Ever since the Bog Stomp race which took place in September, the thought of ascending Dunrod hill yet again was a daunting prospect.
I had foolishly engaged the race unprepared, thinking that the light training regimen I went through would be enough. I could not have been more wrong. The first stretch had been gruesome and while the others had sped up the hill in an apparent effortless pace, my clambering had been so excruciatingly slow that when I finally reached the vantage point of the hill where a cairn of stones sits undisturbed, I was utterly spent and I had faltered.
I had eventually managed to reach the finish line, covered with sweat and mud, exhausted, breathless and humbled, my relief being dampened with the realization that I had achieved the last place of the race.
Nonetheless, an inexhaustible desire to conquer this cyclopean mass of earth and rock, molded by the glaciers and worn by the incessant assaults of wind and time, rushed to my mind each time I set my eyes on it, seemingly indomitable, looming over the Greenock Cut Visitor Center. And, each time, I thought I could hear the mocking wind laughing at my presumption.
And so it was that, on a Saturday afternoon of December, after a few hours spent making bird boxes kits, I was sitting, undecided, brooding over whether I would climb the hill or not, while Eileen was finishing her lunch and Briege was engrossed into making red breasted robins with wool pompoms intended for the Christmas Fayre at the Castle Semple Visitor Center.
One part of me, scarred from lack of sleep from the previous night, longed for rest. Another seemed to admonish me for my lack of energy, haranguing me to move into action. And both part, like two opposite war factions, clashed incessantly in an inner strife that blasted my mind.
I had suddenly fallen into an spell of apathy; The same apathy that had almost constrained me, hours earlier, to remain home under the bed covers, wrapped in a sense of illusory, yet delicious security; the same apathy that always left me devoid of any volition, a paralysis of the mind induced by a bottomless gloom. At such moments in time, Dark and stifling thoughts crowded chaotically in my brain and, oblivious of the world around me, I felt like a castaway tossed in the middle of a storm, useless, burdensome and hopeless.
everything seemed dark, obscure, terrible.
Yet, outside the center, above the trees, the loch and the the moor, stretched the cobalt blue of the infinite sky, and the daylight which stroke the branches of ash trees and the evergreen coat of scot pines adjacent to the Greenock Cut, and which poured profusely through the windows had attained a golden-tint quality. Looking at the sky, I suddenly ceased to feel that deep sense of dejection that had gripped my heart. No matter how acute my inner pain was, it seemed, petty, insignificant, compared to the majestic show of Nature which was unusually resplendant on this winter day.
Presently a sense of panic swelled in my breast. A panic induced by the fear that the hours would go on, the daylight would dim and the chance of capturing the scene with my camera would be lost. The fact that it had already happened on too many former occasions and that my weakness had caused those chances to pass without acting on them tormented me.
The more I thought, the more a renewed sense of gloom threatened to engulf me once again and fetter my will to inaction.
Would it be that I had faith in myself, would it be that I would not would not lose myself in a miasma of dark thoughts that infected my mind and dragged me into an emotional roller coaster.
How long did I remain in that state, gnawed by indecision, numbed to raw lethargy? a few seconds, an eternity?
All I know is that I found myself on the steep slope of Dunrod hill, climbing steadily with the help of my birch staff, accompanied by Eileen who had offered to join me in my endeavor.
When we finally reached the ageless cairn adorning the peak on the eastern side of the hill, an ageless pyramidal mound of stones built by anonymous hands, I realized that my exertion from the quick ascent had brought me to a point of calm. The air was particularly warm and, for a moment, I bathed into the bright light of the sun.
I felt as if I was on top of the world, far from the rush of humanity, in a place seemingly uncorrupted by man’s touch, where mother nature retained all its power, all its magic.
The scenery that spread out before my eyes conveyed a sense of peace and serenity. The water of Loch Thom, seemingly frozen into stillness and reflecting the surreal blue of the heavens, like a polished mirror, stretched between Overton road, the waterman’s cottage and the Cornalee’s farm. On the eastward side of the loch, beyond The one lane old Largs road, a coppice of trees lay at the edge of the Gryffe reservoir: sitka spruces, larches douglas firs, birches, beeches and all vegetation life that had been spared from the chainsaw, the conifers evergreen mantle contrasting starkly with the earth tones of the moor around.
A glance to the north brought into view the hulking shape of the Arochar alps, beyond the Clyde, that formed the background of the golden hued grass of the moor. The mountain tops still bore streaks of immaculate white, remnants from the last snowfall. Woods partially covered the hills which rose from the river and where a few habitation could be seen. A few elongated purple clouds had gradually gathered in the pale blue sky, harbingers that the dusk was just a few hours away.
At length, I turned toward the west where the sun illuminated brightly the vegetation on the rolling slopes and it was like an orgy of brown and gold grass dancing in the wind. Further down, Inverkip and the whole valley of the Clyde seemed dormant, drowned in the milky white mist that lingered and gave the scenery an eery aspect. The peaks of Arran island could be glimpsed, piercing through the feathery blanket of vapour. All remained undisturbed but for a fire that a farmer had lighted, whose billowing smoke soared silently.