The Wolf has the last laugh. Just up the valley from here, at Rogart, the remains of a young wolf, probably about 2,000 years old, have been discovered this very week in the peat, and are now being conserved at Inverness Museum. This is a real coup for the Brora Heritage Centre (home of Clyne Heritage Society) and quite an amazing coincidence/synchronicity for me.

In summer 2017, with many others I attended a shamanic/dance workshop, ‘The Opening’, as part of a varied programme offered by Cambsdance. It was led lovingly and safely by Pavel Timashkov and Alex Svoboda (who are offering a similar workshop this July 2018 ). The Power Animal with which I connected on that occasion was a small wolf cub, curled up asleep at my feet. This experience has continued to have a strong imaginal  and mythic presence for me.

On a more prosaic note, and still on the subject of sleeping, I’m loving the new beds that The Beloved assembled last week, before he headed South-home  (by bus, trains, bike… 13 hours door to door) and thence (by Campervan) to the Scything Festival in Somerset and Saw Fest in Suffolk.

Here in East Sutherland I am continually filled with joy, by the many manifestations of  returning North-home under the Pole Star. The day breaks early here, at 58 degrees N. Last Tuesday morning when the day awoke, I was still awake myself, floating on the edge of sleep with a sense of upekkha and creative freedom. When I went down a couple of hours later to make tea, there was the Song Thrush, already snailing in the patiently-waiting-to-be-greened back yard.

And the seagulls circle, spiral, and re-gather over the Back Fields, sometimes like a scene from the Hitchcock horror movie ‘The Birds’, sometimes like the  “… holy white birds flying after” in the hymn ‘O Christ who holds the open gate’.

At Brora (as in Cambridge) I feel well-resourced and safe, held by the hammock of friendship that grows stronger and longer. Here I am looking out at horizons that stretch wider and more spacious, walking with strength and ease (and sometimes with serenading seal families a few metres away) along the local beaches (in my new Vivobarefoot swimrun shoes, in which I have yet to swim or run).

And I have taken delivery of a lullaby-singing washing machine and a coolly humming fridge-freezer, after a fortnight without either, and also of a microwave combi-oven that doesn’t yet work. Things move slowly up here, and I will have to wait a few weeks before a replacement can be delivered, probably by the same nice young men who braved the long drive from Glasgow through the Scottish Gales earlier this week.

Gradually settling down to explore and enjoy this new home. Looking forward to welcoming family/friends here to Dhruvaloka – Place of the North Star – in the fullness of time. Meanwhile I’m content to rest, play in the garden (along with its resident onion-couch grass), walk, write poetry, listen to the lilting accent of the welcoming locals, and delight in recognition of other people’s self-expression, and maybe aspects of my own.

Here’s another synchronicity. I was chatting recently to a couple of visiting Motorhomers, and happened to mention that both The Beloved and I trained as agricultural botanists (that’s how we met). Another customer sitting at the next lunch table at Poppy’s of Golspie (where I had just set up our Council Tax payments with Highland … in the Golspie Information Point, not the café) overheard our conversation.

When they’d left, first exchanging e-mail addresses (the woman was an artist from Nottingham, involved in a project in the Northumberland/ Scottish borders) he introduced himself as the Botanical Recorder for the Vice-County of East Sutherland, and welcomed me (and The Beloved in absentia) to plant-hunting projects in this area.

East Sutherland is rich in delights for field botanists and amateurs alike. As an amateur, I am discovering that already, and maybe – with the help of Prof Mick’s online Grass Identification Course, and the monumental plant list that he is working on updating and revising, we can help to increase the ranks of field botanists in East Sutherland from six to eight, with my partner (who already has wide experience in commercial forage varieties.) being the better candidate to benefit the Identification Cause.

Back to wolfish coincidences. Recently this not-quite-wolf poem landed in my Inbox, gift of a poetic and artistic Buddhist friend; thank you, John.


Is this world truly fallen? They say no.
For there's the new moon, there's the Milky Way,
There's the rattler with a wren's egg in its mouth,
And there's the panting rabbit they will eat.
They sing their wild hymn on the dark slope,
Reading the stars like notes of hilarious music.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?

And yet we're crying over the stars again,
And over the uncertainty of death,
Which we suspect will divide us all forever.
I'm tired of those who broadcast their certainties,
Constantly on their cell phones to their redeemer.
Is this a fallen world? For them it is.
But there's that starlit burst of animal laughter.

The day has sent its fires scattering.
The night has risen from its burning bed.
Our tears are proof that love is meant for life
And for the living. And this chorus of praise,
Which the pet dogs of the neighborhood are answering
Nostalgically, invites our answer, too.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?

~ Mark Jarman ~

(*The Atlantic*, May 2003)