I spent the day walking the blurred boundary lines between land and sea, sea and sky. An intertidal no man’s land, as Robert MacFarlane said in his book The Old Ways (Penguin). A world of merging blues, greens, silvers and golds. A world washed clear of footprints twice a day; evidence of all visitors swept away.
My eyes skim the surfaces like a stone over water – flitting over before settling, focusing, sinking in. Looking at the pebbles at my feet I can’t help wondering where each one came from. Every colour, every crystal, every chip and change in texture; they all hold secrets.
Today I feel immensely lucky, scrambling up and over ancient lava flows and solidified ash, carved and moulded by the sea. Walking the shoreline in total peace, far from the quiet bustle of the town of North Berwick, I’m able to pick out the story that the rocks tell through landforms and shapes. Not that I can place everything, but that for me is not the point – I never claim to be an expert in all the geological intricacies and details. Rather, I’m a bit of a magpie, a jack-of-all-trades, I’m intent on unfolding stories from the landscapes in front of me.
Odd that this world of blue and green was once the realm of volcanoes. Looking up, the series of igneous islands that line up along the East Lothian coastline stand out against the sea and sky. The result of an intensive period of volcanic activity in the area around 350 million years ago, Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat, the Bass Rock, and Berwick Law are but a few of the ancient volcanoes that made the landscape what it is today.
The volcanic rock I’m scrambling over is fine-grained, the surface polished smooth by the work of the waves. It’s watercolour-washed; blue-grey to green, matched to its surroundings. Cylindrical pothots pepper its surface, ranging from thumb-sized perfect seats for pebbles to those holding sizable rock pools; water snatched from the sea and held, warming in the sun, until surrendered again on the next high tide.
Time hangs suspended in the air above the sea. All slows, simplifies. I’m honed in to the sound of water rippling, barnacles popping and crackling in the sun. Light, reflection, blue air, stillness. An oystercatcher, stark against the background, smart in his black and white suit with vibrant red legs. I close my eyes and he is still there, vibrant against the shimmering heat haze.
Somehow, yet again, I have lost hours wandering the fringes of the sea. Alone in no man’s land.
All text and photographs copyright L. Reid 2015