|view from the porch|
I arrived during a week of gales. The Cairngorms are windy at the best of times, yet I’m accustomed to being on the brittle granite plateau where the combination of altitude and the persistence of the wind creates a sub arctic landscape, a place where plants hug the land tightly. However because of the wind’s excessive force and unpredictable cloud level, the snow covered plateau became essentially out of bounds.
|arrival at the bothy|
The trees became the most dominant part of my experience. Sat in an elevated hollow, surrounded by a wood of silver birch interspersed with dwarf juniper, the bothy is quite protected and sheltered. Unless you know it’s there, or happen to walk close along the trail, you’d probably be oblivious to its very existence. I spent a good deal of time watching the trees and their movement, and listening to their sound, mixed in with the white noise of the River Spey which flowed in spate and flood nearby.
|birch, pine, heather, juniper|
stilled life with moving trees (video documentation of my residency)
I came with a loose idea of some work I could make, thinking that a plan would be wise, but soon abandoned it, and learned to leave preconceived notions well alone, and simply be with the place. Nan Shepherd’s text, the living mountain guided me well in this sense, (and, struck by it’s notable absence on the bothy’s bookshelves, I popped out to Aviemore to buy a copy to leave as a gift).
The work didn’t come, but the time to think, and reassess aspects of my life and practice did, and I felt the repercussions of the trip perhaps more clearly once I returned home. I needed the time away, the space to be undisturbed by modern distractions such as the compulsion to check email. Technology has become particularly invasive and guilty of creating a syncopated rhythm to lifes that can be led more simply.
As someone who has always loved solitude, I don’t think I’d appreciated how difficult complete solitude is however (thank goodness for a battery powered radio playing Radio 4!). Inshriach can be a quiet place, but on reading the bothy book, it’s clear that for most people, residencies here are anything but solitary, and spur on collaboration.
|An Lochan Uaine through Caledonian Pine|
|from the summit shelter cairn of Meall a' Bhuachaille|
|the Cairngorms and Rothiemurchus|
On my last morning, I wake up to snow, the landscape again transformed. After a hot outdoor shower, with the snow still falling, I pack my things, then make the couple of trips back to the car parked almost a mile down the trail, food supplies diminished, and my load lighter than when I arrived. The weight of the city had also been lifted, and I'm reminded (if I ever really need such a thing) that part of me needs to be in the wild. I anticipate being reunited with my 3 year old son, so the departure isn't unwelcome in the way it would have been years ago, but the bothy, a perfectly formed small space packed with the essentials for good living, sends me on my way, nourished, and replete.
|the bothy at dusk|
|book found in the bothy library|
|a sun dog through the birch trees|
|the view North|
With thanks to Walter Micklethwait and everyone at Inshriach, and to Bobby Niven of The Bothy Project
all images L Punton, 2014
all images L Punton, 2014