Snippet #1: Magic lies in the eye of the beholder

Today I wanted to blog, but for some reason the words just didn’t materialise. I hummed and hawed and trialed and trawled, and then gave up and went outside to enjoy the sun and mess about with my camera. As a result of spending a couple of hours clambering around my rockery and scruffing with the dog, I bring to you my first official ‘Snippet’. If you haven’t read my previous post introducing ‘Snippets’, take a quick peek at this post: Snippets.

Not just beauty, but magic too lies in the eye of the beholder. Or so I discovered today through these photographs taken quite literally in my own backyard.

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His eye glimmers with the sky, the breeze, the trees. He sits to watch the world go by, carefree but watchful. 

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Anybody else scrunch up their nose while they drink?

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These paws were made for walking, although the pinky fur was a surprise. Maybe he should be a rose-golden retriever?

Today I got lost in the wilderness in a whole new way, and I’ll be damned if I don’t wish it would happen again soon. Detail is everything in this world, without it everything would become grey. I saw the world in the eyes of my dog today, and a whole other world of peace, harmony, and natural beauty rose to welcome me.

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“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Mulan

 

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Snippets

Here’s the thing, as much as I love to write, write, and write some more, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to bash out all my thoughts and wonders. There are SO MANY things I want to write about, mostly places I’ve travelled to, and of course those little bits of magic in everyday life. But at the moment I’m feeling the pressure, as I really want to keep up with my blog and The Fairytale Traveller persona but, thanks to my new full-time job, simply do not have the mental capacity to open my laptop and write when I return home from work. So I’ve had an idea which will relieve some pressure, and that idea comes in the form of ‘Snippets’.

‘Snippets’ will be exactly that. Snippets of writing, instead of longer stories, poems, and general warblings. Instead of pushing myself to write long pieces every time, ‘Snippets’ will enable me to throw a few thoughts onto (virtual) paper every so often, to maintain my blogging regularity without feeling the necessity to write something more substantial or ‘deep’. Also, in truth, not all of the magical moments I witness are set in epic surroundings – often they are tiny and momentary, but still deserve to be captured.

So I will write to you in snippets, and will title each one ‘Snippet: [title]’, so you know it can be read at a glance. At the moment I’m celebrating a four day weekend thanks to Easter, so I have the luxury of stocking up on longer pieces, ready to release as and when, but I will give you a taster of a snippet; a snippet of a snippet, if you will.

Snippet: When Dogs Fly

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The hurdle jumper that never was.

The day was sunny, my camera was primed. I had taken a number of snaps already, but this one absolutely caught the excitement of the day. The sheer joy and exhilaration on Jet’s face as he flew for a millisecond will always be with me. Even if he does spend the rest of his time curled up on the rug, I’ll remember this perfect moment, and i’m pretty sure he does too as he snuffles away, paws twitching frantically in his sleep.

Apocalyptic Love

He held her until the end, and she held him until the new beginning

Eyes shut to the darkening embers of a dead world, they waited

The waves dashed their bare feet, rolled over their ankles, thrashed against their knees

The wind rocked them back and forth, like dolls strung up by a transcendental puppeteer

The sky growled its warnings, deep and rolling, making the ground shudder to its core

But this was nothing

They felt nothing

There was nothing

 

Their feet were dry, their hands were locked, their heads were bowed

Nothing could break them

Not the crashing waves

Not the roiling winds

Not the great chasms zigzagging across the earth

 

Not the sudden streak of sunrise, slicing the raging sky in two

Not the blinding clash of golden rays on silver water

Not the great, relinquishing sigh of the dying wind

For still they stood, brow to brow, hand in hand

Waiting for the new beginning of a new world

Eternally Walking

She walks and walks, tirelessly, endlessly, eternally. The places she walks differ, but her stride never breaks. Through forests she treks, leaves brushing her face with every step. They caress her skin, smooth and moist, invigorating her, energising her, replenishing her. She breathes in, inhaling the musky scents of the flowers; sniffs the fragrances of the other plants further away, bringing with them pleasant whiffs of ecstasy.

Only there for a second, leaving her wishing for more, but more pleasurable with each return. The hum of insects and twitter of birds is the sweetest music, and when she opens her mouth and sings with them, her voice is just as sweet to the ear, and equally as powerful. The wildlife stops, listens, and joins in; it is a Forestry Orchestra. She only sees the participants in glimpses, as they dart among the trees in flashes of electric blue, deep red, bright yellow and vivid orange.

She is entering a clearing now, and walks towards a pool of water in the centre. She stops singing, and the Orchestra ceases. Closing her eyes, she balances, her toes on the edge of the pool, pivoting on her heels but retaining her balance. Her arms are outstretched gracefully, and with a deep breath she opens her eyes and stares at the crystal clear water. Sky blue eyes stare straight back at her, determinedly, forcefully, daringly. She blinks, the reflection blinks too. She smiles, and the reflection follows suit. She laughs and waits… the smile falters, disappears. She is alone. Eternally alone in Paradise.

***

He walks and walks, determinedly, unceasingly, and everlastingly. For as long as he can remember he has walked; through icy realms with blustery mountain ledges, jagged spikes of cobalt glacial ice lurking a foot away from where he struggles. The wind makes his face red and raw, then blue and numb. He hears nothing but the howling wind, screaming and wailing in anguish. He makes no sound, never opens his mouth for fear that the icy tendrils will enter and consume him. Onward he treads, slowly but steadily, always walking, never pausing, his eyes squinted against the ferocious gales.

He meets no one; he has not met anyone in many years. Time is nothing but a concept now, eating and sleeping are mere fantasies. His road is treacherous, but he never thinks about turning around. He must continue, through the lashing daggers of rain, the blinding blizzards and the perilous drop over the edge… He is beginning to feel tired; he has never felt tired before, and it scares him that he should feel weaker. But something urges him on; he senses something ahead, something good. He is not sure what he will find at the end of his journey, but he knows it is good.

Then through the suffocating snowstorm he glimpses something. A faint light, but a light nonetheless, shining through the storm. Wrapping his arms closer to his chest he speeds up, determined to reach the light. He turns a corner on the mountain, and the blizzard is gone. In shock, he stops for the first time in forever, and looks up, confused. Ahead is a great plain of dry land, and beyond that a great forest towering high in the sky. He squints at it for a second in the brightness, before raising his hand to block the dazzling sunlight and, never looking back, begins to walk.

***

They walk and walk; she through miles of moist, tangled jungle, him over miles of dust-coated, cracked earth. They have walked for hundreds of miles, never stopping, never looking behind, never wondering what lay at the end of their journeys. Only the feeling deep within, urging them on through any dangers they face, helping them find extra strength when they feel weak, and most importantly, giving them hope and ensuring that they are constantly moving. Days stretch into nights which stretch into days which are once more enveloped by night. Onward they tread, unknowingly and unsuspectingly, but hopefully.

***

Many suns and moons pass and suddenly it is a day like every other. The forest is alive and humid and the sun is up and burning. The two are still walking; her treading daintily over a carpet of grass, moss, and roots, searching for another crystal clear pool. Maybe this time she will find what she has been looking for. The hopeful feeling inside her is growing, and she smiles as she walks.

Him trudging heavily over the sun baked and deadened desert soil. Not even sparing a glance at the tempting shadow-infusing boulders. He is lagging, more now than ever. But he is not far from the wall of greenery; his pores are straining for the damp air between the trees, the elongated shadows of the towering trees, the refreshing spring water he senses, tantalisingly close now, after a lifetime of a journey.

***

The walk is coming to a close. They both feel it, know it. But they do not know what will end their journeys. Another feeling has begun to grow alongside the hope now; apprehension. The climax has begun. She walks faster now, tiptoeing no longer, pacing sure-footedly over bark and pebbles. She is near the next pool. The last pool.

***

He steps into the forest and breathes a sigh of relief, his skin absorbing the damp, hydrating air. He shed his furs and coats weeks ago, at the beginning of the desert. Now he strips off another layer, dropping it where he stands, and walking barefoot and bare-chested, disappears into the beckoning forest.

***

She is hurrying now, gliding through the bushes, paying no attention to the direction she flies, only knowing that it is the right way. Right then left then straight then left again; leaving the Forestry Orchestra behind. An unknown force propels her forwards, and perspiration explodes from her pores as she pushes forwards through a great curtain of leaves. Then she sees it; a shimmering, glistening, iridescent blue. It seems to call to her, summoning her to its calming presence.

He has sped up now, the forest air revitalising him, giving him the last strength he needs to complete his journey. Suddenly, out of the myriad of green he spies a flash of silver. His breath catches in his parched throat and he almost stops in shock. An overwhelming feeling of something unnameable is overpowering him. Perhaps it is the feeling of completion. Cautiously, he slows to a walk, picking his way through the undergrowth, never taking his eyes from the snatch of silver. The shining beacon of hope.

***

She is so close to the pool now, all she has to do is step forward one last time. She stands almost on the edge, but still she cannot see her reflection. One more step. But she does not dare, she cannot be disappointed again. So she stands motionless, tears falling down her cheeks, unsure for the first time in her life.

He can see the pool now, in all its sparkling splendour. Licking his broken lips he pushes aside the final branches of the surrounding trees and steps into the clearing. The pool is there, metres away, but instead of rushing forwards, he stops. His eyes widen, someone is there already.

***

Her back is to him, her shoulders hunched and shaking slightly. She feels the dooming sensation of loss begin to overcome her all over again.

He watches her silently for a minute. Why does she not take that last step? Then he realises what he must do. Padding into the clearing, he moves to her side, not looking at her face, and holds out his hand.

***

She feels his presence immediately as he stands by her side, but she does not look up. She waits, the feeling of loss being taken over by a new feeling of anticipation. His hand moves from his side, angles towards her, and stops, waiting. As if on its own, her hand begins to tilt, palm outwards, and moves away from her side towards him. His hand reacts, and as their fingertips touch, the feeling of anticipation is replaced by a feeling of reassurance. Hands locked together, they take a simultaneous deep breath, and step forwards.

***

Two faces greet them, as they stand looking into the pool. One with bright blue eyes, peering out of a pale, tear-streaked face. The other, sunburned and chapped. Their toes balance on the edge of the pool, millimetres away from the life-giving liquid beneath them. The toes wiggle, and the reflections blink together. Two smiles begin to appear, transforming the life-weathered faces. Their pasts are gone, their journeys forgotten; they have the rest of eternity to live for, together.

Taking a Tumble… Off A Mountain (A Trilogy: Ben Nevis Edition)

This is the story of when Mother Nature almost took a fancy to the girl who wanted to get ‘just the perfect shot’ of the tallest mountain in the British Isles. (If anyone is wondering, it was a damn good picture, although perhaps not entirely worth the risk.)

The month was September, the day drizzly with outbursts of rain. It was by no means comfortable walking conditions, but then, Scottish weather has never been known as accommodating. Suited, booted, and strapped into our rucksacks, we headed to the official starting place for the mountain ascent, feeling ready despite the dreariness.

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Looking up to a summit swathed in cloud

Sunshine had been promised later in the day, but was by no means anticipated. The ascent began, and armed with energy bars and a flask of hot chocolate we started to climb. As with most climbs, the higher you go, the more incredible the scenery becomes, and Ben Nevis was no exception. Down in the valley a stream sliced the land in half like a neat blue ribbon, rippling along far more merrily than us mountain walkers. After a few hours of trudging, we found ourselves passing people on their way down. ‘The cloud is too heavy’, they said, ‘there’s no point continuing if you’re not even halfway yet’. As we stood deliberating whether it was feasible and, more importantly, sensible to commence our upward trudge, something else began to happen. The air turned lighter, brighter, warmer… A flicker of hope spread through the walkers and, without a word, the decision was made. On we trudged, until we surely must have entered that ominous, hanging cloud by now. Except we hadn’t. The cloud had vanished completely.

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The Mountain Path

We came across a waterfall next – quite literally stumbled into it as we turned a corner. (Thank goodness for Gore-Tex!) We saw lakes which cascaded off the ends of other peaks, and finally, finally, we neared the mountaintop.

I was eternally grateful that the cloud cover did not return during the remainder of the ascent, not until we had reached the final climb, or ‘scramble’ as was more apt. Then came the sudden realisation that I could hardly see more than twenty or thirty metres ahead, and the further shock that I could actually see more with no glasses… Spoilers – the only time my vision has been better WITHOUT glasses was when I accidentally ended up inside a big ass raincloud. This has happened twice in my life; neither were pleasant, and both made me hate being short-sighted. So, as this newfound realisation came crashing down at about the same speed that this cloud had apparently engulfed us, we decided the best option was to get a pretty swift wriggle on. I won’t lie, the path was difficult, and my legs were screaming at me to stop, for the love of god, stop, by this point. But I continued with reassurance and encouragement from my partner (if you ever read this Richard, you’re pretty much the only reason I got up all those goddamn mountains), and eventually made it to the summit.

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Ben Nevis trig point in the central distance

There it was, the trig point of all trig points, looming up out of the gloom. The highest trig point in the British Isles. I gathered together my strength for a final push, started forward, glanced to my left, and stopped. Several yards away was a giant yawning hole, filled with grey, swirling mist. A gash in the mountainside. What an image, I thought. It’s exactly like a movie effect, except it’s real. Keeping the sudden drop at the very forefront of my mind, I crept toward the gap. Camera at the ready, I paused a moment to fiddle with the settings, my feet still tracing the ground in tiny steps. Finger on the button, I raised my right foot to take one more step, and tripped.

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There are still no words for this… just a skip of the heartbeat and a deep breath.

I stumbled, grabbed hold of the rock and yanked myself backwards, the camera swinging around my neck, bouncing off my coat seemingly in it’s own attempt to get to safety. I breathed deeply and glared at the offending rock, before skirting around to a different angle and taking some snaps.

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The criminal rock.

The trig point was somewhat anti-climactic after that. It was a proud moment to reach the top of the highest peak in the UK, but it felt even better to crouch behind a stony wall and have a mini-feast of the food we had brought. It was a bizarre experience, the top of Ben Nevis. Apart from us, the summit was virtually empty, with the exception of an Irishman and Scotsman who we found also hunkered down in the shelter. (This sounds like the beginning of a joke, particularly as I was with a Welshman and am English, so we had the set, but I promise it all to be true). The Irishman seemed to have lost his wife somewhere on the way up (“Should’a pushed her off earlier”), but didn’t seem remotely worried. She appeared sometime later, and regaled us with tales of a far more adventurous ascent than us, having come up via a different trail. They were very interested in hearing about my Irish heritage, and it made for quite the cheerful party in a sodden, rocks-sticking-in-butt, half-blind-from-fog kinda way.

There’s not much to say about the descent. Long story short, the clouds had returned with gusto, and also brought their buddies to join the party. The wind howled, the hail battered our faces, tears mixed with rain and fog until the world was one grey, treacherous blur, and all we could do was put one foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other.

Ben Nevis was actually the final of the ‘big three’ mountains I climbed in the UK, the others being Snowdon, Wales, and Scafell Pike, England. Crazily though, despite being 1345m of sublime monstrosity, it wasn’t the most difficult. Keep an eye out for parts two and three of this not-so-little trilogy, you won’t be disappointed.

Fields of Gold

This was one of those rare days of spontaneity, the types of days I don’t embark on too often. Probably not often enough. It also happened to be my birthday, which meant the prospect of adventure was even more enthralling. On this day, I decided to go to a park, one i’d never visited before. To do this day I don’t remember the name, but I think perhaps that doesn’t matter. The ambiguity of a thing’s existence makes it all the more magical.

Cool, shady woodland shielded us from the sunbeams, as we danced through the dappled air, climbing up muddy inclines, and sliding down the other side just quickly enough to feel a little giddy. A stream meandered along nearby, growing wider and wider until the trees broke into a stretch of canal. Cyclists zoomed by, reveling in the swift airflow as we clambered over the canal bridges, looking down to see two goofy smiles twinkling back at us from the crystalline water below. We did not follow the canal long though, and, favouring the refuge of the leafy canopy, ventured back into the woods on a trail much less traveled. Here, the path was faint, nothing more than an animal trail. Oddly placed rocks, almost perceivable as steps, teased us as we attempted to find our way. Up and up we climbed, along a windy route, over twisted roots, under low-hanging branches, until we reached a wire mesh border. We looked left and right to see nothing but miles of trees all crammed together, pressed against the wire. In the distance ahead lay a multitude of houses, each with extensions stretching out to devour the meadows. No man’s land. Just along the horizon though, halfway between us and them, lay a peculiar band of yellow. We squinted, leaning over the barrier until our fingers were indented with mesh print. We looked at each other, there was only one way forward.

One conveniently-placed tree stump later and a slightly wobbly landing, we had landed in the meadow. Our feet were greeted by spongy, flat terrain, and we bounced along the tufts, the golden band looming ever closer. All at once we were in the midst of a sea of yellow. A thousand specs of sunshine nodded towards us in a wave of welcome. The houses forgotten, I sat down among the cluster of petals. They were like tiny pieces of sunshine, scattered around the field just waiting for someone to wander in and be overwhelmed by their magnificence. Pure, natural, floral brilliance. This was one of those moments, one of those moments of complete and utter happiness. For some time we sat, bathed in nature’s golden glow, warm, happy, content. Then the clouds began to draw in, and it was time to leave our shimmering meadow. Back across the field, into the woods, down the rocky steps, along the canal… and all at once, reality again.

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Sometimes it’s necessary to jump a fence or two to find the real magic

Reality is a strange concept really. What is real and what is fantasy? Where do the boundaries meet, overlap, overflow one into the other?  Is it simply judged by the limits of our imagination, or is it more than that? There have been many guesses, leading to many interesting and complex universal inquiries, but no real answers. All I know is, I am quite willing to allow my imagination to whisk me away from the present whenever it feels the need. I love seeing something totally normal – an object, utensil, building – and turning it into something fantastical. I love to stand on the tops of mountains, or deep in forests, or even in bustling market places, and imagine that I live in a parallel world where everything is bathed in a dystopic or utopic madness. Perspective is a wonderful thing, but just because I choose to view the world in a fantastical light does not mean everyone should. However, I believe that as long as pockets of real fantasy remain in the world, celebrated by those who have that rare vision, then magic will survive.