We are staying in a new house, a kit, heated by an air source heat pump, looking out over the outer Hebrides and the traces of the Highland Clearances. It is spacious, cosy, light. Its Scottish name "Aros nan Aisling", like its location, is beautiful. I find myself reading three books at once: Jay Griffith's book, Pip Pip - a Sideways Look at Time. And Conor Mark Jameson's book, Silent Spring Revisited. And Nick Davies' book, Cuckoo - Cheating by Nature. I'm reading the three at once, but they go well together, fitting to explore the overlaps, the fault lines, the piecing together. A conglomerate of material. They ask questions of time, of place, of our impact on the world, of its impact on us, of how we could think about and do things differently. I find myself looking sideways at the water and the treasure/rubbish and the birds and the people and the moor and the rocks, the roads, the walls and the light… and feeling optimistic about the future.