Around ten years ago, I had the best trip of my life when I went to the Isle of Skye, Scotland with the Polish bear. We cozied up in the most comfortable little croft in all of the Scottish isles. Located in Borreraig, the farthest point of the Isle of Skye and as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Our croft was a simple one bedroom cottage with a loft sleeping quarters and a super comfortable bed. A fold out window gave us unhindered views onto the northern skies where there was zero light pollution, just the poetry of the heavenly bodies and the Milky Way.
The journey there was a long, but beautiful and filled with jutting skyscraping mountains which disappeared into the mist. Long lines of shadow fell over the roads we traversed. The sheer and diaphanous clouds mixed with the water and soil and created an ever-changing interplay of blue and slate colours that dissapeared into blackness on the horizon. Dramatic, moody, forboding skies stewed together and created new patterns, with sylvan shards of light. In this place all water, sky, sun, moon and earth seemed to exist for the joy, melancholy and theatre of our eyes alone.
In this place and time, the Polish bear and I contemplated the future. At that time we thought we would be separated and thrown apart by circumstances, distance and the UK visa system. We wondered if we would still be able to navigate a strong and true path together. It was a dramatic, dark and scary time for us both as we contemplated an uncertain future. The moody skies on the Isle of Skye seemed to be a very alive and very vivid part of our story.
In among the deep sadness of saying goodbye, we also had a sense of embracing, inhaling in the present moment and weaving memories together. The Isle of Skye was like a salve on the wound of our separation. Through the landscape of the Hebrides we were able to embrace the uncertainty of the future.
The word ‘Gloaming’ is an old Scots denotes the long time between night and day. During the summer this time is extended out and in the northern highlands and islands, the sky doesn’t truly get dark, so the gloaming lasts for many hours, like a missive from the underworld. The word Gloaming comes from the Old English word “glōm,” akin to “glōwan,” an Old English verb meaning “to glow.” There is also a similar word in Dutch called “Gloeien”.
The gloaming comes, the day is spent,
The Sun goes out of sight,
And painted is the occident,
With purple sanguine bright.
Alexander Hume, 1599
The gloaming across cultures
I discovered that there are many other cultures which have sayings, mythical creatures and words to denote the same thing as Gloaming.
Entre chien et loup meaning ‘between dog and wolf”. This stresses the liminal and otherworldly quality of something, whether it be a landscape, animal or a weather system.
Gwyll, Gwyllon or Gwyllion are twilight fairies, night wanderers and ghosts in the Welsh language. They are known as gloomy spirits that are distinct from Welsh Ellylon or elves which are more benevolent creatures. Gwyll can be encountered on a misty days, and can be troublesome as they mean that they can frighten and confuse wayfarers, even when they are familiar with a road or path.
In Icelandic the word húm, which sounds soft and delicate in the mouth, denotes the same thing, twilight and dusk.