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  • Michael

#0049: A Wild Night Out

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As the sun gently descends toward the treetops of Glenan Woods, I swim out into the bay and look back across the water.

Over the glitter path cast by the setting sun, reaching out like a silvery arm across the surface, to a lone pine holding its own against the world, on a small, rocky island close to shore.

Toward the large, smooth pebbles scattered across the beach, and beyond them, to mounds of salty grass which rise to meet an impenetrable wall of bracken which fringes the bay.

Above me loom rugged, craggy hills, covered in ancient, Atlantic oak woodland. Nestled between them, tucked up tightly in a heavy blanket of undergrowth, the abandoned village slowly fades in the dying light whilst, at their feet, the angular, red form of my tent is the only man made feature in this otherwise pristine landscape.

Even here, in the slow lane, it can be good to take time out.

Away from WiFi.

And phone signal.

And twenty-four hour news.

When those times come, I pack my rucksack and I disappear for the night.

I swim to the island and lie back on its rocky edge, the dwindling heat of the late summer sun drying my salty skin.

I gaze south toward the hazy peaks of Arran, brushing up against a dusky pink sky. Tiny white sails slash at their heels as yachts sail north past the low, rocky mound of Eilean na Beithe, shackled to the shore by its narrow, pebbly tombolo.

As yellow lichens glow around me in the golden light, I feel my own tethers to our strange, new world fall free and dissolve in the water.

I am on no agenda.

I am under no expectations.

I simply am.

Newly liberated, I take a deep breath, slip back into the water and return to the shore.

Pebbles clack sharply as I build a fire ring on the rocky beach, and scour the high tide line for pieces of driftwood. Sweet, salty smoke rises gently from the crackling flames and drifts across the rocks and out over water painted bronze in the dying light.

I watch a ripple grow into a low mound as it passes over a rock lurking just beneath the surface. It builds into a small watery hillock, before breaking in a cascade of silvery foam, glowing in the darkness and rolling back into the deep.

Under a pale, rose gold sky, I snatch a few final paragraphs of my book, the words dancing across the page in the flicker of flames until the last of the light fades, like the embers of the campfire. Too dark to read, I simply sit and gaze out at the dimly shimmering loch, my hair fluffy with salt and my face still glowing from the sun, until, with the soporific purr of a fastening zipper, I cocoon myself in canvas for the night.

As darkness closes in around me, sounds previously unnoticed are amplified without the distraction of accompanying images.

The voices of fishermen echoing across the loch are joined by the shriek of hungry gulls as the last of the boats come in.

Paper thin wings flutter overhead as bats begin their hunt whilst, in the distance, an owl calls plaintively into the night.

Hooves thud dully against the hard earth, as deer graze on the salty grass.

The night is alive with gentle sounds.  But not for long.

As the waves lap rhythmically against the shores, my eyes grow heavy and all falls silent.

Just a few hours later, a pair of inquisitive gulls watch with deep curiosity from the safety of the island, as I brew coffee on my little Primus on the beach. Four beady eyes staring into two sleepy ones.

Sunrise brought with it an entirely different world.

Where the sea glowed fiery bronze last night, today it is flat and sombre lead, the jagged mountaintops of Arran shrouded beneath a thick, wet layer of cloud.

The campfire lies damp and cold, its charred edges a shadow of last nights flame.

But my face still glows with the heat of the sun, and my hair and clothes are still tangled with woodsmoke. It evokes vivid childhood memories of nights away from home. Spent in woodland clearings in the Lake District, sharing stories around the fire. Hunkering down around glowing embers of peat on the Isle of Mull, barricading ourselves in against the night.

Away from outside influences, I smile as I realise that it’s these fragments of the past which best define who I have grown to become. And with them I'll carry new memories of this latest adventure, as I return from the wild.

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