Walking in Circles Around the Ring

There is something special about the equinox. Even if the weather is gray, it pays to remember that the sun is behind all that grey. That is what I was thinking this morning as I took another of my walks around the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. I have shared this plan with others, but am now adding it to anyone who is reading my Orkney Diary/blog.

I was late getting the old body going again this morning.  With each glance out the window, I thought, no need to rush.It is throwing down the rain and the wind is whipping it around.  It is another day when raindrops hit the face like pointy icicles.  I would move faster if I saw the sun or the dog became desperate. Finally, I simply summoned courage to brave the elements and stick to this one habit.

Luckily there was a bit of sun in the back garden and unluckily there was the ominous grey/blue sky out the front path but I kept walking to the car.  My dog and I would head to the Ring of Brodgar, the UK’s third largest stone circle and henge.

Standing in the right place at the right time!


With the openings in the lockdown and less responsibilities, I had begun painting outdoors in June 2020.  I choose the best days of sun, blue sky and no wind. In late October, I was sitting in my car below the Ring of Brodgar trying to paint the sky without painting the inside of my car. The wind and cold had quickly squashed my idea of sitting outside. With 7 days to go before the USA elections, I realized I had  the good fortune to be in Orkney away from political mayhem and rampantly spreading COVID but I wanted to do something.

It was possible I might be the only American living in Orkney that would think to do something? With a glance back up at the Ring and the sun glinting on the stones, I realized I had to use the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar. The Ring has been a strong influence in getting me to Orkney but over the years and with the overflow of tourists, I had become an infrequent visitor.  I decided to walk it everyday as one of my dog walks.


I could walk and think about something while walking my dog smelled all the rabbits and hares, she wanted! I created a verse/words/poem/prayer/mantra that I hoped would stay in my mind for the walk. I would be doing something around a ring where others 6,000 years ago did something and surely, they also walked around the stones. My steps and thoughts would be a connection to my family and friends across the Atlantic where there was so much disharmony, radicalization and worry.

The day after the idea was hatched on the 25th   of October and I was buoyed with some serendipity.  I saw the Scottish Ranger, Elaine on her daily walk and it looked like she was opening the gate as if to allow us to get socially distant closer for a catch-up. She was coming down from the Ring.   For the past two years, this gate and fencing have prevented normal access to the inside of the ring. The stones were blocked from being touched. She smiled broadly and announced that the gates were now open to the Orkney public!  My smile that went from outside to inside for my crazy idea had just been, in a way, sanctioned.  Touching, walking, and reciting.  A perfect plan.


It took a few days to get the walk and the words in place. I stumbled over both. Eventually they got so stuck in my head even when my thoughts wandered or when I stopped for photos, I could sense their hum. This activity started as a political intention.  The USA election ended, but the strife did not. My words were chosen to highlight the philosophy that things that get worse before they get better.  So “The worse has come, so let it be done. Protect friends and family, ALL people. Let goodness, hope and gratitude prevail. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you” needed to be said past the election day.


The mid-November weather was extraordinarily warm and still. This gave me the idea that I could add to my plein air paintings and without any visitors around, I managed a number of outdoor paintings sitting in and around the Ring.  I have been painting small, so I think there are nearly 20 paintings from November alone.   I usually painted more than one small work each of the 7 days before November 3. I sat at the four cardinal directions focused on the corresponding set of stones.  I have an idea to use these for my 2022 calendar “The Ring Sings Hope in 2022.” This year’s theme was “Blue Skies Coming 2021.”

Winter finally arrived in December, the painting outside ceased but the strife across the ocean did not.   A habit had been born and well, that election still wasn’t settled.  The worse was and is still happening, and still things have not gotten much better and so I walked in the 70mph gales in early December and the rain just blew off of me. The grass around the stones blew around them like a visible tornado.


Up until now, I have missed only 3 days. Each skipped day found me at a loss for now  I crave the daily drive up and over the hill out of Stromness with the chance to see if the seals or otters and swans.  My dog still needs a walk and loves the rabbit warrens around the Ring. And mostly, I despite days of rain, my walk has fit between the showers and I have not been soaked!

Serendipity still happens. Today I really figured the weather was changing so swiftly that I would just have to get wet.  Yet, as I drove up and parked, the sun appeared and my entire “RingWalk” was in sun. When I entered, I saw across the Ring, a partial rainbow. By the time I finished the Ring walk, the complete HUGE rainbow hovered over the Harry Loch. It seemed to confirm my daily habit and hope. It certainly helped me get past the news of the insurrection at the US Capital on  6 January. But to keep me in check,  I walked down to the car knowing that the big grey cloud racing behind me was going to dump in seconds.  I didn’t rush, but as I turned the key, the heavens opened, and I smiled and thanked the weather gods. Serendipity of rain held of, rainbows ignited and hope prevailed!


I think the mantra may have begun its work.  It has had some bumps and invasions of ill will, but there was a peaceful inauguration in the USA.  Folks all over are getting vaccines. Just maybe, the ending of the worse is in progress?  I have heard some say, “it is the beginning of the end.”

Ultimately, I choose to do something at the Ring of Brodgar because I could and the habit got me to get up and go outside each morning. Sometimes, it takes staying still to get a 360-degree view of a familiar place. You might be the only one with that view.  It doesn’t have to be pretty or ancient.  It could be an outside view or an inside one of your most comfy chair or a pretty thing. It could be just looking out of your window and creating time to mull over words that fit for you.


I am being pulled by wee cairn terrier, Gracie and yes, it was cold!

My friends in Kilbarchan told their friend, a housebound single woman bound to about my activity. She decided to join me and now is doing some laps and she imagines the stones as she circumnavigates her floors.  I know that when there is a will, there is a way. We all have the time now and we don’t have many “ways” to choose but surely there is something you that you could do. Add the words that will mean something for you and the world. Push more positive thoughts in the atmosphere.  A routine, habit and wonder might get us all to a better place. At the very least, it may just give you a reason to get up in the morning and think that you are making a difference.   

I met a friend of mine on one of my early walks and she wrote about it . https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/12/17/jeanne-weaves-her-words-and-images/

And if you want to hear my own very New York sounding dulcet tones, I was interviewed about my walking in circles on BBC Radio Orkney https://www.mixcloud.com/radioorkney/around-orkney-monday-1st-march-2021/