In Assynt, Scotland, along the trail that runs by Inverkirkaig Falls on its way to the sugar-loafed peak of Suilven, there is a memorial to Norman MacCaig. It features one of his poems. I find it relatable at every word, in its imagery of a steep ascent and its allusion to tackling life.
by Norman MacCaig
I nod and nod to my own shadow and thrust
A mountain down and down.
Between my feet a loch shines in the brown,
Its silver paper crinkled and edged with rust.
My lungs say No;
But down and down this treadmill hill must go.
Parishes dwindle. But my parish is
This stone, that tuft, this stone
And the cramped quarters of my flesh and bone.
I claw that tall horizon down to this;
My shadow jumps huge miles away from me.
It prompted me to pen the following.
My shadow is that darker form of me Revealed when light, by contrast, helps me see. In all my days, beginning with my birth As long as I am grappled to the earth My shade is grappled to me like a noose And nothing I can do will shake it loose. Sometimes I leap and for a moment there Suspended in the liberating air How briefly from my shadow I untether. Then gravity must bring us back together. But when unto eternal light I soar I'll grapple with my shadow nevermore!