Halfway across the burn, the sea just a sliver on my horizon, I stop. All winter, plodding up and down this beach with my dog, I’ve heard only storms – chin to my scarf, I’ve hidden from an Atlantic seething in black and white. And I’m thinking how spring isn’t just wild flowers and lambs. It is stillness. Like the sea has taken a deep breath and relaxed. Today there is only the gentlest of breezes and looking down, I watch the water pucker into glossy ridges around my wellies, the bubbles sailing downstream – gurgling and lathering all one action. And I feel it working on my mind, the foam flittering over a calloused core. ‘Hallefuckinglujah,’ I cry, and then turn around, but as always it’s just me and Tone, his snout in the sandy roots of marram grass.
There’s only a foot of water but it pulls around my boots, persuading me on. So I turn and go with it – splashing towards the beach, a part of the flow. It’s not easy walking. The deeper stones, the ones that are always underwater, even when the burn is low, are covered in moss so dark and thick that their contours are lost; instead there is only a textured depth with weed swirling through the peaty water. The streaming green tendrils surface on an eddy.
There is a point, as I walk, where the burble of the rocks recedes and the sea takes over with its constant grind – a deeper voice. A point where standing, you can hear both, before a step closer to the beach and the burn becomes irrelevant, trivial. I look up. The dunes have tumbled out on to sand, the burn widened, the sea just that little bit closer. I can see its ribbon on the horizon – now rippling, now pulled taut. Where I’ve stopped, in a cut-out of the bank, reeds prick the dark water making pinholes of light. I turn my back on the sea. Head inland towards the strath and the burn’s source. On this spring day, I want only gurgling and bubbles.