Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mountains of Fear

I completely forget that my legs are tired and that there is a 7lb pack on my back. I forget that I like to eat cheese, even though I am trying to stop eating it for my heart. I forget about the changes I am trying to make in my life and I forget that I have a job. Everything now is focused on my imminent death and there comes that terrible movement of the solid. It is not an earthquake, but my fear.

Of course I am not going to die, thankfully. I don't want to die, remember. And yet again, here I am, out exploring, wonderfully aware of the fact that I want to be alive and struggling to come to terms with my vertigo. My most excellent friend, Ollie, has told me a number times that he would and sometimes still does suffer from vertigo. Unlike him, I am reduced to a quadraped (no offence, quadrapeds. In fact, if it weren't for you, arguably we wouldn't be who we are now). I am holding onto the ground for dear life. And that is when I decide to face my fear. I turn and sit and I see this:

Gradually, fear turns to awe.
pic: Ollie Jones

To many this would be nothing to be afraid of, nothing to fear. But for me, it is terrifying.


Since I was a child I have had only nightmares, sometimes so dark that I fear a future behind bars or of chemical regulation. I have been eaten, I have cut people to pieces, I have gauged eyes from sockets and can remember the feeling of warm bones against my thumb; I have been chased, repeatedly, every night, for at least twenty years, by some terrible, invinsible spectre incarnate in as many forms as there have been nights. There is always menace, always something to run from. This, I know now, can be traced back to my childhood and to the lack of a safe environment. My parents went their seperate ways and my family splintered in its own home. I remember meals behind closed doors and conversations through them. I remember what so many children of our times do: violent shouting matches, chipped door-frames, a shaking house, the latent threat of the world-as-you-know-it ending. What forces bring together people who will then tear apart the terra firma of their offspring? I hold my grudge against the Institution of the Roman Catholic church. I don't know yet whether that is misplaced, but I know that that is where the "morals" came from that resulted in my young, pregnant mother being kicked out of her home to wing it alongside my young, immigrant father. My grudge is not against my parents. I struggle with the chasm that lay between us for so long, but now that is another valley to explore. And I find so many familiar things there and so many rare flowers that I wil visit as often as possible.


And so I was clutching the scree, my heart so apparent to me. That same old fear, there as always to try and turn me to stone in the water. It is deeply significant that I sat on the side of that mountain and confronted my fear. As I took in the environment I was in it became increasingly clear that it was a total privilege to be there. Whilst I sat there I spoke with Ollie about fear and about the runner far below who would soon be talking with us, trying to sell Ollie his house and telling me about his vertigo. As we talked an elderly couple sped by with such ease that my own heart settled and everything changed. I am yet to meet a person on a mountain that was not perfectly lovely and wildly interesting.
The Frenchman

The rest of that journey for me was less fearful. Though I am still prone to the vertigo, I have a hankering to spend as much time as my (for the moment) London-based life allows me to, out-and-about in places such as those.

We continued on to the lunar summit of Glyder Fawr and larked around in the mist up there for some time. One of the finest moments in my life.

 For the first time in my living memory, I am having dreams. I still have nightmares, too, but then there are so many mountains out there, so many valleys and fields and rivers and oceans, so many places in which I can map my fear and confront it. We make our own paths.


  1. Amy, thank you so much! How lovely to know you're reading my blog :)
    I always worry about being pretentious and annoying so I'm happy to hear what you think xxx

  2. Hi anthony, thanks so much for sharing this with us - you're addressing huge themes with ernest and unpretentious eloquence - it's been massively thought-provoking even though i'm not half-way up a mountain myself and have a far closer relationship than I probably should do with material ephemera... I'll be reading with interest and admiration over the next few months xxx