your freshness in my nostrils,
I am young again.

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Between Gales (January 2015)


You wake to deep grey darkness.
No spark to lighten
your tentative walk to the kitchen
trying to avoid the curled up dog.

Communication utilities are dead.
But then the comfort of candles,
of a roaring fire,
a coffee with almond milk
and a silent ‘thank you’ to the previous dweller
who installed the gas cooker in this house.

Outside the bins are still
where you positioned them yesterday
and not down at the shore
found by a neighbour a few times
before you learned the hebridean ways.

The shed has not moved
and apart from the doormat which has flown away,
some garden mesh hanging helpless in the fence,
cat and dog refusing to move outdoors
and windows covered in salty mist and grass blades
it seems that you can relax now
before the next storm wave
will hit tomorrow.

Posted in Berneray people, gales, Islands, Outer Hebrides, Poetry, seasons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tin Mail (St.Kilda)

By the late 1890s a unique system of mail dispatch had developed on the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda: letters were enclosed in a waterproof receptacle attached to a homemade buoy or buoyant object and launched into the sea in the hope that they would wash ashore and be forwarded on by whoever chanced upon them. The idea had been developed by John Sands, a journalist who found himself stranded on the islands in 1876. In the years that followed Sand’s experiments the St Kilda “mail boats” were regularly used by the islanders.

What hope and courage and desperation
to trust your words
to the ferocious ponder of the sea

and – like a prayer – to endure
months, maybe years or never
to know an answer!

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To St.Kilda/Hirta

St.Kilda is an isolated archipelago 64 kilometers west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.


Poor St.Kilda,
Marilyn Monroe of the islands;
in contrast to many
I don’t feel the urge
to visit you.

I know you are my gender;
never crossed my mind
it could be otherwise.
I feel for you:

Have you accepted
to be unveiled, stripped naked,
weaponed, trampled on,
to fulfill the dreams and expectations
and greed
of many
and more and more….?
Have you?

Is it the lost limbs of their soul
they think to find
on the steep sides of your hills
and between shouting,
now silent, ruins?

Do they project on you
their neediness or longing
for something slightly adventurous,
“un peu de frisson”,
and out of the box?

I don’t think you have chosen
to be famous,
to become the lure
for attracting tourists
and their money
to the islands.

What do you, Hirta, think of this?

Oh, rocky island,
I feel compassion
and think that maybe you are grateful
for wintry gales.
They bring respite;
times you can rest in your memories
of the people
for whom you were home.

Listen to the song of the tiny Wren:
he knows your beauty
and your dignity.

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Harvest Moon Beach

Harvest Moon Beach (September 2014)

I didn’t see the Harvest Moon last night;
the sky was clouded, closed.
But on today’s afternoon
my feet touch virgin sand.

My beach has changed.

According to the dictate of the moon
the sea has taken herself back
unveiling unknown sandy planes,
and rocks and seaweed covered islets.

The dunes as far as never.

I marvel at the delectable offerings
laid open to be found by longish beaks:
the mud spotted with greybrown casts of sandworms
and keyhole hides of razorclams.

And here a small pale rose cowrie shell.

And as I walk along the line
where sand and water meet
a migrant whimbrel calls
and then alights.

No sound more lonesome.

I look towards the Harris hills
at many shades of green and blue
while mainland mountains vanish
into a daze of greyish azure.

A beauty almost painful.

Posted in Fauna, Isle of Berneray, Land- and seascapes, Moon, Nature, Outer Hebrides, Sea, Tides | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A letter to a dead Scot deeply concerned about tradition


Alasdair Maclean says: “For a culture to be worthy of the name, for it to succour natives rather than entertain tourists or entertain those who, in cultural matters, are but tourists in their own land, it must conform to a certain pattern. One might sketch that pattern as follows:
A culture is the most natural thing in the world. Is appears at the same time as its region and is both cause and effect; it cannot be adopted later or manufactured. One might describe the relationship between culture and region as that of foetus and womb, save for the difficulty of deciding which is which. Indeed so coincident are the two, so contingent each upon the other, that if one die the death of the other cannot be long delayed.
Most probably, if a people have begun to talk about preserving their culture – perhaps if they have begun to talk about their culture at all – it is already moribund. While it lives it must be sustained from below rather than from above, kept going by a folk rather than by entrepreneurs or committees. It has nothing to do with scholarship, with benevolence even. You cannot wish it well; to describe it is to help destroy it. It may be reflected in literary magazines and art galleries; it does not originate there. It is certainly not to be found in the popular media of today for these merely represent the pander as cynic, the kind of commercial operation that pleads for excuse the debased taste it has formed and now feeds.
Above all, it must be continuous with the past, have undergone the laying on of hands, breathe air rather than oxygen, be a matter of spirit rather than will, of instinct rather than reason. For a culture revived that was dead, ore one whose still-fluttering pulse derives its weak authority from tubes and dials, is no more than a zombie-like husk, a chicken jerking deceitfully in the barnyard dust after its neck has been wrung.
A culture is best confined to that area where it is indigenous, because the further it departs from its centre of energy the more dissipated its strength, the more degenerated its forms. When that happens, those whose birthright it is had best abandon it, for then there’s more enterprise in going naked.”

(*) NIGHT FALLS ON ARDNAMURCHAN. The Twilight of a Crofting Family. Birlinn 2001. In Alasdair’s Journal 1979-1980, p 192/193

When reading this passionate outburst of a native crofter’s son I immediately feel an intruder, almost guilty. As a Swiss person who has lived about 10 years in Scotland I have obviously really nothing to appeal to his clemency. I his eyes I am a nothing, not even really a tourist any more (smile) and definitely in no right at all to contribute to the culture of the Islands. And in some way he is right! I understand his thoughts.


Dear Alasdair, if you would be still alive I would call on you and challenge you.

I have passionately fallen in love with Scotland and especially the Islands. Is understanding and love for a landscape not a “human right”? Can respectful appreciation not also contribute to the keeping the heritage alive? (I have even dared to write a tune in homage of a island landscape – without birthright, but maybe with “right of affinity”?)

In your text I find the PAST, some in your eyes not very promising PRESENT, but where is the FUTURE? Only the jerking almost dead cockerel? What about the local people, the crofter, the musician, storyteller, artist, in reality everyone, involved in creating NOW the culture?

May I remind you that every piece of today’s cultural heritage, born out of “the laying on of hands” as you describe, was once completely new, holding a promise for the future like a trembling newborn baby, not knowing how it would be accepted, how it would cope with days to come. Could you imagine that today, on this very day I’m writing to you, all around the country so loved by you, such today’s promises are being born, waiting to be seen, to be heard, to be despised maybe, to offend maybe, to shake people awake, to bless, to bring delight…..all of them not completely new but infused, soaked with the heritage of days ago, the old and the new creating together todays culture? Maybe, in future time, a writer like you will passionately defend their right to be, calling it THE culture and fearing it would be lost!

In my eyes culture is PROCESS, a lively, creative net, always in motion and connecting people in their lives, concerns, passions, struggles – in/of the PAST and PRESENT!
As with everything on our planet the only permanent law we can be absolutely sure about is CHANGE. If this change in culture will be a blessing or not, this lays in our responsibility, in out outlook, in our eyes and hearts.

With kind regards,
Loriana Pauli, July 2014

Posted in Art, Gaelic, Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean, Language, Music, Outer Hebrides, Poetry, tradition-culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

a colourful harvest on our beach


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