highland landscapes, hillwalking, Living with Nature, Uncategorized

Tiring work, this visiting different worlds

There are two worlds here: high and low.
The farm is low, as is all present day human habitation. The river, the roads, bridges, pasture – all low.
The tops, the ridges, the plateaus are high – with deer and grouse and eagles, berries and mosses.
At the current time the difference between the two is very clear: the one variegated, the other pure white. There is a line strung across the landscape, slightly diffused but surprisingly consistent across separate hillsides – almost like the watermargin of an invisible lake, with everything familiar submerged while the pristine summits rise clear from the confused blend of colours, habitats, contrivances.
So the Nog and I visit the second, the high world. Our transportation is ploddery – well, his is more gallivantery, but mine is ploddery for sure: first through the heather stems and ploutery peat cuttings, and increasingly through webs of damp snow caught in dishes and drains; into a new terrain where every footstep is placed on unseen ground, and carries a small burden of snow when lifted. Every step tells – and there are many to the far corner of the ground where three estates march.
Over the ridge, the going levels out. Here snow covers the high hags – deep, black peat where little grows, that now host wormlike white ridges gleaming icily in the winter sun with powder dusted flanks. The Nog is entranced by the glamour of this new world, I place one foot in front of the other. The wind blows a dense front toward us from the west, there is a purple yellow glow to the belly of dark cloud presaging snow. These hags are not a place to be caught out: there is no shelter, and if the snow drops over us in a whiteout – it will fool me. However well I know this ground – I will struggle to guide us out without risk.
For the time being the storm stays on the far side of the valley so we climb to our intended vantage. The weather comes in as we turn – if I can just make it to the corner of the deer fence, slip down the gulley, traverse towards the spy stone. My landmarks are still in view: I am not lost- tired, but not lost.
One foot in front of another will take me there – aiming for the watershed. I talk, ostensibly to the dog, as we trudge the last slope ‘Good boy, good boy – almost there. We’re going to make it – yes we’ll make it, just a bit further.’
And now we’re over the ridge, heading downhill. The snow is thinning. The final half mile sees us crossing clear ground – for the first time I stride out rhythmically.
It is still light as I open the truck door and call the Nog in – but not by much. The day is done, drained.
Heading home, I know how the wind blows across infinite white wastes – in the high world.

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