It was late February, storms had just ripped through the UK, and now the unthinkable was happening in Ukraine. These are troubled times.
I had planned this walk wanting to put some more miles in my legs, visit somewhere new, whilst also enjoying the familiarity of past routes. I was excited by my plan but on the actual morning of the walk, the world seemed a vastly different place. Instead of thoughts of becoming one with the land, I was trying to walk off the lingering feelings of anxiety combined with guilt. Everyone is feeling some degree of anxiety over world events, but the guilt that I was going out to enjoy my best freedom, when others were losing theirs, seemed insensitive and unfair. Such is the powerlessness of it all.
The emotions I was carrying along with my pack had me feeling clumsy and uncertain. I knew my location, but continuously checked the map fearing I had wandered off course, doubting the images from my eyes. The reassurance from my senses did nothing to squelch the feeling of being lost.
I let out a sigh on the riverbank, allowing the flowing water to lull away some tension. Water has a mystical affinity with emotion, witnessed in how our bodies relieve the sense of being overwhelmed through tears. I sat for a moment, watching a bright yellow breasted wagtail cheerfully hop from boulder to boulder, shaking his booty. I cherish the way the early Spring sun, like a magic wand, waves life into everything it shines on.
Onward, I passed an abandoned cottage, fracturing gradually back into the ground. I allowed my mind to ponder over its previous tenants. The fascination of waking up each day to the still wildness of the moor, watching time move the changing seasons across the land. My romantic notions made no mention of the possible challenges. I met, what I now believe, to be a pair of Crossbills, looking rather impressive. The couple provoked ideas of companionship. I am most comfortable when I am alone, but watching them moving together, calling to each other, I questioned whether you can have too much of a good thing?
It took longer than I remember before Laughter Tor came into sight, the view across the moor, vast in the huge open sky. It was time to decide whether to walk on to Huccaby Tor, the new ground that inspired my walk, or to stick with what I know and loop around Bellever Tor and back to the car. The anxiety that came with me on the walk chose the ‘safer’ feeling option. I set off in the direction of Bellever Tor, initially with valid consideration of needing to be mindful of energy levels. However, my thoughts took on life of their own – “better not risk walking on new ground”, “what if something goes wrong”, “what happens if you get lost”, “what happens if the ground is boggy and you fall in”, “your body is too weak”, “this is too scary”, “the world is too scary!” – Breathe!
Bursting through the noise to prominence came my stubborn, headstrong teenage self, unprepared to tolerate boundaries. I have not been her in some time, she was tamed into conformity, wanting to please and do the right thing, but on reflection never truly absent, simply resigned, and overshadowed. A self-assured “Fuck it!”, was followed by a swift change of direction. Setting the route tracker on my phone, just in case! but the doubt was gone. I knew the direction of travel, I had studied the map, planned my route. I was going to Huccaby Tor. I spotted the landscape for directional cues to guide me, so I could put away the map and observe my surroundings. Walking pole in hand, I was prepared, if there was a bog, I just wouldn’t step in it!
I used more energy than needed across the flat hilltop avoiding any suspicious looking wet muddy patches. I must have looked like a drunk fairy, happy in my hopping. It was poignant that my anxiety over world events, had me feeling lost, and doubting the very ground under my feet. I do not think I am alone in feeling this. In such a short period of time the whole way we live has been rocked, our assumptions challenged. We are being forced to confront our lifestyles and how we treat our planet, power structures and our relationship with one another. We are questioning our values and purpose, under a dense cloud that never quite allows us to see the whole truth.
I arrived at Huccaby Tor, quickly noticing the wind here still had the chill of winter. The tor obliged me with a sheltered, sun-kissed spot to rest. I closed my eyes wanting to absorb the moment with the less dominant senses, surrendering to the stable granite slab beneath me. As tension drained away, tiredness took its place and stirred the need to head back.
What was unfamiliar on the way here was now known, so wonder took the place of worry. I smiled at the pony with the haircut, suspecting this was the result of fern tangled bedhead.
My feet knew the way, my pace more rhythmic, albeit with a mud avoiding sway. I watched with envy a man coming towards me in a perfectly straight line, not in the slight bit fazed by the wet ground. I voiced my admiration of this when our paths met – my ditsy attempt at opening conversation. It transpired that he lives on the moor, knows the land well, and was training for an epic Highland adventure. I walked on with a gladness for fellowship, experienced through this brief connection with another human.
I find stillness on the moor, even when the weather is wild. It merely brings an aliveness and power to the stillness, adding to its overall magnificence. This land holds testament to human history, as well as the world before we existed. Its rawness vibrates with my own sense of fragility, inspiring a resilience to endure and overcome.
I was reminded as I walked, that even when the world feels out of control, under the mayhem exists the calmness and beauty of a force never seen, only felt through our connection to other things. So powerful, yet gentle is this force, it soundlessly communicates a wisdom and knowing. It restores us with a reassurance that no single being is meant to carry the burdens of the entire world alone. Peace on a world scale is unquestionably a team endeavour. We are gifted with the capacity for compassion, kindness, and connection. These are our superpowers. We are guided to use them and must have faith that these qualities can be a catalyst for profound change. We are not provided with the means to make suffering disappear single-handedly; we are not promised a life without pain. It seems of little comfort that through such tragedy, we are beginning to recognise the power of togetherness. I pray this flourishes into harmonious solutions to the urgent problems.
Dusk was coming upon the day as I reached an almost empty car park. There was a peace now in my heart, a renewed faith and trust in forces beyond my conception. A pair of crows took flight before me, heading towards the setting sun. It seemed to signify that the day’s activities were complete, the comfort of home was calling.
Remember, along with the suffering released from Pandora’s Box, there was also hope, a gift to help us through the tough times.