Along the Cliff Path
by Denis Doran
A crow flying low, nothing but a black smudge against the light. Passing so close he thought that we could reach out and touch it, but we didn’t; told me that I was too busy picking Buttercups, that the crow had long since gone by the time I’d answered him.
I wanted to know why he remembered that day. ‘No particular reason. Maybe it was a quality of the light, perhaps that was it?’ Said it had been a good day, untroubled, and that would have been reason enough.
‘What? Is that the time? Let’s go for a walk, Mickey needs a run.’
‘That’s what I’ve just said, it’s getting late. I was going to take him for a short walk.’
‘Never. Come on, best time of the day. I’ll work on this a little more later.’
From the river mouth you climb to the cliff top, pick up the path to the island. About a mile or so along it dips, descends into a gulley. The path forks here, down to the beach or on to the island. Here, at this point, this is where I feel it, that sense of peace, lifting of burdens, release. And this is what I remember; cold days, rainy days, cool bright autumn days. Me, all unconfined energy, gleefully pogo-ing along the path. Him calling to be careful one minute, standing motionless the next. And then it would be, ‘Granda, Granda,’ and I’d shake his arm and he’d stare at me and I’d be frightened because he’d look right through me, and then he’d say, ‘Sorry Maddie. Lost again, wasn’t I?’ and cuddle me.
‘We’re going to the island, right?’
‘Should probably take a torch?’
‘Got one silly, it’s always in the rucksack.’
This is the story he used to tell. One foot in front of the other, and you never know where that might take you, so it’s best to be prepared. He always made sure the rucksacks were packed, something to eat and drink, and an extra layer, ‘Just in case.’ I’d complain, wanted to know why we had to carry one each. ‘Because we both need to eat, don’t we? Or do you want to go hungry?’ He’d tell me not to fret so, that the load would be lightened soon enough, and that anyway I always complained about being hungry on the way home, that perhaps I needed to carry twice as much? I’d usually be first out the caravan door.
‘Waiting for you, and so is Mickey.’
Later, when he wasn’t getting around so well he’d talk about the track to the island as being more real than anywhere he’d been, and yet it was always lying there, still waiting to be discovered. Talked about how we seemed to travel with our own inner landscape, with an idea of place, of home imagined as much as known; something that should be shared and handed on. I didn’t take too much notice then, age and awkwardness intervening. I do now.