On the island of Skomer, off the coast of Wales, is the largest population of Manx Shearwaters in the world. Under cover of the middle of the night, they fly in from the sea where they have been feeding. Hundreds of thousands of birds go hell for leather into the safety of their underground burrows. In the morning, the paths of Skomer are littered with the occasional bodies, or what is left of them, of the unlucky ones who didn’t make it but instead fell prey to the Greater Black Back Gulls who feed on them. All that is left is a pair of wings on a path and they fascinate me. They are the most striking memento mori – reminders that we must die – that I have ever seen (and I’m a gal who likes a good memento mori). So a typical morning on Skomer is: get up, have some coffee, hike, hike, hike, and oh, hey, remember that we must die: thanks guys, got it. And strangely, these visceral tokens of life and how quickly and randomly it is snuffed out are so lovely and unlikely.
From my post on Skomer:
The next morning, paths around the island are [read more]
“The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried.” – Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
I wish I could subtitle this: “It Can’t Always be Paris,” because as a rule, my love of travel takes me to cities, ones that I’ve fantasized about my whole life. To museums, churches, cafes, and copious amounts of people watching, opera going, and pastry eating. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, more and more I find myself drawn to places off the beaten track, looking for something you can’t find at the end of a subway ride. More and more I go in search of a different kind of church, a different type of watching.
Last week marked my third stay on Skomer, an island off the coast of southwest Wales. It is a place of pronounced beauty and mystery, wild in locale – it can be reached only by boat – and demeanour, if an island can be said to have such a thing. While humans have lived on Skomer for thousands of years – remnants of an Iron Age community are still strewn about the island, [read more]