Friday, 28 August 2009

'Then catch the moments as they fly
And use them as you ought, man
Believe me, happiness is shy
And comes not aye when sought, man.'

Robert Burns

I am a keen reader, and it was a challenge to select just one book, Desert Island Discs style, to carry round with me.

Eventually I settled on the rather appropriately-named 'Wherever You Go, There You Are' by Jon Rabat-Zinn.

It's a thoughful little book about mindfulness and meditation, which stresses the value of living 'now', rather than projecting forward into the future or wallowing about in the past, which (like most people) I am rather prone to do.

It also has nice short chapters (!), perfect for tent-reading by torchlight.

The reason I mention this is one of the recent reporters who caught up with us said, 'your trip sounds quite contemplative'. And yes, it is: mile after mile on tracks with nothing much to do EXCEPT contemplate. Sometimes I practice my navigation: at the moment I am practising
contours, visualizing what a hill or other feature depicted on the map will look like when I get there and seeing if I'm right. But often I have the luxury of just 'being'.

I know I'm fortunate in currently not having the daily clamours of most people: late for work, get the kids' tea, find time for Tescos, renew the car insurance, blah de blah...

Idyllic really, as long as you don't confuse ' idyllic' with 'easy'. What I notice is a changed attitude to time. I don't wear a watch; I rarely feel hurried; and increasingly I DO 'catch the moments as they fly.'

Many things I notice: the subtle changes as the year wears on; the dart of an electric-blue dragonfly across our path; which direction the wind is coming from; a nest of wood ants beside the track (did you know the queens remove their wings after a brief mating whirl? Like a
pretty bride removing her party dress and putting on an apron and rubber gloves, I always think); the huge array of fungi which are starting to appear...

Well, you get the idea- nothing earth-shattering or uncommon and yet very satisfactory. We're pretty content, most of the time, and each day has its own quiet rhythm. Occasionally I catch a snippet of news on a tv somewhere - it all seems to come from a fairly far-off and not very relevant place!

Of more interest is the sun setting over Dunadd near Kilmichael Glassary (pictured), the original crowning place of ancient Dalriadan kings. Or watching (from above) an efficient sheep-gather in
Kilmichael Glen. Or being invited into a kids' party in Kilchrenan Village Hall for a cup of tea, just when it wasn't possible to get any wetter. Or meeting the lovely Heather, aged about 13, who stood with us in the rain and told of her longing for a Highland pony...

Although I do try to be reasonably organised (don't like running out of coffee- or food!), I don't attempt to manage every detail...I often don't know where we will spend the night, and on the whole don't worry about that as it always seems to work out somehow.

Which was the case at Loch Awe, where, just about lousing time we got the offer of an excellent field from the quietly efficient and interesting Bill (and Alfie the cat). Yet better, I was also able to sleep in the porch of the house Bill is renovating, rather than pitching my tent. Lying snug and warm, listening to the rain battering off the roof and windows: is that not happiness?

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