Beyond Riggindale Crag – Stephen Fender

Haweswater; the wind pushes cold

while the low grey sky hides Riggindale

from view. At the road’s end we leave the car,

with others; parked,

like a sulking child, as we begin

our slow assent.

 

One of us leaves to walk a lower

path, he’ll study

the sharp seclusion

of England’s last Eagle; for a while

share its solitude.

 

As the rest of us climb, we fight against

the wind; it plays

with our resolve, tests our

determination; dragging the colder sky

ever closer. Breathless,

we stop at a dry stone wall

slowly undoing itself and look across

at trees huddled together,

keeping warm near Gatescarth Beck.

 

Beyond Swine Crag the path

becomes uneasy; fearful

it may lose us to the wind. At times

we hide

or cling perilous,

to warm tea.

 

Bleak, we find the cairn of Rough Crag

in a gap of low lying cloud. We sit near,

like soft stones, and consider the thrill

of wild places. 

 

Riggindale turns steep as it falls

upwards, towards High Street. Now a gale

sails past, prising our feet from the ground

as our hands grasp rock. Some of us turn back,

defeated.

 

And then

as if we’d done the right thing, the day

wakes up, sky appears as the cloud slides

away to play elsewhere,

taking the wind with it.

 

Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded

by another day; warm, unruffled.

 

We watch the others climb

the Long Stile to reach their last step

to High Street. They’ll see now the blue

in the green of Blea Water, and hear

the last call of the Nan Bield Pass, and then

an easier rock

will lead them home.

 

I hear a different voice; a small voice;

a bird’s song chiselling away

at emptiness.

 

We follow the same path down, sit

cornered; the sun’s breath against our back,

we find a dead sheep relaxing on the grass,

watch colour, as it fills the world

with life.

 

An almost perfect Dor Beetle,

polished blue and an unexpected Pipistrelle

Bat, skimming like a black stone upon

some pool of air, overhead,

sew the two parts

of our surprising day

together.

 

And then, as the afternoon stands knee deep

in the cool water of the lake, we close our circle;

arrive at the beginning, to find our friends;

those who followed another path.  It seems

 

it’s not the path that’s trod that means a lot;

but the treading

 

and the day.

 

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