There are odd moments of time that unexpectedly move you, in places, at times, and ways that wouldn’t have occurred to you.
We had met in Scotland, a family gathered together for an 80th birthday, the middle brother of three, my uncle, and of course the remembrance that both of his brothers were no longer with us is what I would have expected to be emotional.
However, it was whilst looking at the whiskey collection in the pub, that spans nearly seventy years, I learnt that whiskey is fifteen years old when it is bottled. This meant that the 1952 whiskey was grown, harvested and processed before the second world war. I felt incredibly moved by this, here on a shelf sat a direct link to land, farmers and life before the horrors and struggles of war.
Men that harvested the barley would have used scythe, threshing machines, horses and physical strength to gather the grains for the distilleries that run the length of the River Spey. Some of these men may have gone to war and not returned, it was a sobering and moving thought.
My mind turns to the land, our connection over time to the land and the natural world around us. We are thoroughly connected to our environment, in our livelihood, our wellbeing our history and our future.
I’m reading a wonderful book by Nan Shepherd, written during the second world war, The Living Mountain. I chose it because it’s about the essential nature of the Cairngorms and her writing has a beautiful poetic prose, but she also shares with me a feeling of being part of or having a relationship with nature.
She writes; ” This is the river. Water, that strong white stuff, one of the four elemental mysteries, can here be seen at its origins. Like all profound mysteries, it is so simple that it frightens me. It wells from rock, and flows away. For unnumbered years it has welled from the rock, and flowed away. It does nothing, absoloutly nothing, but be itself. “
So it is with thoughts of both the men of whiskey, who’s past can still be reached through the amber liquid, and Nan Shepherds beautifully written account of being “in” the mountains, not on the mountains, that flow through my head as I walk up the muddy path that winds it’s way up through the woods, past the Aberlour Distillery to the Linn falls and my next quick dip into nature.
The walk gives me experiences that I can’t have on Bryher; tall wooded canopy, full of the colours of autumn, the smells of leaf mulch and the sweet malted barley, and the sound of the river as it rushes down the hill over the rocks towards the Spey.
This noise suddenly grows much louder, now a roar that deafens all senses to everything but the falls that now flow before me.
The Linn falls.
Being in the water is an easy way of feeling part of the nature around me, not just walking through it, and so I strip off my clothes with haste and scramble into the golden water over large boulders of slippery rock.
The freezing chill immediately pinches my toes and fingers but it feels wonderful, as cold silk would flow over skin.
The noise of the tumbling water feels intimidating as it thunders against my chest, the pool a dark abyss. Just being in this stunning setting, surrounded by nature is enough to refresh my world. After a brief but exhillerating dip I dry off, knocking mud and stuck leaves from my feet and follow the path back to the town.