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September 2007, vol 3 no 3

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Ken Jones

 

Let Me Be

Every creature covers the ground it stands on, no more and no less. It never falls short of its completeness --Zen Master Dogen.

Its green face
scarred with scree
an ancient hill

The place where I encountered her haunts me no less than the meeting itself.

An hour long struggle through dense thickets, waterlogged underfoot, and infested by all the ticks and midges of a hot Highland summer. Beyond, I enter a primeval woodland lying between loch and crag.

A graceful spout from some higher lake comes swishing down through the trees, the  great boulders and waist-high ferns.  I follow the tracks which the deer have ploughed through the black, peaty soil.  And from time to time I pause, to let in the stillness. In this wilderness and solitude, an animal neither young nor old, brave nor fearful, strong nor weary.

And then, I see her. She is climbing the crag ahead up a steep deer track, agile and sure-footed. Fawn shirt and matching slacks, brown shoulder length hair, and–decidedly odd–not even a day sac. To catch her up I climb the bare rock over to the left–a granite boiler plate, sticking to my boots, clinging to my fingers.

We break out onto the same grand view. Big, empty country, teeming with red deer – the hinds flowing through the landscape, and the occasional antlers on the skyline. Amid a scatter of silver lochans  bleached granite outcrops  rise above heather, tussock and bog. The ruling summit, an elegant rocky cone, lies some two or three miles distant. Country which challenges even the walker with map-and-compass–of which she appears to have neither.

She turns to me a strong, intelligent face–or what’s left of it.  Half of it is cruelly disfigured as if by the claws of some beast. In a soft and even voice: “Let me be.”  I know I nodded; I hope I smiled. She turns again, and, in awe, I watch her loping away light-footed across a  boulder field,  deeper into the interior.

Day’s end
the face of the mountain
flames and fades


Boiler plate: Climbers’ jargon for a large, inclined rock slab.