Each day for the past week I have been gathering seaweed from the shore of the loch. I have a big back basket that I made about 8 or 9 years ago, with help from a friend, at a weekend workshop in Helmsdale. It's a traditional creel made of hazel and willow, and when I strap it on my back I feel connected to generations of women before me who have trudged back up from the shore with seaweed for the garden. I am always amazed by how many strands of nylon rope and fragments of plastic are tangled up in it. I've now gathered 8 baskets full of bladderwrack - one for each vegetable bed, one to mulch the fruit trees and one to mulch the soft fruit bushes - probably enough for this year.
This morning it was low tide, and there was a film of ice on the weed. I watched it disintegrate in the sun, knowing that each sparkling crystal structure, the fractal coastline-pattern of each tiny window-pane, would last only a few minutes more - even if it survived the sunshine, the creeping tide would soon wash it into invisibility. One long, lingering, melting moment later, the ice was gone.