I pushed through the Black Mountains, rain stinging my face and wind knocking me sideways, walking a colossal, for me, 16 miles in a single day. It was either walk that far and risk the incapacitating pain or be forced to camp up on a high hill ridge, no shelter from the winds ripping at my tent. I knew there was a barn ahead, tucked down into the cleft of the beginning of the valley and I strode ahead, picking through paths running with water, only arriving at the sweet smelling quiet of the barn after darkness fell.
I arrived at the summit of the first peak after a few hours of slow stepping, pulling up a steep grassy slope, the rocky clambers of North Wales a dream away. Needing a rest, I ducked down into a rocky nest, an almost complete circle of stones, built up by fellow Gortexed adventurers to shelter from the wind. "It's you!" said a tall, grizzled man in a blue anorak. It turned out we'd been overtaking each other for almost a week; he'd greatly enjoyed a tin of gin & tonic I'd left in the Claerddu bothy and then heard my story from the woman in Strata Florida. The warden in Tyn Cornel had told me about a man walking the Cambrian Way ahead of me. It seemed natural that we would walk together and we strolled away, talking. He was searching; I recognise that in people sometimes. There is a sense I have of people who need to unburden themselves, who carry hidden pain that can be brought out, flooding from within.
I came over the first of the southern mountains following a windy night in a rescue shelter, curled into the shoulder of a mountain alongside a dingy lake, tainted by rusting, disused machinery. Three sheep munched disconsolately at the greening edges of the low water, I kept peeping out at them from my stone shelter, the wind booming at the roof. I expected expressions of discomfort, half shut eyes perhaps or bodies huddling together, leaning against walls. There was nothing, these steadfast animals lay relaxed on the cropped grass, streaks of mist blowing between them, content, as if the sun was shining.
It's hard to say how this walk is changing me, I don't always know that I feel different.
As I come down from the hills, where I have spent all day among the sky and the waving yellow grasses, it's difficult to pack myself back into my body. When I join a group of people and am required to talk in turn as part of the interaction called conversation, what to do doesn't come naturally, I have to think about being appropriate, taking turns, not interrupting. It's as if I have to stop the spontaneity of being outside, the feeling that I can sit wherever I want, at any time, do whatever I want, go wherever. I spend all day not thinking about anyone but myself.
It's also more than that, it's as if my spirit is taking up too much space.
I spend so much time walking alone in wild places it is as if I become part of it. I say hello to the sheep to warn them of my presence, I don't want to startle them at the last minute, causing them to run headlong, as fast as possible, even crashing into bushes or clumps of grass in their fear to get away. When I spend all day with the sky, the hills and the grasses my Self grows to the size of the landscape. The wind blows through me, taking my senses with it, whirling my mind outwards until I am bigger than my body, breathless.