Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Lost Avenue

Another longer run yesterday. This time revisiting the Traquair side of the Bold Burn . "The sun shone and then it rained" was on a repeat loop. Rising to around 400 metres at Plora Craig,  the road levelled out and I enjoyed again those panoramic views to north and east.

My memories of this stretch have included:
A disproportionate joy in seeing a red squirrel; 
A hobbling frustration at having pulled a calf muscle;
Sharing small, pleasant greetings with passing bikers;
Fear and exhilaration when running for home, through a larch plantation near the Bold Rig in a thunder storm (should I chuck my watch away or not, I wondered - it being the only metal object I was wearing. Apart from my fillings); 
And the memory of lingering many times at  the long avenue of tall spruce trees below Plora Rig. Echoing in my fancy the Sequoia Avenue at Benmore.
I`ve marked the place with a cross on the map.
As I ran I began to realise that the Avenue was gone; acres and acres of trees were now stumps, leaving fields of stubble. Harvested like a crop of turnips. Like a personality had been erased taking my bearings with them. Home to deer and badgers and foxes and all the smaller creatures. Shade and contemplative corner for me. Like a duvet had been pulled off someone`s bed.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

memory mapping

A number of locations in this and neighbouring forests have for me strong emotional associations; evoked by the scenery, the weather, the time of day and year - yes.  But, because I am a lone runner, much more so by whatever is cogitating inside me. Just as heavy food and toxins will sweat from my body over the course of miles; similarly, frustration, despair, happiness and all the complicated cocktails of emotion which build and coagulate over time are given space to ooze or judder out of me. That I don`t often encounter anyone else makes these trails a vast private retreat. There`s liberty to yowl. 

If I`m to run a half marathon distance over summer I need to stretch the journeys and so
revisited a long loping loop beyond Elibank castle. 8 miles or so .

And looking at the picture of my route I could point to memory-map co-ordinates of where I`ve stood when transfixed by birdsong and childhood homesickness.
To where I planned, in my mind`s eye, the smooth apple-wood sculpture of a woman`s beautiful head. A piece that was to have the profound simplicity of folk art but that was only made manifest in my imagination.
And where, spinning from the sprawling iron age wall high above Cardrona, I ran off into a blueberry strewn, sunlight-dappled pinewood, fleet and predatory as a Mohican !

But I also associate pounding the forest trails with heart and mind quietening. Body and word mantras pitched at my needy thoughts like bread to ducks on a pond. Stilled by the clocklike pulse of foot-step, arm-swing, ex-hale.

Friday, 19 April 2013

lemon moon

I listened at the dark wood`s edge. All colours polarising to straw and ink. Above, in the southern windy cloudiness, a small, bright blurred half lemon moon. All the wood`s bird singing said the sun was leaving.

It was like I`d found myself in a large echoey school hall. The windows open, letting in shafts of warm light, releasing wood varnish smells. The wind in the spruce tops a russet rustling beech hedge surrounding the hall . Its roar a protective wall of sound.

Birdsong like scatterings of small children, each having found his and her own private space - in the middle, at the edges, in the corners, to better hear and be heard . Every one of them - oblivious to its neighbour - in animated talk with an invisible parent, who is at home or at work or far away.  
Twenty or fifty small piping voices. Each private communion following its own ebbing, flowing wave . Jabbering excitedly;  telling a long rambling story;  standing still,  listening intently. I felt their happiness and their young yearning.
What a projection onto a dusk chorus !
Maybe my heart was remembering summer evening soundtracks, old as time;  when I was small and never far from home.

Monday, 15 April 2013

twilight zone

I stopped a few times to take in the northern view over the river. Moorland hilltops level with my eyes. Though few signs of new leaf growth in the larch, I`m reassured by the ever-green-ness of pine. Also I hear a thrush`s beautiful song echoing across the woods at my feet. Sounding late summer stirrings.

I went back to find the frog. I knew it sat, poised and dead, close by a little pine sapling but could hardly recollect where. So retracing my footsteps I searched more carefully, my slow brain ticking and crossing off the three mental boxes: pine-sapling, stone... pine-sapling, stone. 

Then pine sapling, stone, frog. I knew my friendly sketch last time had done no justice to its strangeness.  Hunkering down I saw the falling dusk had drained and blackened all cherry brown colour; all warmth. Much as a slug at its side had been leaching the alien-looking husk of nutrients. Of goodness. In a sense. 
I flicked away the slug and took some snaps.


Then I  passed a tree wrapped in a forest worker`s safety jacket. It was as though the man had stood there so long and so still, a sapling had crept its way up and through him. Sucked his nutrients into the building of  itself.

Monday, 8 April 2013

frozen frog

the frozen frog

Snow still 6 inches deep at 300 metres, I`d been running in Size 8 or 9`s walking-boot prints: fresh today, sometimes splayed, herring boning up the slippy slope towards Bold Burn`s source. Then scuffling prints where dog and walker merged, played, or where leash wrapped around legs even. Then at the hill`s crest, walker`s prints went on backwards, admiring the view, the light, taking a photo, calling dog away from deer scent. And right-angling their walk, roe deer tracks scored their own careful paths from woodland to woodland. 
I wondered if the creatures met at all or if, like me,  inhabited different spaces of time. All of us though seemed to be present in the eternal "now". Our passing prints fleetingly evidenced this.
I stopped to pee over a sapling pine tree. Wondered lazily if I was nurturing or poisoning it. There`s nitrogen and potassium in urine, I thought. I`ll come back soon - see if the plant is burnt or thriving. Then looking down right I see a small frog sitting on a stone: 2 inch long body, 4 inches  if the back legs extended into a leap. Sharp angled, the colour and patina of cherry shoe polish. I gently poke the frog with a stick. I`m mildly startled that it`s hard and stuck fast to its rock like an aborted fossil. I stare. Life`s spark has gone. Either last year`s remnant or precocious victim of a late springtime.
Following the Bold Burn as it runs by the roadside, heading to Glenbenna I look out for the Heron, who hates company and flies off, wings like strings and pulleys, whenever I`m near. Muttering under his breath.
As I pass his haunt I see no sign, thinking he`s at his Heronry until, looking into the still pool, I see his submerged body, like an avian Ophelia. A cloud of feathers by his side. Victim of a fox or the life frozen out of him.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

sunlight snowshine

Yesterday afternoon my running shoes crunched through residual snow crust. I gathered no momentum, no running rhythm.  I kept stopping to photograph the plays of light on pine tree bark, white gold light leaking through bronze pine-tops. No creatures; just light and colour, Stopping and staring too long I grew chilled and stiff. Lumbered into motion once more, struck by the warmth of the colours, by the cold sterile air. Spring is reaching tipping point now;  melting winter.