Life & Death in a Northern Climate
LIFE & DEATH IN A NORTHERN CLIMATE
It's all downhill from the Aultnamain Inn
on a Friday afternoon in 1995,
the Dornoch Firth a sluggish curclicue
lazing under snow-shaved braes,
a sky of purest Highland winter blue.
A wind with gold-capped teeth
snaps at my face as down the hill
I slalom into Edderton, awash with
dodgy 12 year-old Auchenlosh,
defying record wind chill
& a temperature of -23, gravity
today a well-met friend for me.
Folk have died in these conditions
they'll tell you, been found rigid
under trees, in roadside sheughs
contorted into Dali-esque positions
by such cold. But I am tough,
hewn from countless generations
of a breed well used to out-staggering
death with every lurch on days
like these, every hard-won breath
a white refusal to be brought
to creaking knees by something altogether
as banal as freakish weather.
Back home later, heated by
a wood fire, Talisker, pickled fish,
I dwell upon the myth of Scottish bravery,
close eyes that have only just stopped running,
stretch out legs still galloping away
from what the news reports as
Wester Ross's worst storm in a century,
pump the air with spectral fists.
Being dead doesn't get any better than this.