Still, after London


← Previous Next →

Posted on September 25, 2015


Harriet making notes from a cairn at the top of Blawith Common Harriet making notes from a cairn at the top of Blawith Common. Coniston water and the Coniston massif can be seen behind her.

by Harriet
The wind has dropped and I can hear the scraping of an insect in the grass at my feet. The evening sun is a gold orb in the black mirror of the tarn. Stillness. Here is silence, a commodity that is, as far as I know, impossible to find in the city. Perhaps it's there in the dead of night but even then the ambient light seems to deny silence its fullness. When a sheep bleats from the grassy hill to my left, the sound rises and then it passes, teasing the edges of the calm just for a few seconds.

The longer I stand here, still, the more I can hear. The breeze is coming and going. It ruffles the bracken, ever so slightly. A distant aeroplane hums and then disappears, less of an intrusion, more of a passerby.

A yellow hammer*, perhaps, gives a high peep, a narrow sound against the blue sky, and as I gaze down at the silver insects silently skimming the water’s surface, a raven swoops overhead, its distinctive voice a metallic gronk in the crystal air.

clouds reflected on a nameless pool on the edge of the Cumbria Way clouds reflected on a nameless pool on the edge of the Cumbria Way

I have been walking in what might be thought of as a relatively unremarkable part of the Lake District and seeing it as a bit ‘ordinary’. But here at this tarn I have stepped into a pause. I realise that this slowing down is exactly what I need – there is so much here that begs my attention, transfixes me. I am not on a dangerous crag, I am not on a lake. But I am in peace, standing by a black-faced tarn (there’s a wren calling from the bracken) in late September in a T-shirt. I am still. The tarn is still. The world feels still. I am motionless on a tiny spit of peat with the water, lilies and bog beans glowing against the dark wet by my feet, and warm sun on my back. I raise my eyes to see Swirl How and Coniston Old Man bathed in evening glow.

When I walked to this spot through bog and dwarf willow my passing eased out the scent of the leaves. It reminds me of old eucalyptus. I soak this all in.

Grass of Parnassus, also known as Bog Star, a beautiful flower that can be found in the damp uplands of Cumbria Grass of Parnassus, also known as Bog Star, a beautiful flower that can be found in the damp uplands of Cumbria

I am certain that nature's essential lean is towards beauty. Everywhere I look that has been uncolonised by man, or only slightly so, there's a natural harmony. I know there can be beauty in cities, on many levels, but I am definitely more drawn to environments without buildings where all senses can be imbibed with some kind of pleasure.

If I was hooked up to a sensor reading my nervous activity I know there would be a difference: when I’m dodging traffic and pedestrians and bikes in a noisy street with my feet banging on hard ground and lines of concrete all around me there’s a tightness, a fastness, a closed feeling – while now, in stillness and the fresh air of a hilltop tarn, I find my rhythm in tune with the evening. I am not trying to be anywhere else but here.

Bog Beans in a nameless pool Bog Beans in a nameless pool

(* Rob later tells me it was a twite a bird not known to me)

The Grass of Parnassus appears on the coat of arms of the old county of Cumberland and the shield for Copeland Borough Council, which is on the west coast of Cumbria.

Share this