One Hundred Hills

Way back on my birthday in 2017 we took a walk up the newly repaired path part way up into Rum’s hills. The path leads up to Coire Dubh, the place where most of Rum’s houses get their electric and water supply from as there is a dam there.

When we did the walk in 2017 I found it really, really hard going. It’s not a terribly long way but is very steep. I have asthma so even at my fittest cardiovascular exercise is tricky. At the time I remarked to Davies that I should start doing the walk once a week and that I bet if I did it would quickly start to become an easier walk. Despite that being an intention, as so often happens life and other distractions got in the way so I never did it in 2017.

I’m not even sure what made me think about it again last summer but on summer solstice, a day that is so long here that you both awake and go to sleep while it’s still daylight it was one of the many outdoorsy things I did and that afternoon I set off up the hill. It was just as tough as I remembered it and I arrived at the top, red faced, breathless and gasping for water.

But the view was magnificent! Blue skies, blue sea, green hills and a bay filled with boats.

Two factors have made me carry on walking up that hill. Not every day, some days I’ve not been on Rum, some days I’ve simply been too busy with other things, or not well, or the weather has just been too awful to be outside unless I *had* to be. The two things are my sheer bloodymindedness of not taking well to finding things hard, when they should be if not easy, certainly not quite so far out of my reach. The second is how much I have enjoyed it.

The bloodymindedness has led me to do several similar things in the past. Back in 2009 from being a very weak swimmer who could barely manage a length I did a sponsored swim and swam 75 lengths for charity. Buoyed on (pun intended!) by that the following year I signed up for a ‘channel swim’ where over a 12 week period I swam the equivalent of the English Channel at my local pool. By the end of that 12 weeks I was managing well over 100 lengths at a time a few times a week. Again I raised a decent sum of money for charity which was excellent, but mostly I enjoyed it.

The enjoying it is a funny one. The exercise for the sake of it is something I can’t confess to really enjoying. Whilst I like knowing I am increasing my health and fitness it is much more about pushing myself to do something challenging that I enjoy. When I was doing the swimming I also enjoyed the hour or so at a time entirely to myself – as a full time Home Educating mother when Davies and Scarlett were little I had little to no time all to myself, so to lose myself in a mindless physical activity while my brain could wander around was a joy. With the swimming I was mostly busy listening to my own breathing and counting my tally of lengths as I went but I was also doing plenty of mental tupperware sorting, putting things into boxes, labelling them accordingly and working through things. Certainly the 2010 swimming challenge was during the first ponderings that led us to our WWOOFing adventure. I enjoyed the heavy legged, physical tiredness of the swimming too.

My Coire Dubh walks have not raised any money for anything and unlike the swimming challenges they have not had an end date or a specific goal in mind. For the last week or so I have been mindful of approaching 100 times though because after that first time of taking a picture of the view and a selfie of me red faced and grimacing I decided to carry on recording those two images each time so I was aware that I was nearing 100 times of doing the walk as the file numbers on my computer told me.

I have mostly walked up alone, although Bonnie’s been with me a couple of times and on my birthday the other three joined me. Once a friend came up part way with me. I sometimes meet people along the way but more often I do not see anyone. I have sat and chatted with people for ages at the top before now and had some really interesting conversations with strangers, with fellow Rum residents and with visitors, or just exchanged a smile and a nod as I pass people heading up or down on the path. I have been up during summer, autumn and winter and watched the colours and the landscape change with the seasons. I have walked up in wind, rain, hail, snow and sunshine, sometimes two or even three of those in the same day. I have seen rainbows, planes, birds and the most amazing clouds in the sky. I have bumped into red deer on several occasions, sometimes almost literally!

Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes a podcast, sometimes nature, sometimes nothing. I have walked up singing, laughing, a couple of times crying. I have walked with joy, with anger, with woe, I have been carefree and burdened, excited and defeated. I have mentally composed replies to emails, finished off fantasy conversations or arguments with others, thought things through, made decisions and made my peace. The perspective of seeing everything spread below me – Rum, the croft, the mainland beyond is both symbolic and soothing, uplifting and humbling. The path may be meandering but it keeps me straight.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do this walk. Lucky to live where I live and have access to all this natural beauty. Fortunate to have sufficient health, fitness and physical ability to walk up a steep hill – and to have noticed it getting easier. Blessed to have the time to call my own to spare to take this walk. I am always grateful to sit and rest at the top, even on the coldest, bleakest days. I am always even more grateful to arrive home to a cup of tea.

So today was walk 100.

I wasn’t sure how to mark the 100th time. It felt both momentous but at the same time not really that remarkable either. I’ll carry on walking up that hill, most days, weather and other factors permitting. You can clearly see the change in the seasons by the colours of the view. I can see changes between the two pictures of me too – if nothing else I’ve improved the art of taking an arms length photo of myself!

In the end I marked a stone with 100 and held it up next to me. I just selected a dark stone and marked it with water. Obviously I had access to water as there were little pockets of snow on the ground and I am sat next to a dam. I’ll let you decide whether I ignored both of those water sources and just licked my finger to mark it….

A few moments later the water was already drying and by the time I started to walk away it had disappeared…

That felt like the perfect way to mark it. Acknowledge, celebrate, move on.

My hill taught me that.

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