In today's issue, an exploration of nature and specifically Dartmoor, from various angles.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. — Lao Tzu
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world — John Muir
Every now and again take a good look at something not made with hands — a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream. There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world — Sidney Lovett
Wonderful how completely everything in wild nature fits into us, as if truly part and parent of us. The sun shines not on us but in us. The river flies not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is out song, our very own, and sings our love. — John Muir
Nature is everything around us and everything in us. I especially like to remind myself that nature does not hurry and I strive to align myself to this principle. When I read the words of others, I am also reminded of the true and complete value of nature and wild places. It’s a real mirror for our souls - and what is a physical outward journey into nature actually becomes a spiritual inward journey. To our very being.
🌳 An Ode to Dartmoor (and other wild spaces)
There have been recent developments with Dartmoor and land owners and wild camping. Whatever your position on the legal aspects one thing is sure and that is the value of wilderness for mental and physical health. With Dartmoor on my doorstep I’m truly grateful for access to this huge open space. It’s been a canvas for adventure for me.
From solo expeditions with a backpack and dream, to a formative team Ten Tors when I was about 16 that probably planted the initial seed of outdoor adventure.
It was the place I went when I had a breakdown at work - I walked alone for hours and got lost and found in the sanctuary of the paths and the granite, and the cold embrace of the icy river Dart. That day was my lowest, and I had a chance encounter with a woman who was a carer for a man in a wheelchair. She was struggling with his wheelchair on the rocky path, struggling enough to cause me to stop and offer help. We shared a brief chat and somehow shared in an unspoken moment of pain. And in a way I can’t articulate offered each other a glimpse of hope. Of humanity. Of the universally shared suffering that is life, and that we’re not alone in this suffering is a cause for hope.
It was where I have taken my kids wild camping, far from the madding crowd, eating sweets and cooking sausages on the stove. Tucking into our sleeping bags to the sound of the rustling wind with their teddies close. Sharing a dawn sunrise with my kids in pyjamas on Hayne Down.
It’s a place of trail runs come rain or shine, and the annual Haytor Heller fell race. Those climbs in that race pushing my legs and lungs to the limits.
It was where I did an overnight backpacking trip with my good friend Tom, catching up on news and sharing a journey together. Transiting from low cloud and poor visibility to the sun and blue sky that met us in Tavy Cleave. At the grassy knoll that was our camp site Tom, a skilled wood carver, whittled a spoon while I dipped in the river. That night we eschewed the tent and slept under the stars instead.
These aren’t just memories. These are my story. My history. And my future. Dartmoor is in a very real way part of me. And while Dartmoor is my open space, I hope you have somewhere similar for your fix, and to write your story.
Dartmoor is a land of primitives. That is, building blocks, for a choose-your-own adventure. You can break it down into the elements - the gorse, the granite, the moss, the cleaves, the tors. But it’s far more than the sum of its parts. It’s a living land. It’s a space for freedom. It’s a canvas for dreams to play out.
Where is your treasured wild space? What does it mean to you?
If you enjoyed this, I have another piece on Dartmoor here, and a video about wild camping with kids below.
😊 Happy places
I keep a list of my happy places. And it’s no surprise that Dartmoor is on that list.
My happy places:
- Sitting in front of an open fire, with a good book
- Sharing a coffee with my wife
- A trail run on Dartmoor
- Cold therapy in a Dartmoor stream
- Meditating or breath work, anywhere
- Listening to great music while doing the washing up
- A back and neck massage
- Sitting in the sun with a coffee and nowhere to go
- A hot bath and a book
- Playing some tunes on the piano or guitar
This list is useful because it anchors me in the pleasure of simple things. I don’t need a grand trip, or a great expense, or significant planning to take a moment to be in the moment.
What’s on your list of happy places?
🏃🏻♂️ Trail running
A little musing on trail running:
I’m running on a rocky path, alone, across the moors. The trail turns steeply downhill and my mind is completely in the present. Focusing on each step. Not looking ahead or behind but fully in the present. There is no room in my mind for pondering the future or reflecting on the past; to do so would invite a misstep or trip. The world, my view, shrinks to focus on the ground in front of my feet - the granite rocks, the short grass, the small shoots of bracken. I’m so in tune with this ground. Dancing. Dancing over the textures. I am part of the terrain. In tune and in touch. Present. Aware and full of awareness.
Running doesn’t define me - but it balances and centres me. It supports me, challenges me, leads to me to discoveries and insights, to calm and contentment. Running is breathing, breathing is life.
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