Caught by the River

The Shift

Joe Devlin | 20th October 2017

A short story by Joe Devlin. Pictures by David Mackintosh.

You guffaw at the mention of a sacred journey, the altering of states by walking upon and moving through the land. A sculptural glacial erratic sits almost hidden among the ferns, age and time contained behind the green bow top railings. We pause, thinking about this smooth slow moving stone, its voyage over the ancient ground. Errare. Here it came to rest, at the foot of this hill. Thoughts turn to the cluster of wheat in the back that led on to the field, stripping the stems and letting the seeds blow on the wind, small hands scattering.

Discovering black gems that sat part impressed in the sands and the washed up, tiny cobalt blue Victorian poison bottle you found. It still sits on the windowsill, casting ripple shadows on the wall in the right light. The microcosmic rock pools to get lost in. All transported from one place to another. You skim a stone into the sea – it skips off the surface seven times before disappearing from sight, this makes perfect sense to me. Rubber soles diminishing daily, all part of the transformation taking place.

On the fast moving train home, we both looked into, rather than through, the window. It acted as a silent screen. The low evening sun and scudding clouds caused a hypnotic 3D specs effect on the surface, green and red shapes outlining the other worldly, ever changing framed landscape behind us, seemingly moving in the opposite direction, mountains sliding out of view.

The contrast the following day could not have been more pronounced, horizontal sleet and hail, a fuzzy picture through squinted eyes. Your cold cracked crimson hands the only prominent colour in this seemingly black and white land of gritstone and snow. Falling pellets drum on the peaked hood, followed by a flurry of flakes that gently brush against the material providing an ever changing soundtrack to the walk, the conditions constantly shifting around, from almost imperceptible flecks through to small frozen stones, and everything in between. Not much choice but to keep moving or the chill will cut through to the bone.

You produce a well-worn speckled pebble from your coat pocket, one you’d picked up surreptitiously from the coast the day before, and carefully place it on top of the small stack of rocks, turning and saying how it was like a miniature night sky frozen in time, claiming if you looked hard enough the constellations revealed themselves.


Content to Gather is the first collaborative project between Joe Devlin and David Mackintosh. It takes the form of a book published by Aye-Aye Books with writing from Devlin, drawings by Mackintosh and an afterword by Martin Holman. Limited to 500 copies. Design by Daren Newman. Priced at £10. Buy a copy here.

Joe Devlin on Caught by the River