Saturday 30 June 2007

Saturday seaglass

A small space between downpours seemed like a very good opportunity to set out for a walk with son and dog at 4.30, once the marmalade was safely potted up and the worst of the sticky drips wiped away with trusty new kitchen friend, Squirt-eco

Searched house for a cagoul, but both mine were in the (absent) car and an unclaimed camouflage version, age 9-10, was simply too small and too silly, so bobbly fleece, which nobody but me appreciates, had to suffice. Grey and damp but walked for a couple of hours on an all but deserted beach.

Son found large-ish tree-trunk which had liberated itself from beach defences at the east end of the island. A handy length of blue plastic twine was securely stapled to one end, allowing it to be towed slowly homeward on the return journey. Neither of us could come up with any good reason for bringing it home, and indeed I should have preferred to lug back a gorgeous, twisted, sea-bleached branch, given its superior aesthetic appeal. But the lugger got first pick and so the tree-trunk it was. Apparently it will make a splendid bazooka once it's dried out and had a bit of work done in it.

Picked up a goodish haul of seaglass - and some nice shards of old blue-and-white earthenware. I'll photograph the best piece in daylight and post it here. So I didn't get the twisted branch but I did get a piece of twisted glass - it's a strange and lovely thing.

Watched low-flying cormorants and oystercatchers, but gazed longest at four or five curlew out beyond the mud on the low-tide shoreline. W B Yeats 'reproved' the curlew in The Wind Among the Reeds:

O curlew, cry no more in the air,
Or only to the water in the West;
Because your crying brings to my mind . . .

. . . well, in fact, for him, that haunting cry brought to mind 'passion-dimmed eyes and long heavy hair that was shaken out' over his chest, which is not at all what it does for me, I have to say. But, it certainly brings to mind a lot of other things, many of which would perhaps be better not so often thus brought to mind. So today's little flocklet should consider themselves quite firmly reproved by me and I'll thank them to keep their beaks well stuffed with small crustaceans in future.

While Googling 'curlew' (as I do surprisingly often, as it happens), I came upon this site, which celebrates the work of Mary Ethel Muir Donaldson (1876-1958), a photographer and writer who lived in the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. (It's a rather annoying site, in that there seems to be no index of the works - to browse, you have to wait for a new selection to appear at the bottom of the page.) Her monochrome shots of Highland scenery - including sunsets - are a reminder (as if we needed one) of the power of black-and-white landscape photography to convey not only the colour in a scene, but so very much more besides.

Which brings me quite effortlessly to my rant of the day. The world is awash with luscious colour photographs of sunsets, and - far, far worse - with painters' almost universally repellent attempts to pin down this breathtaking but elusive phenomenon. If you want to see the real meaning of a sunset . . . then dare to capture it in black and white. Go on. Try it.