A poem for a summer storm in the mountains


Summer Storm on Stac Pollaidh


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


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


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



While we unashamedly run down

Laughing at the madness of it all

Summit at storm's approach

Summit at storm’s approach

About Annie O'Garra Worsley

Hello there. I'm a mother, grandmother, writer, crofter & Professor of Physical Geography specialising in ‘environmental change'. I live on a smallholding known as a 'croft'. The croft is close to the sea and surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the NW Highlands. I was a fulltime mother, then a full-time academic living and working in north-west England. In 2013 we decided to try and live a smaller, simpler, wilder life in the remote mountain and coastal landscapes of Wester Ross. When I was a young researcher, I spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea living with indigenous communities there. They taught me about the interconnectedness and sacredness of the living world. After having my four children I worked in universities continuing my research and teaching students about environments, landform processes and landscape change. Eventually, after 12 years, I moved away from the rigours of scientific writing, rediscovered my wilder self and turned to nature non-fiction writing. My work has been published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I have essays in several editions of the highly acclaimed journal ‘Elementum’, each one partnered with artworks by contemporary artists. I also still work with former colleagues and publish in peer-reviewed academic journals. I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place which will be published by Harper Collins.
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