So instead, I jumped on the ferry across to Bressay and went for a hike. I climbed up one hill and got a beautiful view across to Noss, and then left the muddy "trail" to continue across a small ridge and up to the highest point on Bressay, the hill with the radio towers that overlooks Lerwick.
Which is entirely why I wanted to climb it - I had been in town too long not to climb the highest point you could see from the harbor. And from there I continued straight down another wide ridge towards the sea cliffs. In this process, I learned why the landscape is referred to as a peat bog. And why most people go to Scotland with waterproof shoes.
But the view from those sea cliffs was worth every hour it took my shoes to dry. A couple hundred feet tall with a view south east across the ocean and too many birds to count. I lay down with my head over the edge (sorry parents) and watched the birds fly underneath me. And over me. And in my face. They would go in circles down across the ocean, the up the drafts rising up the cliff and pop over the edge right where I was sprawled.
Eventually, I rolled away from the edge and made my way down to the lighthouse. It's a funny thing to me, that I find lighthouses to be such comforting places given that they're nearly always built because shipwrecks have become too frequent. The sun warmed my shoulders and I dreamed about flying with the seabirds while I read about stormy shipwrecks and hypothermic survivors on the cliffs below.
And with a reminder that I'm lucky, I skipped down the road, fell into the ditch trying to get out of the way of a car, unsuccessfully tried to whistle a Shetland pony to the fence so I could hug it, and wound up at the town hall for Sunday tea.
A different kind of beauty awaited me inside: kindness and artistry. The displays of knitting, the plates of cookies and cakes, and the warm greetings pulled me inside to sit awhile. And at long last, I tried knitting with a knitting belt. What I've noticed here is that if you sit and knit, you'll get advice on how to knit better. I had yet to try a knitting belt, so I was quite curious to see if it would be as odd to adjust to as I expected (surprisingly, it wasn't), but I also received a crash course in "low-effort yarn flicking" which has enlightened me further to the subtle art of knitting more efficiently.
As I walked back to catch the ferry, I caught up with a woman with a heavy bag, who was grateful for my offer to carry it for her. It was a simple thing, a moment for me to the web of kindness encompassing these islands, and a chance to walk with someone. She was headed into town to go stay with her daughter and granddaughter for a bit. When I was applying for college, I remember visiting Middlebury and meeting a few students and thinking "I want to be like them someday." Talking with this woman left me with the same impression: "I want to be like her someday."
As I walked back across town that evening I looked up at the crest of the ridge running the length of Bressay. I like looking at ridges and knowing what the view is like, knowing I've walked them. Knowing that the rolling hill I could see actually consisted of miles of mud and peat and heather that catches your feet every three steps. Maybe climbing every hill in sight is how I try to make myself at home in a new place. I certainly smiled at the view for the rest of my stay in Lerwick.