My Secret Place

Before the onset of middle age and chronic caution, I often went out exploring the picturesque country lanes and tracks around the market town in North Yorkshire where I lived for ten years.  I would forget my chores, ignoring housework and assignments and set off in my old maroon Volvo 340 with my collie-cross dog, Flossy in the back seat. Sometimes I took a picnic. I would drive around for hours out of curiosity.  This resulted in a few scrapes such as getting stuck in mud, falling into ditches, trapped behind locked gates and lost on the moors. However, it was also the way I discovered wild and beautiful places hidden away off the beaten track. These were my secret places where I would go whenever I needed to recharge my energies.

One of these idyllic spots was by a crumbling stone bridge spanning a fast flowing stream and surrounded by a cluster of trees.

I would stay there all day, reading, dreaming and painting and see no-one at all other than birds, rabbits and the occasional fox. I felt completely relaxed and safe. Solitude to me is safety. My dog would run free, swim in the stream and then shake water all over me and my water colour pictures…often improving them in the process!

There was always a deep undisturbed silence free from the intrusion of traffic or human voices.  In the silence my anxious thoughts would unravel into peace and optimism. I would start to think and see more clearly.

According to the OS Map it was possible to ford the stream at this point but I never had the courage to try. I never found out what lay on the other side of the water or where the track would eventually lead.

 

E1D0131A-009F-405C-AE3A-0F3FFC83E8C5
Photo by the author

Beauty in the Bleak

The Scots language has a perfect word to describe winter in the north highlands.  ‘Dreich’ (pronounced /dri:x/) is an adjective mostly used in relation to the weather.  It translates as bleak, dull, dreary, grey, comfortless, cold, overcast, miserable.  At least four of these conditions must apply for a day to qualify as truly dreich.  The origins of the word come from the Middle English ‘dreig, drih’ in the sense of ‘patient, long-suffering’ and correspond to the Old Norse ‘drjugr’ – enduring and lasting.

Certainly a great deal of endurance is necessary to survive a Scottish winter.  The endless grey skies and lack of light can be depressing.  I find my energy levels dwindle and I just want to hibernate at home, huddled by the fire.  But there’s also a strange beauty in the dreich days, a potential for change. When the mist dissolves and the clouds blow away the light will be brighter than ever.  Who knows what will be revealed.  Something fresh is germinating but we need to be patient.  It is a transition period between the old and the new, a time that can be used for self-reflection and healing.

Here are two of my favourite dreich photographs.  The first shows the section of an old gate leading to an overgrown field.  The second shows the windows of a disused filling station.  As well as the empty shelves you can see the reflection of a minimalist landscape.  If you look really hard you might see me.

 

 

2C0FDE90-EB36-4BA5-97E6-4360BAC9E030
Photo by the author

 

 

CF0E2F1E-D494-44F6-BEC4-4FF47959C4E5
Photo by the author