Tag Archives: History

the hills have the long watch…

hills.jpg

(please read this aloud and let the words take you wherever they may…)

Here I sit, uncold, wrapped in the jumps

That my brain takes from Here, to There, from Now to Then.

When I settle, deeply, warmly into Then

Outside, the russet-tinged clouds scud and scurry

Outside, the rusted tin roof screeches, echoing the owl of last light.

The limbs of the tree dance,

wind pushed togetherly, sway mightily.

We go to the line of the roof,

gable eyes winking, flashing and winking.

It nods to the left, my right, shows me the old house.

The wall of gathered river-cobbles rounded by

Concussion, collision, crafted erosion.

Here they stand, where they were laid down, in lines of curved straightness.

Trapping a horsehair from centuries long gone.

The cobble’s an egg-shell containing a fossil.

River sand limestone, grit, hair and water.

They stack up in courses, lines and right angles.

Long stone for the door jam, windows and corbels.

Put there by Old John, Jack, Will or long-Henry.

My gaze leaps the old house, springs over tin barn

Over to the hedgerow that marches the old road

Laid down by Romans, or even before them.

Trodden on by peddlers, tin-men and farm-hands

Weary and wary and stepping through puddles

Hands cupping treasures, or casting out crumbles

The sky gaze over but never the same one.

The hills have the long watch

They’ve witnessed

The marriage, the murder, the chase and the capture

The lost and the found and the sly interloper

The birth of a baby, the death of a lover

The shriek of a coachwheel, the cry of a robber

The creak of collision, the crack of a leg-bone

The stealing of purses, hearts, souls and virtue .

This road lines past the high hills, the place where my heart lies

Heather, furze, whimberry, rowan and hawthorn

Edge curved paths hug the whitestone cliff

Past the long barrow, the holes of the dry wall a window

The home of the adder, sneck yates, the droveway.

A long stone, a walkway, a ‘wonder-where-that-goes?’

A lost hour, a found way, a new way to Haxby

A once hidden valley, a discarded horseshoe

A long line of engines, toiling and trundling.

I find myself lost and lose myself found

I trudge and upwalk, steps into bounds

The rise is a hill, the steepest of mounds

I slip, only once, my blood stains the ground.

Then I’m free of the climb, up, look once around,

free now of rhyme, now I’m on top of the hill

The top of the hill, here it’s cold and I spy

A bottle, long buried, the neck winks a glimmer.

A picnic, the twenties, flannel for him,

Wool skirt for her, a blanket for both.

Some brown ale, a salt egg, a shared patch of sky.

His interlaced fingers cradle his head

As the sky races on, clouds huddled, rush by

She talks of the future, the summer they’ll wed.

He thinks of the sky, the day it turned red.

Not here, but in Ypres

Green Howards go forward,

Onward to chaos

The mud turns to the colour

Of shepherds warning

A lobster a boiling

A storm

Of shouting, screams, shells falling then

-John, what do you think? What shall we do then…?

He blinks, shakes his head,

begs his leave (for now lads)

Of Johnson and Wilson and Smith, Lees and Thomas.

He knows where they are (forever they’ll be lads)

Forever Green Howards, never now tailor

Or farmer, or blacksmith, tanner or turner.

John turns to his Mary, sweet sun on his meadow.

She knows, will not mention,

uses love to heal terror.

They swig from the bottle, then bury it

Under a slip of a Rowan, the berries her children.

The red of a warning, food for the skylark

The finch and the redwing.

Hiding a bottle until now, when I find it.

That was my brief pause, where John had his picnic.

Onward, well downwards

The path, steep, heel ruts for toe-holds,

A curlew overflies and answers another

I dip below wind, warm now and cautious.

It’s steeply slippy, hands grasp the bracken.

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The hills have the long watch, the furze, deeply trodden

A march stolen, a hidden down treasure,

A stop, stump-trip shinned knee.

The wait of a parent, the crunch of the gravel,

the kiss of the key on the lock, unsteady.

The stars freckle the night and wink.

The hills know, but will never tell

of the birth and death of those flickery candles.

The dance of the lights, the death of the night

The courtship of the dawn and the gloom.

They have felt the weight of clawed paws

The prance of hares leaping in the long grass

as they pause at the shock of the eclipsing moon.

Here ends the rainbow, here, here and here.

There goes Auld Tom, driving the herd, switch flicking

Feet stretching from lowlands to Durham, finally York.

Here stands James Douglas, his army

of Scots and their taking of Byland.

Here knelt a king, cowed by the Bruce.

The shadow the abbey, whole just for now

Bore witness to the rout.

They marched on the old road, laid by the first feet

Which laid the barrow,

Opened the lime of the hill to bury a king.

The hills embraced him, enfolded his cairn in moss and turf.

Then they waited, until he became part of the earth,

Returned to his home,

Returned to the long watch.

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I see you…

I see youtree

Tree from the old days

Guarding the byways

You see me

You tree from the old days

Watching my hair grey.

 

I see you

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Road from the old days

Making the highways

You see me

You road from the old days

Feeling my gait sway.

 

I see youstone

StoneĀ from the old days

Marking the old ways

You see me

You stone from the old days

Hiding my shade away.

 

This post is about looking. The gaze. Eyes. The eyes within the mind.

The idea that, as we look, so we are being looked at.

We rush through our lives, ascribing varying amounts of import to the concerns that are whooshing though our grey matter at that moment in time.

I live in an old place. The Romans were here; they buried their dead below the windmill a quarter of a mile away. They built the road less than a mile from me. This road was called Dere Street, running from York up to Scotland. It was built in the 70s AD, after Boudicca was savagely dealt with.

It’s humbling to know that history marches through the lanes and streets that I wander. Lives will have been made, lost, broken, saved and joined right where I stand, looking at the undulating road surface.

Trees watching me, each breath they take a month in the inhale, seasonal exhalations. What concerns the mind of a tree? Do they notice the scurrying people, flashing by in their rushed lives? Or is each week long eye blink of an oak too ponderous and serene to even notice the day I walked by, lost in grief, or the day I strode by, found in love?

And yet, even the Romans were new to here.

This road, this march, this ribbon of trodden earth has the age of an eon. Ten thousand years. For ten thousand years people have followed the line of the lane, Sneck Yates and the high drove road to the right, skimming the curves of the river Ure. (This river, once called Jor or Yore has gifted (in my opinion), the once capitol of Viking England- Jor-wick. The town on the Jor.)

Marking the way, the old folk left stones. Up on the tops, there’s a long barrow I visit, where rests someone from then. I sit and look out, overdown on this place I call home.

On the route, the Devils Arrows pierce the earth; standing proud, so tall that they hide my shadow when I stand under them. A short walk takes me to Thornborough. The henge there is special. Three henges, linked.

The number 3 is sacred to the people we call Celts. It represents the three-fold marriage of earth, sea and sky. The trinity, so central to Christianity, was taken by St Patrick from the Celts, appropriated as a marriage between the old lore and the new. We keep them still.

On the count of three.

Three is the magic number.

Weave a circle round him thrice.

The stones watch, their inhalations so slow that they barely register the sapling as it grows into a half centuried oak. Do the stones remember the forming? The heat and the flowing?

The worries of a stone are nothing to the earth; the worries of the tree are nothing to the stone; the worries of the man are nothing to the tree. Next time you look; look through the eyes of something older. There may be wisdom. There will certainly be a different perspective.

The road marches on. The river washes stone. Time to look anew.