Looking Out Across the Valley

On a cool morning, the view across the valley of the Clyde river in the Lanark highlands is a wonderful place to be. First Cassie, then Spencer and I walked these pine clad coves and hills and valleys for years, and there was something astonishing to witness every time we did: an owl peering at us from the shadows, deer and wild turkeys grazing at dawn, hidden groves of gently nodding bloodroot in late April and early May, wild orchids in June. In an early autumn fog, the view out across the valley is the pure, distilled essence of enchantment and wildness, absolutely breathtaking, and it delineates the lovely folkloric expression "over the hills and far away", better than anything else I can think of of offhand.

This year, it is Beau and I who are rambling these hills together, at least physically. Cassie and Spencer have traveled beyond the fields we know, but they are here in spirit, and they are dancing along beside us.  They have always loved our walks, and they have always loved this place.

In springtime, there are wild orchids blooming under the trees, early lilies and columbines nodding on the sunlit hills; choirs of grosbeaks in summer, endless groves of fiery maples, coppery beeches and golden oaks in autumn, deep stands of fragrant blue-green pine and spruce in winter. The long white season has its own windswept wonders, but it is difficult to partake of them at times when the snow is too deep for easy walking, even on snowshoes. Off we went anyway, etching lines across the pristine waves, billows and endless snow dunes stretching into the distance. Now we are five (Himself and I, Cassie, Spencer and Beau), but two of us no longer leave paw prints in the white stuff.

What does one do when grief and sadness wash over her like an inexorable tide and threaten to drown her in their ceaseless motion? What does she do when she is unable for some reason or other to traverse her chosen places, her forests of the heart? The answer is simple. She cultivates forbearance. She thinks of other times spent in them, remembers clan and tribe and the companions who were once there with her and have traveled on ahead - she gives thanks for the priceless gift of having known and loved them all very much.

Forbear and forbearance are lovely words. They spring from the Middle English forberen, thence from the Old English forberan, both meaning to endure or to get through something, and to do so with grace and dignity. When we cultivate forbearance, we are exercising tolerance, patience and restraint in adverse circumstances and times of provocation — we are treating our companions on this circular earthly journey (and ourselves too) with mindfulness, compassion, respect and forgiveness.

One of these days, my gratitude in having known and loved those who have traveled on ahead will overtake the pain of losing them. In the interim, I just breathe in and out and wait for it to happen, knowing beyond the shadow of any doubt that in some measure, I will  be walking these hallowed hills forever, and that my companions will be here too and walking along with me. A fine untrammeled wildness dwells in my blood and bones.

July 2017