It’s the 19th, Easter Saturday. Today I’ll meet two poets at the garden, Gerry Loose and Andrew Schelling. They’re walking the John Muir Way from Dunbar to Helensburgh, and this is Day 3; they’ll overnight in nearby Cramond. The walk has been organised by Alec Finlay, who explains its rationale in a post on his blog; it’s part of the larger John Muir Festival.
When I arrive I meet Luke Allan, Alec’s administrator, then Alec arrives; a while later the walkers arrive: Gerry and Andrew, together with Andrew’s partner Rebecca and the two Hanna(h)s, Hanna Tuulikki and Hannah Devereux, singer and photographer respectively. The walkers take off their boots and eat, after an urban stretch of the journey. Gerry shows me the route ahead, running along the south coast of the Firth of Forth to Bo’ness, then cutting inland and catching the Antonine Wall and the Forth & Clyde Canal.
Andrew and Rebecca live in Boulder, Colorado, and it’s their first trip to Scotland. What a way to discover a place, I think, on foot, going coast-to-coast, and in fine weather too.
Thanks to the sunshine the garden is busy. A large group gathers round the central column – maybe ‘friends’ of the garden – and families come and go. There are more tadpoles to be caught this month, and minnows; a girl catches them in a plastic tub, then sorts them by species, absorbed in her task for a good while.
We sit in a circle to share poems and a song. I read ‘Forth’, written a couple of years ago when I was in Dunbar for the Northlight festival, which takes as its cue a line from John Muir’s ‘A Boyhood in Scotland’: “we loved to watch the passing ships and make guesses as to the ports they had come from”. A reference to the ballad ‘Sir Patrick Spens‘ reminds Andrew that today is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride.
“we loved to watch the passing ships and make guesses as to the ports they had come from”
John Muir, ‘A Boyhood in Scotland’
a coracle of willow and skins beneath a changeable sky
a Roman flotilla edging north to Ultima Thule
a Viking longship breaking open the honied south
a Genoese galley blockading the castle
the Great Michael floating the woods of Fife
Sir Patrick Spens sailing the king’s guid schip
the widowed queen’s fleet arriving in thick mist
the brig Covenant of Dysart bound for the Carolinas
the clipper Isabella bringing tea into Leith
a herring-laden zulu tacking for Fisherrow
a U-boat periscope scanning the waves
the crude oil tanker Seadancer flying a flag of convenience