All the sounds are so loud: the flapping wings of the hoodies cruising overhead, the beating of the cormorant upon the sea in front of me, the crisp chirps of wee land birds on the hill behind. It’s intense – the clarity of the still air, the clarity of my cleared ears. They don’t hurt any more but I hear the noise of all the life here so acutely it’s almost painful.

The hammer blows of someone working on the other side of the loch rebound across the water. A dog barks over there too. I know that cold water conducts sound across its surface very efficiently but I feel as if I’m sitting in an amphitheatre. Even the occasional gentle shwoosh of the sea along the shore seems amplified. A prawn boat glides in, cutting the water in two with a steadily increasing hum, and I have the sensation that not just this but all sounds are drawing near.

All sounds are drawing near and all sounds penetrate. The wings of the hoodies creak so densely it’s as if they’re sawing through the sky, and when they caw I feel as if my brain is being grated. The hard-edged audio quality affects how I see things too. The loch and its headlands appear fresher and more present, turning rapidly as the sun sinks from green and blue to black and gold. The air contracts to a sharp coolness. The loch seems huge and small at the same time, with myself just a stillness beside it, collecting audible events in an empty echoing head.

This unusual clarity might also be due to the fact that, for the first time in weeks, I am alone – my attention undisturbed, my ears free of voices. Indeed, that’s what I’ve come here for, for this loud silence and for these elements: blessed seashore, blessed solitude, blessed sound.

Lochinver, Sutherland, Scotland
29th October 2019