For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Coast Path: A Meditation

I'm walking the coastal path of England's south west peninsula at the moment - from Minehead in Somerset, through Devon, round Cornwall to Plymouth. Here are some of my impressions so far. I'll be back at the end of the month.

To where does it lead, this walking? Past sea-lashed stacks and blocky towers of granite, shattered into cubes, to wind-bashed headlands drenched in spume and spray. Through lush-green tunnels of feathery tamarisk, humid as the tropics, wet-warm as rainforests, dripping with hart's tongue ferns and frothy with meadowsweet.

To where does it lead, this walking? I cling to crumbling cliff-top paths on the friable margin between rock and ocean. Here both land and sea engage in tumultuous conversation: an earthy, salty, airy discourse they've been playing out for eons and will do so for eternity. There is such wildness on this Atlantic edge: the surge and suck of sea water in coves, crash and roar of waves on rock, blown spindrift and beached debris of mussels, crabs' legs, beer cans, plastic.

To where does it lead, this walking? This is the cormorant's path, the gannet's way, the corridor of peregrine and raven, domain of chough and oystercatcher. Here are dunes as high as hills, soft with sand and spiky with marram grass. Here are fulmars, wings stiff as iron, flung by the wind then shearing through it, riding the updrafts just feet from my face.

To where does it lead, this walking? To a megalith, finger of slate, riddle of rock, pointing skyward. To the bright eye of pimpernel, scarlet as flame. To a focused hawk, hanging on the wind: still point of frozen fire. These are my lodestars and runic markers, my questions and answers, my longing and release wrapped up in one.

12 comments:

George said...

Great to hear from you, Robert, and I am delighted that, as suspected, you are off on a great walking adventure. Your impressions thus far are fine poetry. I look forward to hearing more when you return. You have been sorely missed, my friend.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lovely piece of writing…an of an obviously lovely place. Glad you checked in—and look forward to your (blogging) return. Go in beauty…

Lorenzo said...

So much poetry in your gait. Mr. Solitary Walker. Enjoy the rest of the trek, Robert, wherever this walking may lead...

The Weaver of Grass said...

That is as lovely a coastal path as anywhere in the British Isles Robert - hope you are enjoying every minute of it.

Bonnie said...

How exquisitely you have carved your experience into the tangible. Your words offer a poetic, sensory substitute for the reality. Thank you.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Solitary Walker, I feel very near your world, I live in Italy and I love walking in the mountains. The Dolomites to be precise.
Anyway I live in Venice.
I enjoyed your latest post in particular, very strong poetic prose, I perceived your reflections thtough my skin.

Best wishes, Davide ( Tommaso )a

Tramp said...

Great to catch up with you.
Wonderful description of coast walking experiences, something I miss here having grown up on the east coast of England.
...Tramp

am said...

This is the best time of year to be walking on coastal paths. What you wrote stirs my longing for walking by the open ocean. Here in Bellingham, I can walk by our inland salt sea until that time comes that I can walk on the coast of the Pacific Ocean again. Got out my copy of The Coast of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, by Joe Cornish, Paul Wakefield and David Noton, to see where you might be walking. The mystic ocean meets the mystic shore.

Deeply familiar, although I've not been to England.

Tanvi Nimkar said...

It leads to the person within... And it leads to the eternity of your soul..

Keep walking :)

Regards,

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, everyone, for such lovely comments!

Ann Grenier said...

Your meditation is so beautiful, so evocative that I had to leave this small note of appreciation.Thank you.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much, Ann!