“I took my mind a walk”

Following on from Robert Burns I thought I would stay in Scotland. Jumping from the mid 1700s to the mid 1900s to find Norman MacCaig. He divided his time living 6 months in Edinburgh then six months in Assynt, Sutherland – a most beautiful county in the far north of Scotland with a west coast, north coast and east coast. For 5 years I had the good fortune and pleasure to live in Sutherland. The photograph above is of the mountain range in Assynt. In danger of analysis paralysis I will share two poems and leave it to you to enjoy their lines, their moods and their deeper truths. These two poems are indeed worth pausing to ponder.
Small boy by Norman MacCaig
He picked up a pebble
and threw it into the sea.

And another, and another.
He couldn’t stop.

He wasn’t trying to fill the sea.
He wasn’t trying to empty the beach.

He was just throwing away,
nothing else but.

Like a kitten playing
he was practising for the future

when there’ll be so many things
he’ll want to throw away

if only his fingers will unclench
and let them go.

“An Ordinary Day,” by Norman MacCaig

I took my mind a walk
or my mind took me a walk–
whichever was the truth of it.

The light glittered on the water
or the water glittered in the light.
Cormorants stood on a tidal rock

with their wings spread out,
stopping no traffic. Various ducks
shilly-shallied here and there

on the shilly-shallying water.
An occasional gull yelped. Small flowers
were doing their level best

to bring to their kerbs bees like
aerial charabancs. Long weeds in the clear
water did Eastern dances, unregarded

By shoals of darning needles. A cow
started a moo but thought
better of it… And my feet took me home

and my mind observed to me,
or I to it, how ordinary
extraordinary things are or

how extraordinary ordinary
things are, like the nature of the mind
and the process of observing.

Loving God,
your words in the gospels strike a chord this day.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither
sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of
more value than they?”
Therefore, do not be anxious, seek first God’s kingdom
and God’s righteousness, and all these things shall be your as well.*
Like the small boy,
teach us to know when to let go, help us not to hoard but to share.
Help us to unclench and let go.
Loving God,
help us to observe and see the wonder
and the beauty which is everywhere around us.
Today, the troubles of the world are many, peace for some
is a mere dream while all around is war with its accompanying
brutality, destruction, fear, fatigue, and death.
O Lord, come to our aid, lift us above this turmoil
and allow us to glimpse hope and holiness. Amen. (*Matthew 6:25-34)

One thought on ““I took my mind a walk”

  1. Thank you for the introduction to Norman MacCaig. I am especially taken by Small Boy and I will share a personal experience that may help to explain why this simple but extraordinary poem appeals to me. Many years ago we were exploring a bustling inner city Philadelphia neighborhood; noisy, women sweeping the stoops, boom boxes from slow moving cars, people shouting from open windows, sirens, and so on. What caught our attention however was a very small boy, probably 4 or 5 years old, sitting alone on a step and as we were getting closer to him we noticed that he picked up an old food wrapper that had blown with the fall leaves to his feet. Slowly and carefully he wrapped it around his hand and then began to box, extending one arm slowly in front and then the other, occasionally jerking backwards as if to take a hit from his imaginary opponent, each move in slow motion. He continued his match, ignoring the world around him just as it ignored him. I don’t know why this ordinary scene became so extraordinary, but we have never forgotten it. I imagine he was not the only small boy practicing for the future.


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