The following poem is inspired by a crew member at Windermere Lake Cruises – a local company that runs pleasure cruises on England’s largest natural lake. I spend the day with three of their skippers, and it strikes me that although they have their job in common, and they all carry out the same daily checks and routines, each has a very different relationship with the water.
Windermere Lake Cruises Skipper Jon Bennett has two parallel existences in winter. When he finishes a series of shifts on the lake, he takes to the mountains as a Fell Top Assessor, striding up Helvellyn each day to monitor and report on fell top conditions.
Back on the lake, as he prepares the boat for departure on a crisp, calm afternoon, he tells me about his split life. About how he spends half of his working year on the lake, looking up in wonder at the beauty of the fells, and the other half on a steep slope, looking down onto his beloved lake.
And I wonder if, after a long winter in the harsh mountain environment, the light and warmth of Windermere in spring calls to him to stay…
Conducting Nature’s Song
A poem inspired by Windermere Lake Cruises Skipper Jon Bennett
High on the fells. Looking down on the lake.
This part of his life is light years away
from boat’s wheel, and Windermere’s siren song.
He powers along. His heel breaks icy glaze,
grazing winter’s thin skin. His gaze goes again
to Striding Edge, to Wainwright’s jagged fangs.
Cloud hangs. Dark towers play hide and seek in sleet.
Carefully planting his feet, he strides
up steep mountainside. He flexes his fingers,
lingers on the shutter for his Weatherline picture
of cornice and crevasse stretching into the sky.
An angel slide, a heavenly helter skelter.
No shelter here from winter’s final blast.
He checks a route redrawn by snow and boot,
While, below, the water plays a fresh new chorus
of crocus, and daff, and dewy eyed bluebells.
Of pregnant ewe, and the near invisible hue
of untapped sap. It sings in the spring
swings in the warm air. He winds up his work.
Talcum powder stack returns to black
as track wends down. The water music grows.
The lake is feeling low as he takes the helm,
his hands shift round as an oyster catcher swoops.
His touch begins another loop of ancient tunes.
Songs of the moon, and a spring symphony.
With ease he picks up the beat of nature’s melody
and almost seems to sing his on-board commentary.
A solitary song, at first. Then his passengers hum along.
They harmonise the leaves in alternate shades of green.
They lullaby the trees, add a descant to the day,
to the play of the otters, the spray of swan and geese.
Their music can be heard up at the Langdale Chase.
At the centre of the lake, his cruiser floats on sound.
An inifnite round, leaving no time for applause.
For half of his days this Windermere Skipper
conducts the song of nature. Tune in to his score.