George Mackay Brown placed an "idle, worthless child" in a boat to look at Time and mold and meld it with his young eyes. Thorfinn Ragnarson is the boy that sails in and out of his own world of Norday in the Orkney Islands of the 1930's. He takes the people of Norday and travels with them into ancestral pasts that far outstrip their solid, predictable day to day lives. When old Jacob Olafson dies, Thorfinn stops at the kirkyard on his way home from school. The Old Testament words, heard just the day before, ring with the gravediggers spade: "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." and Thorfinn builds a life for this old man. He brings baby Jacob across the sea to Norday, sees Jacob the young man board the Hudson's Bay ship, Windward, to journey to the "land of Eskimos and Indians" and return in ten years with an Indian wife. Real time runs its thread of laughter, solid Orkney logic and unexpected colour in the persons of Isa Esquoy, the small, constantly squeaking postmistress-storekeeper, Albert Laird, the joiner who crafts cradles and coffins, Mr. Simon, the droning, long-suffering schoolmaster and the Reverend Hector Drummond, a somewhat muddled minister whose mystery visitor, Sophie, appears in the homes of solitary folks and leaves a trail of laughter and love. Thorfinn, the adolescent, is stricken with an un-dying love for Sophie which surfaces only after the fields, barns and livlihoods of Norday are smothered under the necessary adjustments of war. Before that war, Thorfinn, the young man, still a solitary creature, had conjured the seal-people and spun love, marriage and dream-children from the sounds and silences of the sea. We thank you, George Mackay Brown, for those brief voyages that are the lives of men and for the whispers of melody from that "music that goes on and on, all the way from before the beginning till after the end."