A Longing for Wilderness


I sat here today, the worst of my trials and tribulations long over now, my book well under way and thought of my life and how it is developing. I have begun to realise how easy it is to become comfortable and settled in one’s surroundings. How the natural boundaries of one’s immediate world develop into limits and how difficult those limits can be to overcome. 

It is so easy: the local park, the shops, the nearby river all, over a relatively short time, become the outer limits of a world that is protective and comfortable. You are safe within that world, days turn into weeks, weeks to months and life becomes less and less of a challenge, living becomes easy. 

I noticed it because within me a battle has begun, there is a part of me that loves the world that I now inhabit, a world that is beginning to fit me like an old coat or a pair of boots. It is a world that requires little of me, a calm, almost sleepy existence with little or no strife. Living is becoming easy but, I fear, that apart from my writing, also a little pointless… 

Tight though money is for the moment, there is still a major part of me that loves the wild and desperately wants me to return to my old ways. Living here I am never cold, wet or lonely, here I never have to trek long distances to find shelter, never have to struggle to light a fire or dry a sleeping bag, never have to cook an entire meal in a single, tiny pot… 

I try to define wild for myself, try to paint pictures to view against closed lids. Wild is vast, boreal and remote: it is an island off a rugged coast, spray lashed and lonely, magnificent in its isolation, or a forest, deciduous and old, dark and unbounded, quietly echoing the fall of a hoof, the placing of a paw – a whisper of something unseen. 

Wild is the mountains of Assynt, carved by glaciers, a land of boulder-strewn corries, tertiary moraine and scattered lochans. Wild is the Ice-sharp silence of the snowfields, snow-light bright and almost painful in its clarity, it is stillness and cold.

What it is not, is a housing estate in the north of England, where the biggest challenge is a walk of several hundred yards when I run out of milk or a drive of a few miles to an out- of -town shopping mall. Wild is not grunting a little as I reach for a TV remote… 

 I fear that I am settling into a rut, I fear that I am growing old.