Wild Cat Island

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.

Arthur Ransome


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,

shadow realities

which I could choose to bring to life.

A click of the shutter

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.

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.

Duddon Estuary

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

with birdsong

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.

A walk on Blawith Common

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.

Landscapes of the soul

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.