I have just returned from a week’s retreat in Grasmere in the Lake District, the home of the poet William Wordsworth, whose house we visited. We also had a trip to Brantwood, the beautiful residence of John Ruskin, the great Victorian polymath, on the banks of Coniston lake. The sudden heatwave coincided with my retreat and we basked in warm sunlight, appropriate given the theme of the retreat; ‘Real Presence – There is a Light in Everything’. Our guides were Daniel O’Leary and Margaret Sibberry speaking from the Catholic tradition using poetry, film, literature, liturgy, theology, sharing and silence to gather and feed us. On the Thursday I walked up to Easdale Tarn sitting high above the town and imbibed the sunshine and stillness of the lake. Here is a photo essay and the poem that came to me after my walk.
I came back from high Easdale Tarn
having walked off my ingratitude.
A spark of sheep with earthen smell,
the lone herdwick greenly chewing
willing to absorb all those spines
that needle me into its dusky pelt.
The tarn when I reached it, rippled.
with my unstillness and then settled
into the flawless reflection of the crag.
On the way down again I spilled
over into the waterfall old griefs,
ones I commonly pinch back in my throat
leading to misery’s heartburn.
The winding dry stone wall greyly,
slate driven led me down carefully
into the field, where the cows lay
herd-wise in the heat, sighing cuddily.
A mother beast lay her brow softly
on the brown vastness of her bull,
as they mothered and fathered me
in the afternoon’s milky haze.
The bridge over the final beck
smoothed its slaten flags towards
the little red postbox and I composed
all my letterly regrets to be sent
to those I bruise and a long missive
of frustration to one whose help didn’t.
But that one was really a letter to myself.
I felt the path wondering under my feet
if it’s directness had been too brutal
but the gate to the road opened and
welcomed all the scuffs my boots wear.
I came back from High Easdale Tarn
and my teacup was white like a new page.