What do you require to be ‘in the mountains’? Fit? have the right kit? A ‘type’ perhaps comes to mind: Gore-Tex clad, wire-sprung legs, map as necklace, nose pointed firmly at a summit. It’s a stereo-type that we saw quite a few of: those racing up and down again. But is there a point where fitness or ‘ability’ becomes a ‘disability’? There’s such a wealth of experience that, in the rush for the top, the (boy) racers miss out. Like ‘slow city’ and ‘slow food’ movements, perhaps we need ‘slow mountain’ too.I’m thinking of Nan Shepherd enjoying a snooze in a lonely patch of heather, or our own slow circumnavigation. Then there were the three who pitched up for a cuppa at the yurt 7.30 one morning; I thought, in a state of sleep-stupor, they had set off at first light for the summit, yet couldn’t understand why they looked so relaxed, refreshed, but, they had been to the Lek: listening, watching birds, being still on the mountain. Each of our participatory sessions had elements of stillness. Installing a yurt was the brilliant idea of Kevin from Artlink Central: a safe space, warm and dry, a place to meet others and get out of wind and rain. It also became art studio and music venue.
Artlink brings artists together, it works with people experiencing exclusion, disability or disadvantage. But once the travails of actually getting out of the city and onto the mountain are overcome (and we recognise there is much more work to do to make this possible), ‘disadvantage’ can transpose into advantage: if you move slowly, you see more, it’s also to do with what you see, how you see; when William says: “Bees collect flowers and put them in honey” I see the world momentarily with his eyes, we shared perspectives and surprised ourselves into re-thinking what it is we see or believe, a kind of cross-pollination of perception ensues.Only after breaking an arm – so he couldn’t go down the mines – did Charles Hutton receive the education to enable him to excel at maths. For John Muir, an accident to his right eye followed by weeks of near blindness provided the impetus to change direction and ‘follow his dreams’. Enabled, disabled; any sudden change to one’s senses (through accident, contemplation or simply being in a new environment: mountainside rather than city) can feed the imagination and create the conditions for new insights.
One participant arrived from the city in pumps and thin cardigan. Undaunted, she borrowed boots, jumper and jacket and threw herself into being, moving, creating on the mountain. It was a timely reminder; some kit is GOOD! Her comment on leaving: “I could do anything in these boots”.
I’ll leave John Muir to sum up:
“Another glorious day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”
This is the ‘last post’ regarding the Lines of Attraction festival. If you have been missing out on contour lines fear not, in September I begin PhD research on the subject, and have already compiled a few more leads on the subject.