Next to the taps at my bathroom sink is a small piece of Cairngorm granite. Sometimes I like to turn it over in my left hand while I brush my teeth with my right and feel the reassuring solidity of the cold, square faced-sides of rock. If I screw my eyes up tightly, I can see flecks of purple, blue and pink reflecting out of the steely surface and onto the bathroom mirror. The shards of condensed carbon have been split, shattered and chiseled anew by the melting of glaciers and the shifting of earth and water for millennia. The rock was here before me and it will be here after me. That much is certain.
In today’s disturbed and uncertain world, the nights are long and the days can be darker. Recent terror attacks by violent extremists, the distorted fear of violence stoked by social media, and a resulting fear of the unknown in which the many will now suffer for the crimes of a few, means the stuff of urban nightmares risks becoming a daily dystopian reality. More than ever before, there is something reassuring about calling a small, peaceful place home. And knowing that the feeling of being at home can travel to even smaller and more at peace places.
Late November – the eve of the Winter Solstice and six months since Midsummer and our Hebridean journey. Time on the islands outdoors in the light and the space reminded me of how surprise encounters and learning can be gifted when simply being and not doing. One of the books I read in June was Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain in which she signs off “To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain”.
Her mountain, Cairngorm, has the grace to welcome me and my small black dog this weekend. And for that I am grateful. Grateful, still, for the sounds of pheasants croaking in the ferny undergrowth and moss-felted branches breaking underfoot. For the skeletal arms of fir and birch trees in early winter; flecks of their bark skin flayed by driving sleet. For seeing my breath exhaled in a sobering and honest morning air. For the tease of a snow forecast throughout the shape-shifting, living mountain. And for footprints, paw prints and tracks in the making.
Paws up super-woofers. Bons here. It’s been a while but the dog days are very much not over…
Some days conclude better than they begin. Today was one of them. The tell-tale signs were all there – the indignity of a wash n’ go in the bath, some frantic packing by the human, four sleepy hours on the road inside the BonMobile tapping a paw to Jon Bon Jovi. But then, at last, an evening befitting of a pup with some distinguished grey hair behind her velvety ears: a run through scented woodland, a chance to startle some dozy pheasants and a meat pie all of my own. Bon appetite pooches! There can only be one lady and one tramp on this highland mini-break and I know which I am.
Indeed, it’s quite touching to have a mountain range and national park named after some distant cousins of this hairy maclary mongrel. The Cairn terriers – and their not so bright, gormless pedigrees- Cairngorms!! Ha ha ha.
Small is always beautiful. Got my fur coat packed so roll over snowy huskies… Bx