Summer 2016: Scotland… of Water Fairies and Sea Kelpies
Water is everywhere in Scotland…
Falling from the sky, flowing into the rivers, cascading from the waterfalls, then to the lochs, and returning eventually to the sea.
My many travels as a surfer have taken me to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I never expected the beaches of Scotland to be some of the most impressive.
Of course Scotland, with its many islands, inlets and bays, has infinite coastlines, all unique and different from each other, but one thing they have in common from my observation:
In summer the beaches are almost empty.
What a delight to find vast stretches of sand and shores deserted, serene and quiet in the middle of summer!
The quiet calm offered me numerous occasions to partake in one of my favorite past times, beach combing.
So often in my travels I have been on coastlines of stunning surf, fabulous waves and fantastic vistas when my eye inevitably returns its gaze to the ground as I compulsively scan the beach for my own personal treasures.
The beaches of Scotland offered up many many fascinating objects, most of which I must return to the sea…
…but some, really unique in their forms. After years of tumbling on the shores, broken crockery and glass are beautiful to behold and pique my curiosity.
My beachcombing obsession proved infectious with our little crew… and at our last supper together we covered the kitchen table with our own personal discoveries…
Truly one man’s trash is another’s treasure!!!
Glimpses into the past: I wonder how these objects looked intact, who made them, who used them, and what for? and what caused their ultimate demise? A slip, a fall, a chip or a nick and then no longer useful, they are cast into the wastebin of history.
This was one of my personal favorites: A piece of bone found at Shandwick beach during low tide. I picked it up and immediately felt that it could be a handle of some kind.
The site of numerous battles throughout history, Shandwick is now tranquil and serene. My imagination wandered…I could not help but wonder was this a dead soldier’s cast away cutlass handle or the residue of some holiday maker’s picnic lunch???
In any case, the bone is a keeper, as are the other small wonders: a plush toy (now washed and cleaned) for Murphy,
And yes, a brick! Our Mill house in Tuscany is called Piccolo Molino… Little Mill. And thanks to our Italian friends Gaetano and Fabio it was portaged to Italy, where it will live somewhere in our garden.
All these questions, musings and images add to my creative inspiration. The deep sense of history in this land cannot be ignored. It reveals itself in the marvels of nature and in the marks of man.
Myth and legend combine to add to the magical sense of this place of wonder and awe. Stories of Sea Kelpies, Water Fairies, Blue Men, Mermaids and Mermen… it is so easy to let the mind wander and be driven to flights of fancy…
Our travels have now led us to the Outer Hebrides – on the isles of Lewis and Harris, the location for John’s latest film project.
At Latitude 57, it is the furthest north I have ever been. The islands are sparse in vegetation and dominated by the stretches of peat which cover the land.
But the beaches here were what lured me… as did the Seonaidh
or Shoney… the water spirits of ancient Hebredian lore.
It was Luskentyre beach that enchanted us most… and with it, the legend of the Fairy Hound, whose large paw prints can be seen on the beach and then mysteriously disappear.
Certainly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Miles of pristine, white and pink sand perfection, and spans of emerald green turquoise water.
And like most Scottish beaches, dog friendly.
Murphy was in his element, our own little Fairy Hound!
The light here changes from moment to moment, as the Isles are so exposed to the open waters of the Atlantic. Clouds and weather come and go, making for countless wonderful compositions for me to paint.
I could have stayed on Harris for an entire summer… but my photographs will remind me of the wonder and majesty of these shorelines. I will revisit them with joy as I paint.