A F Harrold:The Yak

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“The Yak”
Artist: A F Harrold
Albums: Revels Without Applause (2003)
Composers: A.F. Harrold
Lyricists: A.F. Harrold

In the highlands of Tibet there lived a yak
He had no name to distinguish him from other yaks
But since he so rarely met other yaks on his side of the mountain
This was not a problem

Indeed in the last twenty years he had seen two other yaks pass by
One going uphill and one, sometime later, going downhill

Yaks in general are nameless
So neither of these yaks he saw many years ago introduced themselves by name either
In actual fact, they didn't introduce themselves at all

The yak who I introduced to you at the beginning of this story
Was one day standing by a small rocky outcrop
As he twisted his long rough tongue round a scrabbly bunch of grass
And thought about the view some way off and some way below him
He saw a black shape slowly picking its way up and over the grey stones

As this shape drew nearer
The first yak recognised this animal approaching was similar to himself
And whilst chewing a mouthful of cud slowly, he stared
The second yak had seen the first yak from a way away
And was climbing the mountain in a way that would avoid him by a short distance
As the two yaks drew level
Their ancient black eyes met for an instant
Deep black eyes hidden and revealed
The wind whipped their straggled hair to and fro

After a moment of contact the first yak lowered his nose to the ground
Reaching for another piece of vegetation
And the second yak returned its gaze to the climb ahead of him
Front left foot here
Front right foot there
Back left foot to this place
Back right foot to that place
And so on

And after that, neither yak thought of the other yak for a long time
In fact, it wasn't until nightfall that the first yak remembered what he had seen in the morning and pondered on it
Why was there a yak climbing the mountain?
From the first yak's vantage point he could see all the lower slopes for miles and miles
And they seemed very similar to his own grey and rocky patch of land
And above and behind him the land seemed to rise in just the same manner with the same sparse vegetation
So, thought the first yak
No reason to move from one to the other if it's all the same
But that was all the thought he gave to the second yak that evening
And instead he wandered around and found food amongst the rocks
And as the night drew in settled down, standing up, to sleep

The next morning, the sun warmed his flanks and he opened his eyes
Looking down into the distance to the plains of India
Seeing the mist wreathing across the hills below him
The great rivers snaking across the earth
He shook himself to dislodge the dew
And wandered along the hillside a little to find some fresh grass and began to feed

And so the days went on
Contemplating the clouds above, the earth below
Watching the rocks and planning each footstep four, five, ten steps in advance
Eating, chewing, resting, sleeping, waking, watching, thinking
Eating, chewing, resting

Some days later, the first yak heard the sound of a hoof
Dislodging a tiny pebble some way above him higher up on the mountain
Sometime after that, having been busy chewing a particularly sumptuous piece of cud
He slowly swung his head round in the direction of the noise
There, above him, some hundred yards along and up
Was a third yak, such a dark brown it looked black
Slowly placing each foot into place
Slowly making its way down the hillside

The first yak swung his head back to his favourite view, distant India
And got on with a new piece of cud
Sometime later both yaks were level
And the first yak noticed the third yak again

He looked momentarily into the depths of those infinite black eyes
As the third yak stared equally deeply into his own profound pupils
Then the wind pushed shags of hair in between them, the gaze was broken

The third yak continued his downward path
And within an hour was lost in the distance
The first yak watched passively as the other yak descended
And for a singular moment wondered where he was going
Was there perhaps something the first yak didn't know of down there?
Was there some need he couldn't yet feel pulling him to the lower slopes?
A few flakes of snow in the air settled in the hairs of his brow
No, he thought
I'll just stay here for a while longer
It's a good stretch of slope this
Some nice rocks and a glorious view
Such a lot of space

And so he forgot about the two yaks he had seen as the days went on
And he still had no use for names