Friday, 6 August 2010

(22) Crarae

By Linda France

Our Miyagi is Crarae Garden

Our asebi flowers are the rhodedendron

22 Crarae
Linda France, 2010

At Crarae

I shared my Glen Scotia with various folk gathered on the Mull of Kintyre for a friend’s 50th birthday. A couple of days later the drive up to Loch Fyne was spectacular, the sun shining over the water on the Island of Gigha. I arrived at Crarae (‘Hill of Trees’) in time for a picnic lunch under a fine specimen from their Nothofagus collection (Southern Beech), my cheese and oatcakes melting in the midsummer heat.

After following the prayer flag trails (yellow for earth, red for fire, green for water, white for air and blue for sky) – a punning echo of Basho’s Iris Festival day of plaiting eaves with blue flags’ – admiring the skilful planting by three generations of the Campbell family (and the influence of plant collector, writer and Buddhist, Reginald Farrer, 1880-1920), the National Trust for Scotland man revived me with coffee and kindness before my long drive home.

22 neolithic chambered cairn, Crarae
Linda France, 2010

I was very struck by the reach of the garden across time (the neolithic chambered cairn c.3500 B.C.) and space (trees and shrubs from China, Tibet and Nepal). While I was there nothing else mattered and it was hard to believe I’d been wandering around for four hours when I came back to where I started and heard the traffic on the road again.

new sandals on our feet
their blue thongs
irises in full bloom




This is a guide to 22, Crarae (56° 7'48.59"N) (5°13'58.33"W). Basho’s ‘asebi’ is a rhododendron which produces white vase-like blossoms. Crarae is famous for its collection of over 400 rhododendron and azalea. From April to October the gardens are open from 10.00–17.00; there is an entrance fee. Outside these times there is an honesty box, and the gardens are open dawn to dusk all year round.
For details see:

Gardens of Argyll
The Modern Antiquarian


Linda France is an acclaimed poet and editor based in Northumberland. Her most recent poetry collection, You are Her (Arc, 2010) is now available.

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Following Linda

On the road home from our Arygll stations Rebecca and I stopped off to see Linda’s wish, and Lucy’s signs, at Crarae

22 wish (Himalayan Birch)
Alec Finlay, 2010

Linda’s hokku has been taken down from the beech, but we took a walk up the glen and listened to the burn.

audio, Crarae Glen
Alec Finlay, 2010

22 Crarae Glen
Alec Finlay, 2010

We found that other hokku had been here before us, left in stone.

22 Crarae hokku
Alec Finlay, 2010

When we got back to the carpark Rebecca found that Sora had been here, leaving a surprise poem on the door-handle, which we in turn left tied to a tree

22 hokku-label, Sora's surprise
('by the palm tree / one group of wandering poets / passed by another')
Alec Finlay, 2010



coda: Linda

Guided by Prayer Flags

At Crarae Garden
trees keep the dream
of far-off mountains

......bones five thousand years old a chamber of stones

under the southern beech
hang tufts of lichen
beards of ghostly explorers

......guided by prayer flags
......I tread the path of fire

a bead of amber resin
on the tallest fir
scarred by lightning

......scent of incense
......warm leaves’ musk

a winding path
through skunk cabbage
enough heat to melt snow

......corals and purples – flame
......tipped candelabra primula

wishing you were here
to tell me the name
of that bird singing

......breathing in the cool
......and splash of the cascade

a red squirrel
scampers over river rocks

......the burn’s reflection
......illuminating root and fern

throw his letters in the air
let them fly and sing
cuckoo flowers!

......blossoms of rhododendron
......rust in the sun

limp tissues
left on the boughs
of the handkerchief tree

......a tunnel of bamboo
......and you’re in Nepal, Sikkim

along the ravine
criss-crossing the wooden bridges
not another soul

......behind the Big House
......someone’s built a Big Hill

isn’t here all
anyone could wish for
where the journey’s home?

......a blaze of maple at the heart
......of light-drenched green

I loop the loop
swallows calling
back where I started

......oyster clouds
......swim across Loch Fyne

the metallic hum
of engines signals
the long drive south

......a butterfly bush on the back seat
......a comb of heather honey.

A solitary renga
at Crarae Garden, Argyll,
by Linda France
on 28 June 2010.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you did get given some straw sandals, or the modern equivalent. I've posted a few comments on The Road North here.