It wasn’t what we went looking for. We went for flint axe heads. The farmer, before my parents, had found axe heads beside the crumbling grey stone wall at the top of North Field. We spotted them on our last trip to the Scottish Museum, in the cold echoey downstairs part, go past the Vikings and turn left at the ancient boat remains and there they are. So small, sat in a class case with the farm name beside them, seemingly insignificant compared to the vast hillsides they came from. Proof we exist, proof someone else did thousands of years ago.
One day as a home school adventure you set off to see if you can find more. We found the exact point using arial maps, which turned these hills of our home into grey flattened things, only recognisable by following lines and plotting distances from small woods. The spot was close to some divots that pock mark the brae, like tiny cavities in the hills. We had spent many afternoons falling down their sides, or resting near the jutting rocks, seeing patterns in the lichen. We learnt these were probably old quarries from the time before farms, boundaries and ownership. People believe a weapon maker lived on that hill, making his flint arrows and axe heads to trade or sell. When you stand in the spot, you can see right across the top of everything now, hardly any trees shade your view. Deer Street, the old Roman road can still be seen marching up the opposite hill. You can almost feel our ancestors digging for sharp stones.
You feel connected here. It might feel lonely, up so close to the sky, being able to see so far. It could be to immense. Actually, it feels intimate. It feels like it is mine. Like I belong to it, and it belongs to me.
I didn’t go with you on this particular day, the axe head searching day. You told me all about it when you returned. You had not, in the end, found axe heads but as you and your Dad carefully turned over the aging stones you found a Newt. Ancient, perfect. When you told me you face lit up brighter than polished treasure.
It was another memory to keep. Another that rooted me even deeper into the soil. I have buried it with all the other days, pictures, moments to keep them secure so I can when I need to unpack them from the soft soil of my mind and unfold them in the light.
It does not belong to me this hillside. In this world humans have created this hill belongs to someone but it is not me, even though I feel like it’s next of kin, like I should have some say in the way its future unfolds. I do not get to have a say. Faceless investment companies are swirling like the morning mist in the valley, obscuring its future from my view, and I know change is coming. Yet, as I walk along animal desire lines, look to the rivets of the old fort on the opposite hill watch the specks of cows grass over the dents. I know change has always come and always will but perhaps some roots go deeper.
Elisabeth Kelly is an Early Years Educator who lives on a Scottish hill farm with her young family and too many animals. Her words can be found or are forthcoming with Hydridpress, Hedgehog Poetry Press, EyeFlash Poetry, Forest Publishing, Dawntreader from Indigo Dreams, and can be found online with Dodging the Rain, The Honest Ulsterman, Green Ink Poetry, Fragmented Voices and Selcouth Station. She was shortlisted for the Anthony Cornin International Poetry Award 2020. She loved chocolate puddings and the change of seasons. She tweets @eekelly22