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The High Tongue

The Feshie Hills in snow, Cairngorms

It’s the Cairngorms Nature at Home Big 10 Days! This WAS going to be the Cairngorms Nature Big Weekend and I WAS going to be over with the rangers in The Cabrach in Morayshire leading a family story-making session. Hopefully, all of that can still happen next year, but in the meantime the folks at Cairngorms Nature have organised a fantastic programme of virtual events from  15th to 24th May. That means people all around the world can enjoy this exceptional place while staying safely at home.

To mark the event, I’m sharing a nature poem each day on Instagram and Twitter. The ten together make up a series called The High Tongue, printed below, which were my contribution to our Shared Stories anthology last year. Exploring the names of ten of the Cairngorm mountains, each title begins with the anglicised version, followed by the Gaelic spelling (if different) and then the translation, which is explored in the rest of the poem. They are all Cairngorms Lyrics. This is a new poetic form I invented last year as Writer in Residence for the Park and you can read all about it here. (For pronunciation of the Gaelic names, look out for a recording I’ll post soon of me reading them all.)


Ben MacDuie – Beinn MacDuibh
The Mountain of the Son of Duff

High King of Thunder
Old Grey Man
Chief of the Range
Head of the Clan


Cairn Gorm – An Càrn Gorm
The Blue Mountain

Rainbow height:

blaeberry
bog         brown
red         deer
snow        white
blackbird
dog         violet
moss        green
bright

The view from the top of Cairngorm

Carn Ealer - Carn an Fhidhleir
Mountain of the Fiddler

She plays the rock
with the bow of the wind
for the stars to dance


Cairn Toul – Càrn an t-Sabhail
The Barn Shaped Mountain

Storehouse of stone

Boulders shouldering like beasts
in this dark byre

Hail drumming the watershed
  
Cairn Toul
Cairn Toul

Ben Vuirich – Beinn a’ Bhùirich
Mountain of the Roaring

Once the haunt of wolves
       howling at night

             now just their ghosts
                             in failing light   


Coire an t-Sneachda – Coirie an t-Sneachdaidh
Corrie of the Snow

Bowl of white light
black rock       wind run        ice hold              
hollow of the mountain’s hand

Coire an t-Sneachda
Coire an t-Sneachda

Beinn a’ Bhuird
The Mountain of the Table

Giants gather in clouds of black
for a bite and a blether,
bit of craic.


Ben A’an – Beinn Athfhinn
Mountain of the River A’an

in a cleft of silence
hidden loch       secret river
   name breathed out
      like a sigh

Loch Avon
Loch Avon

Braeriach – Am Bràigh Riabhach
The Brindled Upland 

freckled speckled wind rippled   
  shape shifting fallen sky
dark    light    shadow     bright       
              land up high 


Am Monadh Ruadh
The Red Mountains  

Range of russet hills
forged in fire at first sunrise
old rust rock
glowing still

Am Monadh Ruadh - the red hills
Am Monadh Ruadh

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