by yon bonnie banks

Water is everywhere, pouring, rushing, pooling; the land is alive with water. White burns bubble through the woodlands on one side of the road; on the other side, trees are drowning in a wide field of water. It’s impossible to tell where the course of the river is or was – the whole field is flowing, and high on the hillside beyond it, huge falls roar where there were none before.

We’re safely north of Loch Lomond now, but as we wound round its banks, the loch itself was beginning to take its share. The outer half of the road towards Pulpit Rock had disappeared and road crew were there on built-out platforms rebuilding it – on stilts. It was a tight passage round the cliff there, squeezing between the water rushing down the rocks and the gouging maw of the loch.

As we come further north, the streams multiply. The steep hillsides are threaded by strings of white water and, as we approach Glencoe, the hills are scarred and scored in white. Snow fills each high crevice and ravine, highlighting the bare black bones of the rock shouldering through. Below the snow, streams continue the white lines, racing down the creases to the valley floors.

It’s not just the intensity of the water but its frequency that’s overwhelming. Each rock face is run over by a hundred slim streams. Even on the lower slopes and flanks by the roadsides, a new stream is gushing down every few yards, flooding the road and forcing us through ford after ford. Water is just pouring off the hillsides.

Water falling, water rising. And through the air too, great banks of rain move in horizontal gulfs. From safe inside the car, they almost feel sheltering, these great grey washes, engulfing us, until the wind harnesses them into harsh lashing whips. And so, through the water-ridden world we travel, sheltered and invigorated alternately, and all the while feeling secretly blessed by these thousand bright white streams.

Buachaille Etive Mòr, Glen Coe

Driving up the A82 (past Buachaille Etive Mòr, Glen Coe), Scotland
20th February 2014


In the heart of winter, white lilies are exploding quietly in my rough-walled room. Anthers thick with pollen hang heavily around an erect glistening stamen, like lusty vaginas, scattering their russet dust everywhere. The genders are reversed in this case, the stamen being the female part rising from the bulb of the womb. The petals and sepals peel back like inside-out labia, thrusting their sex shamelessly into the world.

Even just looking at them, I feel myself spreading open – and the scent, rich and heady and sensuous. Oh, Lily of the winter morning, lily of the winter warming.

heart of a lily

Pontycymer, Cwm Garw, South Wales
2nd February 2014

winter blossom

tree blossom

White crocuses poking through grass – the first flowers! A few steps later, pale blossoms leaning skywards on a tree. It’s raw out today though and doesn’t feel like spring: the winter is blossoming.

I’ve had white lilies in my room intermittently these last few months too. Despite their summer scent, they feel like winter flowers, opening secretly in the season’s dimness, and softening our hard stone edges in the absence of soft blooms of snow.

White flowers in the heart of winter. The crocuses look sort of virginal, like the snowdrops will when they bloom on the river banks beneath the trees. But lilies are obscene.

Walking by the Kelvin, Glasgow, Scotland
28th January 2014


world precipitating out into its particulars
articulating itself in crisp points
precious, precise

heavily frosted fence and twine

Strathendrick, Stirlingshire, Scotland
29th November 2012