Matilda on the walk. Extracts of my Diary:
My legs and my body, even my mind are used to long distance walking in the highlands. This is a different feeling though. I felt it as soon as I got on the train. Everything has worked out, the feeling of incredible security and bonds with you all that are supporting me, I know it will not let me down. I knew it from the start. This is not just a walk…. into pure wilderness and space…
Day 1 -10 k off the train and 500 metres height
It’s beautiful here and I couldn’t ask for more no way! It makes me a little nervous though for what is ahead. Perhaps I am complacent with all my stuff thrown everywhere around the tent. I have left Joan with all my emotional baggage from last week – that application form and I bet he was going through loads too. I have this continuous guilt of being so selfish as soon as I share or ask for help….I’m thinking of you Joan, and hope you are okay up there!
It’s 10.30pm and feels like 1am. I’m sitting here alone in this brilliant one- man tent trying to be comforted by all my stuff. The comfort of stuff, it’s not the material expense I think for a lot of people, it’s just their stuff that helps us to make sense of some of our identity and self. I’m sorry Joan; I’m not in a rhythm of thinking yet -Heavy pack and no thoughts, even though I have written lots. I don’t think these words mean much at all.
But one thing you will want to know. …I don’t believe in guiding spirits, but I never thought I’d be the guiding spirit on the first day of my trip. And today I guided two lovely full of life and hope young German boys over the hill. I just hope they’re going to be okay.
Cycles of thoughts that beat me up can no longer exist in my stomach. Let them go …
Loads of birch trees along the river, clusters and clutching at the bosoms of the banks. No Scots pines yet. Each piece of wood has it’s own shape that I must respect. On each tree there is a wooden flute that can sing to the birds in its own special tune.
I’m at Kinbreak bothy. It’s 6pm and so far nobody is here which is quite amazing since it’s bank holiday. They must have all gone to the west. I’m not in need of company at all. Today going up over the tops did not seem as daunting as I had thought it would. Perhaps it is the weather? Emotional weather report is the same as the real weather report. Ahhh they have coincided with each other.
When you can see what is ahead, you think it’s worse than it is. When you can’t see what’s ahead it can be really daunting. But then that would mean the glass is half empty and that seems cynical to me?
I was thinking of my dad today. It’s like we are complete strangers.
I’ve been here once before, a very long time ago. I even remember sections of the path. Piecing together small fragments like our emotional memory tries to do. It’s incredible how clear a memory can be when it only has to remember one thing and of course being reminded of that one thing (like this path) is easier to remember it! Can you make sense of this Joan?
REPITITION (music ideas)
Short sentences repeating over and over again in my head as I try to walk. So my brain is thinking of something and it’s thinking in sentences. Then it stops. Latches onto one short sentence and without logic or any through thinking or linear thought processes it keeps repeating that sentence. One sentence I had was “And you know how that would end” “And you know how…and you know what that would be like.” So it also does variations of the same sentence. Okay it’s minimalism, but it really happens when walking.
I think there are little sparrow type birds I can hear. Twt twt. What are they? Also skylarks.
No Scots pines yet, incredible for 2 days. It makes you realise how precious they are and what a difference they make to the landscape. Today, going up and over the tops I saw loads of silver birch again growing along the rivers and alder. Rivers and trees, dance and me….
I couldn’t walk into the forest of Glendessary because a particular organisation diverted the path, ha ha! Timber works in progress – dangerous. More like dangerous bog I had to go through instead!
I fell down the steps of the bothy, quite a silly fall. And I’m shit at crossing rivers because my pack is so heavy. It’s slowing me down on the up hills, but I keep a steady rhythm. I’m also wearing 4 season boots that make my feet slower. I’m quite tired walking about 10k, whoops. I’m drinking tea right now sitting on a stone outside the bothy.
It’s so nice to be out here with without cold hands and no midges.
Have we been taught to fear our own hearts or our own judgements and assessments about things, even wisdom?
Laurie Anderson song “Only an expert can deal with the problem”
There are still patches of snow on the mountains. There’s a general picture of patchy snow, white, cold to touch and to reach. There also remains those cold parts left in our own hearts, high up and inaccessible, hard to reach. Would only an expert be able to climb up to the snow and know the conditions in which to deal with it? Would only an expert know how to unravel those cold bits in our hearts through discussion, counselling or prescribed drugs? Would a non-expert like me, who could walk up to the snow and touch it, would she be endangered more? Or would she make sense of it herself? If we walk to those cold hard parts of our own hearts, would we be endangered? Have we been made to fear our own hearts? Or would we unravel and melt them with the help of the evening sunshine and our own will power and strength that got us up there in the first place? And could we ask someone else to walk with us hand in hand and take us there?
I am worried about tomorrow’s walk and camp. I have to walk twice as far as today and the clouds are setting in for tomorrow, I can see that. I haven’t been to Glen Loyne before. Laurie’s “The Lake” I love it!! The child’s darkness letting go…accompanied by ghosts.
I have to keep looking outside to watch the clouds, to watch the land, it’s just an instinct to watch, watch, watch.
I danced today. Thank god no one was around!
Please wake up okay in the morning Matilda, “wake up” Child (Kate Bush)
Sometimes it’s a bit strange to write while I’m feeling anxious. It’s 11pm and the bothy is creaking, rattling and bouncing in the wind. The fire has died out. Tomorrow sounds tough wind- wise out there. Listening to “Not Alone” song,
Hello, it’s my third night and ****** me. I’m only at Loch Quoich because the path I needed to go on today was blocked. I’m glad I found out today and not tomorrow. So I actually walked 15 miles today. I’ve got 17 tomorrow. It’s over the tops; I hope I’ll be okay. Stop it Matilda, you did really well to find this amazing camp spot by the river in the trees. They are all spruce, but still open enough. The birds are singing a happy song. I’ve just seen a bird by the river that looks like a wagtail. And a great tit that landed right near my tent looking for food. I have noticed that birds land really close to me on this trip. Perhaps it’s because I am alone and quiet.
It’s 5.45pm and I have my socks drying close to my tent over the guidelines, it feels cosy. The river walk was hard, lots of tufty boggy grasses I had to clamber over. It rained too, but it was pleasant. I must get up at 6am tomorrow to be able to do this. Can you think of any abstract thoughts or poems? Okay here one goes:
“It doesn’t matter if I had to turn back,
I felt it under-foot, it wasn’t the right track,
Now I have returned to this flowing river,
I’ve found a place to shelter, warming the shiver”
I didn’t see anyone today either. P.s. Remember brown slug eating my nut!
Andrew says in jest “I won’t be your friend if you fail. Don’t darken my doorway with your failure!” Signed by Andrew.
I didn’t see anyone until I met him that night and what a nice sight to see him and be with him and eat nice food. Wow.
Remember the Island with silver birch on the lochan at loch a Brealaich (near camban bothy going to Iron Lodge)
I was too tired to write on the 23rd and 24th so I am writing now. I camped in the most remote and possibly stark place ever. The last few kilometres were on no paths at all through the valley towards Meall a Bhealaich. The mountains around were very foreboding and oppressive, impressive. My little tent did not stand a chance in that conversation!
I’m afraid to carry on now, on my own. I’m just realising the implications of it all. Just heard a screeching sound, like a cat or something getting killed. It sounds silly from home probably Joan, but out here it’s like a horror movie, for a moment, well the heart races even if the mind does not.
The day before at Glen Loyne I know I had a sense of complete vigour and hope and achievement. The trees kept me going, their beauty and serenity. I was worried about going up and over the last col, but then I met a couple out of the blue and they kept my spirits going. I saw a huge fighter -bomber plane come up form nowhere. Meeting the ancient trees with its modern menace.
Now I am back sitting in my tent in the dark valley near Glen Shiel after the screech. It has an exposed feel to it. How can we express exposedness in our performance Joan?
I feel scared tonight. I can barely write how I feel. I think the cat or whatever it was has frightened me and put my mind somewhere silly. Haunting thoughts and odd notions that I am not alone have filtered into it. I have my rocks that my sister gave to me and I have actually kissed them tonight (very hippy!!!). I’m broken up in my rhythm.
I despise talking about mountain gear and referring to my strength in the hills like a soldier. I don’t know what to compare myself with? All I know is that it is a challenge to be out here on my own. I know it’s going to get harder mentally and physically. I just need a wee hug.
I feel like something is going to happen to me on this trip and someone will find this diary and read this and say I knew. Well for you that is reading this, **** that, it’s just a coincidence that something did happen and not a premonition, because anything can happen. Well, I’m glad we got that sorted out!!
I have had a bit of a pain all day with my 4 season boot rubbing on the top of my calf. That’s all I have thought about all day. Sorry!!!
The remotest bothy today. Wow. It’s beautiful. I met 2 guys from Yorkshire way. Hilarious people. I’m tired and going to socialise with them and not write in the diary, sorry Joan! Stop saying sorry will you?? Walking with someone is better for some things, like these two guys are doing, but I think one of them secretly wants to do what I’m doing – to be alone with body and thought.
I’m sitting alone in Bearnais Bothy. Once again alone. It’s just one room with a little fireplace and a bench at the back step to sleep on. I’m on the bench.
This world is filled with so many different minds pulling their rucksacks along with them. It’s not the other way around.
I’ve forgotten today that all I’m carrying is too much and my boots are for winter. That’s because I was told this rubbish information to make me feel shit and today I don’t care about it. I’m still doing it. Who gives a * about my gear? I’m the only one who is on schedule for this walk out of the people I have met. And the only one that takes old-fashioned compass bearings and reads from a map without phones and GPS systems. Hurray! Rant over now!!!
But John and Johnny were great to hang out with. They were so funny and I have really missed humour in my serious life in the last couple of months.
I only walked 10k today, so sluggish and stiff. It feels like my period is ascending on me and with this weight on my back it won’t be smooth.
I can’t think of anything to do with this project Joan. The wind has filtered it out. Wiped all my thoughts and energy away until I am a little husk on the bench with no mind either! Hee! Now I know for sure energy in body and mind are not separate. They are one. I wonder how you are feeling Joan? Is he wiped out today too? Are you with me?
Wow, I slept for 13 hours. I set off at midday and decided to go up and over the tops of the mountains. I met an old fella, Chris, on the mountain and we saw an eagle together, meandering its way up the thermals of the wind. I got down to Gerry’s hostel late, but I had to pay for all his “ food and drink gifts”!! 3 chaps were there too and asked me, to be honest, dull questions. I don’t think they believed I was doing this. I also got Chris worrying about me and came looking for me, even though he was staying in Kinlochewe, miles away and even though we talked on the hill and clearly I had been walking for days on my own without problems! Make your own conclusions from that I say to my friends in my head!!
But I was sooo elated and inspired on the tops. I don’t think I have been so elated Joan in all my life. That day was my favourite of all so far.
From Glen Loyne, well at Glen Loyne they were magnificent and wondrous, old and ancient in their memories. But there was nothing from Cluanie Inn all the way to Maol Bhuidhe bothy, apart from some silver birch, a little rowan and willow. Going down to Achnashallach there were loads. Amazing place. The best for trees. They spoke sounds I know it!
Remember the “keep out vole colony” sign (and little picture!) Very sweet.
I think it must have sucked out all my energy emotionally and physically because things have gone downhill, and not geographically! I had to ring you up, but I feel as though I asked so much emotion from you that morning Joan, like we were together in a way, but not. I thought of Mike and missed him dearly that it hurt. He said he was a different person with new objectives and I don’t know what that means. It has ruined my day today, get the violins out!!
I met a lovely older couple near Kinlochewe and they knew Robert McFall and some of the Edinburgh gang. The woman especially was brilliant and she told me stories about her past. She says that people do not notice her as much now she is older. They treat her as though she is stupid with less respect. What have we done to our older people in this society?
I decided to stock up on food from the shop and collect my fuel. I met one of the teachers there and gave her my antler. I thought, shall I go to the pub or not? I was just about to go and John and Johnny walked in. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them. They are a team. John is open and non argumentative and fun, interesting. He will be a good friend for a long time I hope. I walked to loch Maree with a bounce in my stride and was glad of their evening company. I now know I have companions nearby throughout this trip.
I drew pictures all night, silly pictures I knew that john would like to have after the trip. It made me childlike and happy.
A serenity and beautiful walk that landed me in the most beautiful camp spot yet. Right down by a bay near the water with goats and ants! The thoughts in my mind have turned to peace and my body is now merging in with the sounds and life of this wilderness. I’m getting used to the imagery and sounds that are unexpected, but I am no longer in fear of them on my own.
All it was today was walk, walk, walk. I took step-by-step moments and timed everything, every pace was to be nearer Shenavall bothy. I knew there was a work party there, but I also knew they would welcome me. They did. The women were wonderful. I have met one lady before at the MBA meeting when I showed her my project. She seemed pleased that things were happening for me. Both women said they want to do the Cape Wrath, but neither have done it. Why? Is it expected in our society that the men can go on these long trips away from work and the women still have different priorities in life? Is it still that old fashioned? Surely not? Because I can see that these women would be perfectly capable of doing this too, even more so than me, but they just haven’t…yet! But maybe I haven’t met the women who have done this, please contact? I don’t want to be assuming and putting us down and stereotyping, that would mean I am exasperating this idea.
I’m here with you. I’m battered and I need you and feel needy. All I can do is cry and be irritated at others and their comments. I want to connect with you more, but words can’t do it. I walked out with you and still felt the pressure of the walk ahead. But I could talk to you about your life somehow and took that with me up Ben More Assynt when I had to turn back in the mist and dangerous ridge.
2nd & 3rd
The long and winding track up to Ben More Lodge. Plod, plod, plod and nothing else to keep me going apart from music and the notion that John and Johnny were behind me walking too, somewhere out there.
I didn’t write anything else in the diary after my scary time on Ben More Assynt. I don’t know why. I think I may have texted you more or wanted to leave it be. I had to turn around and lose a day and it felt wrong to write it our in the diary. I think I got tired and lazy, well not lazy, but you know!!
There is a lot to talk about what happened inside on the final days. They seemed less remote apart from a couple of nights near ben stack when my tent was leaking. I think that is another reason why I didn’t write anything.
Then I got into talking to Sandy the ghost of the Sandwood Bay Bothy and just enjoying being completely me, alone but so sad it was coming to an end. The last week felt sad all the way. I loved the first week and a half. That was my favourite and almost the most profound and spiritual part of the trip for me. But maybe once we start exploring more in the studio next week, we will discover more about the last week…..I hope so.