A thousand million years. The Torridonian sandstones are almost the oldest rocks in the world and they were, in effect, an American import. Scotland itself was born and bred in the North, hitching itself to England who had made a long journey, from South of the equator, to seal the match. In Torridon you don’t need to imagine these elemental, earthly forces – you can sense them. And it was only the blink of an eye since there were bears and mammoths. Their bones are still here. This is not the land that time forgot but rather the land where time still lives.
Travelling down the gradually narrowing single track road, West from Kinlochewe, you will also notice a narrowing of the gap – between you and earth. You may arrive in the diamond-studded freeze of February or in June’s everlasting light. You may come for a daring climb on Ben Eighe’s Triple Buttress, a stout day’s walk over Ben Alligin and its horns, or a stroll by the Loch or a bracing dip. Whatever your mission I would recommend the T Room, open from Wednesday to Saturday. Black pudding butties, with an egg too if you’ve earned it, worth a Michelin star at least.
But it’s the presence of the place, the mountains, the sea and the way they breathe together. Their conversation will pull you in and it’s easy to forget who you were the other side of Kinlochewe. All the things which make you separate – money, job, the things you own, the names you are called by, the story you tell about who you are. Looking down the Loch from the shore or up on the Liatach ridge,you might as well be a red deer or an eagle. It’s easy to forget to take photographs when you are no longer an observer.
What an enormous privilege it was to be invited to capture some images of a vibrant and wonderfully ‘alive’ book launch for Julie Carter’s RunningThe Red Line on 21 April at The Skiddaw Hotel, Keswick. Broadband users, please click on the image above for a photobook (pdf) which will download in around 30 seconds. Best viewed full screen.
Julie Carter is a hugely valued member of Mungrisdale Writers. Julie’s friends will be thrilled with the array of book recommendations to be found on the back cover of Running The Red Line, the front cover of which presents an outstandingly evocative painting by Vincent Alexander Booth. But the reflection that most rang bells with me is that from Professor Peter Wright, a psychologist from the University of Newcastle:
An extraordinary book in which the author takes you on a journey during which she offers you so much of herself that you feel at once privileged and grateful to be invited along.
This is the Julie Carter – doctor, psychologist and champion fell-runner – we know at Mungrisdale Writers, someone whose life and writing ‘offers you so much of herself …’
Saturday 21 April, 8pm, The Skiddaw Hotel in Keswick. This is a book I’ll be first in the queue for. I too feel ‘privileged and grateful to be invited along.’
Like all powerful medicine writing has side effects. I started in order to understand, join dots, make sense. Clarity would have sufficed but a different imperative has thrust itself upon me. I am unblinded and yet dumbfounded, rendered silent by an uncompromising beauty. The wordless knowledge of what is real.
To begin, energy, matter and Time expanded into nothing which did not exist. A uniform universe acquired a history, mutating parameters, a wobble in the maths made gravity greedy for stuff, which coalesced like lumps in custard. Stars, planets, suns, moons. Air, water, earth, oceans and trees, love and me. Born and dying in my time passing, the future already knows my end; my agency is in doubt. I am a completely random, absolutely unique, perfect imperfection. I cried when my mother told me I was a mistake. Now I understand the universal joke I laugh with all my heart.
The winter comes, I feel it, without anticipation.
I know it through my settling earthbound roots.
I know not the animal dread of cold and dark.
My boughs sculptured by summer’s passage to lift my leaves sunwards.
Now I have let them drop to earth, to feed my community the soil.
The soil my home. The earth, the spinning earth.
I draw myself in and wait without anticipation, under the frosted fog.
Playing out my destiny in the eternal moment.
I am the Elder Mother, spirit made tree.
My carefully crafted medicine is of myself, for myself.
I know not the animal dread of age and death.
The vulnerable robin, the clever striving human, they come to me needing nourishment.
It pleases me to give but not to court the animal demon, greed.
They may take of me, by measure, with gratitude.
For I am the Elder Mother, spirit made tree, in cold earth, which will turn warm again.