Monday, 18 January 2010

A Highland Gloom

Recently I went up a hill in the rain, treating myself to the low cloud and semi-darkness of daylight in the West Highlands in winter. The deep frost of New Year had gone, streaks of slush speckled moorland hollows, and an unpleasant dark dampness pervaded everything, the snow melting, cloud lowering, the path ice-hard with compacted footprints, my gloves and boots sodden, glasses misted over and, higher up, glimpses of dripping icicles, tufts of grass, naked crags and feet slipping on wet snow.

It brought to mind days long ago when I'd wander these hills alone in similar weather, staying in bothies or sleeping in my car, not particularly enjoying myself, yet not knowing what to do with myself either: trapped in a constancy of movement, for to stay at home doing nothing was worse, and I wrote poems like The Plain:

That the confines of happiness
                      can be so small,
The encompass of my arms;

When the lonely plain lies so waste:
The life plain of my journey.

Crooked beauty deceives on the plain
The plain of the pure truth of decay
The limitless plain of all steps
So vast its terror:
I trek to sure horizon.

The plain whose only tree
      is the bitter fruit of knowledge
And only vantage a better view of nothing:
The plain whose only end is death.

Here it is spend my days
In solitude and emptiness.


I've since learned to enjoy relaxation, and there is no great pleasure in heading out in conditions like those of last weekend, especially when the east coast (where I now live) was sunny. Yet higher up there was still the feeling of being in a different world: and coming out the cloud at the end of the day, the lights of the pub could be seen from halfway up the path.

Sometimes the main pleasure from a hill day is a pint or a bath.

3 comments:

Billy said...

The scottish hills are the best miserable hills in the world - even the non miserable ones!

Robert Craig said...

I'm alright, I've got a crackling pub fire in my rucksack.

Billy said...

Mine almost caught fire once. I has a key and a spare head torch battery in the top. The plastic guard came off the battery and the key completed the circuit. It burnt a small hole in it - luckily I could smell it.