Tinto Hill is an outstanding volcanic remnant in the central belt of Scotland, where the Clyde appears from the Southern Uplands on its way towards Lanark. Some people run up it, some hang glide from it.
Others wander, or maybe draw. I had driven past and wondered at this massif since the early sixties. Recently I had the chance to stop over at Wiston Lodge.
In Conversation with Tinto Hill
Well misted for now, you don’t just catch
the eye from all around.
Your feldspar slopes give the Clyde its elbow,
you cause the very weather to spiral round.
For years these roads I drove
were made of your pink stone and grit –
or a nearby sister was it?
Volcanic outreach now supporting lambs
and a quiet river heading for a fall.
Our time upsets the way of looking,
but what’s a few million between friends?
And your dark patches so meld that tinted glow,
you seem to be having a whale of a time, old Tinto,
though I’m the one who is spouting.
Yours is the making of this whole landscape
while we search for molecules of meaning,
I shall go for atoms of delight
sensing your neutrinos of granitic nourishment,
a Clydesider returning to dust – while still alive.
That’s the point you might say.
Light and dark matter enfolds us.
I am the one who is speaking,
you are the one unfolding.
Helping me to unlearn,
for civilizations don’t climb hills
although drovers were known to go over your top,
and cairns suggest you were a vantage .
Standing here on your edge watching
a bullfinch on broken bark beneath the mountain,
inhaling the foost of last year’s beech
and this year’s lichen,
while the stumps and moss expunge sure footing.
For me walking on dead twigs and pine needle talus
is a windy undertaking.
But you guide clouds on their way and dwarf
the man-made windbreaks.
The sway of the pine polls
and the call of the nuthatch come now.
Then I think of a trillion joules
of heat and bombs that you once vented,
and wonder – where do atoms go?
One gust of wind brings a million microspores
of ancestors you must have known.
Which brings us back to the present matter –
it seems we don’t know, mostly,
say experts of the dark.
And thinking, now exactly what is that?