Gone canoeing

It’s the August bank holiday here in England. This is a note I left in the kitchen on Saturday.

Going canoeing reminded me of a poem I wrote on May Day bank holiday 2018. Reposting it here:


A click of the shutter

I don’t have a waterproof camera

and my phone is wrapped in plastic, safe in a drybag,

for emergencies only.

And so I have no photos to share

to say I was here,

to try to convey the meaning of a moment.

But how often does a photograph really do that?

After all, there are other senses than sight.

So.

Bank holiday monday,

Coniston Water

the end of a scorching weekend.

Paddling south (first time in my canoe this year)

away from the crowds,

my arms remember how good it feels,

burn of working muscle

taking me further from the voices and barbecue smoke.

Past open water swimmers towing orange floats

who stop for a chat in the middle of the lake

unfazed by the deeps,

complaining of the cold water.

Past moored boats, and pine tree promentaries,

shingle beaches overhung with oaks,

until, at the south end of the lake

as yellow reeds narrow to reveal the start of a river,

I turn around to head back north and see

spread before me the calm lake

bordered by woods in the first flush of spring green,

low bracken-covered hills glowing

in the early evening sunshine,

the Coniston fells beyond, blue and slightly misty.

That is the moment I would have pressed the shutter.

But could that photograph record

the pleasant ache of shoulders and arms,

the gentle forward motion of the canoe,

the sound of water lapping,

a mind quietened to contentment?

One moment, containing

a sense of returning, of welcome,

a glimpse of childhood,

a farewell to winter,

and the seed of all the summers to come.

Walking in summer rain

I walk on,

aware of grey storm clouds

gathering,

darkening,

first few spots of rain.

The estuary beckons.

I walk on.

The clouds open,

rain pounding on my

waterproof jacket,

pouring streams down

my legs, drenching

my cotton trousers,

filling my shoes.

I walk on,

the estuary misty

shades of silver.

For the raindrops

bouncing off my head,

running down my legs,

I am simply a detour

between the clouds

and the sea.

I walk home,

feet surprisingly warm

as my body heats

the rain in my shoes.

This is what it is

to be

alive.

Walking through happiness

Camping in Eskdale in the Lake District. Life slows down.

Near our tent, two little girls play in a stream. They pick buttercups and place them on a narrow slab of blue slate, laid across to make a bridge.

Both of their fathers appear through the trees. The girls put their arms around each other, hopping with excitement.

Come and look! We’ve made you something for Father’s Day!

The dads approach the streamside.

Walk across the bridge and it will give you happiness!

One dad walks straight across, over the buttercups, the other looks a bit hesitant.

Come on dad, walk across and you will get happiness for Father’s Day!

He walks across, somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps he has enough happiness already. Consequently there is some leftover happiness on that bridge.

The girls are corralled into waiting cars, parents complaining about stream-wet clothes, holiday over.

After they leave, I walk slowly over the buttercup-festooned bridge, walking through happiness.

Home

I lived away,

for too long.

Leaving after a visit,

or passing by

on the train

or on the motorway,

I would press my nose

to the window

letting the silhouettes

of the mountains

fill me up,

cricking my neck

for that final glimpse

as I headed north.

There were hills there, too,

but they weren’t my hills.

Now I am back home

for good.