‘Cut deep into the earth – a firm track, going somewhere’
Swallows at Crianlarich
The sleeper shuffles into Crianlarich
on a grey morning, eyes not quite open yet.
Stepping onto the platform, I feel air from the hills
splash like fresh water in my face
and am startled by a world full of wings:
swallows swooping round the station,
small bodies that jink and dart,
over the down platform, past tearoom signs
and tubs of late-summer flowers,
across lines stretching south to Glasgow,
rails running north across Rannoch Moor –
dancing as though delighted,
maybe with the morning midge-rise,
or simply with all that air
sending out urgent messages on twitter,
low-flying, then looping over and up
to gather on wires with fast-beating hearts:
a new brood testing their wings
in training for the long haul
where lines converge on the horizon,
connecting with another hemisphere
and this in-between place where I’ve alighted,
paused for breath, is where the tired year
breathes out and blows them far away –
where the young swallows’ journey starts.
A Track Across the Machair
This track is a bit like my journey, Jesus –
winding and gravelly,
rather rough at the edges.
But it’s well-used too,
cut deep into the earth –
a firm track, going somewhere.
It gives me the confidence I need
to keep going,
always travelling, like you.
‘Swallows from Crianlarich’ is from A Pocket Full of Crumbs, by Jan Sutch Pickard, to be published by Wild Goose Publications. ‘A Track Across the Machair’, from Iona: Images and Reflections by Neil Paynter and David Coleman, is out now published by Wild Goose Publications (PB, £13.99).