I was given the book Walking Home (A Poet’s Journey) by Bob H, easily one of the most inspirational people to whom I have served as journeyman. One of his many talents is wedding together narrative and landscape.
Walking Home is the thoughts of the modern poet Simon Armitage as he walks, trudges, and tramps the Pennine Way southbound from the Scottish Border to his home near Edale in Derbyshire.
I did not carry the book with me. “Grams make kilograms.” I did read it this past week.
Armitage’s journey was also very social, with pre-arranged poetry readings every night, with unbounded hospitality every night from strangers, and with different people accompanying him almost every day.
The two italicized excerpts above are from his imagined ending of his nineteen days and 256 mile journey.
I was frankly disturbed to read this passage, not because he wasn’t ‘officially finishing’ — I rather like that aspect actually, and in a way, we ourselves did something analogous with our semi-flip-flop ending.
I was — and am unbalanced — by the underlying ‘struggle against nature’ thread. Mind you, we thruhiked in spectacularly opposite weather compared to the fog and wind and rains of Armitage’s northern English moorlands. Armitage faced challenging and dispiriting conditions that I am familiar with from my year up on Exmoor. I do have a good sense of how day-after-day is very different than one day only hiking. We had unusually pleasant sunny bug-free conditions instead.
As did Armitage, I know my environment, always experiencing newness, yet within familiar home terrain. I need to re-read my blog, and to re-think my experiences, but I don’t remember ever thinking that I was struggling against the Escarpment or against the Trail. My impression was of always fully embracing the living landscape.
Hhmmh … though I do remember being disheartened by having to take water from that road puddle … That discouragement was really mostly directed at myself for having turned down an opportunity a few kilometres earlier to have taken water from an obviously good stream, thinking that on a long warm day, we’d find good water ahead. We misread maps and environments — and fortunately didn’t pay any price. One of the few times I wasn’t over-cautious about water supply … hhmmh …
Armitage ends with a question and an answer that resonates deeply with me.
No, I don’t think I’ll do another hike of this length or longer. Shorter one, yes — and I’ve got several in mind. (Care to join me?)
Yes — I’d go with Kookork as my guide again in a heartbeat.