Between the castle and the Loch—
a long way by car—
we harness wet
shadowless views of fells
and sloped valleys.
Between the bald hills
and our partially cobbled way,
dunes of heather
roll out like quilts over
hillocks where sheep graze
quietly, unaware of anything
but the taste of clover and
the crunch of yellowed grass.
While hedges of purple
sprawl across the hilly pass,
the rain only seeks to glisten
the already blurry passing of time.
from our 2011 trip to Scotland
Five years ago about this time, Eric and I were on our way back from Scotland. We didn’t take in the entire West Highland Way on foot as planned, but our black sheep guides (all of them) deserve a whiskey toast.
To Leave Is One Thing
By the time we get back to Glasgow
the thistle has turned cottony
and the black sheep who has been our guide
rests quietly, dinned wheels and muddied
exterior, in the parking lot of Arnold Clark’s car hire.
On the Erskine Bridge, traffic stops
for a suicide, but we are not sad, not really.
To leave is one thing, to depart
without experience sewn into muscle and mind
would be too much.
The cabbie’s loud music turns into an opportunity.
As we approach the airport
we fill our minds of all that came before:
Central Station from the hotel window,
the Highlands materializing through the rain.
Stirling Castle and the cobbled way
toward Aberfeldy. Maple scarf marriage
and the Fortingall Yew. Haggis and scones,
bens, bogs, and roundabouts. Humming
Loch Lomond, and stealing Skye
from Clan Donald. Putting our feet down,
imagining there is no pain.
For nights to come we will dream of thistles.
What to say of tomorrow’s
slow steps? The peaks that rise
from Glencoe carry weathered echoes
and gorges sliver slowly without
sympathy. The only way
to plea away erosion
is to chart the heart’s geology
and listen to the bagpiper’s
ageless song. The only way
to get up the mountain
is hand in hand.
West Highland Way, August 2011; a little tough, a little glorious
The True Weight
We make a list of all our favorite moments—
best hikes, finest meals— skipping
over the hard parts—when boots filled
with muck and rain froze our hands
and spun through the plastic
of our water-proof coats, each cursed step
you suffered through pain without ever
surrendering to sighs. Cataloging
the singular bluebell doesn’t really
tell the whole story. The tiny tear-shaped
flower pressed between “A Dream” and
“Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Oswald”
in the pages of Robert Burns
does not relate the true heft of that volume—
the pages, browned and frayed, turn easily
one at a time but bound together
they hold the true weight of the poet’s words.
So too, yellow broom and wood sorrel
decorating the ascent through Glen Nevis
or the heather spilling lavender toward
the modest peak of Bien Inverveigh
can never be summarized
in one sprig of tiny rainbow blooms.
From Four Blue Eggs, Homebound Publications, 2014