In 1870, Nan Shepherd’s ancestors were farming sheep in the highlands of northeast Scotland. One hundred or so miles away, on the other side of the Cairngorm Mountains, my great-great-grandparents were preparing to leave Inverness for the United States. Their son, John Stuart, eventually settled in the hills of western Connecticut, where he farmed until his death in 1955. I have lived on land that was once part of that farm, where cattle grazed and apple, quince and pear trees blossomed every spring, for the past 35 years. And although the connection is tenuous, I feel a deep affinity for Nan Shepherd and her love of the Cairngorms.
Shepherd wrote three novels and a volume of poetry before publishingThe Living Mountain. It is this book for which Shepherd is best remembered today. Maria Papova describes The Living Mountain as “a most unusual braiding of memoir, field notebook, and philosophical inquiry irradiated with the poetic.”
Choosing a form for today’s poem was a challenge, but in the end I opted for another Golden Shovel.
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