Griz An Cateran
Posted on: June 15, 2017

The Perthshire poet Jim C Mackintosh (who you can read a bit more about here), wrote a poem this year especially for the Cateran Yomp called Griz An Cateran. The Yomp (a military term for a long-distance march) takes place every year around the Cateran Trail and is organised by The Soldiers Charity.

Jim waiting to go on stage

They describe the event as “an epic adventure challenge. Teams of 3-6 people take on 54 miles (gold) in 24 hours across the rugged terrain of the Scottish wilderness. There is also a 36 (silver) or a 22 (bronze) mile option. Whatever distance you choose, the Yomp will test you to your limits both physically and mentally. It will also be an unforgettable weekend with your friends and colleagues, sharing the exhilarating experience and making memories to last a lifetime, whilst raising money for soldiers, veterans and their families.”

Cateran’s Common Wealth was delighted to be able to play a small part in the creation of this poem by suggesting to the Soldiers Charity that they commission Jim to write a poem to celebrate this magnificent event.

A packed tent listening to Jim’s poem

Here’s Jim sharing it for the first time on the 9th June, the evening before the Yomp, to a crowded registration tent of more than 800 people! You can also read the poem below.

Raise your sights!

 

The mountains are awake, waiting, all belligerent,

arms folded tightly across their bracken chests.

They stare you down as if to say C’mon then!

Impress us! Let’s see what you’re all made of.

 

What is this vision of unplanned glories you offer to the Gods?

Word of your adventures has reached the Caterans

and Cam Ruadh relishes the bounty, the pickings

of luminous clad explorers who stray from their folly.

 

The snow riven burns of winter, expose raw flesh

of granite and of polished skin, blistered blue and

bleak through the peat bog knit, unravelling slow

to be mistaken for tears of mocking enthusiasm.

 

The rustle of silver birch at first deafening

then lost amidst your efforts to breath, your

drum beat support mute in the deafening thud

of a befuddled heart pleading hard on your ribs.

 

Raise your sights!

 

because in the half lit grub the only voice you will hear

is your own in a sober whisper devoid of bravado snagged

on the branch where the crows will peck at your ambition

as if to say What were you thinking when you signed on?

 

Are you dreaming of a warm bed yet before Diarmid

reaches out from a gap in the thin, moss light where

his tomb elevates beyond the mizzle, to nod knowingly

and mark your passing by with a cold fingered cross

 

leading you to where the wind silvers your thoughts away

and fills the void with answers with no questions

like the grouse disturbed in a fusillade of wing snap

and its voice lands in your ears Go back Go back

 

Raise your sights!

 

for your story, your true cause needs to be told.

In all of you, that core of meaning must be exposed

so when the wind drops, and you sit by the Shee Water

doubting yourself, waiting for a fresh delivery of breath

 

for a moment, linger by its bustling mystery, reflecting

its intent with a gathering of words, and across it

a skim of the Cateran’s history will dance quietly past

in and out of your brief yet growing respected presence

 

and the faces of your own warriors will appear about you.

The lines of their stories merging with the slow ripples

where your cupped hands break the surface but still clear:

their berets, their uniforms – their whole rig will become you.

 

Raise your sights!

 

For there it is. The answer to those mocking, muscle bound

mountains, whose only intention was to expose your fears,

and to echo the loose doubts escaping from your heads.

There it is, the only answer. You’re here for your own warriors.

 

And then behind you, the bark of a puzzled old ewe

will break the respected hush with a call to arms.

All that you need think of is reduced to the lasting reflection

of faces strengthening you, urging you on to the finish.

 

The mountains will still mock, still posture but respectfully

and will seem less of a threat. Their stony arms unfolding,

lighter, almost welcoming. The scree path will tighten,

where the cold finger on your shoulder has let you go

 

and will guide you onwards with your back to the slopes

where Griz an Cateran fades irrelevant, surrendered where

this ancient noble landscape widens into a smile knowing

the tales of the brave in your heart will bring you safely home.

 

Jim C. Mackintosh