Posted by: leafvigurs | April 12, 2012

The House of Stone. Part 2

I have always found mountains to be magical places. They are spaces like no other, and they change with the weather and the time. Today the sky was painted with a thick curtain of cloud that hung overhead, and the air was cool in the breeze. Following the path behind the cottage takes you through the last strip of pinewood, before the land begins to rise through the thinning treeline. The dark green evergreens give way to birch and hawthorn scattered in an increasingly rocky panorama, as lichen encrusted stone begins to push through the now boggy ground. Life clings to every surface and also to itself, and a sudden change of focus reveals a landscape in miniature. A Lilliputian forest of mosses and lichens carpets the ground so thickly whole worlds are hidden. If not another step was taken there would still not be time to fully explore here.

The first time I walked up Cadair Idris it was a beautiful mystery. The path fades out somewhere between the bog and the first ridge and the landscape disappears into the distance. Endless never quite repeating  patterns  of twisted trees and rocks seem to offer no bearings. It took a few more visits before I started to recognize identifiable features. A bank of broken trees to the right of the bog leads to the first folds of stone to emerge from the earth. They grow to form the backbone of the mountain. Stone walls crisscross in all directions,  yet once  familiar they pinpoint you in space.

A line of a fenced wall leads upwards, while the coarse grass conceals patches of almost black marsh that suck at your feet. Here and there clumps of heather punctuate the hillside, their purples and lilacs perfectly complementing the pale turf.

Though the ground rises it also obscures a deep crack. Carved into the soft earth by a thin stream of tumbling water, a fissure forms its own micro-climate. Climbing down into this secret space I am abruptly aware of its silence, no wind penetrates here. Permanently damp walls are daubed with yet more species of mosses and lichens, somehow finding enough light in the shadow to survive. The crack continues to descend into the depths of a pool of crystal clear water, before vanishing into a rich terracotta sediment.

Emerging from this subterranean world it is the wind that I notice first. Although not strong  it is pervasive, and full of a playful energy that dances in invisible eddies. It murmurs through grass and over rock, and whispers through trees. I am reminded that though unseen the air is as much a part of the landscape as the mountain. We place so much importance in that which is substantial, visible and quantifiable, yet solidity itself is defined by emptiness.

I love the mountain. I feel small here. In its great lifetime it will not even notice me, while I am in awe at its beauty. I have been here under brilliant blue skies and baking sun, and I have come back in the rain and walked in the swirling clouds. Sometimes I have slid over frozen bog, and I have clung to boulders buffeted by winds as they race over the summit. There is no bad weather, it is always perfect.

Today the cloud remained low and a brooding Payne’s grey. Its shadow desaturated the land of colour, so when the sun began to break through its cover the sudden brightness was startling. Where sunlight hits the adjacent hillside the grass is a bright ochre.

I am reminded of a book I once read by a scientist who studied both consciousness and zen. Gazing on some yellow winter jasmine, she asked herself, where in fact did the colour yellow actually exist? It cannot be said to exist in the flower petals, which will appear to be a different colour when viewed with a different kind of eye, for instance that of the bee. Yet it cannot be found in the head either. Different wavelengths of light hit the back of the eye, and ultimately cause some nerve cells to fire more than others. This means yellow, but where is that yellow? My not knowing makes me smile.

Here and now it does not matter. The mountain is beautiful and we are happy to be here. There is no rush, and there is nothing to achieve. As the sun begins to dip we turn and start to head back to the cottage. We follow the water as it percolates downhill, and I become absorbed in the sensation of walking. The rhythm of footfall changes with the terrain, as rock becomes heath, becomes marsh, becomes woodland. Breath, heart-rate, balance, stride, speed… All are constantly changing, adjusting and fine tuning. In fact walking is an infinitely complicated action which we can do without thinking about. Yet consciously enjoyed it is amazing.

Returning to the Dref Gerrig is like coming home.  I have always felt a great feeling of freedom and peace on the mountain. Sharing this experience with others is a great pleasure and I feel tremendously fortunate to be able to do so. Each time is different, and there is still mystery here.  Dref Gerrig is my bridge to that place, and my home while I am there.


  1. Writing evocative of every moment I have spent in some wild and waiting place. A sense of everness a sort of eternal stillness but also pulsating with expectant life. I loved it. Keep writing.

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