It is for places like this that the word "bleak" has been invented.The island is a J-shaped lump of rock rising sullenly out of the North Sea. It lies on the map like the top half of a broken cane, parallel with the Equator but a long, long way north; its curved handle toward Aberdeen, its broken, jagged stump pointing threateningly at distant Denmark. It is ten miles long.Around most of its coast the cliffs rise out of the cold sea without the courtesy of a beach. Angered by this rudeness the waves pound on the rock in impotent rage: a ten-thousand-year fit of bad temper that the island ignores with impunity.In the cup of the J the sea is calmer; there it has provided itself with a more pleasant reception. Its tides have thrown into that cup so much sand and seaweed, drifwood and pebbles and seashells that there is now, between the foot of the cliff and the waterj's edge, a crescent of something closely resembling dry land, a more-or-less beach.Each summer the vegetation at the top of the cliff drops a handful of seeds onto the beach, the way a rich man throws loose change to beggars. If the winter is mild and the spring comes early, a few of the seeds take feeble root; but they are never healthy enough to flower themselves and spread their own seeds, so the beach exists from year to year on handouts.On the land itself, the proper land, held out of the sea's reach by the cliffs, green things do grow and multiply. The vegatation is mostly coarse grass, only just good enough to nourish the few bony sheep, but tough enough to bind the topsoil to the island's bedrock. There are some bushes, all thorny, that provide homes for rabbits; and a brave stand of conifers on the leeward slope of the hill at the eastern end.The higher land is ruled by heather. Every few years the man -- yes, there is a man here -- sets fire to the heather, and then the grass will grow and the sheep can graze here too; but after a couple of years the heather comes back, God knows from where, and drives the sheep away until the man burns it again.The rabbits are here because they were born here; the sheep are here because they were brought here; and the man is here to look after the sheep; but the birds are here because they like it. There are hundreds of thousands of them: long-legged rock pipits whistling peep peep peep as they soar and pe-pe-pe-pe as they dive like a Spitfire coming at a Messerschmidt out of the sun: corncrakes, which the man rarely sees, but he knows they are there because their bark keeps him awake at night; ravens and carrion crows and kittiwakes and countless gulls; and a pair of golden eagles that the man shoots at when he sees them, for he knows -- regardless of what naturalists and experts from Edinburgh may tell hime -- that they do prey on live lambs and not just the carcasses of those already dead.The island's most constant visitor is the wind. It coms mostly from the northeast, from really cold places where there are fords and glaciers and iceberges; often bringing with it unwelcome gitfs of snow and driving rain and cold, cold mist; sometimes arriving empty-handed, just to howl and whoop and raise hell, tearing up bushes and bending trees and whipping the intemperate ocean into fresh paroxysms of foam-flecked rage. It is tireless, this wind, and that is its mistake. If it came occasionally it could take the island by surprise and dom some real damage; but because it is almost always here, the island has learned to live with it. The plants put down deep roots, and the rabbits hide far inside the thickets, and the trees grow up with their backs ready-bent of the flogging, and the birds nest on sheltered ledges, and the man's house is sturdy and squat, built with a craftmanship that knows this old wind.This house is made of big grey stones and grey slates, the color of the sea. It has small windows and close-fitting doors and a chimney in its pipe end. It stands at the top of the hill at the eastern end of the island, close to the splintered stub of the broken walking stick. It crowns the hill, defying the wind and the rain, not out of bravado but so that the man can see the sheep.There is another house, very similar, ten miles away at the opposite end of the island near the more-or-less beach; but nobody lives there. There was once another man He thought he knew better than the island; he thought he could grow oats and potatoes and keep a few cows. He battled for three years with the wind and the cold and the soil before he admitted he was wrong. When he had gone, nobody wanted his home.This is a hard place. Only hard things survive here: hard rock, coarse grass, tough sheep, savage birds, study houses and strong men.It is for places like this that the word "bleak" has been invented.
So beautifully written~