Discover more from The Muse Letter
False Starts | Part 1
The Muse Letter No. 132
“If you don’t hear from me after Saturday 4 PM, you’ll need to call a search party.” I’m sitting on the bus to Aviemore, the landscape is slowly changing into rougher, wilder edges. The bus is full of pensioners, heavily discussing how they should have booked the tickets online, as it would have saved them a lot of money. They’re all going up to Inverness for the weekend, the final destination, most of them are French.
It’s early June and the weather finally switched gear into summer. The last time I was on this bus, it was December and everything was covered in snow and white mist. Now I can see bright beige paths, curving all around the sage green hills next to us.
For four years I have been talking about this trip, this place: The Cairngorms. “If you don’t hear from me after Saturday 4 PM, you’ll need to call a search party.” I text my dad as a precaution, which feels quite dramatic, which is why I send it to my dad only. A person that I esteem to be rational and not easily intimidated.
Around thirty people die every year in the Scottish mountains, but nobody tells you exactly how. Which I find somewhat irresponsible. If I knew how I could try to avoid that.
“Often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.”
Ever since I read Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain; the Cairngorms have fascinated me, the way she describes her life through the mountains, the way she reflects their qualities, the mountain living. I take the book out of my backpack to re-read on the three-hour drive. A talisman to keep me safe. A voice I have been listening to, looking out for, all of my life.
My relationship with solo hiking is an array of false starts, that mostly ended with me crying somewhere on a field, hungry, tired, and cold: I had to claw my way into it. It didn’t come naturally and by that, I don’t mean the athletic component of long-distance walking or a lack of passion for nature. I mean the fact that when you go out there, into the wild: you have to take care of yourself.
When I was eight our parents sent me and my sister to a 4-week long camp, somewhere in the countryside just a few hours away from our hometown. They used old white military tents, with wooden panels as flooring all around a large green field. Some of these would leak and create puddles on the side after a particularly heavy downpour. Nothing would be done about it. It was something to endure. Just like freezing in my sleeping bag from the 70s that just wasn’t warm enough for some of the colder German summer nights. Or the cheap blow-up mattress that had a tiny hole after sleeping on it for a week. So that you’d wake up on the cold wooden planks every morning. I was okay of course. I survived. There are worse things. That’s part of camping. A little discomfort here, a little jittering there.
“Walking thus, hour after hour, the senses keyed, one walks the flesh transparent. But no metaphor, transparent, or light as air, is adequate. The body is not made negligible, but paramount. Flesh is not annihilated but fulfilled. One is not bodiless, but essential body.”
Everything that you carry with you on a long-distance hike is essential. Every item becomes part of your body, part of your weight, whatever you have to carry is slung to you and is important. It makes you aware with every step of its presence and equally, it makes you aware of everything that is lacking.
-That isn’t there.
(read part 2 next Sunday)
If you’re German this is me saying: Hallo. Ich schreibe ab jetzt auch wieder auf Deutsch ‘Im Dazwischen’ und zwar auf steady hier. Das wird gut! xx
Liked today’s Muse Letter? Here’s what you can do:
Click on the heart, it makes me really happy x
You can buy me a hot chocolate
Forward the Muse Letter to a friend
Do a shoutout on social media
Become a paid-subscriber and support good writing!
"Things I Have Loved" the second book of the poetic memoir trilogy
If "Things I Have Noticed" was about growing up and finding yourself "Things I Have Loved" is about the things that were gained/missed/lost along the way.
Told through objects Hembeck has loved, she is weaving a narrative that examines the themes of love, longing and self-worth.
By diving deep into memories of her own life, pop-culture and (lost) objects she is getting to the core of how we love and why.
Fancy decorating your room?
I just released six riso art prints in my shop. Have a look!