Friday, 17 February 2017

Chasing The Sun To The Dwelling Of God On Eryri's Highest Peak

48. The Stars: Take inspiration from a night sky.

The 48th prompt is convenient.  It ties in with something said to me during a writers' workshop this morning.  I mentioned the experience I've written about here and it was suggested I could write about it.  It's not the only thing to come out of the workshop today.  There's a story to write - possibly even as a play if I can attempt a play eventually.  I've not written a play since I wrote something incredibly awful when I was about eight.  Perhaps it wasn't awful for an eight year old!  More than that, I free wrote another story which people there want me to submit to places and see if it can be published.  I have never submitted anything for possible publication before.  Someone was quite surprised I'd just written it - very, very quickly - during the workshop.  She said is was "bloody brilliant."  Direct quote.

Last night I had the worst panic attack I've had in a long while.  It was awful.  Lots of noises, tears, hyperventilation, and inside it was bad, bad, bad.  Briefly I wanted to stop.  To give up.  This morning it was only brute force of determination that got me out of the house.  Only force of will that got me to the workshop.  And even when I got into the cafe where it takes place I nearly turned round on seeing there were people there and I would have to cope with them.  But I am very glad indeed to have walked in and taken my place among them.  It's a safe space.  Supportive.  And in the writing we all just lift one another.  All criticism is constructive and all writing is encouraged.

It goes to show:  The worst of moments is just a moment.  The sun sets.  It rises again.  Every day.

Note.  This experience took place long before anyone was carrying mobile phones up Snowdon, and long before they would have got a signal from the summit.  You can get a signal now.  I once phoned my wife at work and asked her to phone our child's school to say I might be slightly late picking her up because I had gone for a short walk and accidentally climbed Snowdon.  As you do.

The photos below were taken when I was seven years old, the first time I walked up Snowdon, recovering from mumps at the time.  Looking at the photos of that day I find one thing to be true:  My parents' recollection of the cloud that day was highly exaggerated.  Looking at the photos I am amazed to discover that there was a good view through the clouds.

Looking to Snowdon's summit from the Pyg Track

We arrived on that summit, we three, weary.  We had chased the sun as it fell.  Hoped to catch it on the mountain top, then release it to fall away beyond distant peaks.  From the small hostel in the pass we walked full stride, almost running to stand still against the heat of the shining disc as it sank away.  My legs protested but more so my lungs, unused to such a feat of endurance.  Led by that strange figure in his broken boots I looked at my own and wished they might become winged or enchanted with hundred league strides.  Heart pumped beyond the danger zone.  Lungs strained further than I believed they could.

And I followed.  Along a path I'd followed only once before, a small child trusting his parents to know the way as the clouds gathered, stealing the light in unseasonal cold intensity.  That day we had time to stop, see, surrender ourselves to beauty.  Above the lake we dined, a feast carried from our vehicle on the track below.  We smiled at the simplicity of our walk that day.  Smiled as we looked ahead to the summit, believed it close.   We made it and saw one small corner of the world spread before us, excitedly pointed to the lakes, towards where we knew the settlements of Gelert and Peris hid under the horizon hills.  Then the clouds closed upon us, casting their curtain on all we surveyed.

Yes, I followed the broken booted man, the frightening friend, fighting to keep up as his pace increased and the sun announced that we would not see her again.  I wanted to stop, breathe, cough up the bloody taste and lie on the earth, letting rock and grass swallow me into their elemental embrace.  I wanted more to continue, to witness the double, triple sunset, to reach the summit and sound my triumphant yawp so loud it would resonate across Wales and wake the fallen Bards to collaborate on a greater song.  Most of all I was proud.  I did not want to exhibit weakness, display the truth that I was less able than my companions.

Me.  Seven years old.

We had walked together all day, making the most of a December sun, a clear sky, and unexpected warmth.  From an unknown point Ogwen's lake we had meandered, crossing frozen pools, laughing and singing.  We three alone in the wilds, unheard by men, only by the goddesses and spirits of the mountains, the deities of streams and cataracts, the djinn who dwelt under the scree face.  We headed into a guided gully, clambered, scrambled over fallen rocks, up the cliffs and reached Tryfan's ridge.

Later we encountered our first parents, Adam and Eve and bowed before them as they watched the seasons of Ogwen, oblivious to their first fault and the sin they brought to our world.  I climbed on Adam's head.  There was no cry of complaint.  Jumped to the head of Eve and she too remained silent.  No word was heard but I know, had I slipped, they would not have made a move to catch me before I fell to death.  I knew the death fall was their path.  It was not mine.  Not then.  Maybe they had touched me after all for seventy and seven days later I encountered the Second Adam and bowed before him too, willingly placing my head under his feet and pledging never to stand again.  Under his magnificence I forgot how to walk, unlearned my childlike running.

We three turned from our parents, pressed forward until we climbed the ridge of bristles, leaving the safety of its gully and hauling ourselves up the cliff face to reach another summit, still a third, large and small, the sisters Glydderau, wild witches both, not to be laughed at.  We ran from the witches, fast, fast, bare chested in the heat, cheering our own escape.  And so we three, the strange booted man, his beloved disciple, and I, arrived at that hostel.  They looked as though they had not begun to walk.  I looked the child of exhaustion.

Me and my brother. On the ascent.

The booted prophet spoke simple words.  Even I could understand the terms of the prophet.  "The sun will set on the summit ahead in one hour.  No more, no less.  Let us set forth, quicken our pace and witness the last embers of the Eryri day.  Come my loves and we shall be blessed."

As the route grew steeper we left path behind and set our faces to the face of the mountain.  I was left behind.  Could not keep the pace and the two walked away from the one.  I reached the summit but the sun had gone, the sky reddening, darkening to night.

We stood.  Three people.  Silent on Yr Wyddfa's peak.  Alone with each other.  Alone with the alone.  Watching as the colours flattened into grey and far to black.  As the influence of the great ruler of day waned, so we felt the imposition of the rule of the great light of night, Luna herself, full flown, grown bright above; daring to share space with a thousand lesser lights and the lives of the myth men.

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.

Ten years previous, mother and child stood on the same spot.  Now, only the child remained, wonderstruck by all he witnessed.  If ever there was a night called holy, this was it.  And the silence, O the silence.  Lit up the world more perfectly than the lightning revelation.  Silence ruled and in that silence the child was reborn and grew, until murdered again by the discordant noise of civilisation.

We wished to stay we three.  Wished further that we could.  If we had known at daybreak what we knew at day's end we would have spent that December night nestled in concord close to heaven.  We couldn't stay.  We had no food.  No makeshift shelter, no bag to keep us warm.  And friends below awaited our coming.  To stay on Yr Wyddfa's pinnacle would be to inconvenience a hundred men, called upon to find us.  To stay would have brought a night of tears and the breaking both of friendships and promises.

So in darkness, in sadness, we turned from our solitude, our unity with creation, and set our path down the mountain trusting our steps to the moonlight.  As we descended we laughed together, fully aware we had experienced Godhead on the mountain top.  We had found Mount Zion where, it is said by some, God dwells in perpetual peace.

We believed such an experience would bind us together for all time.  How could it not?  I don't know.  Maybe you can say how three enlightened beings lost each other.  Maybe you can say too how they spurned enlightenment as soon as they reached the settlement of Peris.  Maybe you can say how they immediately set their hearts and minds back upon the earth.

I know the answer.  It's because, in the rapidly cooling night of December in Snowdonia, they could not resist something that has proved the downfall of many a potential Saint:

They bought ice creams!

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