In this week’s lecture or sermon, I want to address some unexpected sightings I had on Skye a couple of weekends ago.
The first occurred when I looked out the panoramic window of the hoose, expecting perhaps to see an unusual bird or an otter or a splash of interesting light. Instead, what I saw was a nuclear submarine.
Yes, you don’t get to say that every day. I couldn’t believe my eyelobes. What made the scene even more surreal was that the sub was arched by a rainbow, which ended just in front of my house (well, my friends’ house, strictly speaking). Had this been a dream, I’m sure its significance would have defeated Freud or Jung.
The sub was edging up the coast of the Scottish mainland. Grabbing my binoculars, I hurried after it and, after it had disappeared round the headland, I stood stupefied on a rock.
Here, in this peaceful place, there had slinked a sleek, black beastie that could destroy the entire world. Fortunately, I was wrong in this fanciful assessment.
Researching the sub later, I’m pretty sure it was HMS Artful, an Astute-class vessel which, while nuclear-powered, doesn’t carry nuclear weapons but a selection of other missiles and torpedoes.
Still, scary or what? When I turned round to look at the forest behind me, I found beads of rainwater on the still bare trees illuminated magically by the late afternoon sun. It was like something out of Tolkien (reader’s voice: “Oh Lordy, here he goes with his elves and nonsense.”)
My second unexpected sighting also involved looking behind me, which I recommend all decent ratepayers do from time to time. I was stravaiging along the shore from Rubh’ an Eireannaich to Rubha na Sgianadin, one of my favourite walks, always quiet but with slippery rocks that can be hard to negotiate.
Breaking my focus on the basalt underfoot for a moment, I turned round and saw the most fantastic rainbow, not arched across the sky, but sitting in a straight, thick band just above the sea beside the island of Scalpay.
The colours were stunning, and it fascinated me that this phenomenon had just appeared from nowhere, ken? My reverence for nature and, of course, for Skye was redoubled.
The previous day, I’d seen another luminescent treat that had brought a lump to my throat. Again it came from the simply performed exercise of looking out the window.
Across the bay, beyond the causeway linking a small island to the main shore, I saw a shimmering strip of sea illuminated bright silver. It looked almost like a living thing.
You will not be surprised to hear that, from that same small island, I heard my first cuckoo of spring. They breed over there and, on still days, their endearing call fair echoes across the bay.
What morals can we draw from this week’s homily? Well, the first is: always look. Up, doon, side to side, front and back, you never know what you’re going to find.
Secondly, pay attention to the sea. In one weekend, it supplied me with a big, thick rainbow, a shimmering sliver of luminescence, and a nuclear submarine.
These are not readily available in your high street or mall, and need to be seen to be believed.