Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scottish stones

Traveling down the coast of western Scotland,
to Lerwick, we passed
rolling hills near the sea,
a working croft, smoke rising from its chimney,

scattered stones from walls that 
once divided fields
but that no longer
separate land from land,

and moss-covered stones 
on a bluff in an old churchyard,
testament to those long gone.
Yet the blue sky above remains
as does the land.
I will remember 
the history of these stones.

We travelled south of Lerwick to spend the day at the Croft House Museum, open only April to the end of September. Read a little about this fascinating slice of life from mid 19th Century HERE

Back in the days of the Industrial Revolution and before the potato famine, clearances happened all over Scotland and England as landowners evicted fishermen and crofters from traditionally-held lands to make room for sheep. The demand for wool collapsed, leaving empty fields and abandoned crofters' cottages.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Of Trains and Fort William

 I remember a train ride 
in the highlands of northern Scotland,
the famed Jacobite Train
up along the Mallaig trail 
to Fort William,
rolling hills, 
bracken turning 
golden brown in the sun,

until we came to the St. Andrews Guest House,

a restored chapel now open to touring folk
where we spent a night or two, charmed and enchanted,
to stroll through the old part of town, 
seemingly on the edge of the world, 
stopping at museums, a bakery, 
and the church of St. Andrews,
marked by gravestones and medieval arches.

Then back down the Great Glen by bus, 
the romance behind us,
the memories ahead.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fall begins

Fall begins
with a turn of the wind,
a long string of leaves yellowing
from the top of the willow, 
and the call of Canada geese
winging south;
deer forage in back yards
for those last morsels of green,
the yellow leaves turn red, and
brown pine needles litter the road.
Cold mornings, colder nights: 
I already know how long 
it will be until spring.

Van Gogh, "The Mulberry Tree"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Walking in the Redwoods

When the bulldozers arrived at our apartment complex to fix and replace a broken water main, I thought repairs would be complete in a matter of days.

Think weeks instead with deep open pits, piles of dirt and concrete chunks everywhere, . But this Saturday morning, in a flurry of activity at 7:00 am, with temperatures hovering in the 50 degree range, the crew arrived for the final tarring. I shall not have to play 'truth or dare' on negotiating blind corners around our parking garages, hoping that every other driver has already had morning coffee. Hooray! 

So where would I rather be? 

How about hiking amidst the redwoods along the California coast?

Today's poem:

On hiking among the redwoods

You are as rare
as a redwood tree,
not quite thousands of years old,
not even very tall,
but even as you age,
steady and present,
exuding calm with each breath, 
through the change of seasons.
we walk again, you and I,
through this precious shaded grove,
in the early morning fog,
the redwoods around us
hundreds of feet high,
Spanish moss festooned on alder,
our feet crunching on a carpet of pine needles.
It is enough.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Walking through the ruins of Castle Urquhart


We wander along tidy walkways
through these ruins of Castle Urquhart,
once a 5th Century fort situate on this high mound,
overlooking the Great Glen cut through by the River Ness.

Here, battles were fought with sword and dagger
and siege for Scottish Independence.
These stone walls, strong over hundreds of years, 
held by the Scots, and then the English, 
and back again: even the Robert the Bruce fought here. 
Fierce arguments, tenuous agreements, political machinations, 
dead-of-night attack. 

Until finally, the time of battles passed, 
the people of the Glen took stones
from the castle for their cottages; 
they fished along the Ness, 
and told stories of mighty armies, 
the Earls of Moray, the Clan MacDonald, 
Lords of the Isles, that once fought here. 

Perhaps that line of rowan trees, the one that separates
the castle from the car park where tour buses wait,
will protect the history here. 
I touch the leaves of this traveler's tree, 
my first sight of a rowan tree. I wonder 
if the berries carry poison and hope 
the rowan will flower twice.

This poem began as a daily commitment to link pictures from my travels (to Scotland in 2009 for Standing Stones) with a bit of writing. But the vote for Scottish independence from Great Britain is now over. Reports suggest a time of healing will be needed as political discussions begin, for while we no longer arm ourselves with dagger and sword, families argued most fiercely whether to stay a part of Great Britain or to separate. A British commentator noted, "We didn't actually fight a war over this; we resolved it at the polls." A not-so-gentle dig at the American civil war of the 19th Century. Yes, but that comment didn't take into account those centuries of conflict between Scotland and England that yet simmer.  

Read more of Urquhart's history HERE or HERE.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's in the number 25?

I Ching Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang
Hexagram 25 of the I Ching: Wu Wang
Mathematically, twenty-five
is a 'non-sociable number'
for it does not group itself 
in trios to chat, 
but remains 
the smallest square
which squared 
equals five times five,
nearly a perfect number,
the number of grace 
and innocence.

Some say twenty-five
predicts a difficult childhood,
but the hexagram from the I Ching 
shows strength squared.

Perhaps in September that hexagram
with its sturdy foundation 
is the house we need to survive winter,
safe within ourselves.

Meditation says:  Seek joy in each moment,
balance in all things, 
squared, steady, solid.

This little poem was fun to write, not drawn from nature or travel, but a little searching online to find fanciful reactions for September 25, today's date.

Read more of I Ching's meditation HERE.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Poem for the end of September

Just last year, the leaves turned
every color of autumn,
in this garden, 
its graveled paths smooth,
its trees carefully pruned.
Even the carp swam
more slowly
in the reflecting pool.
as if they knew
these last days of warmth
and light
were numbered.

Pictures taken of Manito Park, Spokane (Camp 2013)
Click on the image to see a larger version.