The way of the Water

The Way of the Water.

I drove from Brampton
for a walk by a river
the Irthing
at Ruleholme Bridge.

I knew the same river passed Ruleholme
and Brampton Old Church
but the two places seemed unconnected on foot
only the water went that way
so I set off to follow the way of the water.

I had walked with my family there before
and stopped at the end of the pool by the bridge
but beyond, the river bank narrowed
the trees receded and a narrow path formed
by a sign
Brampton AA.

An anglers path.
I went on.

I knew these waters were fished
by creatures other than men
I met an Otter once
not far from here
as the crow flies
and the river flows.

He crossed the road
without looking
by Shawhouse
a stones throw from the river.

I hit him at 50.

Bereft
I stopped
and looking down at him
still, silent
two feet appeared.
The farmer.

He’s been up here for two days
crossing the road like a fool.
The elvers are up. He can’t resist ‘em.
God damned shame that…

The dog otter had a smear of blood on his chin
but was perfect
I picked him up
he was heavy
muscle from the tip of his tail
to his whiskered chin.

Later I let him go
with flowers
and tears
by the Longtown Road Bridge.

God damned shame.

So I had met an Irthing fisher man before.

And as I went upstream
uphill, a winding way
I looked for signs of life.

After the floods the bank was variously
pale yellow
crimson orange
slick with mud
or coarse with grit.

The banks were new
so would be the tracks.

And opposite Thorny Hill
there they were.

Dimpled and sweet like raisins in a spotted dick.
plump little patterns of toes
and occasionally fine pointed claws
clumped together in the sand.

One big set
bigger and deeper
and some pups
small and numerous.

And where the adult went a yard
the pups went two
in tight turns and runs
chicanes of energy
and excitement.

Down to the the waters edge
then up to the grass
and the bank
but not beyond.

I followed them for fifteen yards
then they were gone
without a splash
back into the river.

That’s all I saw.
For just fifteen yards
they were land bound.

Then they were gone.

Back to the way of the water.