Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sea kayaking Scotland's "Dolphin Coast"...images of strength and fragility.

Is that a "guardian angel" that has appeared above and to the left of Joan?!
When we left our home, in the Kingdom of Fife, the skies were heavily overcast. The air was still, as in the calm before a storm. But...128 miles to the north, on the Outer Moray Firth, the marine forecast for the North Sea promised ideal paddling conditions. Just over three hours later, we were unloading the kayaks in the harbour at Cullen, under clearing skies. 

Ian and Linda at Mountain and Sea Scotland introduced us to the paddling possibilities in this lovely part of the country in the spring of last year. Ian and I paddled from Cullen to Sandend on a day very much like this one. Astonishingly, the Moray Firth has some 500 miles of coastline - cliffs, reefs and skerries, coastal grasslands, expansive beaches and sand dunes, historic harbours, and delightful seaside towns.

Today would be an opportunity to "rock hop" in a very light swell, explore an open-ended cave, float beneath the ruins of a 700 year old castle, walk a beach, examine the bright purple heather...and enjoy a close encounter with Bottlenose dolphins.

Leaving the harbour at Cullen,it's a dramatic and rugged coast.

The massive geological, monolithic-like formations speak of incredible strength, and a stubborn resistance to all that would erode and ablate. They stand resolutely, connecting sea to land.

In the fullness of time, they too will vanish. But for now they remain tall and magnificent, immovable, offering a simple habitat in their cracks and crevices to creatures both delicate and fragile. It is a union of strength and fragility.

Some residents and passers-by take a few moments to enjoy the warmth of the sun, perhaps some good conversation, and an absolutely cracking view over the sea...perhaps it's part of the process of "community building".

Others tend lovingly to the needs of their growing and dependent families - community-building in its very first stages.

There is surprising fertility in this rocky abode. But it's not so obvious at first glance.

On closer is clear that there is sufficient nourishment for a little garden on the "balcony", complete with lovely flowers. It looks very cosy.

The sheer beauty of the natural world humbles us, and that is how it should be. But as we are increasingly discovering, even the natural world is fragile.

We must take very good care of it...for all life, sharing both strength and fragility, is interconnected and interdependent.

The sea is a dynamic environment...and so is each and every day. At times we feel very strong. At other times, we feel very vulnerable.

Either way, we must never give up. We must always "paddle on" will always make us stronger, to face whatever we must.

Sometimes, trying to "fit in" is difficult. But is it always really necessary? Are we not stronger by celebrating who we are...for there is no one else, just like us anywhere in the world.

A single twig is fragile, and breaks easily, but a bundle of twigs is strong. It's why we need one another in this world.

It's clear that "no bird has an island (skerry), entire to itself." (With apologies to John Donne and his Meditation XVII, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624.))

This was a gregarious, highly sociable bunch, they called out, joyfully, as we paddled past...and we called back. Then they did a "happy dance". 

Never stop dancing.

The "Dolphin Coast" is one of the most splendid and enchanting places we've ever had the pleasure to paddle...and it inspires the heart, mind, and imagination with it's beauty.

Maybe now is a good time for 1st lunch. Yes, I think so...tortillas with fresh hummous, crisp lettuce, a squeeze of lemon, and lots of coarse-grained black pepper. Mmmm. :)

More to come...


  1. Very soon, I hope! :-)
    Paddle safe and let inspiration and associations flow.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Leif, they are much appreciated. As you know, beautiful places always inspire the heart and mind. Warm wishes to you. Duncan.

  2. Congratulations on the amazing physical energy you and Joan possess and which is so creative when married to your joint spiritual sensitivity and awareness. The photographs are stunning - sea and "cathedral" rock sculptures to humble us all. The versatility of life to be everywhere, to be able to adapt to the surrounding environment a great example of how we must all "bend" to love one another.

    1. Thank you, Angus, for that. I must confess, however, there are many days marked by "depleted energy"! Ah, so long as there is balance. I appreciate your point about the versatility of life very much. We can, perhaps, learn so much about "living simply", from these marvellous cliff dwellers. I sense they are able to "celebrate" life, without the disappointment that seems to accompany so much of our human yearning. Warm wishes, see you soon. Duncan.