Refuge Box on the pilgrim’s path to The Holy Island by Graham Robson
Today I learned about the Refuge Boxes that sit on the tidal flats between the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the mainland of Great Britain. It is little more than a platform perched above the sand, but for travelers stranded on the flats when the tide comes in, it provides temporary refuge from the sea.
The Northumberland poet, Katrina Porteous wrote a lovely long poem on the Refuge Box which begins thus:
At the edge of the Low, the wind blows cold.A world that is water and not water
Stretches away, reticulate;
Shaken within it, redshank, godwit,
Their scraps and patches of safety shrinking,
Spreading. Miles of sand-flats. Glittering
Streams and ribbons of water, weaving
Earth and sky; between them, the golden
Island, afloat on equivocation,
Or safely grounded there, the tide
Either coming or going around it, the road
Snaking towards it, narrow, human.
Fade up seals, low Hooooo.
You reach the Danger sign, and stop.
You want it, that Island, stretched out like a ship
Ashore on its saltings, adrift in a sea
So blue and endless, you’d think the sky
Had swallowed it up, or else had fallen
Smack down into its own reflection.
Out from the causeway, over the sand,
Guideposts narrow towards the Island,
The mirror-image of their own
Vanishing – an invitation.
The Slakes answer the sky’s question:
Now, will you
Step out into an unknown element?
All of us, pilgrims in the world, need a refuge box from time to time.