Sunday, January 03, 2010


Dinner is cooked and eaten, the washing up done. The lights are dim, I lie curled on my side, warm and snug, half dozing whilst a sultry-voiced Diana Krall sings softly to me, courtesy of the ubiquitous iPod. At this moment, there is absolutely no need to do anything else, be anywhere else, be anybody else; for a few rare moments I’m completely relaxed, at ease – happy, in fact.

And this is in spite of the fact that underneath the down sleeping bag which keeps me so warm, underneath the two layers of sleeping mats, lies four inches of frozen snow – but snow which has gently moulded itself to my shape making this the most comfortable campsite ever – no tree roots, no stones, no hard lumps which magically grow bigger and harder and lumpier during the night.

Beyond the thin nylon of the tent walls it’s a wild night; every so often the growl of the wind in the treetops crescendos to a menacing roar, warning of a fresh onslaught to strike the tent a few seconds later, the sides bulging inwards under the pressure. But I’ve already checked and tightened the guys, adjusted a couple pegs here and there to give the most secure anchorage; let the wind howl – I can turn up Diana’s volume, snuggle deeper under the down and idly watch the circle of light on the tent roof dance as the fabric bows under invisible forces.

This is how evenings should be – all the hard work got out of the way during the hours of daytime, and a clear space after the final task – the preparation of the evening meal – in which to relax and reflect, to set a seal on the labours of the day before the descent into slumber.

It hasn’t been like that for me for a long time; life has become a too-frantic bustle of never-completed activity, from the moment the alarm goes off to the moment my eyes close at the end of the day, with the only pauses forced through sheer exhaustion. I’ve never set much store by New Year’s resolutions, but if I were to make one, it would be to give myself permission to keep some time and energy free from all those pressures of the day, and remember who I am.

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