It was at a Drystane Dyking weekend that I met her. I was a regular at placing irregular rocks together. It was the end of March, and the sun shone as if it wasn’t. There were around a dozen different day one dykers on the course, mostly office staff of course, who were between a rock and a hard place and wanting to move big boulders to a right place, methodically.
She was petite, skinny, black cropped hair, the ruddy complexion of a squaw, and the wide bright smile, not detracting from the devilish glint in her eyes. Her name was Iona.
The foundation stones were to be placed first, the first large ones placed to bear the weight of what was coming . She struggled with one that was half her weight, manhandling the solid ancient matter in a matter of fact manner.
She welcomed my assistance, not because she lacked strength, but acknowledged mine.
The base in was in place, and gracefully we placed the hearting in the middle. The through stones were next, equidistant apart, protruding proud of both battering faces of the dyke, the weight of the huge stones holding things together.
She grasped the hessian sacking, her manicured fingernails, snapping off on the lift, huckled in with the chuckkies. The call went out to pull the sack and with me and the other grunters, she did and she chuckled.
Tea time came and I offered her one of my tumbling chits, but she had her own four camembert and cranberry triangles. She offered one to me.
I took it. I ate it
She told me of her love of horses.
She broke them, regularly
She loved them.
The Master Dyker told tales of highwaymen hiding their dirks, daggers or flintlocks amongst the random rubble, after robbing the ‘well to do’ in the dead of night. Such artefacts had been found in the fallen walling.
Itchy beasts would scratch themselves on the through stones and over time detachment would determine where the voids would occur, accommodating the weaponry.
She asked if I would walk with her down to the burn, I did and we sat with our feet in the clean crisp flow of the stream. I cupped my hands and cooled my head and neck,
She took my hand, but let go as we got closer to the other novice wallers. The softness of her palms cooled my rasping graspers of shale.
The wall was growing as the day was diminishing, face stones, hearting, through stones, lift the line, face stones, hearting, through stones, lift the line.
We formed the cheek end together, with each other, us two and I knew, I knew
And at last the wall was ready to accept, the boulders that would cap the wall, and the day.
Weary, we shared in pairs the lifting of the finishing bludgeon of rock.
We all stood back and we both were pleased.
One more task.
To pin the wall, with small sharp slivers of stone, shards of rock that up until then, had laid about, insignificantly, and now were the mainstay of this monumental memorial of a dyke. The foundations stones, the hearting, the through stones, and the coping stones relied so much on these minute pins of silica to hold it all together.
That was what I had wished for at the end of that day, when I met Iona. That it would all hold together………..
In the sore dashing day
I stop wonder and say
Iona is real, and I love her.
Then disbelieving, briefly
Pre-emptive grieving, chiefly
On a sobering conception,
That she is a mere deception,
From my creative desiring
Of a woman
Who will always
The sore dashing day
For those she loves
Who will say
Iona is real and we love her