Departure

 
Leaving
Leaving

Departure

Those lips’ butterfly pause
briefly on the skin
then flower, drink
until the ceaseless breeze
lifts the fragment.
Complex veins pulse
against the light.
Contre-jour is difficult,
still beauty shines
stronger against the rules.
Cool gusts blow,
show direction,
pull the wings
spreading before
the sun which dries
the drop so recent
and so moist,
steady for departure.
The future is a feint
brittle parchment
of once-lined maps
dried in memory of land
by ocean travellers
in chrysalis
hoping full circle
can be true.

 
Heart-shaped pool
Heart-shaped pool

Ennerdale

Ennerdale

Ephemeral:eternal

The announcement that Cumbria council has rejected plans for a massive nuclear waste dump at Ennerdale in the Lake District brought to mind a week I spent there last summer. What wonderful news to know that Wordsworth’s “still, sad music of humanity” will still be audible where humans meet the melancholy beauty of the wild.

Fox’s cove

Fox prints and human

Fox prints and human

Fox prints and human

Fox's cove poem

Earlier this year I spent a week at the coast, the Welsh west coast which with each visit feels more like home. One warm, sunny evening I packed a sleeping bag and a stove and headed for a remote, inaccessible beach to spend the night alone under the starry Spring sky. It was necessary to pick the evening with care to fit with the rhythm of the tides which with an almost 6 metre range at that time of year left precious little beach between the surf and the cliff at its daily peak. The night I chose to make my home on the beach high tide came at around 11pm and, although I had checked the tide tables many times, I still waited a little nervously, watching the stars and listening to the alternate sibilance and bass of the incoming waves, half expecting an unusually large surge to swamp my tiny encampment.

Before nightfall I wandered up and down the undercliff seeking out driftwood and jetsam for a campfire but strangely for me I felt the disturbance of fire to be inappropriate on such a peaceful, sun-bathed evening. As I strolled across the smooth, hard sand at the edge of the surf it struck me that I would no more dream of lighting a fire here than I would in the nave of a great cathedral, that in some respect I was here on sufferance, a welcome guest; a guest with the responsibility of the pilgrim.

As the light faded, I lay on my back listening to the music of the ocean; the stereophonic symphony of deep booms from the sea cave to my right, and the higher, splashy, sweep of waves running up the sandy expanse to my left. A sound track to the dazzling vista of the Milky Way overhead with the familiar and reassuring constellations: Cassiopeia, The Great Bear, Auriga, Gemini. In my peripheral vision the soaring cliffs behind me framed the sky and stars and linked the just visible sea-horizon with the land mass I felt beneath my back. I lay there in an epi-centre of wonder at the vast, unfathomable beauty of the heavens, the land and the water.

I eventually drifted off to sleep, soothed by the sounds of the sea, to awake in the paleness of dawn, alone, or apparently so, on a new wave-smoothed beach. The sound track remained the same, just a little more distant now that the surf edge had retreated from the narrow strip of sand which separated the cliff from the high tide mark of flotsam, the sliver of earth which held me dry.

On rising, I noticed with a thrill of rising hackles that the beach had been recently crossed by a four-legged, clawed animal. It took a little while to work out that the prints were those of a fox and I cursed that I had not been awake to see this passing visitor. Nevertheless, amongst my store of beautiful, remembered mornings, there are few which equal the deep sense of belonging and harmony which this near meeting inspired.

Secret Still

Secret Still  - a poem

Secret Still  - photograph

I am still finding curious synchronicities between poems I have written and photographs I have made on quite distinct and separate occasions. The now obvious correspondences are frequently highlighted by other people or by ideas triggered whilst reading or looking at art work. These correspondences were not guessed at nor explicitly constructed at the time of making and feel very much like a strange and unwitting extension of the lack of control seen in pinhole photography where unexpected elements often pop up quite independently of the photographer’s input; elements which nevertheless weave a thread through the work and add a satisfying unity.

Here are two items, a photograph of an old still in West Wales which has always pleased me with its subtle play of light and dark and the shapes it contains, and a poem written at a time some years ago when I would spend periods of time in meditation in a dusty shed. Only now after many months have the similarities and the spirit of both occasions leaped out at me and the particular resonance of the gentle presence of people, and their absence.

Whiteness, rising tide

I stood on the flat sand and made my exposure while the incoming waves petered out around me, the tripod legs cutting trails and swirls in the dying surges of water . On the horizon the wind was drawing clouds onto the sea and, as the breeze made me squint, the whole world seemed to open up in a lightness of pure, unfocused white; white sky, white sand and a disorientation which hid the steady sinking of my feet and tripod into the foam.

Whiteness, rising tide