26 May Time was …
Time was I would always go in front. Check out the terrain. Show her where to put her feet to avoid the mud or pick out the stones to step on to cross a stream, where to find hand holds on narrow, rocky sections. Time was.
It’s different now. She leads, organizes the route with a quick google, download or screen shot to take with us. This helps. No need to get out an Ordnance Survey map in the wind and rain, root around in the rucksack for the reading glasses, find that the place you want is on the reverse side of the map – it always is. She’s confident, her pace as quick and firm as mine was once upon a time. Back when time was.
I chuckle inwardly.
I’m still a steady walker but the energy flows less rapidly and the supple responsiveness of limbs is … well … less supply responsive. The spring in my step is less springy. I puff more with lungs less efficient than before. Need to measure myself against the day, pace the uphills more carefully. Steep downhills are the worst. I have to step gingerly, always lead with the right leg as it can still take the jarring of body weight and gravity while the left knee needs nursing. An old hockey injury, perhaps. Or summer 1964, a knee sprain inflicted when one of the boys in my class tried out his rugby tackling technique on me. Would have been better if he’d made a pass! Maybe it was more than a sprain. A physio once muttered cruciate ligament. So not just age then. That’s a relief.
Time was I would make the packed lunch. Lots of extra goodies filled with energy bursts. Treats to tantalise and keep her spirits up. Because time was when she wasn’t this keen, when she might have preferred to stay in bed or read a book or do something more exciting than going for a hike with her Mum. All that has changed now. She researches the walks, stacks them up in a diary of holiday days. She makes the sandwiches and has a stash of energy bars, flapjacks or smarties and a litre of water stuffed in her rucksack. I am still in charge of the flask of tea, the spare socks and the groundsheet fashioned out of an old piece of shower curtain that I carry around folded up into a grey zip-up bag that somebody left after a transatlantic trip. It says Star Alliance in the corner. It does the job perfectly and amuses her no end.
Time was when I burned up the miles and scampered up the ascents. When I took less time to taste the air or notice the landscape close-up. You can’t miss the bluebells in the Highlands in May but you can easily overlook the tiny dog violets hiding near the ground. You can miss the moss and the lichen, nature’s velvet draped on rocks as old as time. You can’t miss the heady stench of seaweed when the tide is out but you might forget to let your eyes rest a while on its exquisite colours of brown, bronze, ochre, copper, umber – earth colours become colours of the sea.