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Pitfalls and Potholes

“Make for that tree!” – is what he said,
As if set in some wise old gnarled local folklore.
For sure the hillside looked quite easy,
And my watch proposed I could make it by four.

There was no obvious path to that tree
Well, certainly not one that I could see

Instead, there were ankle-twisting knee-deep pits
Veiled by dense bracken and placid ling.
With disguised hazards at every step
In a mere two or three I was floundering.

Just one or two more and down I went smack
Floundering footless about on my back

Like a ridiculous careened beetle
I could do nothing but laugh at the sky
Aware that if I were to break an ankle
I’d have no choice but to crawl or die.

I praised the gods that I’d learned how to fall
Out on the seacliffs of Wales and Cornwall

So there I was. Should I go for that tree?
Just one soggy foot and not hurt a bit.
Of course, careless of age, I stumbled on;
There being no family to thwart it.

The solitary tree seemed to get farther
With each step coming harder and harder

Indeed, some crazy hillsides about here:
No ways, paths or markers - just wild deer tracks.
A kind of green veldt entices you on,
Looking from distance slyly carpet flat.

Armies once dug potholes as defences
To trip up, and down advancing horses

I can vouch the effectiveness of these
And pity the fallen benighted horse
Which like its crazed mount would find no mercy -
Poor warhorse spurred on by red-coated force.

But where kilted clansmen once fought and died,
I find a home where I can write and hide

No wild Highlander wields a claymore anymore
But horseflies, ticks and midges who
Approach by stealth and in their silence feed,
As they surely did on the Jacobites too.

And that confounded solitary tree?
Gained, of course, but with no epiphany

Slumping to the ground I looked round
And from under thin boughs, idly in heat, wondered
If Adam and Eve had bugs in their Eden,
And all over their flesh so naked.

Well, it would be easier from that tree
To reach the summit (huh!) said he, you’ll see

My hollow laugh was heard by nobody.
Upwards and onwards I scanned the country;
It looked as forbidding and potholey
As that I’d just left with difficulty.

Ah, but common sense came compellingly,
So I stretched out, dreamed and smoked a rollie

The insects like the smoke as little as some friends –
Who are more sensible than me.
But too old to be sensible,
There were bugs, tree and me in equanimity.

Knowing that very soon I’d have to go
I spied out the minefield laid out below

To help traverse it I’d have gravity,
A stick brought from Devon and thought of tea.
It went well at first: a path (of sorts)
Before becoming lost in obscurity.

Gallumphing down might be easier, true,
Who knows might even get to see the view

But these deer play mean tricks on clumsy men -
Soon I was stumbling in head-high bracken.
While they dance down hillsides on air-shod feet
I attracted ticks by the half-dozen.

Then I found a steep gorge and followed it
Before hitting a fresh dug badger sett

It made me contemplate the badger thing.
One lure of the Highlands had not been them!
Here they were though, winsome as ever,
But no bovine TB, thank the gods… ah_men.


Now December, with August a memory
There’s a path as clear as clear can be.
So, easily I climbed until the way
Veered away, off course, from that blighted tree.

But, hark, a cronking Raven flew over
And tits barrelled as they had last summer

© RM Meyer
The Highlands, September, December 2021
re-edited January 2022