With some lovely snowfall in the Mournes during the month of February I just knew I had to get down to the hills for a little solo adventure. I love hiking in the snow and knew it wouldn’t stick around for too long as it rarely does here in Northern Ireland!
So, I left home early to beat the morning traffic and was on my planned route by 8.30am, the sun was just rearing its head from behind Slieve Muck, casting golden beams onto the slopes of Pigeon Mountain. I knew I was in for a good hike, and I certainly needed it. My heart was heavy. The previous day Russia had invaded Ukraine and all I could think about was the poor people whose worlds had been flipped upside down. After everything the world has been through over the past few years with the Covid-19 pandemic, it just seemed so cruel, so senseless. We’ve barely had time to catch our breath. And yet, the pursuit of power and greed is high on Putin’s agenda. I just don’t get it. As I trudge along in the pure, untouched snow, I am heartbroken and I am angry. This is not the world I want to live in. It’s certainly not the world I want for my children.
For me personally, walking in the hills alone is not only about the physical challenge and the astounding views, but it’s also a form of meditation. On this day, my footsteps become a prayer. Each crunchy step in the snow is a whisper, a plea to stop this terror and suffering. I allow my body to cry out where my words fail.
After a while, I spot rabbit prints in the snow, then soon after, icicles and a frozen, windswept pool. I go to explore and am reminded that beauty remains. When the heart is filled with despair and rage at the systems that aim to control us and that keep us living in fear, still, beauty remains. For a moment, I consider if it is wrong to feel joy when so many people are living under the forces of oppression, each waking day filled with uncertainty and loss. But I know in my heart that we must continue to pursue joy, to notice and appreciate, to create and recreate, to sing, to love, to help where we can, to tell stories, to keep going and to keep on hoping. That even to take a moment to appreciate beauty is an act of resistance. A lean towards hope and an alternative way of doing life in a world that at times makes so little sense.
I walk alone for over six hours, seeing no-one along the entire route. I perch on a boulder for lunch, taking in the 360-degrees mountain views, wanting to remain in the enveloping, comforting embrace. When bad things happen, it can be so easy to sink into the accompanying sadness and fear; how can life go on as normal when not far away people are fleeing their homes with little more than a suitcase in hand, leaving behind all they know, loved ones separated not knowing if or when they’ll meet again?
I don’t have the answers, but for me, the mountains are a place to go to be with my feelings; feelings that are so huge sometimes I can barely make sense of them. I lean in and let go. I cry. I roar at the injustice. I am captivated by beauty. I am furious. I am mesmerised. So many paradoxes within one skin. The mountains can hold it all. There’s no right or wrong way to feel about everything that’s going on in the world. We are all trying to readjust as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and we all have our own ways of processing and coping with the horrors on the news. I find solace and comfort and space to be with it all in my wild and beloved Mourne Mountains.
Even in a world that is broken and hurting, beauty remains.