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Walking with the dead up Beinn Chabhair

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:32 pm
by Joehill

My mom has always been taking this time of the year a bit more seriously than most of us, and what I was taught as a kid, was that one day in fall is dedicated to commemorate the dead. But of course, if you at five lose your father in an accident while he was working at the railroad, and your mother to cancer in your thirties, I guess you have a different relationship to death compared to many others; I guess it was something that she had to relate to…

This was not something I thought about as a began my walk up the first rather tough slope from the campsite at Inverarnan, but as I got engaged with the nature around me, the colours of yellow and brown, and the anticipated fall of leaves and water drops, I remembered something I heard before. Namely, that during this time a year the world of the living and that of the dead is closer than usual, and that this is the oldest, true, reason to why we in Sweden remember and honour our dead relatives and friends by lighting candles on their graves in what is now instead a Christian celebration - All Saints' Day. This is of course very questionable from all point of views, and just another superstition that lingers from the past without much substance in our modern world. On the other hand, by being in nature during the fall it is easy to grasp why this belief once arose within the human mind. On a day like this, there is a balance between life and death, where the leaf that sprung in spring, now have to give in and fall towards the ground dying.


For a living man with his mind set to walk up the Beinn Chabhair thou, there is not much to do but to continue past the waterfall of Ben Glas Burn and follow the stream into the wild boggy grasslands bellow the rocky hills of Meall Mor nan Eag. It is quite a long walk before you reach Lochan Beinn Chabhair, and since the steps demands little of your attention it allow your mind and imagination to run freely, and as I was walking alone in this landscape it struck me that my relationship to death must be like my relationship to the vails of fog and clouds covering the sky and the distance in front of me. Regardless of what death might be or not be it is past man’s vision, but perhaps not his understanding. I was walking in lands between life and death, and I started to allow myself to understand.


I made it to the lochan of Beinn Chabhair and enough light broke through the fog to form a reflection of the hills in the still water, and in my contemplating mind I formed the following sentence without fully knowing why: the gate to the heaven is a reflection in the lake. I continued up the path towards the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan and it was not without effort. As I struggled my way upwards I had to let go of my previous line of thoughts, and instead concentrate on where to put my feet. I start to realize more and more thou, that our minds are not really dependent on our awareness and it will sometimes continue the work regardless of whether you know it or not.


I forced myself up and passed Meall nan Tarmachan, and somewhere between this peak and Beinn Chabhair I entered a plateau that was sheltered from wind by surrounding cliffs. It was like the climate had changed, that it was slightly warmer, and that the still air allowed me to better pick up the scents and impressions of the mountain. It came back to me, if "the gate to the heaven is a reflection in the lake", the conclusion must simply be that it is an illusion, and perhaps it also means that we are not gated from heaven but already a part of it. Seldom do I feel this to be truer than when being in nature and on the mountains, when I'm free to think about whatever comes to mind, and free to feel the sensations that life gives me.


The last ridge walk towards the summit of Beinn Chabhair is even on a foggy day very pleasant, and it gently allows you passage all the way to the top cairn, where I spend time gazing into the clouds around me. I have seen it often before on the Munros, how people leave stones or pictures of loved ones whom have passed away, and I know that it is important for all of us to let the links remain. In order to be whole, to be human, we need to be connected to our past, and to the people who made us what we are. This is true for me as well, and this time I placed a small white rock to commemorate my friend Anna McCarthy, who passed away 34 years old... For once I did what I was taught as a kid, I took this day and dedicated it to the dead. There is also more to that idea of you already being a part of heaven, becouse it also means a great deal when it comes to your relationship to what once was living and now is dead... But it might be better to leave those thoughts to silence...

Ps. Strange coincidence is that one cat raised its hair and two dogs unprovoked barked at me on the street after I did this walk, and only one day has passed! Usually animals love me, but I guess that is the price for doing these types of walks…

Re: Walking with the dead up Beinn Chabhair

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:32 pm
by Graeme D
Nice wee report. I think the dead are always closer to us when we are in the mountains. 8)

Re: Walking with the dead up Beinn Chabhair

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:44 pm
by Joehill
Thanks! Yeah, very difficult to know for sure, but could very well be :wink: