Ross and Cromarty – May 2004

A true story.

While sauntering the Scottish coast

beyond Plockton, past Applecross

though not as far as Ullapool,

I found myself enveloped by

a stillness. Broken by squawking

seabirds and waves beating the shore.


In the wind, snatches of shouting

from a man on a tide-washed rock.

Intrigued by the white-beard, white-haired,

arm-waving intensity as

he engaged wind and waves with words,

I sat. An audience of one.


“For ye shall go out with joy,

and be led forth with peace:

the mountains and the hills

shall break forth before you

into singing, and all the trees

of the field shall clap their hands.”


I’d had my share of bible talk

at Baptist Church and Sunday School

but felt compelled to sit a while.


Lacking words to describe the scene –
a salt-sprayed prophet preaching,

darkening clouds dulling the sun,

an arctic tern in the background –

I rooted for my Praktica.


My rummaging distracted him.

A momentary pause. A shout.

“Put that away! No photographs!”

I grabbed a snapshot anyway.


Holding tight to wind-whipped scriptures

he preached, verbatim, ancient texts

to guillemots, a dolphin pod,

the wind, the sea. And then at me,


“Come unto me,

all ye that labour

and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you,

and learn of me;

for I am meek

and lowly in heart:

and ye shall find rest

unto your souls.”


“Would you care for supper with me?

A wee dioch-an-doris at least?”

I’ve a bottle of single malt

in need of  ‘appreciation’.”


He led me past a dozen hens

and posse of watchful cats to

a one-time war time lookout post

his turf-covered camouflaged home,

ceiling rammed with driftwood sculptures

and fancy pebble jewellery

he bartered for whisky and wine.


I offered to buy – he declined.


He looked through a window slit at

Rona, Raasay and Skye beyond.

Then, with a smile, touched lightly on 

days of fame and Mercedes-Benz.


We sat, in candlelight, with cats,

drinking long into the night as

glass followed glass of Talisker.


“It’s time we opened another.”


“Why preach when there’s no one to hear?”

“You came. You stopped to listen. You heard.

I’ve preached to thousands – wasting words

on hearts that were hard of hearing.”


A silent film played out next day

him standing at the water’s edge,

blessing a bottle we had killed

with his sermon rolled tight inside


and letting it drift on the tide.



© coolhermit 2023
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