I’m not one of those folk who ascribe motives or emotions to mountains. A mountain, whether Kinder or K2, is just a lump of rock, maybe covered with slippery and/or squelchy bits. Any treachery, cruelty, intimidation, or indeed welcoming friendliness, is our human projection; nothing more, nothing less. A mountain Read more…
April, the clocks have shifted. The weather is warming, feeling a little more friendly. Buds are bursting and the world is greening. Time to ramp things up, to remember dreams of long laid plans. Perhaps finesse them, perhaps make some more. Time now for long days over the hills; days Read more…
“The wood, under a winter storm. A time when all creatures thought of good sense seek shelter of burrow or nest. There remains though, dancing through the tempest, a runner, chill of finger, wet of foot, wide of grin.”
Desk work day done. Storms are building, both ADHD and weather.
So. Night run. Winter night run.
Headtorch, leggings and lifa, hardshell and hat. Lock my door with glove clumsied fingers, quick step up the ginnel. Grin growing on my face. Couple of hundred metres of sleet slick pavement ‘twixt house and wood. Most times a skippy dog walker dodging warmup, tonight it’s a lone stroll, chilling fingers and feet.
The wood. My local patch, a bright place of birch and willow and hawthorn hedge. Not this night though. This night it’s a wildwood waiting. Tonight the gate is a liminal space, a creaking transit from blandly civilised suburbia into an older place. Into a dark wood galethrashed and sleetlashed.
Step through into the wood anyway. Go, now. Go run.(more…)
It is deep winter night in the northern hemisphere. The long enduring dark winter night of the year’s true turning. Neither stars nor moon in the sky, but pale, swirling wind borne clouds and a familiar chill, a bone deep rawness. Toward England’s seaward edge, a silent village nestles upon one of those peculiar fenland rises. Atop the rise the old church, with the yet older yew is a darker shadow on the village bounds. None now recall why, on this one night of the year, in this rational age, a candle burns in a tiny east window. The candle is always lit though, as the sunlight leaves the apse.
The parson, secure in her faith, rests in her armchair. Parsonage curtains drawn tight, doors locked, hallway lit, dry wood stacked beside the burning hearthlog. A glass of fine whisky waits close to her hand. In the edge of the empty churchyard, a prunings’ bonfire. A gathering of yew and ivy, haw and holly lit at duskfall by the silently praying sexton. The dead branches smoulder still, white ash on red embers.
The voice of a cuckoo
Dropped to the lake
Where it lay floating
On the surface.
A foreword? To a short piece? Yes, there are a couple of words in here that bear definition. One very old, one new. Both I think deserve more use.
Mogshade: an old English for the welcome cool shade cast by trees in leaf
Shivelight: a word coined by Gerard Manley Hopkins for the gleaming shafts of light shining through trees in leaf
The verses are haiku by Bashō, from Sumidawara, published in 1694
Now that’s done, let us away to the story…
What’s the first mountain I climbed?
That depends. What do you mean by climb, mountain and first? But that’s a philosophical path I don’t choose to tread here; for there lay sleeping Jabberwocks (in this gentle memoir they will remain untickled). So for this happy, as true as long ago childhood memory story, we’ll stick with a simple physical mountain (a lump of rock, mud, heather etc. over 610m altitude) on the Isle Of Man.
Away we go then, to August 1970 (relax, time travel works in our imagination), at Laxey tram station. Specifically the queue for the Snaefell Mountain Railway (actually an electric tram, but this is the Isle Of Man, so railway it is). And in the queue, with his beloved dad, there’s a very excited small boy; me. Always fidgety, this day I’m close to bursting. I am though on best behaviour (think Pooh holding Tiggerish energy in check) standing politely and outwardly calm.
Early summer, the driest on our modern record. The birchwood copse, moist cool haven where I run, is parching now. A grass bleaching, footpath firing, tree wilting parching. But this evening, just for a little while, the parching eased. The long cloudbare sky became cloudspeckled. Clouds grew, darkened, grew rain Read more…
A note to a possible reader. On prose, specifically mine, often the purple variety. I make no apology, for none is needed. I love words. I cherish them. I love their variety. I love that old words are refound and ofttimes repurposed, that new words are founded. I cherish the Read more…