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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Stopped Dead in My Tracks

Photo by M.Sliedrecht

Brrr. It’s cold this morning. And snowy! It seems an unusual amount of snow for the north of Scotland, and for the second time this winter too. While chilly, it is beautiful.

I’ve also had a cold, of a different sort. The kind that is going around at the moment.

I pushed it away for as long as I could, especially when we had guests staying that I so much wanted to see.

So despite a persistent and scratchy sore throat, and headaches lurking in the background, we had a wonderful time, enjoying walks, talking, sharing visions and stories, laughter....

One evening, after I got home from a lovely dinner and chat around the fire, I received a text from my friend while I was brushing my teeth:

'Great display of northern lights!'

Toothbrush in hand and a mouth full of toothpaste, I ran to turn off all the lights of the house and find my way outside.

It was the most stunning and remarkable experience standing under that sky. After some time of gawking in the darkness, I rushed back in to rinse out my mouth, and went out again for a while, watching the light move and dance across the star studded sky.

One of our visitors, Simon, managed to get a couple of shots from his window.

Sure enough, the next day it rained, as is often the case following such a late night display. However, after a warming visit and tour at No.8 Distillery in John O'Groats, and lunch at the Seaview Hotel, the skies cleared enough to let the sun through. We took the opportunity to go to the Duncansby Stacks for a walk and to get some fresh air. It was wonderful and one of the highlights of the weekend for me, along with the Aurora. I was surprised to see all the nesting fulmars!

The island of Stroma in the Pentland Firth:

Above photos by Simon West. Used with permission.

When my friends left, the floodgates of a cold/flu opened up: eyes bleary and teary, nose red and raw, sudden takeovers of sneezing, overall fatigue….

This was my overall state in the last few days. After feeling it creep up on me I could ward it off no longer. This flu hit its fullness, so I spent time in bed to recover.

With it, I was stopped dead in my tracks.

As was the case the last couple of mornings when I woke to fresh fallings of snow on the landscape. The late dawn light was shining through the heavy cloud sky, about to be covered, but I managed to catch some of its rays on the white expanse - a beautiful sight.

Yesterday morning:

And today:

Above photos by M.Sliedrecht

These views cause me to stop in wonder - the light on the hills, the dramatic change in the skies.... They fill me up.

This poem by Canadian poet, Bliss Carman, called 'The Heart of Night', encapsulates some of these feelings well:

The Heart of Night

When all the stars are sown Across the night-blue space, With the immense unknown, In silence face to face. We stand in speechless awe While Beauty marches by, And wonder at the Law Which wears such majesty. How small a thing is man In all that world-sown vast, That he should hope or plan Or dream his dream could last! O doubter of the light, Confused by fear and wrong, Lean on the heart of night And let love make thee strong! The Good that is the True Is clothed with Beauty still. Lo, in their tent of blue, The stars above the hill!

Photo of Orion, by Simon West

'Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.' ~ Mary Oliver

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