Another Perthshire Writer
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How she heels to the wind
A phosphorescent trail in her wake
The halo around the winter moon
Then lost to all her journey won
Virginia in the Autumn, the boom of guns from afar. The endless wagons of Lee’s army moving North past our small house beside the Rappahannock River. Chuck, my younger brother, thought that Lee’s solders were swell and was always trading with them; an apple for a brass button, he’d even got two bullets, which Ma would beat him for if she knew. All Chuck was trying to do was find out where Pa was. Pa left in ’61’ and had been gone eighteen months – no word since then and she never said but Ma felt he died at Bull Run.
Virginia in the Autumn. The Yankees, moving south, chasing Lee away from Gettysburg. Two of them tried to take our horse, Ma fought them off, but they beat her blue. Chuck went in with his knife but they shot him the head. I killed them both with our Smith & Wesson. I buried Chuck in the shade of the old willow where we’d built our tree house. The Yankees I pushed into the swollen Rappahannock - they’d end up miles away. A patrol came around looking for them, but a twelve year old kid and his sick Ma didn’t raise suspicions regarding two missing infantry.
Virginia in the Autumn. Ma passed away that Spring, having never recovered from the beating she received from the Yankees. I buried her beside Chuck and shed some tears. I got some maize in that summer and sold it to the foraging patrols who were trying to bring the locals around with Yankee Dollars. Then word came that Lee had signed the surrender at Appomattox under General Grant. A war had finished but mine seemed to go on – at thirteen I’d lost all I’d ever cared about.
Virginia in the Autumn. A year after Appomattox on a frosty dawn, he stood there framed in the door way, half of him gone; a leg, half an arm and as thin as a shadow. My Pa, oh my Pa, my good Pa. Oh dear Lord, please give us time, please give us peace!
I was walking in the hills and it was spring. Early daffodils swept the landscape and the first swallows wove through the air. No other man was here on this day, I was alone to myself. l crossed a swimming stream that shone with gems of light in the April sunshine. Here was where l had sought to be for so long, in these lonely hills, amongst rock and water, under this endless sky.
But I knew I was watched and that she was near to me. I felt the long caress of her love in the warmth of the sun. The memory of that life was riven into this landscape. Now it was gone and hope and despair danced together in the confusion of my broken mind. A love lost to fate, dreams cast aside, emptiness ensuing.
Before long the pathway entered the small strip of coastal woodland which lying in a cleft missed any winter Sun. At this time of year only its bare bones were on view. Devoid of any spring growth only a scent of composting leaf and the nearby sea caught the airs. A lonely blackbird turned over the damp leaf but no sweet song was on hand this day - perhaps it searched for a lost love also!
Out of the wood, on the edge of that small bay, stood the old chapel by the sea. The gate opened, groaning under the accumulation of rust and salt and my journey was ended:
Born 19th May 1970
Died 5th October 2009
'Happy the soul that walks in joy'
Louise Malcolm 'fell from the sky' and poleaxed me at the old office in Holborn, 17 years ago. My feeble joke, laboriously trotted out to family and friends down the years, was that Lou had thrown herself at me! Reality, or perhaps the truth was more mundane. Carrying a load of manuscripts she'd tripped on the stairs, I'd just happened to arrest her flight!