No sleeping in on Saturday morning.  Instead we collected some people and headed for the hills.  It was a first time for a couple of the collection.  A first introductions with the Mourne Mountains.

We pushed up to a summit at a Goldilocks speed and huddled behind a cairn eating lunch and drinking coffee.  We did not linger long as the wind was gentile yet cold enough to numb our hands and fill us with the urge to move.

It was a truely magical day.  The Mournes were a warm orange and gold.  The hills had a majestic depth in the low winter sun.  One of our friends on this dander spoke of her longing to get out here and away from the city.  She grew up in a very rural area at the foot of the alps, living in belfast fills her with claustrophobia.  It builds up in her, the need to see trees, hear rivers and smell clear air.

“On almost every front, we have begun a turning away from a felt relationship with the natural world.
The blinding of the stars is only one aspect of this retreat from the real. In so many ways, there has been a prising away of life from place, an abstraction of experience into different kinds of touchlessness. We experience, as no historical period has before, disembodiment and dematerialisation. The almost infinite connectivity of the technological world, for all the benefits that it has brought, has exacted a toll in the coin of contact. We have in many ways forgotten what the world feels like. And so new maladies of the soul have emerged, unhappinesses which are complicated products of the distance we have set between ourselves and the world. We have come increasingly to forget that our minds are shaped by the bodily experience of being in the world – its spaces, textures, sounds, smells and habits – as well as by genetic traits we inherit and ideologies we absorb. A constant and formidably defining exchange occurs between the physical forms of the world around us, and the cast of our inner world of imagination. The feel of a hot dry wind on the face, the smell of distant rain carried as a scent stream in the air, the touch of a bird’s sharp foot on one’s outstretched palm: such encounters shape our beings and our imaginations in ways which are beyond analysis, but also beyond doubt. There is something uncomplicatedly true in the sensation of laying hands upon sun-warmed rock, or watching a dense mutating flock of birds, or seeing snow fall irrefutably upon one’s upturned palm.”

From “The Wild Places” winner of the Banff Mountain Book Festival.