Monday, November 25, 2013

The layered sounds of NM 802092.

The view from NM 802092...
Islands of Eilean an Dùin and Eilean Arsa, Shuna in the background.
NM 802092 is a very special place. Today, in the spot marked by those coordinates, the richness and layers in every moment were revealed, in the sounds of silence.

British Grid Reference NM 802092 is just off the A816 highway, south of Oban. It lies on the shore of Seil Sound, the body of water that links Loch Melfort and the Sound of Jura. We stopped there, simply to take in the stunning view, and the peacefulness.

I wandered off, stood by the water, and marvelled at the silence. There was a sense of aloneness and of solitude that felt so pure. It was easy to drift into a contemplative place and space...

There wasn't a sound. Just silence.

In the process of intentionally quieting the mind, there was a revelation - there are sounds in the "silence". But in our emotional busyness, we so often miss the oft-gentle, and unobtrusive sounds around us.

Some were close by, some were very far away...

the sound of a gull's wings creating lift as it flew by
sheep in the hills
a dog's bark

a tiny bird, twittering on a fence post
a chain saw, somewhere far away
cows mooing

a gust of wind, rustling the few remaining leaves on a tree
the light rain, tapping on my jacket
a small outboard motor boat, on the other side of the Sound

the familiar Doppler effect of a vehicle quickly approaching, and departing
water lapping, gently on the shore
little birds, in the trees, munching on seed casings

a farmer, perhaps working in his barn

the sound of approaching footsteps in the tall grass

Joan's voice, asking if I was OK...
I had been so still for so long

my own contented sigh, 
as I revelled in the beauty of the moment...
and the complete "silence" 

Leaving NM 802092, and continuing down the A816, we came upon the ruins of a castle, built almost 450 years ago...

Carnasserie Castle, built between 1565 and 1572 by John Carswell,
Rector of Kilmartin and Chancellor of the Royal Chapel at Stirling.
It was in this castle that Carswell published the first book in Scottish Gaelic,
a translation of John Knox's Book of the Common Order.
 ...and standing stones, put in place 5,000 years ago.

The Kilmartin Nether Largie standing stones, dated from Neolithic times.
 These ancient people must also have found a precious the sounds of silence.

Part of the circle of standing stones, dating to 3000 BC
at Temple Wood in Kilmartin Glen.
At Dunadd, a rock-cut passageway led high up on a craggy hill to where a fort once stood, 1500 years ago...

The passageway to the Royal Centre of Gaelic Dàl Riata.
...and to the inauguration stone with a carved footprint, where the kings of Dàl Riata placed one foot, betrothing themselves to the land that fed their people.

The inauguration stone, and the foot print.
In all these places, there were deeply layered the aloneness, and in the "silence".

In the world today, there is so much desire to talk, but maybe not so much to listen. We need to learn to gently listen, not only to the sounds in the natural world around us, but most especially, to one another. When this happens, we become aware of what it is that will help us create the world we all aspire to share, and to leave to our children. If we listen, the answers are there, amidst the layered sounds of silence.

It was good to make that stop at NM 802092. There was a message waiting, a discovery made.


  1. Hi Duncan, When I am hiking, I sometimes have to make myself stop every now and again and remember to take it all in. And then what you call the "layers" of sound and experience reveal themselves. It makes all the difference. A good reminder. :>) Gen.

  2. Hi Gen, nice to hear from you. Yes, I sure know what you mean. Just determined to get some good "exercise", we can miss everything - and arrive home without any stories to tell! :) Thanks for that and best wishes. Duncan.

  3. When I read your blog the first thing that came into my head was the Simon and Garfunkel song the "Sounds of Silence". Strange how sometimes being in a silent, or what you think is silent place can do much for your awareness of greater things. Kind regards, Mike.

  4. Mike, how true that is. I think that's why it's important to seek out the "solitude" of the outdoors so much, it allows everything through to listening "ears". Many thanks. Duncan.

  5. Silence can be comforting and healing. The world needs to slow down and truly listen to the sounds of nature and of each other. Thanks to Mike you can imagine what I have been singing all day ;)
    It amazes me that in your pics there are no others around must be feel deeply spiritual to be in such places.

  6. I must admit, the "off season" is a great time of the year. It sounds a bit selfish but it's possible to be very much alone in the hills and by the sea...and ON the sea if our kayaks were here with us. :) Solitude sharpens the senses...and invites the spiritual experience. I think we need that. Many thanks, L. Warm wishes to you from us. D.

  7. I have actually been asked lately from a few folks "how are they going to get your kayaks over there?" Yes, I guess there is something to be outdoors when it is too dark and cold for many of us.
    Keep Enjoying it all!

  8. We're going to find a way...somehow. :) D.

  9. There may be a bit of a plan for boats to get you one the water in the Spring D & J ! Lovely stuff here - silence is such a precious thing in a world full of "white noise"

    Best wishes

  10. Many thanks for that, Ian. When the time comes, and I hope it will again, it will be simply great to get on the water together! We'll stay in touch. Warm wishes to you both from Joan and I.