A poem for a summer storm in the mountains

 

Summer Storm on Stac Pollaidh

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Stac Pollaidh

Languishing in perfumed August heat

Stac Pollaidh stands crowned in red

A stone serpent draped across his flanks

Interlocking scales curl steeply upwards

Reptilian ladder protection against a tide of booted feet

Under tussocks

Rivulets of blood-red water tinkle

Laughing as they slip by

 

Sunlight catches at gold and silver threads

A regal pelerine of spider’s webs

Defiant in spite of clawing upslope wind

 

Higher  still

Squamous stone steps grow steepening sharply

Falter here and you will fall sloughs the wind

 

Breath hardens in resolve

Yet rejoices with blood-thumping need for height

 

Away north domed Suilven’s spine is cracked dry peat-hag

Plated on mosaics of brown, blue and green tesserae

And Quinag glowers through purple haze

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North from Pollaidh’s shoulder to Suilven

On now to kingly crown whose summit stones

Are not of gold or silver

But tanned-leather red-rock remnants of a grizzled past

 

Yet all below lies supplicant

More lofty peaks made low by Pollaidh’s simple majesty

His age and flawless lineaments

 

Clouds run curling white

Gun-metal grey pennants betray a coming storm

Nearer now

A black boiling fury carries stark scents of winter

Lightning flashes on Loch Lurgainn six hundred metres below

Amid warning booms of thunder

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South to Loch Lurgainn

White shards of ice sting and snap

Frigid stiff winds scour and wail

Biting crag and beating heath

Stones tumble skittering and scratching skin

Deer flatten tawny flanks against rust-red crags

Turning rock-still to fool the storm

Only flickering eyes betray living flesh

 

Down we run slipping in scaly slickness

Chased by hammer blows of sound and barbs of yellow coruscation

Sulphurous steams hiss in contempt

Rocks flash and crack

 

Hurling ourselves inside a sheltering womb of rock

We cower

Eyesight splintering with mountain migraine

Cave roof shudders and shimmers in a billowing sighing mass

Of ten thousand bees

Humming in warm companionship

 

Abruptly wings ripple in unison

And leave in seeping opaque golden threads

Faster and thicker until all their voices are gone

 

Outside the storm has passed

Swirling vapours rise fizzing over ophidian trails

Crownwards

 

While we unashamedly run down

Laughing at the madness of it all

Summit at storm's approach

Summit at storm’s approach

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About Annie O'G Worsley

I'm a mum of four, gran, writer, crofter & Professor of 'Environmental Change'. I now live on a small farm (known as a croft) by the sea in a place surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the Scottish NW Highlands. I was a full-time academic, a geographer, but I decided to go feral and follow my dream of living a smaller, simpler, wilder life. I have always loved wild places. As a child I was inspired by tales of Trader Horn (my great-great-great uncle Alfred Aloysius Smith) told to me by my mother. Trader Horn spent his life wandering, mostly in Africa. I too, love stravaiging (Gaelic for wandering) and spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a young researcher, living with tribes there. Although I spent years researching and teaching university students about environments, processes and habitats, I am discovering much, much more exploring the wilds around me. In moving away from scientific writing, I have rediscovered my wilder self and have a much deeper, truer understanding of nature than I ever had before. My work is published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place. I continue to write academic papers with my research colleagues but I am developing new skills including landscape photography and painting. And of course, I still love to wander.
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