Long Walk, Big Thoughts
We have been getting such wonderful weather here in Scotland recently. Certainly not the seasonal wind and rain we are used to in February! Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the wide open blue skies and go for a walk. We decided on a place about 14 miles north of Calander, called Kirkton Glen. We parked the car at the kirk in Balquhidder, and had a wander around the ancient graveyard, where the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy and his family are buried.
Extremely old graveyards, such as this one, hold a certain morbid fascination for me. The headstones at varying degrees, the encroaching lichens, the crumbled ruins of the original kirk all speak of a history, of a tradition, of a culture which spans centuries. With thoughts concerning my own mortality, and my own insignificant position within the time line of my nation’s history, we wandered up into the hillfoot forests of the Balqhidder Braes.
Here we encountered another kind of history altogether, where time moves at a different speed from that of human lifetime. Huge trees towered over our heads, their trunks broad, and their thick roots sunk deep into the leaf carpeted forest floor. Some of these trees began their lives in a time when my great grandparents played carefree games of hopscotch and skipping, their young limbs moving with the graceful ease of youth. These trees are still reaching for the sky, while my great grandparents only exist as fond memories recounted to my children by their great grandparents.
These feelings of impermanence were then compounded when we left the path, and came across a ruined village of around 10 houses. Not one of the structures were built up passed a height of 4ft; the stones which once protected from the elements now lay strewn across the land, and the forest had moved back in to claim its own. Trees grew where once were hearths. Moss lay thick along the windowsills. Brambles with their sharp thorns entwined en masse to obscure doorways. Implements lay abandoned and rusting. And a haunting silence pervaded the scene, broken only by occasional birdsong.
I came away from the folk hero’s grave, the ancient trees and the dilapidated village with a renewed sense of just how brief our time on earth is, and how important it is that we try and relish every moment of our existence here. I was reminded of that Edna St Vincent Millay poem, First Fig:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and o, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
As we neared the end of our walk, I stopped and looked back over my shoulder, and saw a sight which has graced Kirkton Glen for millenia before it was ever known by that name, and it took my breath away. It made me realise that my life may be brief in the large scheme of things, but if it’s filled with sights and experiences such as those I had yesterday, I know that it will have been a life well lived.
Have you found yourself having thoughts such as these? What inspired them and where were you at the time?
PS If you want to see more pics from the walk, you can see a Flickr Set of them here.