Embsay Crag

I climbed Embsay Crag last month, in my annual attempt to get as many walks done before winter renders every path a quagmire. I’ve often seen it as I drove to work, and it felt good climbing, treated as we were to a little autumnal sunshine.

As the name suggests, it is a rugged outcrop of gritstone, standing proud against the elements and the affairs of below. From this spot in 867, a Viking raid on Embsay village might have been watched. The roar of canons and mortars attacking Skipton in the civil war might have echoed against these boulders. In the valley, factories and mills opened- and then closed again. Those rocks have been there for millennia, silently observing the comings and goings, the rises and falls, the chatters and the silences.

In Psalm 90 v2, we read:

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

These rocks might be ancient, but they are but babes compared to their Creator, who inhabits the vast timelessness of eternity. The psalm continues:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

Some bold visitors have carved their named and initials into the stones, but this too will weather away, leaving behind no trace. Still those huge rocks will sit, lazily viewing the ephemeral ways of man. How important we think we are; how pressing we consider our problems and trials. We would do well to remember that dust we are and to dust we shall return. Writes Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.