Monologue on a mountain Aug09

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Monologue on a mountain

When we got out it was cold and dreary and I began to regret my choice of undergarments like Prince Harry in Blackadder had as he prepared to watch his brother Edmund burn to death. Soon enough I got into it. As long as I was moving I hardly noticed the wind. The mountain seemed insurmountable though, covered in mist and wet-looking. Luckily though, as we reached the top, the clouds parted just about us and there appeared a massive swathe of blue that remained for quite a while. The lakes were inspiring; I thought of the Romantic poets as I looked down into first the Devil’s Punchbowl and then Horse’s Valley (?). Words like “vertiginous” and “craggy,” “savage” and “maw” suggested themselves, calling like familiar and welcome visitors from my past.

Now and then my legs threatened to give out and these moments were opportunities to daydream about being a soldier in Afghanistan or Guadal Canal, carrying fifty kilos of gear on my back and thinking about encountering the enemy on the ridge ahead or beyond it. The mind wanders so insistently on the mountain, most especially when I find myself desirous of silence and trying to filter out some conversation between three or four young fellas in which I’ve no wish to engage. Mostly though, it was a case of admiring the beauty up there: the clouds like volcanic smoke rising from little valleys; the way stones were, by myriad forces, strewn in a heap here or flattened out unevenly there; moss-covered remains of fence-posts and green, slippery rocks; the customary cairns, some without any clear purpose: “it just becomes an activity,” Tim complained, as I added to one of them; an amorphous and massive medallion of light on the fieldscape in the distance as we looked toward Killarney; the vein-like trace of the Kerry way down in the distance to our left as we began our descent.

We might have been a battalion of soldiers on the eve of an engagement like that painting that featured on the Christmas cards I sent, something about Hohenzollern. The only sound in those precious, quiet moments was the disturbance of stones underfoot, then, off –path, the whipping of bracken by booted feet. The whole fabric of great sounds peppered with the small: the rustling of a wrapper; the protestation of a boy suddenly and not altogether involuntarily grounded by a comrade; a backpack is thrown down before its owner; the squelch of mud; far-off voices, incoherent; the zing of a gust sliced apart by an old, rickety sheep fence.  I held my water to my ear and heard Wuthering Heights.

R.H.