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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2005, vol 1 no 1

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Ken Jones, Wales

 

Turning the Corner

Turning the corner again
the mountain catches me
in its long, distant stare

Sgurr Dhomnuill. (Donald's Peak). 2914 feet. 888 metres. Taunting me when harmlessly I go to fetch my week's holiday groceries from the village shop. A tumble of steep crags, flecked with snow, even in May. Again I thumb the Scottish Mountaineering Club handbook, with its cheerful understatements:

"This is the highest mountain in the district. On account of its height and sharp appearance it is a conspicuous object when seen from a distance. The upper thousand feet is very steep, especially the north face, which is rocky, and in summer conditions affords a pleasant scramble."

Every birthday I climb a different mountain, but this one looks an unwise celebration of my seventy-fourth. Maybe I'll just sidle along the three mile approach ridge, enjoying the crags and lochans, and feigning interest only in Donald's conical little friend, the enigmatic Sgurr na h’Ighinn.

A scary excitement, these mountains, with their airy solitude and unrelenting desolation. No paths, no humans. A whole day and maybe no more than a rare marker cairn, a single stone perched on a rock, left at some strategic choice. The rock grips my boots. The wind grows keener. I change course, by-passing the little friend. Adrenalin and Kendal Mint Cake now, and all for the love of a mountain.

Just below the summit cone a pall of mist and rain suddenly rolls in, cutting off my retreat. I hunker down out of the wind.

Wrapped in a chill cloud
sipping fear
with my coffee

And then no less suddenly the mist and rain clear. And here, here are boot marks, to get me started up a tricky bit of crag. No time to lose, and timelessly I climb.

Sauntering back in sunshine, I thread my way through a necklace of lochans.

Silver waters
in the mountain's image
a dance of pond skaters

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