Issue One:
Migrant and Vagrants

By Amy Liptrot

‘I’ve been cataloguing ornithological data, folders and boxes and filing cabinets: every dead bird washed up on Orkney beaches 1976-2012, the location of each arctic skua on the island of Hoy in 1982. Postmortems of kestrels and ten-year-old sparrowhawk feathers in envelopes…’

I’ve been tracking my dreams, using my phone to reveal and draw my night movements. I have apps to tell me the height of the tide and the stage of the moon.

Tonight a fighter jet flew over my island and more of the greylag geese went north for the summer. I’m sending you migrating animals and military aircraft over the sea.

The heartbroken are similar to people who have been up all night: a twitching eye, nerves close to the surface, the unsustainable insomniacs’ high. People they meet can tell something is strange although they’re not sure what, and they want to keep their distance.

I read about how these beeps and notifications and vibrations are altering our brains, giving small jolts of dopamine, a little adrenaline. Searching for that tiny buzz, I am circling round familiar parts of the internet like a migrating bird following rivers or motorways. You can’t unfollow pain, you can’t block thoughts.

An alarming oystercatcher circles hectically when a predator approaches, offering itself as a distraction away from its nest, piping in panic and distress. There is a high pitched note in the background, going to work and the swimming pool with an emergency alarm ringing in my chest.

I watched a pair of wild ducks mate violently. The drake was holding the duck’s head under the water. I looked for longer than felt OK.

Knowing that there are conversations going on where I am not there sometimes seems intolerable, knowing that you continue to exist when I’m not talking to you.

And I watched one female hen harrier scare another away from her territory. They told me that harriers are polygamous but what this really means is that the males are polygamous.

The tide is semidiurnal, charging and recharging twice a day, cleaning the beach but also depositing new sand and stones. The auks are pelagic, they come to the cliffs to breed in the spring but live most of the time far out at sea.
And in the sewers under London, there are ‘fatbergs’ formed from oil and grease tipped down drains.

And I’d heard on my radio Jo Wood saying that the way she coped with Ronnie’s philandering was to make friends with the groupies.

And I’d heard that the golden rule was to never beg.

And that each year the arctic terns arrive back in the first mist of May.

And that to love takes courage.

About the Contributor

Amy Liptrot is a writer from the Orkney islands and currently lives in Berlin. Her first book, The Outrun, a memoir, will be published by Canongate in early 2016.


Losslit canon

A Field Guide To Getting Lost - Rebecca Solnit

This unusual work of digressive, discursive non-fiction is less about losing something or someone than it is about losing yourself - and the discoveries that can bring. "Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing."

See all entries in the Losslit canon

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