The theme for this year's National Poetry Day is 'Messages'...
Bookhound and I had something very important to do while we were on Orkney having decided as a family that we would like to return some of the Tinker's ashes to Scapa Flow. It is a place that had become very special to my dad in later life as he started to write that memoir of life stationed on board ship there as a fourteen-year-old Royal Marine boy bugler in 1939 (Bugle Boy by Len Chester) and so it became special to all of us as a result, and even more so now.
I am sure many of you will have done this for loved ones too (please do mention in comments if you want to) but I'm not sure I was completely prepared for how emotional the moment of scattering the last of his ashes would be, or how I would feel in the days that followed, knowing we would be leaving this magical place and especially Waulkmill Bay and somehow leaving my dad behind. There were tears, but can there be a more peaceful idyllic setting or a better ending than to drift in and out with the tide for all time here.
The tide was coming in fast, lapping at our feet, the beach was deserted, just us and my dad and the rhythm and swirl of the waves. A parting, a farewell, a leaving, a returning, a re-placing, a blending as each successive wave washed in around us and we said fare-thee-well and safe journey.
We did leave eventually and when I arrived home I picked up the Candlestick Press pamphlet of poems In Memoriam on bereavement, hoping that someone could make sense of what I was feeling and wanted to feel and they had. A huge thank you to Penelope Shuttle, and what a treasure it was to read her poem The Scattering as I set out a few of the small stones we had bought home from Waulkmill Bay for the cabinet.
I cast you into the waters.
Be lake, or random moon.
Be first light,
lifting up its beggar’s cup.
I scatter your ashes.
Be the gale teaching autumn
to mend its ways,
or leopard so proud of his spotted coat.
Be the mentor of cherry trees.
I cast your dust far and wide,
a sower broadcasting seed:
Be wild rose or hellebore or all-heal.
Descend as a vein of silver,
never to be seen,
deep in the lynx-eyed earth.
Rise as barn owl white as dusk;
dove or raven marvelling at his flight.
Know different delights.
Penelope Shuttle (Sandgrain and Hourglass, 2010, Bloodaxe Books)