Highland Light

by Graham Bullen

Image provided by Airborne Lens

I know every square inch of this remote, semi-aqueous realm...Everywhere, the delicate and savage balance of flora and fauna.

I'm back, an adolescent adventurer, by an unnamed lochan in the wild area of Assynt, just north of Lochinver. The road, a narrow ribbon nailed to the rugged undulations of the peninsular, is two hours walking behind me. My Achmelvich home, a converted croft on the margins of The Minch, visited with the misty views of Lewis and muscular northwesterlies, is a further bike ride away. I know every square inch of this remote, semi-aqueous realm. The procession of pools and lochans that nourish and disrupt the landscape. Its vast populations of upland grasses, the seasonal carpets of mountain dryas, rock cresses. The veins of dark bog-rush, binding the thick overhanging lips of deepening peat hags. Everywhere, the delicate and savage balance of flora and fauna.

Fiona sits next to me, her knees half bent, her hands holding her ankles in front of her. Her arms are bare from just below the hems of her capped T-shirt. She faces the static lochan, no need for continued speech.

To this day, I'm unsure if it was the light dropping onto her arms from the early evening sky, or a rising refraction from the surface of the water. Or a singular combination of the two.

The effect on her skin is mesmerising. The graduated down on her forearms ignites in a soft wash of golds and crimsons. Her extended arms become the base of a thin but distinct corona, a pale seductive luminescence that, as I gaze on, finds a resonance in her profile. Her upper lashes somehow gleam. The rocks and gravels of the shore burnish in her sudden lustre.

To prolong the moment, I remember holding my breath. Trying to substitute breath with light, unwilling to inhale for fear that the air around us will shift and cause the effect to end. The sound of the blood in my ears amplifies, as the seconds pass. I could happily pass out, clinging to the last glimpses of such a beautiful moment.

"Are you all right, Callum?" She moves her face towards me.


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