Mountaintops glow orange.
on November snow.
Mountaintops glow orange.
on November snow.
We adored the place. Coming to it we used to run down to the lake, dip our hands in and wish, as if we had just seen the new moon. Going away from it, we were half drowned in tears. No matter where I was, wandering about the world, I used at night to look for the North Star and, in my minds eye, could see the beloved skyline of great hills beneath it.
Floating in the perfect
rock channel harbour
of Wild Cat
Island of my imagination
and childhood reading.
Today I didn’t land
but basked in the sun
reflecting on half forgotten dreams,
happy that a life where this place
is just down the road
was one dream
I made happen.
And I wonder if there are
other dreams from younger days
buried in the habits of adulthood,
which I could choose to bring to life.
I don’t have a waterproof camera
and my phone was wrapped in plastic, safe in a drybag,
for emergencies only.
And so I had no photos to share
to say I was there,
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.
Bank holiday monday,
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.
The clouds dispersed to reveal the estuary
domed with blue.
A cold north wind blowing
but in the shelter of a hedge
the sun felt warm, springlike
and the first frogspawn in a ditch.
The rising, full moon high tide paused
at the outer edge of the saltmarshes
where the birds gathered;
curlew, oystercatcher, redshank.
Then the sea quietly,
relentlessly, marched on over the marshes
scattering birds, forming islands of green
that gradually disappeared underwater.
A stream of sea pushed in past our feet
to the railway embankment
signalling the time to leave
this inbetween place
to the sea and sky
and the birds.
Weather and circumstance have conspired recently to keep my walks short
but today I was out for hours.
And now I am weary, that lovely tiredness of the body;
heavy limbs and aching muscles
thankful for a day outside
in the sun and frost.
Mind relaxed, soul nourished
by the long views of the fells and the sea,
clear blue skies and the orange glow of bracken.
Lungs full of fresh air,
I’ll sleep well tonight.
I went for a walk at the weekend in one of my favourite places in the world. Through woods and along the shore of Lake Windermere.
Walking for an hour or so, admiring the trees silhouetted against the silvery surface of the lake, late afternoon winter sunlight lighting up the trunks in shades of orange. Ancient sweet chestnuts, deeply fissured bark spiraling upwards, the same trees where as a child I used to gather chestnuts with my grandparents. Past the cathedral column trunks of huge Douglas fir, forest floor dotted with ferns. And always the gentle background lapping of water on the shore, and the breeze in the trees
Walking through layers of memories, yet alive to the present moment; that leaf, that pattern of branches against the sky, the low angled sun on the root plate of a fallen tree.
The sun set early, only a few weeks from the winter solstice. Leaving behind a silvery sky to match the lake. And the moon, rising above an old farmhouse, the smell of woodsmoke in the air.
Just an hour or so in a place I love. Sustenance for the whole week.
The power of place.
A landscape of the soul.