It’s been a few days since I sat down to write — there’s a delicious tension in waiting until the desire to create word spells gets so unbearable that I just have to fire up this tech and distil images, experiences and feelings into language… and draw back temporarily from the wild edge I am becoming.
That night I left the beach to follow the Burn of the Cailleach and found a park up by intuition as daylight had long gone and there was no moon. Some places I call “rape woods” or “rape places” as they feel like they have been violated severely and, because of the depth of disturbance in them, I too may be at risk of humans that linger there. NB If you never have to assess whether you are at risk of rape when you are out alone ( in wilds or not) then you are either a) male and/or b) very lucky. I generally don’t stay in those “rape places” alone.
When I woke I felt the tail end of a night dream crossing over into my wakened state — a feeling of surprise from my moonbloods in my dreams spilling over and one of gratitude for the care of a helpful man who soaked my reddened clothes. Outside was a grey daybreak with wind from the east blowing hard up the steep and treeless glen, patterning loch waters in chaotic ripples and frothings. As I began to run, I noticed birds — I have seen very few since leaving Cymru so was glad of the company of hooded crows and a small flock of some little birds chittering in silhouette as they darted past… then, like a finger in my back, I felt the gaze of heron that watched me as my warm up walk became a gentle jog. I remembered then that the Gaelic for heron translates as something like “crone of the bog” and I digested that augury a little nervously as I ran into the wind.
Later, warmed by the internal combustion of a 5k run, I sat at the loch edge. Crouching out of chill wind I watched mountains appear out of mist — pink from sunrise and glowing like a magic land, sung into life by the constant background shush from wind through moor grass and reeds. On my return to the van, kettle’s on and I turned as heron flew straight towards the open door , swerving upwards within 5 metres of where I flinched. I was struck by the size of heron at close range…they are the biggest bird of prey in these islands and I felt like some prey in that moment.
Driving on in a mild state of confusion as to which way to head, I passed a junction and made a common sense judgement about choosing a sensible A road rather than a single track for 25 miles …but maybe it was the tatters of the old woods edging the loch that caused me to brake and turn around. Maybe they drew me in after the stern denuded starkness of Loch Eribol… I navigated, curious and open, along that pot-holed road and within minutes, stalled to a stop when a huge bird took off from rocks close to the track — a golden eagle rose rapidly and circled above me as I clambered out ,catching a glimpse before they headed upwards and beyond my sight. This moment of jolt felt like a threshold to somewhere; though I drove on, I was holding my breath as birch trees shone silver in veils of rain under the swathes of grey sky and looming flanks of mountain. Each leaf twinkled as wind moved through fine branches that overhung the shining road…at this point I felt lost in the right kind of way. I have read many myths of where a human accidentally enters the realm of the faeries, the otherworld, Awen…and in that moment I knew this is how it happens, though I do humbly claim this to be no accident — it is what I seek.
In a state of quiet ecstasy that I know joy to be, I continued onwards. At some point, in the softening of my heart , I began weeping — something about how the woods along this loch thrive in a dense and dark entanglement of form and shadows and light contrasting with the horror of the emptied mountains I had been passing through opened the flood gates. It takes a certain kind of cold determination to remove every last pine, alder, hazel and willow from 1000’s of hectares as has happened here and in Cymru. I try to imagine again what kind of madness possessed the humans who brought this to bear on these places, and wonder why these places are still restrained in this state of brutal diminishment — it’s not as a social/economic enquiry — I know enough of those answers…but at the simplest level of being an animal and feeling the loss of others of your kith and kin — those who live here must be pained by this emptiness too and how can they bear it ?
Passing the clouded peak of Ben Hope, I pull in at a ruined Broch by a rain sated burn ( later I discover it too is Allt a Cailleach — burn of the crone). A ruckus of rooks draws my attention over the river to three golden eagles diving and rising the currents of the day above the far plantation… I leap out and stand watching their sky dance, falling under the enchantments of their cries until my body’s shivering draws me back to now. I throw on some layers and return with binoculars to watch for some time more their flashes of gold and white in sunlight shafting through cloud as weathers move up and down the valley.
Grey waters of river turns a deep red and back to grey — its like a miracle is happening. The strange light intensifies until a bright and clear rainbow breaks through over Ben Hope and I feel in my body as if I have just stepped off the edge of climax.
Collecting myself, I carry on, out of the wooded glen and up through the empty mountains once more , though they too are blessed with the promise of rainbows this day.