Stone Sentinals

High above the waters of the Inner Sound
Pink sandstone lies in exposed wrinkles
Freshly cracked and brittle after each new winter
The snow and ice reveal the mountains naked shoulders.

These broken pieces of her body
Gathered by awe inspired and loving hands
Are placed with gentle purpose and whispered promises
Offerings to the mountains spirit, memories of those who have passed.

Closer to the gods than we can dream
An utterly unearthly platform of stone, where sound carries and is hushed all at once.
A place so full of time and space that it leaves us breathless
And there are no words for this view, for these colours and shapes of earth and water melting into sky. This is a place where hard edges and boundaries dissolve like the sands of time, and we know we are utterly alone, and deeply connected in the same breath.

We are beyond imagination, falling into bliss
Only the gravity of the firm rocks keep us from drifting off into space.
If we lie here our bodies might be picked clean of flesh by the mountain birds
Dried by the sun and the wind
And laid to rest beneath hollow cairns of stone
Echoing the shapes of distant peaks.

Time passes slowly on the mountain tops, and the rocks have long memories. Our ancestors walked softly in these high places, carrying stones from the mountains feet back up to her cloud brushed summits. Almost every hill and mountain in Scotland has a cairn because of this ancient tradition, added to by each new generation who step foot on their slopes.
To add a stone to a cairn brings a blessing, but to remove a stone brings ill luck. It is worth remembering to add to the living cairns of others lives when we can. To lift and carry some of the small broken fragments which we might find at their feet, back up to their core. To ease their burden a little, and to find that we leave small stone blessings which might become part of a beautiful beacon to others. After all you can’t and shouldn’t build your own cairn.

These photos were all taken on the cairn field of the Bealach na Ba, the Pass of the Cattle, which connects the remote Applecross peninsula with the rest of Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands.

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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50 Responses to Stone Sentinals

  1. adinparadise says:

    Wonderful pics and writing, Seonaid. I love the tradition of adding stones for a blessing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. i’ve seen cairns here in sweden, and i’ve seen them in jordan…i think this is one of those universal things. it feels wrong to see one without leaving something behind, doesn’t it?

  3. The photos are magnificent, but I love your words even more. They strike true in my heart.

    • Thanks Marion. Sometimes I feel I use far too many words, and I really admire the way you can select just a few in your six word challenges….I always look and try and then find I just cant say it in six words!!

      • You don’t use too many words, they all express your feelings and thoughts.
        And if you ever want to participate in the six words challenge, please do. I ponder on my ‘stories’ for hours and keep changing them until they feel right. Either start with a photo, or first write and then find a photo. It is so much fun.

      • Mmm…I will keep trying ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. icelandpenny says:

    I look at those vistas expanding out to infinity (sitting here in my little home office, downtown, on a rainy day) and I feel myself expanding with them. Whenever I stand in one of the world’s “last places” the Buddhist concept of being interwoven with the universe — an eddy in its stream — makes perfect sense.

  5. Colonialist says:

    Lovely photos and words. The more I see your visions of Scotland the more conscious I become of how surface-skimming was our only visit.

  6. frizztext says:

    “the mountains naked shoulders…” (!) creative metaphor!

  7. ladyfi says:

    How absolutely magical!

    Just think if we all treated others like cairns.. the world might be a better place.

  8. Mike Howe says:

    This is one of my favourite places in the world, the pass takes us (almost every year) to our home from home at Ardban. The view of the Cuillins is one that gives me a thrill each time I see it, so thank you for your beautiful photos and prose ๐Ÿ™‚

    • My pleasure Mike, our home from home is in Plockton, and we try and visit three or four times a year….and every time we visit we take a trip over to Applecross, for the views, for the hair raising road, for the beach, and for the food at the Applecross Inn ๐Ÿ™‚
      I never tire of this constantly shifting landscape.

  9. wisejourney says:

    Always glorious pics and those stone….wow. I have never seen anything like that. I really have to visit Scotland again. Always dramatic, magical and from your pics….often other worldly

    • There are so many amazing places here which I haven’t even got round to visiting yet, but I think I’m drawn to the magical and otherworldly! Thanks as always for the encouraging comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Tina Schell says:

    Wow, what a beautiful place! Nicely done

  11. bstarbee says:

    How oh how do you take such breathtaking images? These transport me. Thank you.

    • Thank you, it’s always wonderful to hear what people think of my photos. Comments like yours make it all so worthwhile ๐Ÿ™‚ although I have to give some credit to nature and her ability to create stunning scenes perfectly set up for photos!
      And I suppose I should confess to spending lots of time lying on the ground on my belly, just trying to get the right angle ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Wow, breathtakingly gorgeous!

  13. restlessjo says:

    Such a breathtakingly beautiful place, Seonaid. Your words do it justice. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Jo, it is an incredible pace to visit. The drive up to this plateau has the steepest incline of any UK road, hairpin bends worthy of Switzerland, and its a single track road with passing places!….I will get round to posting a photo… even before you reach this spot you feel as though you have left the normal everyday world!

  14. BP before reading .. 130/90 …. BP after reading 100/70 … thanks Seonaid. D

  15. spiritual explorer says:

    Your palette of colour, texture, light, history and philosophy create in me visions of great spiritual beauty. In my life I have struggled to see such beauty but your lantern on life enables me to glimpse the true wonder of the world. Please continue to paint your magical insights into the chaotic world and I will gladly follow with great enjoyment.

    • What a beautiful comment, and thank you. The world is indeed chaotic, but full of wonder and love. If we can allow it the spiritual beauty of the world can rescue us from almost any darkness. I love the idea of this blog being like a lantern, thank you for this, and so happy to have you along ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Beautifully done – as ever, just makes me want to be there.

    • Thank you, and I know that you will know this spot well. I think this is the clearest and warmest that I have ever experienced this plateau and the field of cairns ๐Ÿ™‚
      I want to be back there myself right now!

  17. Paula says:

    I could get lost in this place. Beautifully photographed Seonaid ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Paula I completely lost track of time while taking these photos ๐Ÿ™‚
      I came round, out of my camera, to find the dogs had each found a spot to sit and just soak up the view and the atmosphere…..of course I then took shots of them and nearly posted one, but resisted……I think it’s good to stay with that atmosphere of being swept away ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Suzanne says:

    The last photo and the line ‘We are beyond imagination, falling into bliss’ are utterly beautiful. What a wonderful sacred place to be able to visit. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Thank you, as I wrote it there almost felt like a tune to go with that line ๐Ÿ™‚
      It is a very special place, with an amazing atmosphere…..I couldn’t help but share it….and the beauty is even more incredible in person!

  19. Love these photos and your words. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Amy says:

    Breathtaking views! Wonderful narrative!

  21. bdh63 says:

    Lovely photos. The terrain reminded me of the desert in New Mexico and Arizona — the Southwest of the US. But that terrain isn’t wedded to ocean as in your pictures, so it was familiar and alien at the same time. I loved your story of the cairns. I might need to weave it into a story one day. I hope you won’t mind!

    • I have never visited these arid spots, but have been to other deserts, and I can see why this mountain pass feels familiar……but as you say the ocean adds something wonderful. Of course our ancestors saw the otherworld as a westward isle across the waves, so this view adds a new meaning to heavenly ๐Ÿ™‚
      Please feel free to use any inspiration you like from my stories. After all that’s the point of sharing to allow new weaving of the ancient threads ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Breathtaking landscape…thanks for explaining the function of cairns. I had a sense that they were sacred but never really thought of them the way you explained it above. I love the idea of people adding their stone to those of others, building on top of those who have gone before, standing on their shoulders….

    • That’s it exactly, we follow and trust those who have gone before us, finding the routes and marking the ways. There is a tradition that if you can place a new stone to balance on the top of the cairn you will have special luck….but all without disturbing the stones already placed!
      It is an awe inspiring landscape, which aways sweeps me away from myself and my small earthbound worries ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Mjollnir says:

    Gorgeous photos as always ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thank you, and the real thing is even better. It always makes my jaw drop a little when I step onto this plateau….I remember its beautiful, but just not quite how beautiful until I’m there again ๐Ÿ™‚

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