Friday, 26 December 2014
Running up the logging road south of our wooden hamlet, I stopped to take a photograph; low mist and bright sunlight made for striking images. I was dismayed to have left the camera`s memory card at home. I was also dismayed that I was dismayed ! but I`d got into the habit of sharing these runs through the immediacy of photographs rather than through words.
Moving on, at three road junction or thereabouts, I decided to follow the faint trail that offered itself as alternative to the all too familiar forest roads. I thought I`d explored this years ago, found it to be a dead end. However, as I could have confused this with memories of other blind alleyways and dead end trails, the possibility of owning another way onto the high drovers` road spurred me on.
The track was faint, more a roe deer way. No mountain bike tyre prints, no room for, or sign of, land-rover double imprints in the mud. It snaked its way along the hollow of the cleft between the forested hills. Maybe at one time, maybe for millennia, this pathway had been the direct way up from our bend in the Tweed and onto the high moorland... Anyway, I walked up, pulling larch and spruce branches aside, winding up the uneven, tussocked ground; the heather clumps and pale green dougall-ish grass. I moved amongst bright forest greens, outlined in frost, (refreshing to see in a land all gone pastel and dead). At one point there was a clustered planting of bright Juniper bushes, outgrown their plastic protective chrysalis. Cherry and birch stood dormant in a stretch of wet ground over the hidden burn meandering a parallel route.
I thought about paths and ways; that they need to have a purpose if they are to thrive. This one had lost its way as the larger, utilitarian and ugly access roads had asserted themselves upon the landscape. And yet, as I reached the top, and found it to emerge close by the Southern Upland Way, I could see it had potential, again, as short cut up to the views, to the high watersheds flowing down west and south.
So next time I run this trail I`ll bring a camera (with memory card) and I`ll also bring secateurs, to cut a modest swathe through the plantings that have insinuated themselves along the way, in the years since the trail was last used regularly.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
I ran up by the bold burn to the three road junction. Not quite dark. Ink blot tree copses, pale grey snake of a road, puddles flashing with light as I came to them, like cats eyes. Not black enough to engender the glimmer of primal anxieties.
I wanted to climb one of the beech trees at the head of the crossroads; to rise above the ground in the gloaming, hugging the tree, listening to the night sounds` approach.
I chose one and pulled myself up six feet, reached for a stump which broke in my hand launching me out and down to the ground on my back, my fall cushioned by coppice shoots.
Climbing to my feet, feeling my heart thud, I tried again, more careful this time, and rose up in a spiral round the young adult tree. Stopped and listened. Breathed in the sound of a hooting owl. Sinewed down again and trotted home, winding down the track, my sight diminishing, senses of hearing and imagination waxing.
Sunday, 16 February 2014
Today I was in the garden by 8.30, despite it being a Sunday. It was to be a sunny day and, while impetus was there, I needed to complete the wattle fence as well as the crazily paved front path.
By 4 all was finished, rubble delivered to the local dump.
I was happily knackered and yet wanted to stretch my legs and lungs in the forest, to feel strong and healthy for another week of challenging dynamics at work.
Returning from Scrogbank (where you`re almost guaranteed to meet nobody), I veered down into the copse above our field, which marks the borderland between farmland and "wildness".
Inspired by Robert Macfarlane, though (more significantly) giving into my own wish: I sized up the gnarled oak tree by the upper corner gate: plenty branches, not too many of them treacherously dead. I stepped from the drystane dyke onto a strong-enough branch and wound my way up the tree`s broad dinosaur hide. At twenty feet I stopped; didn`t wish to go further as I was cogitating difficult emotions, ancient but unarticulated. Didn`t want my equilibrium off-kilter while balanced amongst these branches of variable dependability.
I thought of The Wild Places: "I walked up through the wood, and midway along its northern edge I came to my tree - a tall grey-barked beech..." [clean limbed, strong branched !] "...whose branches flare out in such a way that it is easy to climb. I had climbed the tree many times before, and its marks were all familiar to me..."
This is how MacFarlane introduces his book - touching base with his own private bit of wilderness a stone`s throw from his city home.
I live at the edge of a tamed and industrialised wilderness of trees and moorland. To scramble into a tree is to be intimate with its own particular presence, and it requires focus and a degree of nerve, strength and agility. It is to be reminded that I am alive and that life is a balancing act.
Sunday, 9 February 2014
After setting a gatepost in concrete and starting all over with crazy paving leading to the front door, I met my brother at Flotterstone for a walk and a long ruminative blether.
Then home and, as there was residual light left from the gone sun, I clambered up the logging road facing the Tweed valley, jogging into the forest and on to Scrogbank.
At the junction there, I looked up at the silhouetted pine trees, dark against purple-grey cloud cover. Above their high branches I sometimes glimpsed a soft warm gibbous moon rushing motionless through the vapour.
Wind clamoured softly like a sea without waves or shore. Hit the pine-tops, set them dancing, resonating.
I looked, listened, described in my head, with words and sentences. Words that spoke my experience.