hillwalking, History of the Highlands, Living with Nature, Uncategorized, wildlife

Soaring- with an eagle even.

None of us is wholly attached to this earth.
This is true of humans too.
Moira’s baby is barely resident on this plane – a half calf.
The old folks, especially the women gathered by the flanks of the milk cows every morning, would tell stories of milk supped by fairies at night.
Moira is losing no milk this way, but the lad still part resides in the palaces under the hill, where the night is spent dancing and spinning, where he is free to soar and where to breathe is to eat, so rich the air.
All that retains him here is the russet mass of his lumbering mother, and a strange bare forked animal that throws him to the ground to invade his mouth, holds him tight while half suffocating him with a tube in his throat, and locks him to the earth with the shackles of his will.
Passing by the field later on the quad, I see Billy on his feet. The little lad is transfixed by this gigantic apparition (his father), staring stock still, as if in disbelief that this might be his adult pattern. Billy sheepishly shakes his head and looks away.

It is Sunday: I have promised the Nog a longer walk.

We cross the road from the farm and work our way up though the old quarry, the birches loud with the memory of descending slipes, horsedrawn sledges used to cart granite block down to the road.
At the top of the burnside path, I catch up to the shadows of peat carts, hook my stick to a backboard as they wind slowly up the hill road and then cut across country to the spot where Nog and I surprised the deer last night.
We move out across the plateau, leaving the old drowned cuttings behind: picking up the ghosts of my father and grandfather who walked this same ground.

We cross to the far edge where the ground drops away before rising again to the arctic waste of the Monadhliath range, still heavy with snow.
The mountains are grouped around the Dalbhallach flats as if encicling a lagoon, an inundated crater. They are roundtopped; the connecting valleys swag like fabric, swathing the hills as if storing furniture. In spite of the upflift to the view of the mountains, I have a strong sense that to progress into this wilderness is to plunge, not rise.

I watch the hills across the valley, my eyes climbing the air towards them as I approach the lip. Before the ground falls away, perhaps disturbed by my approach, from a vantage directly in front but below me, and as if carrying my volition, the outspread wings of the eagle launch the giant bird effortlessly outward from the face. Within seconds she is slowly spooling arcs in the still air at the centre of the cooling lagoon.

‘Oh My..’
The sound of my voice breaks the stillness, unbidden.

Words surface in my memory:
‘Come to the edge!’
‘I cannot. It is too steep.’
‘Come to the edge!’
‘I am scared. I will fall.’
‘COME TO THE EDGE!’
So he came-
and he fell-
and he flew.

 

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Farm Life, hillwalking, Living with Nature, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

Alone on the hill?

There is nothing up the hill behind the farm. Nothing to excite or entertain. No homes, people, vehicles, livestock, few trees.
This time of year the grass is yellow and flat, water lies softening the peat, the heather is dark and low.
Today uniform grey cloud slices the tops from the hills; the wind drives hard across the open hill, snow lies in pockets like hoofmarks, clings in stubborn banks on north faces.
I force myself from the shelter of the farm. The wind hits as I leave the path circling Sarah Justina’s memorial, the last outpost.
I cut straight up the hill to reach the ridge at its lowest point, heading for the high ground, the Nog ambushing me on steeper inclines.
And we’re not alone. A shape slides behind the border of ancient pines as we reach the watershed – and then reveals itself – the outspread arc of a monitoring eagle. The eyrie is back in the trees – perhaps the henbird is sitting in the untidy stack of twigs lodged in a fork. I have seen her before, but this is another bird, smaller, probably male.
I watch the near horizon carefully as the Nog ranges. He is the colour and size of a roe calf: eagles eat roe calves. I call him closer- the dynamic has changed.
We are now the hunted.
I relax as we progress toward the back hills.
The Nog ranges backwards and forwards as generations of his ancestors have done.
I catch up with my father and grandfather- who walked here before me.
Coming back down the hill, we do not return.
We re-enter.

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