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Sunday, 29 July 2007

All Men Come to the Hills

blue mountains view

View towards the south coast of Jamaica from near Whitfield Hall

I'm just back a few days ago, dear readers, from a week in Jamaica, where I was again the guest of my friend and colleague Annie Paul in Mona. It was a busy and sociable week--I spent time with various writer friends, did some book shopping, and visited Rock Tower, the ambitious arts centre that Australian artist Melinda Brown is creating in a semi-abandoned brewery building in downtown Kingston. But the high point of the trip, in more ways than one, was last weekend, when I went hiking in the Blue Mountains with my friend Brian (one of my companions on my Venezuela trek earlier this year). We camped for a night at Whitfield Lodge, high on a ridge with a distant view of the sea, and on Sunday morning set out at first light on the trail to the summit of Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point on the island.

I've always been awed by the Blue Mountains, ever since I drove up to Hardwar Gap on my first visit to Jamaica some years ago, and I've always wished I had the wherewithal to stay a good long spell somewhere up there in the cool and the mist, surrounded by soaring peaks and plunging valleys. Mountains fascinate and comfort me--I grew up at the foot of Trinidad's Northern Range, after all--and I suppose what I love most about the Blue Mountains is the sense of serenity and refuge they make me feel. Sitting on the grassy terrace at Whitfield Hall, with the old coffee farmhouse behind and eucalyptus trees scenting the air above, I remembered Roger Mais's most famous poem, "All Men Come to the Hills":

All men come to the hills
Men from the deeps of the plains of the sea--
Where a wind-in-the-sail is hope,
That long desire, and long weariness fulfils--
Come again to the hills.

And men with dusty, broken feet
Proud men, lone men like me,
Seeking again the soul's deeps--
Or a shallow grave
Far from the tumult of the wave--
Where a bird's note motions the silence in....
The white kiss of silence that the spirit stills
Still as a cloud of windless sail horizon-hung
•••above the blue glass of the sea--
Come again to the hills....
Come ever, finally.

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