Wednesday, 15 December 2010

(42) Inverianvie

'Walk on, walk on, walk on, I walk on – I'm gonna keep on walkin', till I find my way back home – Well, you might gets worried, when your shoes get bend – You don't know where you goin', but you do know where you been – I see so many people happy, I can't get used to happiness – Maybe it is true, happiness is not for me, I guess – Well, the world is too high, highways are too long'

– Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, ‘Walk On’

42 Inverianvie River
Alec Finlay, 2010

Our Kurobe is Inverianvie

The Inerianvie’s known for its rapids and we hiked past no end of white water rills and pools, falls and gushing torrents by a bay called Camus Gaineamhaich. Though not summer and feeling, in fact, of early fall pervasive, stands of Old Caledonian Forest in the Letterewe Preserve at Innis Mhic Thomais read about in Caroline Tisdall’s essays suggested a visit and looking at the OS we figured walk up the Inverianvie through Gleann Garbh and see how close we can get to Loch an Fhamhair and the falls at Loch a’ Mhaidadh Beag, even though we got no further than the fords beyond the Eas Dubh a’ Ghinne Ghairbh falls, we could look back at Gruinard and the handful of block-caravans at Laide along the coast; the path farther up the glen enough to scare us off, so back we headed to Loch Ewe.

early rice fragrance

making its way to the right

into the "Rough Sea"

peatbog reek
seeping in the right boot

aye, right in

that boggy-boot

Basho, Oku no hosomichi, July 14 (September 4) 1689, Kurobe River

Alec Finlay, Ken Cockburn, the road north, September 20, 2010, Inverianvie River


As Basho and Sora wade across the Kurobe known for its forty-eight rapids they take a notion to visit Tako to see the autumn-blooming waves of wisteria, a viewing known to them from an eight-century poem. But it turns out to be too far, and inhospitable. We, having planned for so long to take in Inverewe Gardens, created a century ago by Osgood MacKenzie, drove on around the bay, past First Coast and Second Coast, to the Inverianvie River, which flows out of Loch a Mhadaidh Mor. Parking by Gruinard Bay we blare out the one CD that’s not been listened to this trip, a performance by Ceoltóirí Chualann & Seán Ó Sé.

42 White water, Inverianvie River

Ken Cockburn, 2010

Walking inland, south-east, away from the sea,
we’ve found our rapids, so fiercely plentiful we lose count. Sora’s Eck takes the rising path rapido style, while Basho’s Ken has the steady pace of a man whose legs are anticipating tomorrow’s Slioch. Fitting to have these falls within the one burn spating down the brown glen; us following up the smaller ‘burn’ of the track besides. On such treacherous peaty paths your boots pull you on, eyes down so’s each step’s an instant measure of energy used in the surest way, picking a straight line of angles between unsorted stones, round clitched grey boulders, and over, or – if your pace is off – in the tarry puddles.

42 Rapids

Alec Finlay, 2010

42 Basho by rapids
Alec Finlay, 2010

42 Wish, birch

Alec Finlay, 2010

42 Lichen patches
Alec Finlay, 2010

Walk to the Waterfall

42 Waterfall

Ken Cockburn, 2010

Shining white in the mist in a clitter of downy birch, the waterfall spurred us on. A barrier to the sea trout the bay is famous for. Here I am, here I am, sing the little lochans we were dreaming of reaching, peaks not being our thing then.

42 hokku-label
(‘the sound / of a water- / fall // within sight / of the sea’, AF)
Alec Finlay, 2010

the sound
of a water-


within sight

of the sea

listing to the river

looking at the waves

Basho's Ascent

Alec Finlay, 2010

42 Basho, riverside
Alec Finlay, 2010

The glen narrows and the path steepens, making its way as best it can between rock-walls and the rushing white water below. Careful now. Wedging boots and stretching over a skid of greasy strata. This is not the time or place for a spill. Basho’s not carrying Sora, nor Sora Basho.

Our reward: the glen opens its lungs into a stretch of moorland glen, beyond which lie the distant mountains into which walkers merge and emerge from.

Upstream the river’s slower, quieter, hasn’t yet achieved that whiteness, can’t suspect the conflicts to come.

42 hokku-label
('the river / sees everything / in black and white', KC)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

The Two

‘… years coming or going wanderers too. Drifting life away on a boat or meeting age leading a horse by the mouth, each day is a journey and the journey itself home.’

– Basho, Oku-no-hosomichi

42 Youth & Age
Alec Finlay, 2010

In this glen we’ve come to the end of the day’s journey. Two walkers pass, down from the hills. I won’t forget them. Like us there’s a wee gap between them. Youth with his yellow wrapped pack, grim-paced with fatigue, striding the path to get it done; Age in a khaki cap – the father? – a ways behind winding down slowly from having seeing it all before, done up and down to here, back there and more, so much more. No hello until Eck asks

.....“Come far?”
.....“Four days.”

Four days, in there – we think back on the dreichness and the wind and the mist there’d been, which we’d seen from the warmth of the hotel, through generous windows, and on our wee excursions. Four days, up there, where this path goes on and wears itself out – where would that take you to? A bivvy on Beinn Dearg Bheag or An Teallach? Or by one of the lochs cupped in these peaks, Fada or the Fionn, the white loch with the chance of a huge wild brownie, fishing from boats the Letterewe ghillies dragged up here by hand.

Recommended flies

Black Zulu
Peter Ross
Connemara Black

Ke-He Invicta
(Soldier Palmer
works well on the bob
in summer)

But there was no sign of a rod on the hikers that we can see.

How I wanted to ask what they’d seen up there in the hills. Back down at the road they were stowing their gear in the car, and I exchanged hi’s, but was too shy to ask more. I went on down to the beach to write a poem in the sand about the waterfall, where the mouth of the river exhales into the sea. When I came back up the path they were sorting the tent, closing the flaps up, putting their boots to dry. I asked if they needed a lift somewhere, to get some warm grub, but they said they had a car of their own. Not knowing is fine too, an equivalent of Basho’s here I wrote no poem.

42 sand poem
(‘just out of sight of the sea – a waterfall’, AF)

Alec Finlay, 2010

(AF, w/ KC)

Speaking from where we get to

‘Basho was exhausted by heat and fatigue. Nevertheless, he recited the poem wase no ka ya as an expression of his courage and determination. He imagines himself making his way through endless fields and looking forward to the road ahead.’

– Oku-no-hosomichi Commentary

Where the little glen opens out the river calms down: as if, not wanting to be outdone, it’s saving its flourishes until the sea’s in sight.
The distance we got as far as, so much shorter than the hikers', but still a length of its own.

It’s true, my way was far to get just here, into this little enclosed glen where the river lay flat among peaty rushes. Fords on the map, a crossing in other weathers. My last gesture to the distances, a little leap to a rock in the stream, from where I libated the Inverianvie with a few drops of Old Pulteney, and Ken sipped his swig from the bank.

42 Libating Inverianie

Ken Cockburn, 2010

The memory of that glen reminds me of reading Tom Lubbock’s (1957 - 2011) recent essay, clearly and courageously discussing his own gradual loss of language, as a tumour imposes itself into his brain. ‘You don't know where you goin', but you do know where you been.’ To see his keen intelligence frayed, yet retaining such lucidity. A few lines, each thought, taking how many hours, days even? That effort shows, but still, even fallen away from the consecutive step-by-step of reasoned thinking that was Tom’s mode, par excellence, even pared, sifted and eroded to these few poetic fragments, I hear the same voice, entire, in his writing. I hear Tom and I picture that bare enclosed glen, a gentle pot among cloudy pinnacles.

“I am surprised”

“This is curious”

“It is still, even now, interesting;”

“Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it.”

Ground, river and sea”

“Eugene – his toys, his farm, his cars, his fishing game.”

“Getting quiet.”

“Names are going.”

“But all the same it’s amazing what Marion can do, how it can still happen.”

“Quiet but still something.”

“My body. My tree”

“After that it becomes simply the world”

This is Tom’s world, still and all; beyond a place he imagined it, in a place where words are shadowed. Thought is not only skill and method. Attention is a means of reach, in ways that can carry us beyond accomplishment.

And I was there, in Inverianvie glen, that bare heathery waste pared of names. Facing a world I cannot reach, but which I can place my wishes towards. ‘Well, the world is too high, highways are too long…

Even the little hidden lochan eluded me – was it around the next bend, over the next rise? I can’t know for sure – but for sure that day it or I was too far gone. So, when I saw that stretch of smooth river beyond the rapids, I let it be what it was, leaving the lochs for others.

Flopping down on my waterproofs, exhausted, I wound a few words around the fine stalks of the bog grasses, as I’d learned to, making something that held, up here where there were no fence posts or trees to tie our labels to. Sipped the Jun Shan Golden Needle, sloppy in the thermos. For all the riverside’s wet green, brambles haven’t forgotten autumn – leaves rusting, stems purpling, flourish of berries wershpale and sweetdark.

42 hokku-label
(‘in the glen below / Carn an Lochain Dubh // we know we won’t get to / Loch a Mhadaidh Mor’, AF)

Ken Cockburn, 2010

42 hokku-label
(‘bend after bend / skyline upon skyline // we came so far / no further’, AF)

Ken Cockburn, 2010



42 hokku-label
(‘feeling / of fall / pervasive’, KC, after Basho)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

We wind our way into Gairloch as the sky darkens, no more lingering evening light these post-equinoctial days. Find somewhere to eat, then drive back to the hotel in deep and winding darkness, too tired to talk. The A832 runs after the Kerry River like a little brother aping an older sibling. After ‘Walk on’, Jimmy Read’s ‘Little Rain’ begins to fall, and he times the line ‘I would like to love ya, baby / underneath the shining moon’ for us turning a corner and, there she is, overhead.



Tom Lubbock's
essay is on the Guardian website; he died in January 2011, his obituary can be read here

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee in performance

the white loch: a guide to fishing the loch

nverianvie River: a fisherman's journey along the river

No comments:

Post a Comment