Reason Sits Helpless at its Desk

What with world (‘crazier and more of it than we think’*) goings on at the moment I’m incredibly relieved to be off Ullapool for a week (from Friday) with The Mr. I hope to  explore Assynt, the favourite place of one of my favourite poets, Norman MacCaig, and as luck would have it a new colleague lent me At the Loch of the Green Corrie a few weeks ago so I know better than ever what to look out for. I’m particularly excited to visit the most remote bookshop on mainland Britain, and the geological phenomena of the Moine Thrust and Knockan Crag.

Knockan Crag
Knockan Crag

But just being with the sea and mountains, midges or none, rain or sun, will be balm. I will take a notebook and camera, as always, so I’ll hopefully be able to write something of the trip when I return. I am hopeless at review type writing, though, so don’t hold your breath for anything factual. Meanwhile here is one of MacCaig’s late poems, which rather nails my current feelings of perturbed ambivalence:

The Red and the Black

We sat up late, talking –
thinking of the screams of the tortured
and the lost silence of starving children,
seeing the faces of bigots and murderers.

Then sleep.

And there was the morning, smiling
in the dance of everything. The collared doves
guzzled the rowan berries and the sea
washed in, so gently, so tenderly.
Our neighbours greeted us
with humour and friendliness.

World why do you do this to us,
giving us poison with one hand
and the bread of life with another?

And reason sits helpless at its desk,
adding accounts that never balance,
finding no excuse for anything.

Cover image from Adventures Around Scotland

*From Louis MacNeice’s ‘Snow’

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