A Trip of Dotterel

Natalie Reid

With cotton yarn and metal hook, I knot and weave a quilt of cathartic crochet, sewn together by two arms, two hands and ten fingers. Knuckles cracked and nails bitten to the quick, she would say. A grandmother’s craft can occupy idle hands as well as indulge wandering thoughts.

I wipe away condensation from my misted window. Outside, there are fishing boats bobbing like puppets on the low tide Tweedmouth. Invisible ropes hoisting up a canvas of stars, reveal an impressionist sky, thick with lustrous oils. Fine mist hangs, suspended above the estuary, glowing candy floss pink as the sun emerges and a reflective pathway glimmers from cliff to eternity, with seductive invitation. I watch wading curlews carefully dipping beneath old salty as October’s violet reflects in pools of glass on the silt banks. An arctic tern soars elegantly through the air. Her magnetic yearning for summer nesting ground reminds me of my own desires. I recollect learning about the migrating dotterel, longing for the mountainous Cairngorms, where she can lay her eggs; ochre yellow and speckled. My feathers are preened and my wings, outstretched. Taking solace in the warmth of my incomplete quilt, I close my eyes. I am the dotterel. There’s no place like home.

My journey endures the percussion of steel on steel, which carries a rhythm accompaniment to my treble stitch. I cross the Firth of Forth along the iconic bridge and admire her infinite paint job: russet red like peaty earth. Her dramatic construction creates angular windows against the icy blue hue of water and vast machinery, half submerged, towers into sight. A thick black matter surges through me, discolouring photographs in my mind’s eye and a sticky, oily sense of responsibility creeps in. A solitary heron, knee-deep, quietly accepts without choice, without voice, the monster that stands before it. I return to land.

Aboard my carriage of cobalt velvet recliners, I journey north following cragged coastline, embellished with ruined croft and castle. The sky resembles freshly washed cotton and the landscape has signs of hairst upon it. A collage of earth and crop: an arable blanket, sewn together with dry stone dykes and hedgerow. Golden bails sit heavy on the hillsides. Their charcoal shadows are drawn on the ground in the wake of light. I imagine farmers, preparing for winter; striking deals with Scotland’s fickle Mother, willing her to be gracious. A billowing cloud of starlings dance overhead: a synchronized shoal out of water. Each bird, decorated with stardust, murmurs with menacing beauty.

Without flight.
I am a daughter.

Clenched fists and a thumping in my breist, I alight. I walk a platform flecked with sheepy silver and staun afore him. His e’en watery like my ain, wrinkled in the neuks and his begrutten face; puggled. A grandmother’s son can comfort a heavy hairt. A bosie: twa airms, twa hauns and ten fingers. Knuckles cracked and nails bitten to the quick she would say. Aye, there’s nae place like hame.


hairst, harvest
dykes, walls
breist, breast
sheepy silver, mica flecks (in stone)
staun, stand
afore, before
e’en, eyes
ain, own
neuks, corners
begrutten, tear stained
puggled, tired, exhausted
hairt, heart
bosie, bosom, hug or embrace
twa airms, two arms
twa hauns, two hands
aye, yes
nae, no
hame, home

‘Natalie Reid is a visual artist, illustrator and emerging creative writer from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Her practice has developed alongside a fascination for folklore, traditional customs and the profound relationship that we share with the natural world.  Through her writing, she endeavours to express her own connection to changing landscapes and natural rhythms, breathing verve into poetic storytelling.  Her north east hame, her Doric mother tongue and a magnetism for dialectal and linguistic variation, are a rich source of motivation for her poetry and prose.’

Photo credit: Eunice Chung

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