I think that probably says a lot about heaven. The cliff thing. On the cusp, the ledge, the last bit of land, the bit that edges up to both Mother Earth and Big Sky, taking in the fall and the lift, the light and the dark, the wander and the flight. No-one can tell me different as no-one has ever come back with data. If there is one, a heaven, I mean, there are tales of dead souls watching us. I like that. Especially as they don’t seem to cast aspersions nor level judgement and there’s a whole load of that going on down here.
However, for me, heaven is right here right now, and in tiny moments of understanding, even if I have absolutely no idea what I just understood. I can feel the breath of an ‘Aha!’, the rise of it into my mind, the realness of it, but when I try, standing here in my boots and on solid ground, to follow it somewhere, it wisps away into the sky, and there I cannot follow. I just watch it fly beyond my grabbing fingers, so fleshy and so mortal and so useless when it comes to Big Sky.
Tomorrow I go to this bit of heaven, this clifftop cottage in the middle of somewhere. And nowhere. Grown from the stones that lay around, many many years ago, this cottage formed into a dwelling. I love that word. The owners have made it warm and cosy. I do not have to hike my butt up a wonky wooden ladder into a loft that sits above the cow and the goats and the hens. I don’t have to breathe in the smell of them, although, to be honest, I would love to do it just once. The sound of animals settling for the night is so, well, heavenly. Having settled a sick dairy cow, a dying horse, many chickens and sheep in my time, I know the sound that tells me they feel safe and warm and protected. They munch or cluck or baaa or diddle about for a bit, and then that aaaah comes upon them and they give in to the dark, and sleep.
I have one week. I am hoping that Jamie’s cows are friendly. I hear that they are and that is reassuring. I am ridiculous around cows but cows and me have history. There was a sick cow and calf way out on the point on Tapselteerie. It was February and calving season and these cows were Galloways. Angry at the best of times, and you would think they had ten legs the way they could go from A to B before A had even noticed they were there. I and my tiny girl, aged about 5, dressed in a red polar suit and wellied up. Me, terrified but unable to show a glimpse of it. We had to bring a sick Galloway cow, plus calf (weak) through the herd, the hungry angry herd. We found her, the tiny girl and I at the very back of the growling group. Pushing her forward, but slowly, slowly as she could barely walk, we faced into a teetering wind spitting ice. I held the tiny girl’s hand like it was my own life in my hand. Which, with hindsight, it was.
The others battered her flanks mercilessly, over and over. She went down many times whilst her stricken calf, blinded with terror, called out to her. She tried to respond, and did, in grunts as best she could. We are now mid herd and I am threatening these aggressive ten-leggers with my stick and a voice that astonishes me with its authority, even in an ice wind. It’s because I am terrified but I am also aware that my tiny girl would be no more than a tiddlewink beneath those hooves, and in seconds. Finally we got to the gate, the one that would let the sick and exhausted girl through and keep the other angry ones out. I have never been more relieved. However, that poor cow and her terrified calf had another 2 miles to walk, albeit in comparative safety. She died that night and who could blame her?
So, from tomorrow and for one week at https://treshnish.co.uk I will stand on the cusp of heaven and earth. I will be warm and cosy within the walls of ancient history in a comfortable bed with a woodburner to flame up the evenings and with views and cliff falls that astonish every single minute. I will watch the seabirds fly, follow the geese into their water landing, see the wildflowers that I have never seen anywhere else on this island. This land is not built upon, not cleared (again) for humans to control, but handled with the gentlest of caring hands. This place is, well, heaven.
And, I may even walk through Jamie’s cows. It is high time I got over my terror. Cows, by the way, have four legs, not ten. It helps to know that.