Standing Stone (F)

Last September, we rented a car in Inverness and headed north. We were stopped twice by orange Highland cattle with shaggy coats and huge horns. They roam the narrow back roads in search of tourists struggling with right hand drives. Surviving them, we caught the ferry at a village with a wonderful name, John O’Groats. The sea was atypically calm for our passage to the Orkney Islands.

Long before the Vikings arrived in Scotland to first plunder and then settle here, impressive circles of stones were erected. The Ring of Brodgar, about 4500 years old, is magnificent and mysterious. We can only guess why the stones were erected and the function they served. Their age shows on a surface etched and colored by lichens, like mottling on old skin.

I took a picture of my husband’s shadow next to the shadow of a standing stone. It was leaning towards him, and a nose-like feature on the stone suggested that it might be watching or listening. I remember wondering what we might have to say that would interest it, but perhaps it was offering advice in a language long forgotten.



This story and the Angel’s Share were written on a memorable trip to Scotland in 2009.