The light was fading from the baby blue sky and the stars just trying to peep out from their cloudy blankets. My footsteps pattered along the forest track as I started my dusk run. The water on the puddles streaked with tendrils of ice spreading across the fragile surface. Forest looming ahead beckoning us into its dank realms, silence and stillness offering tranquillity after a hard day. Huge oaks standing sentinel to every passing day, dry leaves scattered on the forest floor and towering over smaller rowans and hollies, their berries long gobbled up by hungry birds.
The trail veered off into the dark wood now, the battle now won by the silver moon, her shine lighting my way like the dipped beam of a following car. Each turn presented shades of grey and mercury, shining boulders of ancient rocks and icy ditches now hard, their waters condemned to a night of iron capture.
My hound’s ears prick, a roe deer silhouetted on the skyline against the velvety amphitheatre of navy sky. This seemingly fragile woodland creature stands still and alert, I call my deerhound back, no chase tonight, This creature’s struggle will be with nature tonight, no natural predators to stalk her, all she needs is a dry bed of leaves or grass deep within the forest to nestle for the night and resume her scant feeding in the morning as the sun returns to light her way. She bounds off into her realm, her small form blending into the forest and her steps barely heard. We head down the hillside, the views of loch and distinct islands spread before us as promises of another day, woods to explore, hills to climb and lochs to journey over.
Our footsteps crunch now on the thin quilt of snow lying on the trail, the temperature falling. Stars now twinkle defining their mysteries for us to wonder at and setting the scene in our northern skies. Wisps of cloud streak the canopy over us and my eyes vainly try to detect any greenish swards hinting at the northern lights occasionally seen here but not tonight.
We break out the forest and onto open land, the dry grass soft underfoot as we clamber over stumps and branches. Our evening adventure continues as we follow the narrow trails of foraging deer, their droppings glistening in the moonlight, close by then, perhaps watching us passing through their territory.
As the trail disappears again into the woodland, a beautiful snowy owl lofts from the trees like a piece of the snow bank breaking off and sails past us, silent and wonderful. The burn on our right distinguished only by its mumbling waters tumbling over rocks and cascading down into hidden gorges, its waters never ending and flowing icy from the hills, high where its origins lie locked into winter. I stumble over old stumps like wooden tables for the wee folks and I wonder if I should light the torch. However it feels wrong to break this natural scene with artificial, battery powered light. I decide to take my chances in the moonlight and allow my eyes to accustom to its more subtle shades.
A bright beam penetrates our scene, a timber forwarder working late in the woods growls its way over the land harvesting its crop, the land, providing work for local people, a product to sell and income to be made, an economy to be generated. I forgive its necessary intrusion and run on. The other lights distinguishable on the loch below from salmon farming cages again growing their crop and yielding produce from our cold and clean Atlantic waters.
The forest of pines and spruces give way now to woodland of beeches and rowans, their softer silhouettes marking the way back to our home, the track hard underfoot now, puddles solid and my breath visible as plumes ahead. Returning from the wild, wilderness being a perception, depending on location, time, season and experience, the beams of car headlights and reflective road signs herald civilisation.
A short adventure into the wild, I return refreshed, nature having cleansed and teased out the stresses of the day, invigorated and energised – just in time for a good nights sleep!
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