ONCE in a while I stand still and look around and think: at this precise moment I am truly alive; I am as much a part of this earth as a root raising its knuckle from the turf or a raven perching in a blackthorn; I am here and my world is unfolding beneath my feet and flooding its valleys with cool mist and shadows as the sun sinks behind mountains. That’s how I feel on the summit of Caw . . .
This is a retro post for Because They’re There. It’s a letter from the past featuring a memorable walk and the contemporary events surrounding it . . .
Do you ever gaze through a window at work, observe a blue sky and high streaky clouds, and wish you were out there strolling across mountains with a breeze behind you? That’s what happened to me this morning. Only I was in the engine-room of an aircraft carrier while the engines were being tested, and at mid-morning I clambered up to the flight deck to gaze at Black Combe and the southern Lakeland fells. And I vowed that when the shipyard siren shrieked out at 4.30pm across the roofs of Barrow I would jump in the Mini, hare home to pick up my boots and bag, drive to the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, in the Duddon Valley, and climb Caw to watch the sunset.
I watch the mist well from hollows and creep along ridges, and shadows bleed from gills and northern slopes, and I hear the sounds that people have been hearing for thousands of unremembered years, and I think: I am the same as the first man who stood in this place and watched this same sun go down. There is no difference between him and me.
Colours change and light shifts as they did in Mesolithic times. Up here, in the dying of the day, nothing has altered because the universe remains the same. I may have a Zenit E SLR and a roll of Kodachrome 35mm slide film to record this scene, rather than crude paint mixed from haematite pigments and burnt umber, but my eyes are observing the same timeless sights as that first man observed and my spine is as electrified as his was 5,000 years ago.
On the summit of Caw, as the sun goes down, the past meets the present. There again, it might all be the same thing. I don’t know.
Sunset on Caw, August 1979