Warning: crazed insomnia last night, so there is a very real danger none of this may make any sense at all.
I read something today about how humans miss the natural world without even knowing what it is they lack. Most people in Britain live in cities or towns. Cities are glorious, thrilling things. I think they are good things, because they must surely decrease fear of The Other. The Other is there every day, in the streets, on the tube, waiting for the bus. Insularity must be more difficult, in that great melting pot. And there is culture and entertainment and architecture and all the other sophisticated pleasures of which city life is made. When I lived in London, I loved her like a sister. I used to refuse invitations to go away for the weekend because I wanted to mooch about in the sunny streets of Soho, or go to a double bill at The Electric. I wanted smoke and pavements.
People still think it mildly eccentric that I should live so far north, so deep in the hills, at such a distance from the theatre and good Chinese food. But I’ve been thinking about the whole love and trees thing (and love of trees), which is probably why the article on missing the earth caught my eye.
I struggle, as does every sentient human in the middle of life, with all kinds of frets, profound and superficial. I battle with mortality. I worry about all the usual things: money, death, illness, work. I feel the mid-life regret at the scattering of friends. Some live very far away, across wide oceans. Some are only in the south, but might as well be in Ulan Bator. It’s logistically demanding to get a family of four onto an aeroplane to Aberdeen for the weekend. We rely on the fact that we can pick up where we left off, because we have twenty years of hinterland behind us. But still, I miss them.
And yet, for all the frets, I am mostly cheerful. I am occasionally haunted by the spectres of loss, but I do not wake every morning with the black dog of despair snapping at my heels. I read something lately too about depression, the proper kind, not the mild down-in-the-mouth to which people sometimes carelessly apply the word. This was about the real thing, the kind that makes the sufferer feel as if they are in a dank, slimy pit and may never climb out. I feel incredibly blessed that I do not have to crawl out of that pit. Even among all the worries and fears, I find daily joy. I laugh a lot, often at myself. I have a lot of love. I love my mare, I love my family, I love my dog.
I wonder, suddenly, whether this oddly cheery resilience is lent to me by the place itself. I know I bang on about the hills, but it does lift the spirit to see them each day. I regard green things, growing things, ancient earthed things. On Saturday night I sat outside under a venerable stand of oaks and ate sausages and drank beer. It was the glorious trees that gave the evening its savour. I walk on grass and smell clean air. I hear birdsong. I watch the swallows fling and play, as they teach their young ones the mastery of aerodynamics. I stare at lichen and dry stone walls and bark. I happily observe the sheep.
Everyone, even the most fortunate human, needs a little help. Life is baffling and inexplicable and sorrows are inevitable. No one may insulate themselves from loss and heartache. Everyone needs an existential walking stick, to negotiate the rocky paths. I think this dear old land is my stick. Perhaps that is why I show you the daily pictures of it. Look, look, I am saying: this is what saves me.
I think far too much, always have. This is a good thing, and a bad thing. Too much thinking can lead to despair. There are too many unfairnesses, tragedies, inexplicable cruelties, for one paltry mind to reconcile. Love and trees, my darlings, love and trees. And hills and sheep. And Stanley and Red, out in the gentle Scottish air, where they may stretch and play and become one with the majestic landscape they inhabit.
Today’s pictures are a little selection from the past few days. No time for the camera today. I’ve been doing actual work, 1648 words of it. Something, as always, has to give.
In random order: