These were a couple of related posts, originally separated by a few days, with the second deriving from the first. It was borderline whether these were junked or retained: they just made the cut. For now!
Time to think; stuff to think about… (02/04/2010)
Spring which had begun to emerge tentatively (confidently, even, in some of the more sheltered spots) has backtracked somewhat and seems to have taken the view that it’s been none too impressed with what it’s found waiting out there. On the menu for now and the foreseeable future: wet, wind, and an abundance of mud. Out in the open, under the canopy of the woods, everywhere, black/brown ooze has established a stranglehold. Spring, for now, hovers in an apparent state of arrested development.
So getting out has been an effort of will, being out an exercise in resolve, at times bordering on the perverse; the alternatives – sport on the telly, cheese on toast, mugs of hot tea – appealing and seductive. Yet, for all that, head down into the teeth of wind, hail and rain, the pull of the outdoors has somehow proved impossible to resist, as it has on so many occasions down the years and for reasons which are sometimes as elusive as they are indefinable.
Which sort of got me round to thinking about this thing we do, why we do it (as if there has to be a ‘why’), what it brings to our lives. As soon as the answers cease their eluding and become definable, I’ll write them down. Here.
I may be gone some time.
There’s been the good days; better than good, some of ’em. The days when cloud inversions isolated the tops for miles in every direction and the world seemed like one of those old ‘Yes’ album covers. Other days, different again, the air like crystal, pin sharp to the horizons, the farthest hills seemingly within touching distance. These latter have often been the days when I have forgotten to pack the camera.
Bad days too, plenty of those: days of scant reward and atrocious weather; days when finding sufficient shelter to pour a hot drink was the extent of ambition; days when the map blew in every direction or, saturated beyond salvage, fell into pieces. Days when there has been recourse to industrial language. On many such days I have carried every conceivable combination of camera body and lens and left them untouched in the rucksack.
There have been things seen in the skies: high summer a few years back, sitting in the hills above Glen Quaich as the sun dropped, a male hen harrier working its way across the hillside, heading in my direction; silent, phantom grey, following the contours of the ground like a high-tech missile. Wanting to reach for the camera but, nervous of startling the bird, I decided against doing so. Whether it was a good decision I’ll never know; the harrier passed by, closer than I’ve ever been to one before or since, and didn’t return although I waited until darkness had fallen.
And others, on the ground: a pair of polecats playing in the sun on the flanks of Cadair idris; a mountain hare emerging from the heather within touching distance on a foggy, eerily quiet, day on Carn Liath. A fallow deer leaping a high fence from a standing start at the side of the Blairgowrie Road.
And things heard: the rush of air through the wings of a pair of low-flying raven on the Long Mynd, similar to the noise made by stunt kites; the pistol crack of a peregrine, launching itself from bluffs in the Berwyns, no more than twenty yards from where I’d paused for a drink.
All of which is fine, but those are just incidents, anecdotes; where the hills are concerned the defining thing for me is an intangible: it is that strange mixture of contentment coloured with slight apprehension, which only seems to come from being completely alone in a wild place.
There’s probably a word for it; there certainly ought to be.