Wild Camping at Red Tarn

Wild camping at Red Tarn

My niece Jenny and I have been camping and walking in the English Lake District for a week. There were several highlights, apart from enjoying each others companionship, one of which was a shared meditation we did in late afternoon on the trail with most other walkers

Sun-rise from Red Tarn

Sun-rise from Red Tarn

gone home. We were returning down into Langdale after a failed attempt to walk to the summit of Sca Fell Pike (we both misread the map giving us too little time to complete the climb before dark). I tried to unite us to the elements of earth, air, sun (fire) and water, closing our eyes and sensing these elements by touch and sound and kinaesthetic breath work (feeling the air we breathe as it enters us). We were sat near a mountain stream and tried to listen to the different sounds it made identifying different areas of its journey through the rocks. And finally trying to unite with no boundary to all of this.

We camped at Red Tarn at an altitude of 718 M (2,356 feet) before the next day, using this as a base, climbing along the scary (for me anyway) Striding Edge to the summit of Helvellyn and back via Swirrel Edge to our tents. The Tarn is beautiful at dawn and sunset; the photo above is by Jenny. I noticed for the first time that lakes reflect the landscape only at certain times in particular kinds of light. I assumed that the constant concentric circles (often with “popping” noises) were made by fish. There are trout in the Tarn and an ancient protected species called “Schelly” (coreganus lavaretus). We shared the night-time environment with a father and his young son, who camped some distance  away from us and were eating their evening meal when we arrived.

The poem that follows is about the boy, who I compare indirectly to the Irish mythological character of Angus the Young (Aengus Og) a sort of Celtic Eros figure, who is also referred to in W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus” from “The Wind Among the Reeds”. I am indebted to the Yeats poem in some ways; it came to mind as soon as I saw the boy. The mystical connection with a creature from water (often a fish that turns into a girl) is a well-known Jungian Anima archetype. The meeting can often be dangerous to the ego and often occurs at times of between night and day when the world changes and the gap opens between the real world and the faery world. (consciousness and the unconscious collective).

Aengus Og at Red Tarn

We search for some dry ground to pitch our tents,
and approach the lake’s edge to wash,
embracing ancient water clear and deep.
On an island of rock where ice-plucked boulders
link it loosely to the shore
a man and boy are sitting round a stove.

Dark light intensifies,
as lake and mountains merge for moments
when the tarn reflects the world.
Concentric circles wave and spread infinite,
small moths and midges come with
faintly showing stars.

Now from the sheltered hollow of their tent
I watch the dark shape of the boy
cross again the large rocks.
His father watches while his purpose
is denied to my imagination.

I wave to them in the morning as boy
dutifully follows the father down,
down from the high tarn home somewhere.
I delay our walk to the summit to explore
this sacred space that held them
and find a line and hook anchored to a stone.

The fisher-boy gone now,
the bait of bread floats on the pale water,
I remember his disappointed gait,
a failed adventure? Maybe,
but the fish here are ancient, glacial,
and they have left him disenchanted.

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