“Everything keeps changing, nothing ever stays the same” as some wise old lyricist once said. Couldn’t have put it better myself. The older I get, the more I realise just how true that is. Nothing is ever the same, from moment to moment, let alone over longer spans of time.
We may think our home environment stays the same, but it’s the very changing of that environment which makes it so exciting for us. The changing seasons, the changing wildlife, the changing weather, the changing human habitation, they all make for variation and change, however subtle.
The woods where we walk the dogs in the morning may, initially, be regarded as “the same” but it only takes a moment to consider all the variables which transform them. Only a couple of weeks ago, the ground was parched, the burn had dried up completely and the foliage had started to wither in the heat. This morning, it was a damp picture, droplets hanging from every leaf, moisture oozing from every crevice and the ferns, mosses, brackens and bushes glowing with vibrant colour, nourished by the rain.
Only a couple of days ago, we’d noticed a wee mushroom growing out of tree roots in the middle of the path, a delicate fungi battling for survival. This morning, it was transformed, several times the size in only a few days.
And so it is with all things in life.
If ever we find ourselves in a happy situation, satisfied with all that life is offering us, we often find ourselves thinking “I hope everything stays just as it is now”. And yet the one thing we can be sure about is that it won’t.
All of which can lead to only one conclusion....if we seek constant happiness in our lives, then we must be able to adapt to change, embrace the positive aspects and roll with the punches. And this, to my mind, suggests that we should never take an entrenched position on anything, because the circumstances which lead us to have a certain opinion will surely change and that may mean our opinion has to change.
And why is all this relevant? Well, purely and simply because it applies to everything in my life right now. It’s very much a period of change. I struggle sometimes when I’m not in control of a situation and that’s certainly the case right now.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve always enjoyed solo running? I feel in control of my own destiny and I can take things at my own pace, follow my own route and do what I wish. The essential compromise of being part of a group has never really appealed to me.
And, at this moment, that’s very much where my running is at. I’ve not been to club for a good while, I’ve managed to duck out of races I’d entered and I’ve headed off on solo jaunts (or rather, I’ve headed off with Sam the Dog) when I’ve felt like it (or when Sammy rolls those puppy-dog eyes at me!) with no set agenda, sometimes putting in big efforts, sometimes walking more than running.
And the truth is, I feel happier about my running than I have for a good while. I’ll always love the feeling of moving fast over rough terrain and, on those days when it all comes together and feels natural, I’ll continue to do that. Otherwise, I can now feel no pressure on days when I don’t feel so good. In the past, I may have “forced” the run, head down, missing all the glorious views and nature around me, all for the sake of “training”. Now, I’ll just as happily walk for a while and have a lovely time, knowing I’ll run another day.
And will I race again? At the moment, the answer is probably no. I’ve got so much to explore here and I love this quiet area of the Highlands so much, why would I spend all my time travelling off to far-flung places to follow a couple of hundred other people around busy hills? I’ll plan to do the local club winter league races, because they’re small, local and good bit of fun. But who knows if that will change?
At this time, I’m also enjoying my cycling every bit as much as my running. Getting the road bike has been a revelation (thanks Dad!!). From the moment I sat on it and felt the acceleration as I headed up the road, I’ve been hooked. This is NOT a mountain bike!
I’d never ridden a road bike before and it’s certainly taken some getting used to. I’ve never been that confident on a bike, so even simple things like taking a drink while riding have had to be worked on. Perhaps that’s part of the attraction, it’s something new and exciting, with plenty to learn.
But I know it is more than that. As with when I started fellrunning, I’m loving the distances that can be covered in relatively short spaces of time. Whereas a 90 minute run may cover 9 or 10 miles (depending on terrain), I can happily cover 25 miles on the single-track coast road down to Corran, taking in all the wonderful sights along the way.
For a wee while, I thought I might be getting hooked into being competitive on the bike. There’s a regular time trial held by West Highland Wheelers, and I’ve contemplated going. I may still, for the novelty. But, again, at this time, I’m enjoying the freedom of going out and listening to my body and mind in determining how hard I want to push myself on any given day.
The other factor is whether to go out and ride with a group. It seems everyone does it, and I am partly attracted to it, if nothing else, for the opportunity to learn from people with experience and knowledge. But, at the same time, I’ve read a few accounts of group rides, which seem to consist of doing nothing but focussing on the back tyre in front of you, responding to shouts of “pothole” etc and trying not to break ranks. That sounds about as appealing as plodding up a hill in an endless line of runners, only able to see the back of the shorts of the person in front. Why would you?
So what else is changing? (Why, everything, of course!). What has me contemplating and navel-gazing on the nature of life?
Well quite a lot really, much to make me contemplative.
Firstly, after over 20 years of owning my house in Shropshire, it’s now getting pretty close to being at an end. The sale has dragged on and on, but finally I have a completion date and a buyer who’s really keen to get in there.
So, a couple of weekends ago, I headed down to clear the house and help my lad move into his new place. Both were events which had me in reflective mood. Moving your “child” into his first place of his own is one of those events which drives home the message that they’re growing up and the ties that bind you need to be loosened a little bit more. It seems like only yesterday that he was a wee lad needing my every care and attention. The years have flown by, in merely the blink of an eye, and now I find myself proud of a lad who has taken on the task of finding himself somewhere with great enthusiasm and responsibility. Another milestone on the way through both of our lives.
As for clearing the old place, it was strange to be back there now, spending a couple of nights on my own in a near-empty shell. Memories can’t help but bombard you, both good and bad, times of happiness, times of stress and difficulty. Some of those memories have perhaps been buried over time, but naturally re-surface at such a time. There’s nowt wrong with that. Life moves on, everything changes, and they can perhaps be looked at in a different light and laid to rest.
Despite the memories, I felt nothing for the house any more. It’s tired and lifeless, and I’m probably more excited by the fact that someone is coming in who plans to breathe new life into it. It’s not where I choose to be any longer, but it was a major part of my life and, in particular, where I brought up my lad. It’s nice to think someone new may get to forge similar memories.
I also spent a fair bit of time up in the loft, reaching into far flung corners to retrieve boxes, some of which hadn’t been opened for 20 years, since the move to the house. That was perhaps even more bizarre, partly unsettling but ultimately life-affirming – a glimpse back into who I was in my mid-20s, a very different person to who I am now, leading a very different life.
Sometimes, you perhaps need to come face to face with your previous self, to allow you to recognise those factors which might have held you back then, but which shouldn’t be allowed to hold you back as you move forward. Back in those days, my true wishes and desires for life were suppressed in favour of the “norm”, a cosy little life which was always destined to failure – you can only keep your true self hidden for so long. Lessons were learned, threats noted, skeletons placed firmly back in closets, upturned stones replaced and, several trips to the tip later, goodbyes to an old life were waved.
Next up will be another house move! We’ve moved a few times these past few years. We’re masters at it! But I don’t think either of us relishes the prospect of boxing up our lives again, although we’re both excited by the move.
As soon as we came to this place, we fell in love with it. It’s quiet, beautiful and the addition of the sea loch to beautiful mountains in every direction has really entranced us. We’d only been here a couple of months before we started to talk about staying. The more we settled in, the more we loved it and we talked about buying the current place off our landlady.
And then a house came up for sale 2 miles down the road. Perched up on the hill well above the road, with views down to Loch Eil and across to Gulvain through Fassfern at the front, and views from the back straight up “our” path onto Stob Choire a Chearcaill, we fell in love with it at once. A cheeky offer was submitted....and refused! But a bit of negotiation has secured us the place at a more than reasonable price, for what and where it is. The plan is this will be our last house move (but, as we know, everything can change!). We can’t wait to be in and should be by the end of September. More change, but very positive!
All of which leads to perhaps the biggest change – both in terms of our lives and in terms of changing my mind on something I once held a fixed position on.
This is a wonderful place to live, almost a step back in time. People over here are not concerned with celebrity lifestyles, shops and consumerism. They’re far too busy enjoying the simple things in life, be that walking by the water and on the hills, sailing on the loch, tending to gardens and crofts, keeping chickens, chopping wood for their fires and just generally dealing with the true necessities of life.
It’s a wonderful place for a youngster to grow up. A place where playing could still involve the innocence of tree houses and discovering plants, shells, birds and animals in the undergrowth. A place where it’s safe to be out and you know that someone in the community will be looking out for them, where the neighbour might encourage them to come and help collect the eggs from the chickens, the mobile library might bring new treasures each week and the non-stop march of technology may just be held enough at bay for now. A place where a child can be a child, something sadly missing these days.
Life will change enormously and, certainly, a year or so ago, I would never have planned it. But I’ve changed too (of course!). I’m looking forward to the ups, the downs, the pleasure, the worry and the knowledge that, in my more “mature” years, I’ll be able to enjoy it even more, adapting to those changes.
I’m not the person I was and I’m not the person I will be, but the person I am right now is very happy and is thoroughly looking forward to the future.