The Rituals We Choose

There are other lives we might lead, places we might get to know, skills we might acquire.
When we have put distance between ourselves and our intentions, the sensibility comes awake.

Every day should contain a pleasure as simple as walking on the machair or singing to the seals.
The ripples on the beach and the veins in the rocks on the mountain show the same signature.
When we climb high enough we can find patches of snow untouched by the sun, parts of the spirit still intact.
The grand landscapes impress us with their weight and scale but it is the anonymous places, a hidden glen or a stretch of water without a name, that steal the heart.
We live in an age so completely self-absorbed that the ability to simply look, to pour out the intelligence through the eyes, is an accomplishment.
When I climb down from the hill I carry strands of wool and fronds of bracken on my clothing, small barbs of quiet in my mind.
The farther we move from habitation, the larger are the stars.
Long silences are as proper in good company as a song on a lonely road.
Let everything you do have the clean edge of water lapping in a bay.
In any prevailing wind there are small pockets of quiet: in a rock pool choked with duckweed, in the lee of a cairn, in the rib-cage of a sheep’s carcass.
Whatever there is in a landscape emerges if we just sit still.
It is not from novelty but from an unbroken tradition that real human warmth can be obtained, like a peat fire that has been rekindled continuously for hundreds of years
After days of walking on the moor, shoulders, spine and calves become resilient as heather.
The hardest materials are those which display the most obvious signs of weathering.
Just to look at a beach of grey pebbles can cool the forehead.
Although the days should extend in a graceful contour, the hours should not be accountable.
On a fine day, up on the heights, with heat shimmering from the rocks, I can stretch out on my back and watch all the distances dance.
The duty of the traveller, wherever he finds himself, is always to keep faith with the air.
We should nurture our own loneliness like an Alpine blossom.
Solitude and affection go well together – to work alone the whole day and then in the evening sit round a table with friends.
When the people are gone, and the house is a ruin, for long afterwards there may flourish a garden of daffodils.
The routines we accept can strangle us but the rituals we choose give renewed life.


These photographs were taken during a walk from Durgan to Falmouth along the South West Coast Path on May Day this year. I owe the photo-journal format idea to rottenindenmark; I’ve wanted to try out for a while and having taken so many photos on this walk I thought it would be as good an opportunity as any. All the pictures have been colour-adjusted to varying degrees (except for the blue sky at the beginning which is seen as it comes) because I wanted to heighten the look of them in keeping with the alternative form and to add a sense of not-quite-real to the piece.

The captions are taken from a poem by Thomas A. Clark. He does all sorts of wonderful work with the Scottish landscape; the poem I borrowed here describes a visit by Clark to the Inner Hebridean Island of Colonsay in April 1987. I am tempted to re-do the whole thing using my own writing (which is kind of the point, I guess, on a creative writing blog) but as a template I liked the idea of using one of Clark’s poems as I felt the statement-stanza format would work quite well. Thoughts or feedback on this? Please comment!


More on this?

The poem from which the captions were borrowed, ‘Riasg Buidhe’ by Thomas A. Clark, can be read in its entirety on the Scottish Poetry Library website where they also have some other examples of his work. The poem was originally published in Clark’s collection Tormentil and Bleached Bones (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1993).

Thomas A. Clark was born in Greenock, Scotland, and explores the landscapes of the Highlands and Islands in his poetry. He often experiments with form as an expressive tool in his work, exploring ways to utilise the page, the book, or the medium on which the poem is presented to add another dimension to the poem itself. His blog can be found here:

You may also like on Open the Curtains: Flora vernalis


4 thoughts on “The Rituals We Choose

  1. This is lovely. Even though the photos have been adjusted, I think it really conveys how bright the light is in Cornwall. Do the captions read as one poem, or have you picked bits from the poem? I think it would be interesting to do something like this but instead have a slideshow of images and an audio file of the poem. In a way I think scrolling down breaks the flow of the poem. Lovely poem though, I especially like: ‘When the people are gone, and the house is a ruin, for long afterwards there may flourish a garden of daffodils.’ Would be great to see one with your own writing.

    1. Thanks Naomi – that’s what I was trying to do with the photos, it was such a gorgeous day and so many bright colours it almost seemed unreal so I was trying to find a way to make it look both artificial and realistic (if that’s possible?) at the same time.

      The captions are MOST of the poem – there’s a link in the blurb above to the whole thing on the SPL website – but they appear in order and because of the nature of the little ‘statements’ it still flows in the same way. I see what you mean about the problem of scrolling down, but I felt it might be ok with this sort of poem rather than something of a more traditional structure because of the way each line/stanza can stand alone as well as in conjunction with the rest of the piece. I really like the slideshow idea though…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.