This is not the last walk along the cliffs that we will make with her. The final journey is yet to come a few months on, carrying her ashes along this well-worn path to send them out to sea. We don’t know that yet, don’t know it for sure today but there’s a sense of ending in the air.
She has ventured along this path thousands of times, camping in the wide flat bay with family when she was a girl, Aunties, brothers, cousins and Mum all sleeping under a bell-shaped tent.
As a mother she brought her own family here for picnics, making a fire on the beach, fetching water from the fresh-water stream, boiling up whelks, collecting dulse to eat.
Today is Mothers’ Day, her last Mothers’ Day and we have come to the bay for a celebration picnic. We try to smile, to laugh and then have to turn away as tears come, busy ourselves with some solitary beach-combing. There is a gang – Mum, Dad, us four siblings, partners, her grandchildren, dogs.
We take photos that don’t come out well, future grief shaking our hands, an unwillingness to ask Mum to pose.
She lights a fire with driftwood, shows us how to gather dulse again, the sharp green turning to a dull brown as she holds the seaweed over the flames.
We eat, we chat, we laugh and hug, thick coats keeping the chill away. We hold hands and dance round the fire, almost hysterical, laughter catching sorrow as we swirl round the beach.
Mum is exhausted though she tries not to show it, we are all the same. We pack up. Mum climbs the cliff path from the bay, determined not to be helped, not to show herself as an invalid, even to family. She knows that this is her last journey up from the bay.
Lynn Valentine lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands with husband and Labradors. She was one of five ‘North’ poets to be commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library as part of their Champions project 2020. Lynn’s work has been published in in places such as Atrium, Northwords Now, The Blue Nib and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is organising her first poetry collection under the mentorship of Cinnamon Press after winning a place on their Pencil mentoring competition for 2020. When she isn’t writing Lynn can be found on a beach or up a mountain.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.